The Means of True Peace
In Philippians 4, Paul is giving final instructions to the believers of the Philippian fellowship. Among a number of final exhortations, Paul instructs the believers on how to have true peace in their lives. They are to consistently rejoice in Christ, they are to be reasonable, or to have reasonable expectations, they are instructed “not to be anxious” about anything, and they are to pray with thanksgiving by means of supplication. Finally, Paul instructs them to “think” or mediate on things that are worthy of the nature of God and the character of their spiritual lives. In doing these things the Philippian believers and we as well, are able to maintain consistent peace in our lives.
What does it mean, “do not be anxious about anything?” The Greek word translated as “be careful” (KJV); “be anxious” (NKJV and NASB); “do not be anxious” (ESV) is μεριμναω. This word is used some nine-teen times in the New Testament. It is translated as “take thought, care, be careful, have care.”
Ou word means “to care for someone or something.” This care or concern may be about something that may or may not happen in the future. It can also means “to be intent on something,” as a hound dog is intent upon a trail. It can be used to signify “to strive after something.” In reference to our lives it usually takes on the meaning of “anxious expectation of something or anxiety in the face of something.” It is usually linked with fear.
Μεριμναω comes from the word μεριμνα which means care or anxiety. This word actually comes from μεριζω which basically means distraction. It comes from the idea of “to divide or to split into factions.” Hence, the idea is that when we are not trusting in Christ, rejoicing in Him, and praying, various problems can cause our heart (mind) to be split into factions of worry, concern, and care. These problems can leave our “peace” divided, leaving us distracted from our primary position of trust in Christ.
From this word we see the idea of “being drawn in different directions.” The “thing” that causes this being drawn in different directions or this distraction from faith in Christ is considered to be “a care”; hence it is considered to be an “anxious care.”
The word in 4:6 is a verb; it means “to have a distracting care” or “to be anxious about.” To understand this verb fully we see that it is used in the present tense. This is not be a one time, or an off and on again response, but we are to continually, consistently, or to always have no distracting or anxious thoughts. This verb is used in the active voice which means this action is done by us. There is no magic formula, or mystical elf or angel that is going to wave a magic wand and the thoughts and feelings of anxiety disappear. We are responsible to rest in God and not to have or maintain anxiety. This verb is in the imperative mood which makes it a command. It is not an option to choose if and when it is convenient to us. We are expected to obey this command.
The appeal of the soon return of the Lord is the basis for this command. Christ will soon be returning to set all things straight and to establish a kingdom in righteousness, therefore do not have concerns that distract you from that promise and drive you from Christ. In all of these things that come at you or upon you, turn to Christ and pray, be thankful and make your requests known to God, rather than worry or suffer anxiety.
Can you see the meaning of this word? More importantly can you see how the primary meaning of our word anxious relates to you? We must constantly be on our guard in order to not be distracted from Christ and from focusing on something or someone that may or may not harm or affect us in a negative way. Of course this is more often easier said than done. I face this temptation everyday as I continue to be unable to find a job and as we face the reality of foreclosure on our home.
Fulfilling God’s command to “be anxious, or not to worry or be concerned about anything” is very difficult at best. Fulfilling this command is a way in which we as God’s children are able to reflect the character and nature of God as we are directed in I Corinthians 10:31.
Study the following passages in their context to gain a more complete understanding of our word:
Matt 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34, 10:19
Luke 10:41, 12:11, 22, 25, 26
I Corinthians 7:32, 33, 34, 12:25
Philippians 2:20, 4:6
Luke 8:14, 21:34
II Corinthians 11:28
I Peter 5:7
Matt 12:25, 26
Mark 3:24-26, 6:41
I Corinthians 1:13; 7:17, 34
II Corinthians 10:13
Vines Complete Expository Greek Dictionary
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
Moultan and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek Testament
The Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament
Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 4
The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary of Philippians, Moises Silva
Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, J. B. Lightfoot
A Reader’s Greek New Testament
NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV translations of the Bible