The Leader’s Anxiety and Role as a Model (Philippians 4:6-9)


Leaders struggle with many of the same things. Additionally, all leaders need to provide some of the same things to the people they lead. In this post I examine the anxiety that all leaders struggle with as well as the model that leaders must be for the people they lead. 

The Leader's Anxiety and Role as a Model (Philippians 4:6-9)

Photo Credit: GPS

Related to the passage for today’s post, I love Charles Spurgeon’s comments on Philippians 4:6-9, “Notice that the apostle, after he had said, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always,’ commanded the Philippians to be anxious for nothing, thus implying that joy in the Lord is one of the best preparations for the trials of this life. The cure for care is joy in the Lord” (Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Philippians, 143).

A. Past Lessons 

B. Philippians 4:6-9

6Do not be anxious. Instead, in everything and in prayer of thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. 7Then the peace of God—which surpasses all understanding—will guard your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, if something has excellent character, if something is worthy of praise, think about these things. 9These things you already learned, accepted, heard, and saw in me. Now, do these things and the God of peace will be with you.


6Do not be anxious. Instead, in everything and in prayer of thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. 7Then the peace of God—which surpasses all understanding—will guard your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus.”

A. Don’t Worry; But Pray (v. 6)

6Do not be anxious. Instead, in everything and in prayer of thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”

Philippians 4:6

1. μηδὲν μεριμνᾶτε, — Do not be anxious

While sometimes we try to notice “what is in the text.” Sometimes it is enlightening to note what is not in the text. For example, there is no “if” statement in this clause. Paul does not say, “if you are anxious.” I think he implies some level of understanding that everyone experiences the feeling of anxiousness.

The Greek word here, μεριμνᾶτε, is used to described someone who has an “anxious harassing care” and “unreasonable anxiety” about the future and is distracted because of it (O’Brien, Philippians, 491; Lightfoot, Philippians, 160). Philippians is one of the four “prison letters.” There are four letters that Paul wrote while he was in prison in Rome: Philippians, Colossians, 2 Timothy, and Philemon. While Paul does say to not be anxious, he of all people is most likely to have had anxiety. Yet, he urges the Philippians to not have anxious feelings. Paul was a model for us about how not to be anxious.


The Nonprofit Leader’s Anxiety

In my experience talking with nonprofit leaders there is always one thing that seems to provide more anxiety than anything else: finances. Recently I was talking to the CFO of a national organization and he told me that he once asked his CEO, “What is the think you wake up in the morning worrying about?” That person said he worried about paying the bills of the nonprofit instead of being worried about fulfilling the mission. While I worked at United Way I remember talking to our CEO about her job and some of the things she struggled with. She said that in her last job one of the main concerns she always had was being able to pay her staff. The cash flow at her past organization was very tight and as a result she had to hold her own paychecks a few times and even ask her employees to wait a day or two until they cashed their checks.

I do not write about these people and their anxiety about money in order to condemn them for thinking about money instead of the mission of their organization. Instead, I want to emphasize that the topic of money is the main area of concern for nonprofit leaders. No work can go on without it. However, that focus on money cannot consume everything we think about and do. The appropriate response is to plan for fundraising, ensure that work in that area occurs, but also to focus on the overall mission of the organization to serve people in the community.

2. ἀλλʼ ἐν παντὶ τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ — Instead, in everything

In my translation I have left out the redundant “prayer” word that is here and in the next clause. However, the Greek word used here for prayer, πεοσευχῆ, is the word used as a general word for prayer. It “is a petition addressed to a deity, prayer (BDAG, 878). While this word is a general word for prayer, it is often used in the Old Testament and New Testament to signify a petition. In Paul’s letters it is often used as an intercession (Rom 1:10; 15:30; Eph 1:16; Col 4:2, 12; 1 Thess 1:2; Phlm 4, 22). This word used here means the Philippians should ask God and petition him for their own needs and the needs of others (O’Brien, Philippians, 492).

3. τῇ δεήσει μετὰ εὐχαριστίας – and in prayer of thanksgiving,

a) τῇ δεήσει – in prayer

The word for prayer here, δεησις, is used as a special prayer request such as an “urgent request to meet a need, exclusively requested to God, prayer” (BDAG, 213).

b) μετὰ εὐχαριστίας — of thanksgiving

“Thanksgiving means giving God the glory in everything, making room for him, casting our care to him, letting it be his care. The troubles that exercise us then cease to be hidden and bottled up. They are so to speak laid open towards God, spread out before him” (Barth, Philippians, 122-123).

“Wherefore we ought to give thanks for all things, even for those which seem to be grievous, for this is the part of the truly thankful man” (John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Philippians,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. W. C. Cotton and John Albert Broadus, vol. 13, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series [New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889], 247.

c) How I Pray

One of the best parts of my quiet time in the morning is going through the “Praise and Answered Prayer” section of my prayer card. Every month I create a new 4 x 6 prayer card. On the front side of the prayer card I write out the praises and answered prayers I have had for the month. On the back side I write out prayer requests. While I might not add a new answered prayer to that side of the card every day, my goal is to fill up that side of the card throughout the month with things I can praise God for doing and with the prayers that he has answered in my life.

4. τὰ αἰτήματα ὑμῶν γνωριζέσθω πρὸς τὸν θεόν. – make your requests known to God.

a) τὰ αἰτήματα – requests

This word is used with the two words for prayer mentioned above to stress the sense of a need and only appears in two other places in the New Testament. “So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded.” (Luke 23:24, NLT, emphasis added) and “And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” (1 John 5:15, NLT, emphasis added). The idea of “requests” Paul is hoping to convey here is what is needed and asked for, instead of just the act of prayer (O’Brien, Philippians, 492-493).

5. How Do We Combat Anxiety?

We combat anxiety through prayer. When we bring our requests to God we are laying those things before him and living out what Peter tells his readers: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT). In this way we are acknowledging our total dependence on God.

B. God’s Peace in Our Life (v. 7)

7Then the peace of God—which surpasses all understanding—will guard your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7

1. καὶ ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ θεοῦ — Then the peace of God—

This verse starts out with the Greek conjunction, και, which is translated “then” as a consecutive conjunction (O’Brien, Philippians, 495).

Notice, Paul states that simply making our requests known to God is what brings God’s peace. Peace is not dependent on prayers being answered, it is dependent on prayer.

Peace. God is the first person to possess this peace for it is his peace (O’Brien, Philippians, 496).

The “peace of God” described here is unique in the New Testament. However, peace is also attributed to Christ, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15, NLT). This is an additional affirmation and evidence for our Triune God because this peace comes from both God and from Jesus.

According to the prophets, peace would be an essential characteristic of the messianic kingdom (Isa 52:7)

I think the idea of peace is important because it is God’s peace that shall keep us grounded among all the stuff that happens. Even if the rapture happens and believers are taken up from the earth, there is the possibility that unsaved people will become believers and as a result they will need the peace of God (Rev 6-19:10).

This peace is the “peace which God himself has and guarantees—if accordingly the meaning is, that God himself then surrounds man like a wall with his peace, secures his heart and his thoughts., i.e. himself in the core of his existence” (Barth, Philippians, 123). Additionally, the FaithLife Study Bible shares that this peace of God “refers to the freedom from anxiety that God shares with those who pray to Him; expresses their reliance upon Him through thankfulness. For this reason, Paul knew contentment in all circumstances” (Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible).

2. ἡ ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν – which surpasses all understanding—

a) A Peace Too Wonderful to Understand

One option for this “peace which surpasses all understanding” is the idea that the peace of God is too wonderful for humans to grasp and comprehend. “The human mind cannot even comprehend this kind of peace, wholeness, and quiet confidence” (Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary [Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999], 262).

b) A Peace More Effective Than Any Other Antidote to Anxiety

Another option is that God’s peace “surpasses all understanding” because it is more effective for removing anxiety than any intellectual effort or power of reasoning. As Melick writes in his commentary, “Paul contrasted knowledge and peace at one point: Peace excels over knowledge. No doubt he had in mind situations where knowledge is insufficient. Sometimes it cannot explain, and sometimes explanations do not help. Peace, however, is always appropriate and meets the need of the heart” (Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 150).

3. φρουρήσει τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν καὶ τὰ νοήματα ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. – will guard your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus.

a) φρουρήσει – will guard

Like a squad of Roman soldiers, this kind of peace stands guard at the front of your mind (Anders, Galatians-Colossians, 262). The Greek word, φρουρεω, is a vivid military term used to describe a group of soldiers that stand over a city and protect it from attack (O’Brien, Philippians, 498). For example, “When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me.” (2 Corinthians 11:32, NLT, emphasis added). This word is used figuratively in three examples as in Gal 3:23 for the men and women under the Law, in 1 Peter 1:5 where believers are to be guarded by God’s power, and here in Phil 4:7. Philippi was a military town and the people living there would have clearly seen this connection in Paul’s words (Comfort, Philippians, 215).

b) ἐν Χριστῶ Ἰησοῦ — in Christ Jesus

This is the sphere in which divine protection will occur. Those who are in union with Christ Jesus will be guarded

4. The Peace of God Protects Believers

“When one of the martyrs was about to burn for Christ, he said to the judge who was giving orders to fire the pile, ‘Will you come and lay your hand on my heart?’ The judge did so. ‘Does it beat fast?’ inquired the martyr. ‘Do I show any sign of fear?’ ‘No,’ said the judge. ‘Now lay your hand on your own heart, and see whether you are not more excited than I am.’ Think of that man of God, who, on the morning he was to be burned, was so soundly asleep that they had to shake him to wake him. He had to get up to be burned, and yet knowing that it was to be so, he had such confidence in God that he slept sweetly. In those old Diocletian persecutions, when the martyrs came into the amphitheater to be torn by wild beasts, when one was set in a red-hot iron chair, another was smeared with honey, to be stung to death by wasps and bees, they never flinched. Think of that brave man who was put on a gridiron to be roasted to death, and who said to his persecutors, ‘You have done me on one side; now turn me over to the other.’ Why this peace under such circumstances? It was “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” (Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Philippians, 147–148).


8Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, if something has excellent character, if something is worthy of praise, think about these things. 9These things you already learned, accepted, heard, and saw in me. Now, do these things and the God of peace will be with you.”

A. The Topic of our Thoughts (v. 8)

8Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, if something has excellent character, if something is worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 4:8

1. Τὸ λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί, — Finally, brothers and sisters,

This term of endearment and exhortation is also used in Phil 1:12; 3:1, 17; 4:1.

2. ὅσα ἐστὶν ἀληθῆ, ὅσα σεμνά, ὅσα δίκαια, ὅσα ἁγνά, ὅσα προσφιλῆ, ὅσα εὔφημα, εἴ τις ἀρετὴ καὶ εἴ τις ἔπαινος, — whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, if something has excellent character, if something is worthy of praise,

a) ὅσα ἐστὶν ἀληθῆ, — whatever is true

This is comprehensive. It is real vs. phony. The things that are true in thoughts, dispositions, and deed that are real and not just apparent (O’Brien, Philippians, 503-504). “Valid, reliable, honest” (Comfort, Philippians, 216).

b) ὅσα σεμνά, — whatever is honorable

This is what is serious and dignified. It bears respect vs. frivolity. This word describes holy things such as the Law and Sabbath. In the New Testament it is used to describe honorable older men, “Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.” (Titus 2:2, NLT, emphasis added) and deacons “In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money.” (1 Timothy 3:8, NLT, emphasis added) “In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do.” (1 Timothy 3:11, NLT, emphasis added). (O’Brien, Philippians, 504). It is what is “noble” (Comfort, Philippians, 216).

c) ὅσα δίκαια, — whatever is just

This is what fulfills all obligations to God, others, and themselves (O’Brien, Philippians, 504). It is right by principle vs. expedient. What is “just and fair” (Comfort, Philippians, 216).

d) ὅσα ἁγνά, — whatever is pure

This is what is morally upright and pure. It is clean vs. dirty. By pure it means purity of thought and words and actions (O’Brien, Philippians, 504-505). “Moral purity” (Comfort, Philippians, 216).

e) ὅσα προσφιλῆ, — whatever is lovely

This is someone that gives pleasure to all and does not cause conflict. It is winsome vs. hostile and disruptive. Someone that is lovely, pleasing, and agreeable (O’Brien, Philippians, 505). This word is only used by Paul in the New Testament, but the word is used in the Greek Old Testament, “And she was blushing in the flower of beauty; her and her face was cheerful, as to be beloved, but her heart was distressed from her fear” (Esther D:5, Lexham LXX Int Swete). In Greek writings it is used to describe people “kindly affectioned, well disposed, agreeable, and friendly” (Comfort, Philippians, 216-217).

f) ὅσα εὔφημα, — whatever is praiseworthy

Someone that is well-spoken of and well-reputed (O’Brien, Philippians, 505). It is helpful and upbuilding vs. hard criticism. It is what is of “good repute” and “winsome” (Comfort, Philippians, 217).

g) εἴ τις ἀρετὴ καὶ — if something has excellent character

This is a comprehensive way of describing excellence. It can describe excellence of things, animals, people, gods (O’Brien, Philippians, 506). According to the Greek philosophers, this was the greatest of all virtues (Comfort, Philippians, 217).

In this clause and the next clause the material is introduced with εἴ used as an first class conditional in Greek. In this manner, Paul is assuming that these things are true for the sake of argument. Paul assumes that these things do exist in a fallen and corrupt world.

h) εἴ τις ἔπαινος, — if something is worthy of praise

This describes praise that is offered to God (Phil 1:11; Eph 1:6, 12, 14). It can also describe a thing that is worthy of praise offered to humans (Rom 13:3-4; 1 Cor 11:2, 17, 22; 2 Cor 8:18; 1 Peter 2:14). It describes conduct that wins the praise of others (Comfort, Philippians, 217).

3. ταῦτα λογίζεσθε· — think about these things.

As a present imperative this verb can be translated in three ways.

  • Customary, “habitually think about these things” or “continually think about these things.”
  • Iterative, “repeatedly think about these things” or “continuously think about these things.”
  • Progressive, “at this present time think about these things” or “right now think about these things.” (For options on Greek grammar, see Wallace, Greek Grammar.)

While the differences of these three translations might seem frivolous, the idea here is that believers are to set their minds on theses things now (present) and to allow these things to characterize their behavior (future).

4. How I Fix My Thoughts

One of the things that I do to fix my thoughts on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and praiseworthy is to think about, play, and watch golf. This year I have noticed my purity of thoughts and attitude slightly change after football season ended and I started watching golf again. Football has half-naked cheerleaders, half-naked women in commercials, lots of yelling by players, arrogant celebrations, and the attitude of “I’m gonna kill you.” Meanwhile, golf has no cheerleaders, no beer commercials, limited cussing, no yelling, and respect and hugs that players give each other throughout the round. In fact, during a golf tournament you can actually see the players supporting and encouraging each other, which is contrary to football where there is unlimited trash talking.

What I am trying to say is that while Paul has provided people with a list of things to follow it can sometimes be hard to follow these things in our culture. “Paul turned his thoughts to providing an environment of peace by unified thought. The church was to make these matters its collective goal, and God would rule in them. Individual Christians were to also conduct their lives in this way. This speaks to the need of rearranging life and thought through discipline so that the God of peace can freely work” (Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 150). In order to apply what Paul has advocated for in our lives I think golf is a sport that we can think about, participate in, and watch that maintains a pure mind and helps us think about the things that Paul wants believers to think about.

B. Application of Paul’s Instructions (v. 9)

9These things you already learned, accepted, heard, and saw in me. Now, do these things and the God of peace will be with you.”

1. ἃ καὶ ἐμάθετε καὶ παρελάβετε καὶ ἠκούσατε καὶ εἴδετε ἐν ἐμοί, — These things you already learned, accepted, heard, and saw in me.

“Paul pointed to himself as an example to be followed. If they followed his example, they would be receiving the correct traditions of the Christian life. Before the Christian traditions were committed to writing, later forming the corpus of New Testament Scriptures, the apostles exhibited them to be learned, heard, seen, and received by the people” (Comfort, Philippians, 217).

a) Teachings by Words

(1) ἃ καὶ ἐμάθετε – These things you already learned

These are the teachings that Paul had already given to the Philippians.

(2) παρελάβετε – accepted

This is the tradition that was developing based on Paul’s teaching (1 Cor 11:2; 1 Thess 4:1; 2 Thess 3:6). This word is a technical term used for receiving tradition (1 Cor 11:23; 15:3). Before the New Testament books became recognized as the authoritative voice about how the first century church was supposed to operate, tradition was the standard way that teachings were passed down (Ralph Martin, Philippians. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries [Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press: 1987], 175).

(3) Lessons from Paul’s Words

According to O’Brien, the combination of the verbs ἐμάθατε (“learned) and παρελάβετε (“accepted”) describe what was taught to the Philippians (O’Brien, Philippians, 510).

b) Teachings by Example

Here Paul is again emphasizing what he had already mentioned in “Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example” (Phil 3:17, NLT).

(1) ἠκούσατε – heard

This could have been what the Philippians heard from Paul based on his character (O’Brien, Philippians, 510).

(2) εἴδετε ἐν ἐμοί, — saw in me

(3) Lessons from Paul’s Example

According to O’Brien, ἠκοθσατε (“heard”) and εἰδετε (“saw”) describe the impression that was made on the Philippians from what Paul had modeled for them (O’Brien, Philippians, 510).

Paul described a model that he hoped people would follow both here in Philippians and in his letter to the Corinthians. “Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example” (Phil 3:17, NLT). “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1, NLT).

2. ταῦτα πράσσετε· καὶ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἔσται μεθʼ ὑμῶν. – Now, do these things and the God of peace will be with you.

“The God of peace is always with those who receive His dear Son, and who help His gospel. It is one of the privileges of true believers that the God of peace shall be constantly with them. May we first enjoy the peace of God, and then be helped by the Spirit of God to get into a still higher region, where we shall be more fully acquainted with the God of peace!” (Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Philippians, 150).

a) ταῦτα πράσσετε· — Now, do these things

Paul is using λογίζεσθε (“think”) and πράσσετε (“do”) together. Melick notes, “By using these two verbs, Paul combined the mental and ethical concerns of his Jewish background with Christian thought. For him, knowledge always led to responsible Christian living” (Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 150).


People Need a Model to Follow

I know the most important example at my job as been my boss. My boss is always there. He works hard, does his job, and covers for coworkers when needed. When there are days that I feel that I can take it easy and not work hard, I think of my boss and the effort that he gives. That always encourages me to stand tall, be strong, and work hard. Just as I have that positive example in my life, Paul was that strong example for the Philippians. When they were enduring persecution for their faith and maybe were tempted to stop sharing the Gospel, Paul was their strong example that provided them a model to follow.

b) καὶ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἔσται μεθʼ ὑμῶν. – and the God of peace will be with you.

The ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης (“God of peace”) is used by Paul in a number of other areas to assure and pray for his friends (Rom 15:33; 16:20; 2 Cor 13:11; 1 Thes 5:3). Additionally, this phrase describes all true blessings, final salvation, and the encompassing work of Christ (O’Brien, Philippians, 512).


Paul Is the Model, This Letter Are the Instructions

No teaching is stronger than an example. The best teaching is “do what I do!” Have you ever played with LEGOs? You get LEGOs and open the box to find hundreds of pieces. Putting the pieces together would be impossible if you did not have a model of the finished product as well as instructions to get you there. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the LEGO model is Paul’s life and the instructions on how to get there is this letter.


This idea of having the “peace of God” (v. 7) and praying in the “God of peace” (v. 9) have been applicable to me. Now that I am almost done with my Master’s degree I have been working hard to find jobs. I spend a couple hours every week searching for jobs, evaluating them and, applying for them, then following up on those jobs. It is stressful! I have constantly thinking and feeling stressed about a job that God might provide for me. I sometimes wonder if he is going to provide me a job, or if I will just be stuck doing the job that I am doing now. Yet, I know that God will provide. He will lead me to a position that he knows. When I remind myself that I love God, that I am accepted in his presence, and that he will direct my path, then I feel his peace. He truly is the God of peace, and I hope to be faithful to him and experience the peace of God through this process in my life.

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at