Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
There are so many things in this world that, if we focus on even one of them, we could be bogged down with worry, fear, doubt etc. There are health issues, money issues, relationship, family, work, the list goes on and on. Many of the these things are unavoidable and a few of them come without warning. But Paul points us in a direction of overcoming these worries, fears, and doubts. We can overcome them with thanksgiving. The sad thing is, although this is truth and it is very powerful, it is also thrown around as worldly advice without any substance behind it. “Oh wow, that is really horrible, just be thankful that it wasn’t such-and-such.” Instead of focusing on the giving thanks part, it is more focused on what could be worse. “I am so sorry that your cat ran away. Well, at least your house didn’t burn down.” Wait! What?
Rather than focusing on something worse, Paul tells us that in everything, big or small, immediate or distant, that we are to make our request be made known with thanksgiving and we should do this without anxiety regarding the outcome. Jesus tells us, in what is called the Sermon on the Mount, not to worry about what we will eat, what we will wear, or what we will do tomorrow, “for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” Instead, He tells us to, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” So both Paul and Jesus are telling us to not be anxious, to not worry, to not concern ourselves with what is happening or what could happen. However, their response to what goes with not worrying seems very different. Or does it?
Paul tells us to make our request be known with thanksgiving. Jesus tells us to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. How do these two relate? How do these two work together? What is it that we are supposed to take away from this? When we are faced with a fear, or doubt, or something makes us anxious, are we supposed to ask for help with thanksgiving, or are we supposed to seek out righteousness? Well, the answer is both. And it comes down to where our focus lies.
How many kids do you know, especially here in America, that have a room full of toys, more toys in the family room and then even more out in the garage? If you would follow those kids into a store, as they are walking past the toy department what do you start to hear? “I want.” “Can I?” “OOOOOOh this is sooo cool!” I still remember the words of my parents that were spoken in-between the turning off of the car and the opening of the door: “NO I WANTS when we go in here or I will send you back out.” As a kid, our focus was on the next cool thing we could get. It wasn’t on what we already had. Of course, our attention was quickly brought back to what we had upon a threat to take those things away.
Ask yourself, where is your focus? Is it on what you don’t have or on what you do have? I know what you are thinking now. “Hellooooo! I don’t have a ____ (fill in the blank: car, house, relationship, good health, etc.) How can I focus on nothing?” Neither Paul nor Jesus is telling us to focus on possessions, on building wealth, or gaining more things. It isn’t on other people, relationships, or what others can do for us. Instead, they are both actually telling us to put our focus on God. When we put our focus on God, His kingdom, and His Righteousness, we start to see what He has already given us; eternity with Him. This perspective then makes our lifetime here seem like a blip on a screen, which it truly is, and we start to see that things in this world are fading and there are more important things to focus on. When we see how big of a gift this really is, we can’t help but become thankful for all that God has already done for us. This also affects what we ask for. Instead of asking for something new, we become thankful for what we have and or requests become not about things, but about growth for ourselves and others. Our requests become more about impacting God’s kingdom instead of building our own.
When we seek out God’s righteousness and His kingdom, our personal desires are revealed for what they truly are, which is like grass that fades and then is thrown into the fire. This focus then helps us to lay aside our fleshy desires, knowing that there is something bigger guiding us. We can abstain from things not of God because they don’t build His kingdom. We can trust that God will guide us and direct us to a spouse who also honor’s God and that in the mean time, we are able to enjoy our relationship with God even more. Saving up our treasure for heaven instead of spending it here on Earth helps us to control our eyes, our tongue, and our actions when the influences of the world press in against us. We see that, in order to be whole, it isn’t a person, a thing, a job, or a circumstance that will control it or even affect it. But instead, living for God’s kingdom and His righteousness is the only thing that will make us whole. And what more is there to be thankful for than knowing we already have everything we need in order to be whole.
So it isn’t about being thankful that things aren’t worse, like the world wants to make you focus on. It is about being thankful that even in the broken state, this fallen world, even in the middle of this storm that we are going through, the fight that seems to rage on and on and on, in the midst of all of this chaos, we are already made whole by the One who was broken for us. So put your eye on Jesus, focus on God’s kingdom and righteousness, and be thankful for what He has done for you in this life and the next. Base your request on these things and not on earthly desires, “and all these things will be added to you.”