We live in a world filled with good reasons for anxiety and anxiousness. Each year, new reasons for worry emerge and bring concern for people around the globe. And with modern communications helping to globalize the world, we are aware of problems that our grandparents would have never known.
Rising percentages of the population self-report anxiety, depression, and isolation. During a year of pandemic, racial tension, and political upheaval, feelings of worry and loneliness seem to be typical experiences for most people.
As believers, maybe we can find a way to be together amidst this divisive battle of the mind, emotion, and relationships.
The apostle Paul was speaking in a similar time while writing the Letter to the Philippians. He was imprisoned far from the people of the church he loved so much. There were issues of conflict and worry among the church members. But Paul knew something that they did not know. He knew the power of God in the heart of a rejoicing person.
In the final chapter of Philippians, Paul addresses a conflict between two ladies in the church. And it seems that their conflict is infecting other relationships as well and causing a disheartening environment, bringing stress to others. His advice to these ladies and those around them has become one of the most famous and memorized scriptures that Paul penned.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
To rejoice is not simply to be happy or to smile. It is a purposeful celebration of trust and love for God. We are to rejoice always.
Rejoicing is a state of mind, a perspective, an intentional emotional slant. Can you imagine the ripple effects of constant, purposeful celebration of the goodness of God? This text gives us examples of what that would produce in our emotions as well as in our relationships.
You see, Philippians was written to help the people of the church know how to conduct themselves in their faith as well as in their relationships. Paul urges the church to “…conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27b). And in chapter 4 he shows them the immediate value of that intentionality of behavior and thought in the midst of a tumultuous time and relational conflict.
It all seems to begin with an inner celebration that is real and continuous. But it spreads outwardly in ways that can be detected by others: gentleness, a release of anxiety, and an abounding sense of thanksgiving. Wow, that sounds like a wonderful existence, doesn’t it?
He also makes clear that this is not a result of human effort. He urges the people to achieve these amazing goals by “prayer and petition.” These miraculous mental and emotional perspective changes only come as a gift from God. So Paul advises his church to seek God in these things.
Paul describes the result of this rejoicing as a peace that “transcends all understanding.” That’s truly exciting and very useful in both their world and in ours. Who couldn’t use a dose of that kind of peace?
From this wonderful perspective that produces peace, Paul urges the church to be intentional about what they allow to settle in their minds. The word we translate “think” in verse 8 is a very interesting word. Its root is the word “logos” which we translate “word,” as in Jesus is the “Word” of God. But in this instance, it has a nuance of a driven and focused thought process. This is much like the emotional and mental thought processes that an addict needs to escape addiction. This focus of mind can be a massive producer of change in the human mind.
When we choose to “think about such things”—things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable—we are protected and changed for the better. We are enabled to live in a “manner worthy of the gospel.” We are revolutionized both internally (emotionally) and externally (relationally). Together, let’s aspire to live with this perspective that produces peace.
With this in mind, ask yourself a question. How would a rejoicing perspective produce peace in your life? How would it affect your marriage, your children, those you minister to and lead, and even your friendships? Begin today with “prayer and petition” to God to live a life of rejoicing.
Let’s begin together: “Lord, I’ve been stressed and anxious about many things. As I give those things to you, please give me peace and a continuously rejoicing perspective.”
Dr. Brad Henson has served as a church planter in Kentucky. He is also a very thankful husband and father; he and his wife of 26 years, Stephanie, have two teenage sons, Bradon and Jackson.