The world has gone crazy, hasn’t it? We have mandates for a vaccine to just be able to work, people are being banned from their own countries and the world is holding its breath as tensions rise across the globe resulting in rioting. Our relationships are failing due to a lack of communication, distrust, and misplaced morals. Our health is faltering since hospitals are understaffed, too few beds for patients, and stressed out medical professionals. Poverty. Destruction. Peril. Everywhere you look bad news is inbound.
What are we to do? It makes you just want to stay under the covers in fear.
In the first century A.D the ancient Christians were under the same type of assault. Caesar Nero made the case that all Christians were to be rounded up and executed for, at least publicly, burning down Rome. During their trials, however, there wasn’t enough evidence to convict them of arson, so what did he do? According to Tacitus, a Roman historian, Nero accused them of “hating humanity”. Then they were slaughtered. They were crucified, they were beheaded, exiled, or burned at the stake. Nero would use them as garden lights while having parties for dignitaries.
Paul was very aware of what was going on, he was sent to prison himself for preaching the gospel, as a proud Roman citizen Paul appealed directly to Caesar and during that time Nero (most likely under God’s grace) allowed Paul to leave. Paul knew the trials ahead for the Christians and would often write to the churches in epistles. These epistles were not only there to reprimand the churches, but also to encourage them in this difficult time.
Phillipians 4 has some fantastic encouragement for Christians as we see our current world falling down around us and the governmental order changing. Paul knows the persecution that these Christians will go through and are going through as he went through it himself. He starts off his message with this “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.”(Phil 4:4) This is marked insanity, these people are about to be KILLED and Paul is telling them to rejoice? Then in Philippians 4:5, Paul tells them to be reasonable, they’re about to be hung, crucified and beheaded, but they are to be reasonable? Right after he tells them what to do in these times and this is what I really want to examine. In Phillipians 4:6-7 he tells them:
“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So First of all he says, “The Lord is at hand”. He takes the words from the conversation between God and Jeremiah in Jeremiah 23 God asks Jeremiah a rhetorical question, “Am I only a God at hand and not a God far away?”(Jer 23:23), the God replies “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do I not fill the heavens and Earth?”(Jer 23:24). Paul tells us that the Lord is always here, he’s always with us. Christ never forsakes or leaves His own. As you read this right now, He is with you.
So because He is always with us, what does Paul tell us? “Don’t be anxious about anything”! Christ, the God of creation is always with us, why would we be anxious? We have the ability to go to the very real Lord of this Earth in prayer to ask for ANYTHING. So he concludes this thought with “In Everything by prayer and supplication with THANKSGIVING make your requests be made known to God.” Paul has gone insane here, Not only does he tells us to stop being anxious, but he also tells us to be THANKFUL for whatever is making us anxious.
I want to stop right here, why should we be thankful? Your spouse leaves you, your house burns down, whatever happens and what exactly in that very moment is there to be thankful for? You throw your fists up to the heavens and get angry.
The very fact that you can still be angry should make you fall on your knees. God could have taken your life, He could have done a lot worse yet, He is in complete control. So even if you are angry, even if you are sad or depressed about life’s situation, you are still alive and you can thank God that He is still on His throne.
And because you know He is there, because you know that He is on His throne, because you know whatever is causing you anxiety, is also reminding you that you are alive, as Christians, we have a blessed hope that God is always in control. That should put us in perfect peace. Indeed Paul writes that it is a peace that passes all understanding.
See, the God of peace isn’t only the God of peace because that’s His attribute, He is the God of peace because He is always in control. He is a God at hand and far away, He always sees us and knows our hearts. And now because of our Savior in Heaven, we have a mediator who can relay our emotions in an earthly way to the Godhead. So our God can more personally affect each of our emotions differently to give us peace in our hearts and minds.