|Posted on March 19, 2020 at 10:50 AM|
Unless you live under a rock in the wilderness I’m sure you’ve all heard much more about the Coronavirus than you want. I’ll not repeat the various warnings and official responses to this threat, but I do want to address the more insidious problem that is equally as contagious as the virus itself. Anxiety leading to panic feeds on any threat, imagined or real, and often does as much damage as the threat itself. This is why Paul outlines a three part “formula for worry” in his letter to the Philippian church. Writing from his prison cell facing his own impending death to a group of believers experiencing sever persecution Paul describes how we are to cope with such anxiety and panic.
In Philippians 4 he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” In this first part Paul calls for us to rejoice in all things, even in threatening situations, knowing the Lord is close by to intervene on our behalf. He calls on us to turn our worries into prayers that express both our requests and our thanksgiving and promises the supernatural peace of God will literally guard our conscious and subconscious minds.
Because it is impossible to quit thinking about the threat, even after we receive the peace of God in prayer, Paul directs us to actively change our thinking, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Rather than dwell on the variety of issues that come up because of the threat, Paul tells us to think on positive outcomes. God has and will continue to provide for his people no matter what threat they may face. Instead of whining about all that can go wrong we need to focus on what is going right.
Finally, Paul encourages us to follow his example saying, “Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” The only time we can worry about anything is when we are idle. Following the example of Paul who stated earlier in the letter “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” is to live in confidence knowing that we cannot lose. Striving to fulfill our high calling of God in Christ Jesus despite the threats this world may present is a sure way to eliminate anxiety. We cannot focus on loving others like Christ and worry at the same time.
Following the personal leadership of the Spirit to love others like Jesus is the surest way to experience the presence of the God of all peace. Jesus promised his disciples that whoever followed his directions in loving others would enjoy both he and the Father living with them (John 14: 23). All worry ceases when the God of peace is with you.