Overcoming Anxiety Pt. 3
Read Philippians 4:4-9
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble 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."
What we think about is what we become. In several different passages, the Bible affirms the importance of directing our thought to focus upon what is right. In Philippians 4:8, Paul points to this when he states, “Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." If we channel our thought on what is right and pure, those thoughts will influence how we think about life and how we act. What we mentally focus upon is what we will become.
Vital in our struggle with anxiety and fear is to rearrange our thoughts. Our natural tendency is to become obsessed with the problems and struggles we encounter. Having some concern about the various trials we face is both natural and valuable. If we meet a threat, the wise person gives careful thought regarding how to alleviate the danger. The problem comes, and this is where we become gripped with anxiety and fear, is when we become wholly focused upon them to the point that we become paralyzed by anxiety. The issue is not so much how to avoid stress and concern but how can we find freedom from it when it grips our minds.
The first answer lies in prayer. As Paul points out in verse 6, when we face issues that cause us deep concern, instead of dwelling upon them, we are rather to turn them over to God and place them in his sovereign hand. Furthermore, we are to do so with confidence and faith that he will act on our behalf. Paul reminds us to be thankful even as we pray. In other words, we are to express our gratitude to God for his work, even before he acts. As we pray, we can pray with confidence that he is actively addressing the very thing that concerns us.
The second step in alleviating our anxiety is to change how we think. We often treat verse 8 as a completely different topic, isolated from verse 6. But in reality, the answer to our anxious thoughts is to change the focus of our attention. Not only are we to trust God to protect us from both real and (perhaps most frequent) perceived threats, we are to have a different focus. Because we know he will save us, we are free to concentrate on what is true and good (vs. 8). With its litany of virtues, this verse's focus is to center our thoughts on those things that shift our attention from the troubles of the present to the hope of eternity. These virtues are grounded in and originate from our daily reflection upon the Word of God. The words of Paul reflect back to David's description of the Word of God in Psalms 19:7-9, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple, the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.” As the Bible Exposition Commentary points out, "The Christian who fills his heart and mind with God's Word will have a 'built-in radar' for detecting wrong thoughts." To think rightly, we need to meditate upon Scripture and allow it to fill our thoughts with God's promises and godly virtues; then we will no longer be plagued by worry and fear.