COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, KJV)
While I have made this point before, it is necessary to make it again. Life in Christ Jesus touches every aspect of life–both inward and outward. The Spirit, therefore, speaks to us of “everything,” ”all things,” “whatsoever ye do,” “in nothing,” etc. He is teaching us to relate everything to our new life in the Son, and separate nothing from it. Strictly speaking, for the believer there is no “secular and spiritual,” as ordinarily perceived. There is no aspect of life that may be lived in disassociation from God, to whom we have been reconciled. At no time is it appropriate to step out of the role of a believer--a trusting one–and live as though we were on our own. As simplistic as that may appear, Satan is diligent to tempt us to do precisely that. Thus we have this exhortation, one of great power and spiritual stimulus.
BE CAREFUL FOR NOTHING! NOTHING!
“Be careful for nothing(KJV) . . . Be anxious for nothing(NKJV,NASB) . . .Have no anxiety about anything(RSV) . . . Do not worry about anything(NRSV).”The practicality of spiritual life is a continual source of challenge to us. When we are tempted to imagine we are on our own in ANYTHING, this word comes to us: “Be careful for NOTHING!”–and it means precisely that: NOTHING! The word “careful” is a large word, meaning to be anxious in a bad sense–overly concerned about a matter. It is, in fact, thinking as though there were no God, no grace, and no hope. It is the same word our blessed Lord used when He said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on” (Matt 6:25,NKJV). And again, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt 6:34, NKJV). You cannot get any more practical than that: your life, food, drink, clothing, tomorrow–none of them is worthy of fret and care!
This is also the same word Jesus used when He spoke to Martha when she was distraught. “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things” (Lk 10:41). Oh, how the words of the Spirit speak to our hearts! They are so appropriate for every one of us.
Care, worry, or undue concern, cannot change any circumstance. It is like a poison injected into the soul that hurts the one possessing it, but has no effect whatsoever on the matter of concern. We have the three Hebrew children as a notable example of not being dominated by such “care.” When confronting the monarch of the land, who had the authority to even kill them, they spoke in faith to him. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter” (Dan 3:16). They saw no need to occupy themselves with concern and lengthy speech preparation, even though, from an earthly view, their lives were in the balance.
When Jesus told His disciples they would be called before Gentile kings to speak, He said, “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak” (Matt 10:19).
The “care,” or undue concern, of which the Spirit speaks is a snare of the devil. It is one of his ploys to debilitate and weaken the saints, causing the Word of God to lose its power in their lives. Of this type of “care,” Jesus said: “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world . . . choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful”Matt 13:22, NKJV). What we have here, therefore, is not a mere guideline for life. This involves the maintenance of your spiritual life which is accomplished through the Word of God.
Our souls are not capable of trusting and caring, or fretting, at the same time. In order to have undue concern about your life–any facet of it–you must thrust the Word of God from you. His promises wither in the mind when worry rises. Worry thrusts us upon the steam of life as though there were no Divine guidance, no pitying eye beholding us from the Throne, and no Intercessor at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. Take seriously, then, this precious word. “Be careful for NOTHING.” By faith, let no circumstance of life loom larger than the God Who redeemed and keeps you!
IN EVERYTHING–MAKE YOUR REQUESTS KNOWN
“ . . . but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” The Spirit is mindful to point out that worry is to be supplanted by a loftier exercise of mind and soul. Rather than letting “care” dominate us, we take the matter to the Lord. This is not a procedure for crises, but a gracious provision for “everything.” Well did the Spirit speak through Peter on this matter. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7-8). He teaches us that our lives are, in every sense of the word, “under the mighty hand of God.” It is He Who sifts and tries us, testing our faith, and showing angelic hosts the effectiveness of His wisdom in dealing with us. Thus, with the heave of faith, we throw our cares and anxieties upon the Lord. We do this because He has invited us to expectantly do so. He has a heart for us. He has confirmed it in the sending, death, resurrection, exaltation, and intercession of Jesus. Why should we carry the load of care, when He has said He will carry it for us?
Our text says we resort to prayer and supplication when “care” takes hold on us. We flee to Him Who cares for us. The word “prayer” emphasizes the ARTICULATION of the matter, while “supplication” underscores the MANNER of the prayer. In the prayer we are asking, petitioning, requesting, or pleading. “Prayer and supplication” are part of “the whole armor of God,” given to protect us from “the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11,18).
Notice, the prayer and supplication is made “IN everything”–when we are struggling with undue concern and anxiety. When we live by faith, even when weakening care comes upon us, faith will be able to raise a fervent prayer and supplication to God. Nevertheless, we are exhorted to do this.
But this is no mere formal prayer that will work some heavenly magic for us. It is to be accompanied with the sweet incense of “thanksgiving.”Elsewhere, we are admonished “Giving thanks always for all things,” and,“In every thing give thanks” (Eph 5:20; 1 Thess 5:18). We thank Him for salvation, His keeping power, Christ’s intercession, and our abundant access to Him. Our circumstances have not altered our redeemed status, removed our names from the book of life, or withheld the blessings of God from us. Even in the worse of circumstances, when cares looms large like Goliath, we are not at their mercy. It is God with Whom we have to do. Give thanks!
What a mercy is found in this exhortation! We are invited make our“requests known unto God.” The mind will reply, Why do such a thing? God knows already. Why should I tell Him what He already knows? Ah, poor soul, it is not for God’s benefit that you are making your request known, but for yours. It makes no difference how trite the request may seem, make it known! When care besets you, be bold to tell the Lord what you want. He invites you to do so. Speak your case out with words in prayer. Order your cause and present it skillfully with supplication. Flavor it with hearty thanksgiving for the Lord Himself and the good things He has given to you. Do not think your case is too small, or that the Lord does not care for you. He has told you to come with your request. Let His Word dwell richly in you by doing so.
THE PEACE OF GOD WILL KEEP YOUR HEART
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The Spirit is careful to anchor our faith in God Himself, and not in our prayers. Nor, indeed, does He allow us to imagine that prayer will instantly dissipate the circumstances causing us to worry or be anxious. It is not that immediate resolutions are not possible, or that God is not disposed to do this at times. That, however, is something that will be governed by His wisdom, not our desires.
Actually, the promise given to us is better than the removal of the trouble itself. It is possible for “care” to linger after the cause of it has been removed. Thus, the rich young ruler who sought for eternal life “went away sorrowful,”even after he had received the answer from Jesus Himself (Matt 19:16-23).
When, in faith and with thanksgiving, we let our requests be known to God, we have this unequivocal promise: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”The promised peace is not a euphoric state of mind–a sort of mind-over-matter, or psychological experience. We are granted “the peace of God”–God’s own view of the matter. You may rest assured your trouble causes no anxiety in heaven. This is a peace that “surpasses all understanding” (NKJV). The NASB says “all comprehension.” This is a peace that cannot be explained or accounted for by human wisdom. It defies all mortal insight for an individual, in the midst of troubling circumstances, to be dominated by a sense of well being and favor. This is a peace that effectively says “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). The believer is thus enabled to sleep with lions and walk in fire.
There is a remarkable precision in this promise. Both heart and mind are kept by the peace of God. Other versions read “guard your hearts and your minds.” The idea is that of a faithful sentinel or watchman protecting the heart and mind from intrusive imaginations. Both the “heart” and the “mind” must be so protected. The “heart” is the inmost part of the individual from which the issues of life flow (Prov 4:23; Matt 12:35). The “mind” is the part of us that processes the things embraced by the heart (Rom 7:25; Col 1:21). Apart from the keeping power of God’s peace, the heart can be ravished by unlawful preferences, and the mind can be occupied with evil imaginations. Both heart and mind can be corrupted by the defiling flow of care.
The “peace of God,” however, does not work effectively merely because we made our requests known unto God. Faithfully it guards our “hearts and minds” warding off distracting intruders, “through our Lord Jesus Christ.”Thus the Spirit faithfully reminds us that Jesus Himself is the Cause for God’s faithfulness toward us. While the Father loves us, He must bless us through the Son, Who alone is worthy of such gracious reciprocation to our prayers. These words speak to our faith, and cause hope to revive and bring good cheer to us, even when we are “troubled on every side” (2 Cor 4:8; 7:5).
Our Lord does not promise us calmness of sea and pleasant circumstances in this world, and we should not approach life as though He did. He does, however, promise to make us equal to any of life’s episodes. This is one of the appointed means of bringing God glory, and making us stronger in the faith.