The Letter To The Philippians, Part 15

Philippians 4:6-7
*Today’s Bible study will discuss scriptural strategies for handling earthly worries and anxieties.  Please know that this lesson is meant to examine the worries and anxieties that are common to our human experience.  We know that many people have clinical issues with anxiety and depression.  If you experience clinical depression or anxiety, please seek the care of a professional.

Let’s begin with intentional reading.

  • Read Philippians 4:6-7 and consider the following:
  1. Did you notice anything in this set of scripture you have never noticed in the Bible before?
  2. Did you read any familiar verses? Which ones?
  3. Were any of the verses you read meaningful to you today? Why?

Anxiety. Worry. Stress. Uncertainty.  These 4 words have been on repeat in in our community for the last several months. From politics to the virus and everything in between, our current circumstances are certainly enough to make even the most relaxed person feel unsettled. Anxiety levels are high in American society.  God doesn’t want them to be, and God certainly doesn’t want his beloved children living in a state of constant worry.  God’s desire for us is that we live in John 10:10 abundant life, and abundant life is the reason God sent us Jesus.  As believers, we can know this truth, but if we’re honest, abundant life can feel far from accessible.  What a blessing that God’s compassion and provision for His people includes strategies for coping with worldly stress and anxiety.  Could there be a more timely or necessary portion of scripture for us to dig into today than Philippians 4:6-7?  Let’s begin by considering Paul’s directive to release anxiety.

The first part of Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything.”  The Greek word translates anxious is merimnao, and its literal meaning is divided into parts.  Isn’t that what worry does to our minds? Worry and anxiety divide our minds so that even when we are trying to concentrate on one thing, that which is causing us to feel anxious is pulling away our attention.  The Enemy loves to make us worry – truly it’s one of his best and most sneaky tactics.  By introducing worry and anxiety, Satan steals our attention from God and keeps us focused on the world.  Satan knows that he doesn’t have to remove God completely from our minds, he just has to divide our focus to lessen our effectiveness as disciples.  We undermine our own testimony to God’s provision and faithfulness when we worry about earthly things.  Paul knew this, and it’s one of the reasons he began Philippians 4:6 with such an emphatic statement.

  • Read the first sentence of Philippians 4:6 out loud.  What special conditions or circumstances does Paul allow believers to worry about?  What excuses do you make for your worries? Are your excuses Biblically legitimate?
  • Read Matthew 6:25-34.  Who is the speaker?  How many times in this passage does Jesus repeat the statement, “Do not worry”? Was Paul’s teaching on worry his own or was he teaching the Philippians Jesus?  When we read Philippians 4:6, who is teaching 21st century disciples?
  • Read the last sentence of Matthew 6: 30.  According to Jesus, what do disciples who worry lack?  How are worry and anxiety a lack of faith?   According to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34, worry is a display of a lack of trust in whose provision? 
  • Do believers have a reason to doubt God’s provision or care? Read Psalm 34:10 then skip ahead and read Philippians 4:19. If we have no reason to doubt God’s provision and care, what is the source of worry?
  • Is it fair to say that anxiety or worry can become idolatry? How?  How can elevating the situation/thing/relationship causing us anxiety or worry to the point that it dominates our thoughts or motivates our behavior cause us to violate Exodus 20:3? How can making “exceptions” for the things we worry about lead us down a dangerous path?

Now, simply telling someone not to worry is one thing.  This falls in the “easier said than done” category for most of us.  But our Heavenly Father loves us too much and understands us too well not give us a strategy to overcome worry and anxiety.  Satan wants us to believe that worry and anxiety are natural and part of our human existence.  Reject the voice that says worry is part of your identity.  Begin choosing God’s power to overcome and embrace God’s identity for you.  Praise Him, constant worry and anxiety do not have to define his children.

  • Read Romans 8: 31-37.  How does verse 37 describe believers? What things are believers able to conquer through the power of God through Jesus? Does that include our tendency to worry or be anxious?
  • What practical strategies can you implement to confidently believe that you are capable of living a life free of worry through Christ?
Next, let’s consider the role of prayer in fighting anxiety and worry.
  • Read Philippians 4:6. What does Paul say is the way to handle anxiety?
  • If you write in your Bible, underline the word everything in verse 6.  What three ways does Paul say that we are to approach God with everything?
  • What is the difference between prayer and supplication/petition?  Why would Paul specifically include supplication/petition in this discussion of anxiety.  How does thanksgiving fit into supplication?
  • Read 1 Peter 5:7. Why does Peter say for us to cast our anxiety on the Lord?  Does knowing God cares for your anxieties help you share them with Him? 

God promises a reward when we rely on Him instead of giving our minds over to worry. Philippians 4:7 begins with the word and.  And is a conjunction that joins two ideas together and means that the ideas happen chronologically or that the second idea is the result of the first idea.  Before you become too bored with grammar class, consider what this means in terms of receiving God’s peace. Paul encourages the Philippian church by explaining that the peace of God is beyond human understanding and will guard their hearts and minds.  However, that little conjunction and at the beginning of his statement prevents this from being a stand-alone teaching.  The peace of God that Paul is promising comes as a result of releasing worldly anxiety through prayer.  Paul wants these brothers and sisters to know that peace isn’t found without prayer and the absence of anxiety isn’t found without prayer.  Paul writes that a peace beyond our understand is available when we take our anxieties to God and petition Him to intervene.  How often do we take our cares and worries to God rather than trying to control or fix the situation?

  • Describe the “peace of God.” Is having peace the same thing as getting the resolution you want to the situation/relationship causing you anxiety?  How is the promise of God’s peace a better promise than a quick or guaranteed resolution?
  • How does God’s peace guard our hearts and minds in Jesus? How does peace keep our minds centered on the Lord?
  • Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.  How do Paul’s words here support the idea that prayer brings peace?  How do prayers of praise, rejoicing, and thanksgiving both put worldly anxiety in its proper perspective and make room for peace?

Finally, let’s consider the difference between Godly concern and unrighteous anxiety. God intends for His people to care about one another and take care of themselves physically.  In fact, Galatians 6:2 tells us to “bear one another’s burdens,” and 1 Corinthians 6:20 to “glorify God in our bodies”. God made us with instincts and emotions so that we attend to ourselves and one another, but like everything else that God made good, Satan seeks to corrupt.  The good and loving care God wishes for His people to show to our physical selves and to each other is no exception.  Often, we become anxious when we allow Godly concern about ourselves, another person, or a situation to turn into our need to control or fix the situation.  Worldly anxiety and worries creep in when we begin to deny the power of God and rely on our human abilities.

Anxiety corrupts beyond the good emotions God designed into us. It keeps us from making decisions.  Ultimately, anxiety keeps us from doing the will of God, and fulfilling the Ephesians 2:10 plan He has for our lives.  Anxiety limits God’s ability to work through His people, which is why He wants us to release it.    

  • How can you know when your legitimate concerns cross the line into unrighteous anxiety? When you experience anxiety, what else do you feel?
  • Do you struggle to release your anxiety and worries to the Lord?  What role does control play in your anxiety or worry? 

As you consider these verses, pray that God will help you release worry and anxiety.  Pray that with thanksgiving knowing that He will free you from both when you rely on Him.

Be blessed. Be a blessing.

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