Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
“Do not be anxious.” That is a hard one for me. Actually, anxiety is pretty pandemic right now, wouldn’t you say? The Greek word is merimnáō which means “drawn in opposite directions,” “divided into parts,” “to go to pieces” because pulled apart in different directions. Literally, it means “to be divided.”i
I am very familiar with the “go to pieces” part of anxiety, also the “pulled apart in different directions” situation. However, the “to be divided” meaning of the word caught my attention and reminded me of David and his undivided heart.
Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11
David was actually praying for “unitedness of heart”- a heart not divided into parts, not pulled apart in different directions. A heart not pulled apart by fears and idolatries. A heart united in focus and trust.
This is not something that we can accomplish ourselves I don’t think, but God promised through the prophets to give us this undividedness, this singleness and unitedness of heart.
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19
I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. Jeremiah 32:39
The word translated “undivided” and “singleness” in these verses is the Hebrew word echad – one. God was promising to give us one heart. It is the same word as in this verse:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Deuteronomy 6:4
This is the verse that Jesus pointed to when one of the teachers of the law came and asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” Mark 12:28-30
In the Greek the word describing God as “one” is holos. It means whole, complete. It means “wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole.”
“All the parts are present.” God is always one; he is never divided. He never “goes to pieces.” He is never pulled apart in different directions. All the parts – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One. Present. With us.
Let’s look at Philippians 4:6 again in context:
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (at hand, near, nigh, ready). Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace (eirḗnē = wholeness, when all essential parts are joined together) of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7
It looks like not being anxious, pulled apart, and divided, but trusting God with our prayers and petitions, gives us His peace and enables us to have a gentle demeanor, evident to all. After Jesus spoke the most important, or first, commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart – he continued with the second most important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
This may seem impossible, especially in these anxious and contentious days, but let me leave you with a wonderful hidden treasure in this verse. The word translated “near” in “the Lord is near,” comes from a Greek word that means “an arm, especially as bent to receive a burden.” Do you see what that says? You don’t have to be anxious for anything because the Lord is present with us, near, at hand, ready to carry us in his arms. He carries all our burdens. Our strength and ability are in Him.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:20-23 (ESV)
i All definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
Image, Safe by Barbara W https://www.flickr.com/photos/barbasia/15537309689/