6 Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
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 (Phil 4:6-9).
Of course many people are anxious in the midst of this pandemic. On the 29th March 2020 Dr. Anthony Fauci (the lead immunologist who has advised presidents from Reagan to Trump) announced that between 100, 000 and 200, 000 people could die from the virus! And millions of others could get sick. Many have referenced the “Black death:”
The Black Death was a plague pandemic which devastated Europe from 1347 to 1352 CE, killing an estimated 25-30 million people. The disease, caused by a bacillus bacteria and carried by fleas on rodents, originated in central Asia and was taken from there to the Crimea by Mongol warriors and traders. The plague entered Europe via Italy, carried by rats on Genoese trading ships sailing from the Black Sea. It was known as the Black Death because it could turn the skin and sores black while other symptoms included fever and joint pains. With up to two-thirds of sufferers dying from the disease, it is estimated that between 30% and 50% of the population of those places affected died from the Black Death. The death toll was so high that it had significant consequences on European medieval society as a whole, with a shortage of farmers resulting in demands for an end to serfdom, a general questioning of authority and rebellions, and the entire abandonment of many towns and villages. It would take 200 years for the population of Europe to recover to the level seen prior to the Black Death.
Many think the world is coming to an end, but it did not then. There is a form of cognitive distortion (Cognitive distortions are dysfunctional thinking patterns) call catastrophizing where someone thinks the worst regarding any adversity. Jesus said in this world you will have troubles, but be joyful because I have overcome the world John 16:33.
Any follower of Christ need not be fearful, because regardless of what happens in this world believers know where they are going. Paul says be anxious for nothing:
The anxiety Paul warns against is the kind that unhinges, paralyzes, and incapacitates one— “anxious, harassing care” (Lightfoot, 160). Paul is not calling for them to be indifferent toward life. The root idea of the verb “to be anxious” (merimnaō, GK 3534) is “to be pulled apart.” The Philippians are not to allow their lives to become so wrapped up with material well-being that they fall apart when their standard of living is threatened or their wealth is taken from them. Christians are not to fall apart due to this COVID19 pandemic. When the world is anxious Christians are to demonstrate steadfast hope. That hope in the context of the current pandemic is a light in the darkness. It is a life-lighthouse that shows unbelievers there is hope in our God regardless of the hopelessness in the world.
They are to “present [their] requests to God,” not because God is unaware of their needs and needs to be informed, but because it is a way to acknowledge their total dependence on God. When requests are accompanied with thanksgiving, they will be prepared “to surrender themselves to his will whatever the circumstances” (Peter T. O’Brien, “Divine Provision for Our Needs: Assurances from Philippians 4,” RTR 50 : 24). Michael, 197, writes, “The way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything.” If the Philippians are truly thankful for what God has done for them in Christ, they will not be anxious about the assaults of opponents who threaten them. A thankful spirit crowds out selfish pride, checks fear, defuses anger, and directs one’s thoughts outwardly toward others.
We are to pray about COVID19, not to be worrying about it. We are to cast our cares up to the Lord (Psalm55:22) and then forget them, and trust God to take care of them.
The “and” (kai) that begins this verse introduces the result of thankful prayer (Thielman, 219). The “peace of God” is the peace that God possesses and bestows on others (Ro 5:1) and that leads to contentment (Php 4:11). It is akin to God’s salvation secured through Christ. It will become a garrison standing guard over their hearts and minds, where anxiety and fear lurk. The reference to peace, concluding both sets of exhortations (4:7, 9), may also allude to their dissension. Every time Paul refers to the peace of God elsewhere, it occurs in contexts where strife has reared its ugly head (cf. Fee, 420). The peace of God is not simply what individuals might experience in their soul but is something that should reign over the community (Ro 14:19; 2 Co 13:11; Eph 4:3; Col 3:15; 1 Th 5:13). It keeps minds from becoming hardened (2 Co 3:14), blinded (2 Co 4:4), and outwitted by Satan (2 Co 2:11; 11:3) so that every thought remains captive to Christ (2 Co 10:5). It keeps hearts from losing heart (2 Co 4:1, 16; Eph 3:13) so that they do not stray from pure and sincere devotion to Christ.
And in forgetting about them we are to focus our minds on things that are fruitful as Paul speaks of in the next verse.
Paul moves to a new set of admonitions with to loipon (GK 3370), which, as in 3:1, means “as for the rest” rather than “finally.” One way to fight anxiety is for Christians to focus their minds on virtues—“the real goods of virtue” as opposed to “the false goods of pleasure” (Paul A. Holloway, “Notes and Observations Bona Cogitare: An Epicurean Consolation in Phil 4:8–9,” HTR 91 : 95). This exhortation for them to consider whatever is true, honorable, and just is without analogy in Paul’s other letters and arises from his desire to restore harmony to the community.
The “whatsoever things” (hosa; NIV, “whatever”) refers to those things learned from the example of Christ and from those who clearly follow Christ’s example (3:17; 4:9). “Whatever is true” is not whatever one’s culture might claim to be true. Truth is measured only by God and requires spiritual discernment. Paul expects his readers to have the moral discernment to make their own right judgments about what exactly constitutes the virtues he lists. “Whatever is noble” (semnos, GK 4948) means what is dignified and above reproach—that which inspires respect from others. “Whatever is right” (dikaios, GK 1465) is something that conforms to custom or law. For Christians, what is “right” is defined by God’s justice, but Paul may also have in view its association with the Greek virtue of establishing order and harmony (see Plato, Republic 4.443 c–e). “Whatever is pure” (hagnos, GK 54) is defined by God’s holiness and is connected to what is chaste. “Whatever is lovely” (prosphilēs, GK 4713) is not simply anything that brings delight and pleasure. The word “pleasing” (or “agreeable,” “amiable”) would fit the context better, and it would apply to the effect of one’s relations on others (cf. Sir 4:7; 20:13). “Whatever is admirable,” or “of good repute” (euphēmia, GK 2367), denotes what is well sounding as opposed to grumbling. It is the right choice of words that reveals deference and respect for others.
Paul shifts the sentence structure abruptly to conditional clauses—“if anything is …” “If anything is excellent” (aretē, GK 746) refers to a virtuous character; the word was used to describe those whose moral uprightness contributed to the common welfare. The Shepherd of Hermas (Sim. 8.10.3), for example, links the word to righteousness, and those who exhibit this virtue are contrasted with those who are double-minded and foment division (Sim. 8.10.2). “If anything is … praiseworthy” (epainos, GK 2047) in a Christian context refers to those things that will bring commendation from God (1 Co 4:5; 1 Pe 1:7). To “think about such things” (tauta logizesthe, GK 3357) requires more than sublime contemplation; it means taking such things into account so that one does them. The verb’s usage in Romans 6:11 (“count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”) and its alternate expression in the next verse, “do these things” (tauta prassete [GK 4556], Php 4:9; NIV, “put it into practice”), make clear that action is to be involved.
So, stop falling apart consumed by the coronavirus, and demonstrate the supernatural peace of God and then focus your thoughts on things which edify and encourage.
MY PRAYER: Lord God give me the grace to focus on you during this pandemic. Let my fear and anxiety diminish and my faith increase. Let my life reflect yours so that people see that you are the vaccine that we all need in Jesus name Amen!
Cartwright, M. (2020, March 28). Black Death. Ancient History Encyclopedia.
Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Black_Death/
Garland, D. E. (2006). Philippians. In T. Longman III (Ed.),
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 253). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Garland, D. E. (2006). Philippians. In T. Longman III (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 253). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.