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Replacing Anxiety with God's Peace & His Presence | Part 3

The Promise of God’s Peace

We’re in a series looking at Paul’s counsel for anxious people in Philippians 4:6-9. Paul prescribes two antidotes for anxiety in this passage: prayer and deep meditation on Christ-exalting things. What’s more, Paul declares two promises of God for those who take the medicine: the experience of God’s peace and the experience of God’s presence. We’ve already looked at Paul's motivation to obey the commands, the first antidote of prayer, and now we’ll look at God’s promise to those who cast their anxieties into His loving arms.

6…let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God, through Paul, graciously calls anxious people to put off anxiety and put on prayer, and then He promises us that as we pray (v7) “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The promise of God’s peace is experienced by those who turn away from anxiety and turn to God by faith in prayer.

God’s Peace Surpasses & Guards

What better news could there be for anxious conspiracy theorists like us than to hear that the very peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard (it’s a promise) our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

In the midst of our anxiety, aren’t we desperately trying to figure things out on our own? “What if this wasn’t…?”, “Maybe they didn’t mean…?, “What if they will…”, and “If this didn’t happen…but if this does happen now…?” The sad reality is, as we go deeper into our anxieties and conspiracy theories, hopelessness sets in; and what we thought was our “perceived” understanding, devolves into murmurings of confusion. So, how kind of God to let us know that His peace surpasses all understanding. God’s peace is an otherworldly peace that transcends our flawed and limited understanding. None of our attempts to understand things can resolve our inner torment. Only the healing power of God’s peace can transform and quiet our hearts, because it surpasses all understanding.

What’s more, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. The “heart” and “mind” are often synonymous terms in the New Testament. The “heart” is the center of our intellect and will; it’s the causal core of our being. But here, when Paul separates out a function of the heart (our intellect) and places it in the mind, he’s trying to emphasize the struggle of the mind—of the intellect—in anxiety. You see, like a soldier actively guarding the city gates, the peace of God actively stands ready—armed to the hilt—to protect our hearts and our minds from the enemy of unbelief, which is at the core of anxiety.[i] The promise of active fortification stands assured through our union with Jesus. Jesus is the one who said to his anxious disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. [So] Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.” The peace of God doesn’t guard our hearts and minds from the havoc of anxiety in some sort of abstract theoretical way. Nor does it necessarily change our circumstances or give us some sort of special revelation into the mysteries of our anxious confusion. No-no, it does so by remind us of, and comforting us with, the safety and security of our relationship with Jesus Himself, the invincible Prince of Peace.

Prayer is the Means to Experience God’s Peace

The promise of God’s peace is experienced by those who turn away from anxiety and turn to God in prayer. Prayer is not the end, but rather prayer is the means, or “antidote”, to experience the peace of God.

Anxiety is foreign to no one, and friends, no peace will be found in fearfully straining to figure things out on our own. We won’t find peace in turning to distractions like food, entertainment, relationships, or work either. We’re our own worst enemies as anxiety comes from within our own hearts. Only the peace of God will still the raging storm within us. Friends, the promise of God’s peace is experienced by those who turn away from anxiety and by faith turn to God in prayer. You are loved by a good and gracious God. He has not, and will not, leave you or forsake you. He’s very near to you. Reach out to Him! He knows what’s going on, and He so wants you to trust Him, to run to Him, and to fall into His arms. You are not alone! God in Christ loves you dearly, and He’s promised that through prayer He will gift you the peace that has eluded you. And it’s not just any peace, but God’s peace. The peace of God that eclipses all human understanding. It is the peace of God that actively stands as a garrison always ready to protect you from…you. Come and turn away from faithless anxiety and turn to God by faith in prayer and experience the promise of His peace.

Next Up: Philippians 4:8-9 | Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.


Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 in this series.

Blog adapted from Replacing Anxiety with God's Peace & His Presence

[i] In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells his disciples, that at its core, anxiety is unbelief. In verse 30 he describes them as, “O you of little faith”. But what’s more, in verse 32 Jesus tells his disciples that the Gentiles—the “unbelievers”—anxious seek after the things and that they should not be anxious like an unbeliever (a functional atheist) but rather trust that their heavenly Father knows that they need these things and will supply it to them.

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Replacing Anxiety with God's Peace & His Presence | Part 2


PHILIPPIANS 4:5b-7
5b The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

There is Grace to Obey

In a series of blog posts we’re looking at Paul’s counsel for anxious people in Philippians 4:6-7. Paul—our biblical counselor—prescribes two antidotes for anxiety for us: prayer and deep meditation on Christ-exalting things. What’s more, Paul declares two promises of God for those who take the medicine: the experience of God’s peace and the experience of God’s presence. This passage is divided into Paul’s two antidotes. The first antidote is in verses 6-7 and the second is in verses 8-9.

Now, last week in the first post I mentioned that Paul’s counsel doesn’t actually start at verse 6 but at 5b, with “…the Lord is at hand.” You see, in the wisdom of God, Paul tells anxious people, that before we ever attempt to obey the commands in verses 6-9, we must preach the truth of Christ’s nearness to ourselves and then rest in that truth. The truth of the Lord’s nearness is meant to empower our obedience in the commands, “do not be anxious…but…let your requests be made known to God.” This goes back to the biblical principle that God never commands us to do something without also giving us His enabling grace to obey. Or to say it in another way, God’s grace always precedes, motivates, & empowers our efforts in obedience.

So, there’s grace to obey the commands in verse 6, (King Jesus is near;) “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Antidote #1 – Prayer

“Don’t worry about anything”. Nothing?! This can feel a bit unreasonable; but it’s not! It’s a reasonable command for those who are resting in the Lord’s nearness. Our lives may seem to be whirling out of control, but the truth is, the Sovereign King, the One who’s in control of all things—the One who upholds the universe by the word of his power—hasn’t forgotten about us and He kindly wants us to cast our anxieties on him, as He is the only one that can calm our restless hearts. “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything let your requests be made known to God.”

The antidote for anxiety that Paul has been priming us for is prayer. We’re called to pray, and then pray again, and finally, pray some morei and we’re to do so about everything that would cause us concern!

Paul uses two synonyms for prayer: prayer and supplication. Paul often uses the term “prayer” to refer to “intercessory prayer”. In other words, as we pray in specific ways for others our anxious thoughts about them are defeated. “Supplication” refers to making an urgent request to God to meet a specific need. The term “requests” (at the end of verse 6) simply refers to the specific prayers and supplications made.

Here’s the point, whether the concern is for another person or it’s personal, God wants to hear it. And listen, He doesn’t want us to come with vague generalities, God so wants His children to come giving voice to the specific concerns of our hearts.

There’s more, we’re to let our requests be made known “with thanksgiving”. It’s said that, “Without thanksgiving, prayer becomes merely a self-centered means to complain to God about all the bad things that are happening or are perceived to be happening.” Listen, we express our concerns with thanksgiving because we know that we don’t come like orphans having to fend for ourselves, but we come as sons and daughters of the King. We come knowing that He is in control of all things and is using even these challenging circumstances for our good and that nothing is happening outside of His plan. We come with thanksgiving because we know that since God in Christ has already taken care of our greatest problem in our sin, He can certainly give us aid in every other lesser problem.

Reorienting Our Lives Through Prayer

Listen, God already knows our worries, but when we give voice to and confess our specific requests to God, we are humbly acknowledging our reliance upon Him. In prayer, we’re admitting weaknesses, and deficiencies, and acknowledging that God has what we lack and can provide us with the help that we so desperately need. You see, prayer orients our lives away from faithlessness and towards God in faith.

And listen, we are to make our requests known to God. One commentator says, “Our tendency can be to make our requests known to others...while neglecting to bring our requests before God Himself. Sometimes this reticence is rooted in unbelief that God either can or will do anything about our requests; at other times it springs forth from a deeply ingrained self-sufficiency. Yet no matter what its roots are, Paul calls us to make our requests known to God.”ii

What about you? Where, or to whom, do you turn when life appears to be taking a nosedive? When your heart is restless, where do you turn to find rest, comfort, and peace? I know for me it can be turning to the soft glow of TV, in the hopes of finding peace through distraction. Distraction works for an abbreviated time, as it can produce a sense of false peace; but the reality is, my circumstances haven’t changed, and even more significantly, my heart hasn’t changed. You see, nothing in this world is going to quiet our anxious heart and bring the long-lasting peace we so desperately want. Here it is, if we believe what we say we believe about God, sin, and this fallen world, then we’ll be driven to our knees in prayer. And listen, friends, there is nothing too trivial and nothing too small that our Heavenly Father doesn’t want you to let Him know about. We are called to let Him know of every possible cause for angst or concern. Let’s be honest, we are a mess and yet we are deeply loved by our Heavenly Father. He is sweetly encouraging us, “Daughter/Son, come and cast your anxieties into the arms of your Heavenly Father. I care for you. I love you.” So, go! Don’t hoard but cast; don’t delay but pray.

Next Up: Philippians 4:7 – The Promise of His Peace | Part 1 in this series.


Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 in this series.

Blog adapted from Replacing Anxiety with God's Peace & His Presence

i The verb tense for the command “let be made known” is in the present tense, which means we’re commanded to pray continually, in an ongoing way.
ii Harmon, M. S. (2015). Philippians: A Mentor Commentary. 410

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Replacing Anxiety with God's Peace & His Presence | Part 1

PHILIPPIANS 4:5b-7
5b The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

A Common Problem

Thoughts of worry, nervousness, fear, angst, anxiety, are all too common. As one who has done my fair share of wrestling with anxiety, I am convinced that in our anxious thinking we can tend act like functional conspiracy theorists. Here is what I mean: by being worried about how something that happened in our past will most likely negatively affect our future (anxiety is future based), we can tend to think in wild, conspiratorial ways. What’s more, in our unstable thinking, we believe that if we can just figure out those things that are conspiring against us, and if we can understand how the future will unfold, then maybe we can forge a better way forward. Anxious people—like us—can be convinced that peace will be found in their being able to understand everything.

To one degree or another, we’re anxious people who can act like conspiracy theorists. That said, we also desperately want the antidote for this destructive affliction.

This is the first post in a series going through Philippians 4:6-9. Here Paul—our biblical counselor—prescribes two antidotes for anxiety for us: prayer and deep meditation on Christ-exalting things. What’s more, Paul declares two promises of God for those who take the medicine: the experience of God’s peace and the experience of God’s presence. This passage is divided into Paul’s two antidotes. The first antidote is in verses 6-7 and the second is in verses 8-9. Alright, let’s step into the counseling office and get some help.

The Sugar to Help The Medicine Go Down

Philippians 4:6-7 is one of the most looked up passages in the Bible according to BibleGateway.com, and it makes sense. To one degree or another, we all struggle with anxiety, and we all want the antidote. But here’s the problem, Paul’s counsel doesn’t start at verse 6 but at 5b. (That’s right, I brought out letters. When a letter is used, it is identifying logical divisions within a verse. So, there’s 2 parts to verse 5 – 5a and 5b. 5b is “The Lord is at hand;” or “The Lord is near” depending on your translation.)

So, what is the deal with this? My girls are on a Mary Poppins kick right now and one of the famous songs from Disney’s adaptation is, Spoonful of Sugar. The message of the song, as I’m sure you know, is that a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. Similarly, before Paul gives us the command in verse 6 to “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything…let your requests be made known to God”, he first gives us a “spoonful of sugar” and reminds us that “the Lord is at hand”.

The phrase “the Lord is at hand” contains two truths: 1) Jesus is near positionally (though spiritually, He dwells within us and never leaves us) and 2) Jesus’ return is immanent (Jesus will return soon and make everything wrong, right). But why does this truth come before the commands and what does it have to do with anxiety?

The Nearness of King Jesus

Dr. Paul understands that anxious people are prone to think that God is not near. The conspiratorial thinking is, “If God was near, this wouldn’t be happening”. Paul knows that, in our anxiousness, we can theorize (and often believe) deep within the recesses of our hearts, that if God was really here, “this” would not be happening. C.S. Lewis described it this way: “At the moment of my most profound need, God who had seemed always available to me, suddenly seemed distant and absent, as if he had slammed a door shut and double-bolted it from the inside.” King David had the same struggle and often gave voice to it in the Psalms. I love the Psalms. They are gritty and honest. And what’s beautiful is, as much as we are instructed that God can handle us being honest about our struggle for faith, we are also instructed that we are not to stop there. David may start with his struggle of unbelief, or feeling far from God, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” “Will you forget me forever?”, but he always ends with preaching truth to himself like, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

Paul understands this struggle. And so his counsel to us is, before we ever attempt to obey the commands in verses 6-9, we must preach the truth of Christ’s nearness to ourselves and rest in that truth. Be honest about how you feel, but then preach what is real and true from God’s Word to your wayward heart. When we are anxious and believing lies and conspiracy theories, the truth is: God has not left you, Jesus is very near. The Maker of heaven and earth, the Sovereign King of the universe, is ever faithful and ever near to His people. Psalm 46:1 sweetly says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” And listen, Paul is not preaching to us from some vacation home. When he wrote this letter, he was in prison with his death looming on the horizon. Our circumstances don’t invalidate God’s promises. When we feel far from God, it’s not that He has left us, but it is our perspective, our hearts, and our emotions that need to cling to the truth of God’s Word and to an all-consuming vision of our loving, good, and near God.

And as we’ll see in Part 2 of this series, the motivation to put off anxiety and to put on prayer emerges as we confess our faith in the truth of our Lord’s nearness. There is grace to obey the commands in verses 6-9, the Lord is at hand!!


Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 in this series.

Blog excerpted from Replacing Anxiety with God's Peace & His Presence

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