The other day I had the opportunity to share the following passage of scripture (Phil 4:4-13) with someone who is very dear to me. This person struggles with negativity. As we talked, the Word spoke to me, in my heart. Isn’t the Living Word wonderful? Once you plant the Seed of it by reading, you never know when or where you will see the Fruit, but it always comes at just the right time. It is rare that I can identify the exact scripture reference, but thankfully, with technology, this is not an issue! I just Google the portion of scripture I can remember, select the Biblegateway.com link on the results page…and then…voila! There are really three parts to this passage, and each one could be a post, but I wanted to show you, if you haven’t read this chapter in a while (like I hadn’t), how the ideas progress toward solving the problem of both anxiety and negativity. I know many of us struggle with this from time to time. God knows too. In His great love for us, He gives us the best solutions for everything, in His Word. By the way, it may seem obvious, but the italics, bold font, and bracketed text are my emphasis in all of the following scripture verses.
First, we see a command:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again [in case you missed this very important thing]: Rejoice! [And secondly,] Let your gentleness be evident to all. [Now for some comfort] The Lord is near. [And some instruction] Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. [Get ready for the promise…if you trust your worries to God, and if you have a grateful heart, then] The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:4-7).
Of course, verses 4-7 pretty much give us the whole answer to our problem, all at once. But Paul goes on the fill in the blanks for us. He knows how we tend to whine and complain and that this behavior is the “norm” of the human condition. But complaining is a dangerous pastime. Complaining even about “small things” drives a wedge between us and God as I have written about before in this post and this one and this one and others. But what does God’s most excellent way look like?
Finally, brothers, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. [Another promise and the answer for any anxious heart]. Phil 4:8-9
Paul teaches us something that is so simple, but so hard! Worry AND complaints destroy peace. Prayer AND gratitude bring peace. We must remember that our choices form our habits, and our habits define our character. For some, complaining is more than a habit, it is a hobby. These negative souls love to spread bad news more than they love to tell good news! But, as sinful choices lead to sinful habits and then contribute to a corrupted character, so godly choices lead to godly habits and build godly character. Now Paul will show how living according to God’s way has affected his life:
I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. [Here is the lesson we can learn from enduring hard times, when we trust in God] I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. [He says it again so you don’t miss it!] I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Phil 4:10-13
Here Paul shows that we must not be defined by our circumstances – our circumstances don’t determine our mood (this is determined by our choices) and our circumstances don’t determine our future (this is in God’s hands). He simplifies things for us again – all we have to do is lean on Jesus; and He is strong, always.
Jesus is stronger than our anxiety and negativity any day. We cannot solve all of our problems. We are to focus on just one problem: our thought-life. Shoo the bad thoughts out of the door of your heart. God does not whisper discouragement or fear into our hearts – these come from the Father of Lies. Think of it! As you open the door of your heart and welcome thoughts into your mind, exactly who are you inviting in? Who are you entertaining? Because it is either the Father of Lies or Jesus; it’s that simple:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me.(Rev 3:20.
I try to remember always that complaining is me questioning God’s plan, criticizing His choices for me. Complaining is me questioning God’s wisdom, not showing proper respect for my King. Complaining is me questioning God’s goodness, which is about the most ungrateful thing a person can do. Complaining is a lack of trust in God.
Today, as we think about the little gripes (too much traffic? a busy day? a spat with your hubby?) or the big ones (financial crisis?, health concerns? broken relationship?), let’s all accept that God is working, God is powerful, God is wise, and God is good. When we remember God, and look to Him instead of at ourselves, we feel the peace that He has already given us: I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
justAgirl…just like you!