Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:4-8
Philippians 4 is coined the scripture for the cure to worry and anxiety. Many people focus on verse 6 where it starts with, “be anxious for nothing,” and most people stop there at that four-word phrase. But there is so much more to this phrase “be anxious for nothing.”
So how do we go about being anxious for nothing. After you state the phrase and then you have prayed with thanksgiving? We open one eye and look around to see if our situation that caused the anxiety has changed. Most of the time nothing has changed. The source of the anxiety is still there and may have grown since we did what the Bible told us to do but it did not work. Then we deduce that prayer does not work so we go back to being anxious or more anxious than before we endeavored this futile attempt to “be anxious for nothing.”
But if we read it in context Paul gives us more instructions on how to “be anxious for nothing.” Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Let’s start with the first thing Paul instructs us to dwell upon- whatever is true. What is truth? The word truth describes people as truthful or statements that are true. But what is truth really? Jesus said in John 8:32 that “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” So what is truth?
According to Britannica.com, Truth, in metaphysics and the philosophy of language, the property of sentences, assertions, beliefs, thoughts, or propositions that are said, in ordinary discourse, to agree with the facts or to state what is the case. And in Aristotle’s well-known definition of truth (Metaphysics 1011b25):
To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false,
while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true
These two definitions leave me scratching my head with this thought… “WHAT?” And a resulting headache trying to wrap my head around what either of these definitions mean and how can these definitions of truth cure my anxiety. Listen there are a lot of things going on in this world that will make the most stable person feel anxiety. If we leave truth up to sources like these we are all doomed to be anxious in everything. What’s the answer? After all by knowing the truth according to Jesus I shall be free, and I would assume that includes free from anxiety.
I believe that questions of truth are determined first from a belief that is assessed by facts to determine truth. That makes truth seem relative to each person and in actually it is relative based on where you start in accessing a situation. So, you start with what you believe, then observe facts from what you believe through a process of evaluation such as reason, experiment, or personal experience. In short it appears that a group of facts stringed together determine whatever is true. But the starting point is what do you believe.
Let’s look at Numbers chapters 13 and 14 in the Bible to further explain. A quick summary, Israel had wondered in the wilderness for some years at this point. Moses was given a promise from God that God would give Israel a land flowing with milk and honey. That is the starting point. The belief- God’s promise of the land flowing with milk and honey. Moses chooses 12 men to go check-out this land that God promised to give them. The twelve men go in the land and spend 40 days in the land. The Men return to report back to Moses.
The first ten, let’s call this the majority report of facts:
“We went into the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. Amalek is living in the land of the Negav and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill county, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan” Numbers 13:27-28
Numbers 13:31-33 gives us their truth about these facts:
“We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us. … “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim; and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” Numbers 13:31-33
Twelve men went into the land. Twelve men saw the same things. Ten of the men took the facts stringed them together and came up with a truth which said we can not take the land. Their belief as they stated was that they were “small in our eyes therefore we are small in their eyes.” Their belief was that they were small. The facts were the people of the land were stronger, bigger and their cities were fortified.
Now Caleb had the same facts but a different belief. Here is Caleb’s truth about those same facts:
“The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!” Numbers 14:7-9
Two totally different truths! We know that these two positions can not be truth. So which one is true? And what made it true? Numbers 14:24 gives us the answer “… My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring him into the land which he entered,” God said that Caleb had a different spirit. What was the different spirit? It was the Spirit of Truth. Jesus speaks of the Spirit of Truth in John 16:13 when he said that “But He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” Caleb had this spirit that caused him to believe the promise that God made to bring Israel into the land flowing with milk and honey. The other ten convinced the people to look at the facts apart from God’s promise therefore gave them a truth that was not true.
Whatever is true, leaves us in actuality with a choice. To believe or not believe but the starting premises is the Spirit of truth that is introduced to us in the Word of God. Do we believe God’s Word? Do you believe His promise of peace where he says: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heat be troubles, not let it be fearful.” John 14:27 If you believe this then when you are anxious your starting point is John 14:27- My peace I give to you. If you are not at peace, then you have not started with the right spirit. Peace is the starting point wherever there is anxiety.
What does God’s word say about your situation? That my friend is the starting point to determine what is true and anything that does not agree with God’s word is not true. Jesus said that “if you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32
It is in the Word of God that we find this truth of which Paul speaks of in Philippians 4:8 as a cure for anxiety. Think on these things, whatever is true. What is the source of your anxiety? Find the truth about the cause of your anxiety and then abide in that truth. As you abide in that truth you find a peace that surpasses all understanding.