Nothing! And Everything!
Read – Philippians 4:1-7
Key Verse – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV).
Key Thought – Worrying about nothing, and praying about everything, brings the peace of God to our lives.
Paul begins this section by revisiting one of his initial thoughts – stand fast in the Lord. He had mentioned it in 1:27 and now in his final comments, he mentioned it again. We noticed in the previous study that this verse is a transitional verse between chapters 3 and 4. As a conclusion to chapter 3 it reminds us that we CAN stand fast in the Lord because of all that we have and are in Him, especially the glorious truths seen in the closing 2 verses of that chapter!
Now, as the beginning thought in chapter 4, it is also an imperative. Not only CAN we stand fast, but we are so commanded. STAND FAST!
Paul used some interesting metaphors to describe the Christian life. In 3:13-14 he described it as a race… as running. And in that description we saw the need to never stop reaching for the goal… to keep running no matter what… to never feel like we had arrived (until we finally do). Here now he describes the Christian life as STANDING… standing FAST in the Lord.
- Whatever comes, stand.
- Whoever and whatever tries to push you around, stand.
- When you feel most like sitting down, stand.
- When the gusts and storms of this life threaten to blow you away, STAND.
I’m reminded of the famous picture of the young man standing in front of an entire column of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square, China, June 5, 1989. The tanks had just been used to forcibly quell a protest in that square. But this young man wasn’t done protesting, and he STOOD eyeball to cannon with a row of tanks.
The Israelites were penned in between the Red Sea and the advancing Egyptian army. And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever (Exodus 14:13 NKJV).
The prophet told King Jehoshaphat, You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you (2 Chronicles 20:17 NKJV).
So much of the Christian life is just that. Standing… standing fast no matter what comes.
Well Paul develops the thought in the next few verses. Everything he mentions next describes what standing fast in the Lord looks like. And he begins by:
He calls out a couple of women here, Euodia and Syntyche. He calls them out by name. These two were apparently the cause of some dissension in the congregation. Perhaps they were the reason he had spoken so much about unity and single-mindedness earlier in the letter.
His singling them out by name is a good reminder to us of the seriousness of their sin. It is not trivial to divide God’s people. It is not trivial to be the focal point of dissension in the church. It is actually quite serious. It was serious enough for Paul to not only address it generally, as he had done so far in the letter, but to get truly specific, and put his finger right on the spot – Euodia and Syntyche.
Now, I have to pause here and reflect on something. I have to ask a question, which I’ll ask first of myself. “What is it I want to be remembered for?” I’ll ask it also of you – “What do you hope to be remembered for?”
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that we know nothing about these two women except their names and their church affiliation, but for 2000 years they have been remembered for one thing and one thing only – bickering… not getting along. How sad to live a life for Christ, and the only thing people remember is something negative such as that. We need to pray as the psalmist prayed, O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. … Keep my soul, and deliver me; Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You (Psalm 25:2, 20 NKJV). Lord, let me not be ashamed. Let my legacy bring glory and praise to Your name, not shame or embarrassment.
Well, when a believer is doing something that causes discord or dissension in the local church, they need to be dealt with, and sometimes that means dealing with them publicly, as Paul did here. No pastor likes it. I imagine Paul struggled to write their names, but he knew it needed done. I can tell you as your pastor, that I am loathe to confront. I realize that this is a weakness and not a strength in a pastor, and I ask your prayers about it. Thankfully, we have wonderful elders in this church who make up for my weaknesses.
One of the greatest examples of this is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, where he described a time he had to take Peter to task. Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews (Galatians 2:11-14 NKJV)? The subject of Paul’s concern is not germane to our study today, but his behavior in calling out Peter is. Peter was in error, and Paul had to deal with it. Peter’s error was public, and so it had to be dealt with publicly.
So Paul named names – Euodia and Syntyche, and asked that they straighten up… settle their differences, whatever they were, and strive for unity rather than the dissension they were engaged in.
Now, I can’t be dogmatic about it, but I think Paul named a third name here. Your Bible says, in vs. 3, I urge you also, true companion (“true yokefellow” if you’re holding a KJV). Bible scholars have varying opinions on who Paul was referring to there. Some of the names suggested include Epaphroditus, Timothy, and Lydia. But I think the simplest explanation is that the word translated “true companion” is a proper name. That word is Syzygus. It seems the most logical interpretation, especially since Paul named names in vs 2, and then again at the end of vs. 3. I think Syzygus was the name of a person in the church. And Paul asked him to intervene in these women’s behavior, to HELP THEM. They had once been useful and profitable, laboring alongside Paul and Clement and others. Eudodia and Synteche has once been known for their service alongside Paul. Now they were known for their bickering and contention. Help them, Syzygus!
You know, when a brother or sister is struggling in their faith, we need to help them. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1-2 NKJV).
Do you know somebody who is struggling in this church? Help them. That doesn’t mean you ignore their sin and stroke their struggle. It means just the opposite. Lovingly confront. Point out their “pain point” as our brother Sean likes to say. Encourage them to do right… to confess… to repent… to get back in line… just as Paul encouraged Syzygus to do with these women Paul cared so much about.
Well, having dealt with that specific issue, Paul returned to his theme:
Again I say!
Rejoice in the Lord.
Paul was a man intoxicated by joy. And Philippians is a letter brimming and overflowing with joy. This verse is the key verse for the entire letter.
- We are to rejoice.
- We are to rejoice in the Lord.
- We are to rejoice always.
- And it bears repeating, Paul said.
- Let me say it again, REJOICE!
Don’t you feel sorry for those outside of Christ who live in this sin sick, messed up, broken, and dying world? They have no reason for joy… no source of joy… no prospects for joy! But those of us who know Christ have no end of reasons to rejoice! There is endless joy in Christ.
Rejoice in the Lord.
Now we’ve noticed the distinction before, but it bears repeating. He did NOT say “be happy” for happiness depends on circumstances, and there are many circumstances we encounter where we are not happy. Rejoicing… joy… on the other hand, is not based on circumstances, but on something outside our circumstances. He wrote that our rejoicing is to be IN THE LORD. And we can ALWAYS do that, and SHOULD always do that, no matter our circumstances.
David’s life was often far from happy. He spent years fleeing King Saul who wanted to murder him. His own son Absalom tried to have him killed and take over the kingdom. There was enough trouble in David’s life to wipe the smile off anybody’s face, and yet we read David’s psalms and see his joy! He certainly wasn’t always happy, but he knew joy.
I may have told you about Erma before. One of my first hospital visits as a young associate pastor in New Jersey was to her bedside. Erma was very elderly, a widow with little in the way of worldly wealth, and she was suffering one of the more unfortunate complications of diabetes. I was visiting her just after she had lost her leg to amputation. I remember steeling myself before entering the room, for I expected despair and sadness and depression. But as I pushed open the door she looked up at me from the bed, flashed me a huge smile, pointed to the little quivering mound in the bedsheet that was all that remained of her leg and yelled, “Preacher! You wanna meet lefty?” I must have had an interesting look on my face because she just laughed and laughed.
Do you have that joy joy joy joy deep in your heart? It’s only possible in the Lord! I love the sentiment I’ve seen on several church signs: “No Jesus, No Joy. KNOW Jesus, Know Joy!”
Erma’s joy was plastered all over her face. You couldn’t help but see it. But in reality, joy is an internal thing. It’s something we have inside. Paul wanted it to be seen, though.
Let your gentleness be known to all man (vs. 5).
The word “gentleness” describes a forbearing, non retaliatory spirit. It includes the idea of “yielding.” He had described this thought more fully in 2:3-4.
Our joy is internal, and not always visible. But how we treat others IS visible. This gentle, forbearing, non retaliatory, yielding, others first spirit is to be visible to ALL men. Why? Because Jesus is coming again! He had mentioned it in 3:20-21 and hammers it home again now. His return is “at hand” or imminent.
When we are tempted to be something other than joyful in our walk… when we are tempted to be something other than gentle with others, something other than forbearing… when we are tempted to retaliate against others for their perceived treatment of us, we need to ask ourselves a question. If Jesus came back right now, is this what I want Him to find me doing? Oh Christians, the LORD IS AT HAND! May we be found rejoicing in Him… living rightly toward others… ALL others.
Well, we come to the last two verses in this section. And I think we might sum them up with two words:
Nothing! and Everything!
Be anxious for nothing.
This doesn’t mean we don’t care about things. Christians should care deeply about things – justice, righteousness, the issues in our government which are so out of control, the treatment received by those around us, etc. We should CARE, but Paul says here we should not WORRY. That’s what that word “anxious” refers to – worry.
Jesus also taught that we should not worry, in Matthew 6:25-33 – Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
After all, if we believe God is in control… if we have an all powerful and ever loving God and Savior, why would we ever worry?
Be anxious for NOTHING.
Pray about EVERYTHING.
Notice the contrast between vss. 5-6. We are to let our gentleness and forbearing and unselfishness be known to ALL MEN, and we are to let our requests be known to GOD. Live your life in every way according to God’s Word… live as a Christian… strive for Christlikeness in everything and toward everybody, no matter what they might do or say to you, and LEAVE THE REST TO GOD.
One man summed up vs 6 as “Worry about nothing, Pray about everything.” You might want to write that in the margin of your Bible. It’s a good summary.
Do you struggle with worry? Get hold of those two words – nothing, and everything. Worry about NOTHING. In its place, pray about EVERYTHING. Whatever you’re worrying about, move it into the prayer side of that equation, and watch the worry fade.
Now, I need to suggest a few thoughts about prayer that come to mind as I consider these verses:
First of all, if we’re going to think about prayer, we have to mention that it is something only a Christian has the privilege of performing. Boice points out that there are two very simple ingredients for prayer to be true prayer. It is first of all, simply talking to God. Nothing more and nothing less. And it is, secondly, a privilege only the Christian enjoys. Prayer is something only those who are “in the Lord” may practice.
Jesus made it clear that the only access to the Father is through Him. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6 NKJV). We often use that verse to point out that there is only one way of salvation, and that is through Jesus Christ. True. But that same exclusivity is also true of prayer. The only way to the throne room of God is through Jesus. If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, there is not much sense praying. There is only one prayer God promises to answer when prayed by an unsaved person – the prayer that repents of sin and calls upon Jesus as Savior. Have you prayed THAT prayer?
And truthfully, God doesn’t always hear the prayers of Christians, either. The Bible plainly teaches that God does not hear the prayers of Christians who harbor some sin… cling to some sin in their life and refuse to repent of it. David knew it. If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear (Psalm 66:18 NKJV). Isaiah knew it, and warned of it. Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear (Isaiah 59:1-2 NKJV).
There are probably some here today whose prayers never reach heaven because they have never trusted Christ. Why not do that today? There may also be some here today who have trusted Christ, and your prayers still don’t reach heaven because you are living in some sin. Confess it. Repent of it. Feel the joy of an open line to heaven again!
We are to pray with thanksgiving. Here Paul described the overriding attitude we should have in prayer. He had written something similar to the Thessalonian believers, Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
No doubt Paul’s readers would remember when Paul and Silas had demonstrated this very attitude of thanksgiving in prayer, even in the midst of imprisonment and persecution. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25 NKJV).
We are to pray at all times and about all things.
Hezekiah received a threatening letter from Sennacherib, And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD (2 Kings 19:14 NKJV).
The apostles were threatened and told by the ruling authorities that they could not preach the gospel anymore. They prayed, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word (Acts 4:29 NKJV).
The apostle Paul suffered from some sort of physical infirmity, and he prayed for God to remove it from him.
Nehemiah wanted to do something big for God, and needed his king to allow him to do it. Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king… (Nehemiah 2:4-5 NKJV).
Worry about NOTHING. Pray about EVERYTHING.
Try and imagine a life lived in vs. 6. What would it look like?
Well, I believe it would include vs. 4. Joy would be part of it. And I think it would be visible to others, as indicated in vs. 5. But Paul says there would be something very specific that would result from such a life… a life lived worrying about nothing, and praying about everything. Of that life, Paul said, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7 NKJV).
The peace of God. He speaks not of peace WITH God, here. That phrase Paul applied to the reality that when we trust Christ, and are born again, the enmity between us and our God is ended. We are no longer enemies but friends… family… beloved. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1 NKJV). Everyone who has been justified by faith in Christ… every Christian… has this peace WITH God.
But Paul speaks here of the peace OF God, which is different. It is, as he mentioned here, indescribable, and surpassing all understanding. He said that peace will guard your hearts and minds. That’s a military term that pictures a garrison or posted guard protecting something.
Such peace is hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it, and that’s why Paul said it surpasses all understanding. But there are many in this room who have experienced it and can tell you about it.
Our dear brother and sister, Bruce and Sandy, recently laid their beloved son in the grave. Ask Sister Sandy about the peace of God, for she has told me many times how it was and is there for her, even in such tragedy.
I think I experienced it a bit when my son Joshua came close to dying from cancer. I think I experienced it a bit when my dear Beth died in my arms. I can’t explain what it was like, other than to say that I had this overwhelming sense that everything was ok and would be ok. The peace of God was THERE, and I knew it and felt it and it washed over me like balm. Peace… the peace of God… incomprehensible… unexplainable… surpassing all understanding. It was there.
What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace
Buried deep in the heart of my soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away
While the years of eternity roll.
Oh my friends, that peace will be yours if you will only get hold of the power of those two little words – nothing, and everything.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV).