God wants you to experience His peace in the middle of your chaos. He wants to train you how to defend that peace and manage your anxieties, worries, and fears. The devil is going to do everything he can to get you to focus on what stresses you out. Instead of being aware, calm, and present for God and others, the devil wants you to be self-absorbed about your problems, your troubles, your worries, and your fears. He wants you to be overly concerned about your health, stressed out about your finances, worried about your children, fearful about the future, or focused on what’s not right in your nation or overly concerned about what’s happening around the world.

The devil is just fine with you being anxious and irritated about the unfinished laundry, the dishes that have not been put away, the toys on the floor, and the unfinished project your spouse started two weeks ago. If your anxieties keep you from honoring God and loving others, then the devil is just fine with you stressing out over little things as well.

The devil does not want you to be aware of what God is doing or saying to you. He does not want you to be calm, full of faith or confidence in who you are in Christ and what God is doing in your life and through your life. The devil does not want you to be present to hear from God, to be used by God, or to be blessing and source of wisdom and encourage to others.

On the other hand, God wants you to experience His peace that surpasses understanding and comprehension. In Philippians 4, God gives us the seven practices of peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, NASB)

This is about how to experience the peace of God in your everyday life. We are focusing on the phrase, practice these things. From that little phrase we are answering two questions: What things are we to practice? And what does it mean to practice these things?

What things are we to practice?

Let’s review the first question. What things are we to practice? We were introduced to these last week and we will spend a week on each one in the coming weeks. What were they?

  • We are going to learn to practice joy. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! This is learning how to apply the attitude and power of joy in unhappy situations.
  • We are going to learn to practice gentleness. In verse 5 we are told, Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. Gentleness keeps you calm and has the ability to calm others down as well as keeping stress and anxiety to a minimum.
  • We are going to learn to practice awareness. At the end of verse 5 we are told, The Lord is near. This is where you learn to be aware of the Lord’s presence, the Lord’s return, and the Lord’s glory.  
  • We are going to learn to practice calmness. Verse 6 says, Do not be anxious about anything…. Instead of being anxious, God wants you to be calm.
  • We are going to learn to practice prayer. Verse 7 says, … in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. This is not generic prayer, but specific prayer about what you ae anxious about.
  • We are going to learn to practice thoughtfulness. Verse 8 says, Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. God is going to change what you think about and how you think about it resulting in you being more aware, calm, and present.
  • Finally, we are going to learn to practice following. Verse 9 says, As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. If you want to learn how to manage anxiety learn from those who do it well. Find examples of godly people who apply these seven practices of peace.

What does God’s Word mean by practice?

Why does God’s Word say practice these things, rather than do these things? Because the word practice (prasso) means so much more than simply to do something. In its basic form, the word practice (prasso) means to exercise, to be busy with, to do, to accomplish, or perform. It refers to repeated intentional performance or a habitual act.

The word practice includes everything that is involved in learning, understanding, applying, and doing something.

You have probably heard that practice makes perfect. Well, that’s not true. Practice does not make perfect, practice makes improvement. Practice makes progress. When God’s Word says practice, it is referring to an intentional, strategic approach to learning how to do something for the purpose of getting good at it. This means getting rid of some old habits and replacing them with some new ones.

Here is what we are going to do today. We are going to examine what it means to practice something. The reality is this, if you don’t understand what it means to practice, as the Bible speaks of it, you will not experience God’s peace in the middle of your chaos. It is crucial that we get a good grasp of what it means to practice these things. What does it mean to practice these things?

Practicing requires knowledge

Number one, practicing requires knowledge. God’s Word does not say, “know these things,” but practice these things. We are not talking about just having information about these things. This is not about collecting data and facts about these things. This is about practical application of what you know and what you learn. However, you cannot practice what you do not know.

It is important that you know these things. You can’t practice these things if you don’t know them. If you don’t know them, you can’t use them. If you don’t know them, you can’t grow in them. Listen what Peter said about this in 2 Peter 1,

“Make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledgeand knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8, NLT).

The word “knowledge” (gnosis) refers to experiential knowledge and not merely to information. This “knowledge” is truth properly comprehended and applied. This “knowledge” or gnosis can be applied to other areas of Scripture and God’s truth. When you have gnosis about gentleness, calmness, prayer, and awareness the more productive and useful you will be in your relationship with Jesus and others. You and I need to grow in the “knowledge” of these things. The way you gain gnosis knowledge is by applying what you already know and learning what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. You begin to gain experiential knowledge.

When you practice the seven practices of peace you will learn how to use them, when to use them, and you will gain gnosis knowledge of them improving your skills of anxiety management. Practicing requires knowledge that we put to use.

Practicing is to be habitual

Practicing requires knowledge and number two, practicing is to be habitual. When Paul says practice these things, he means for you to do these things on a continual basis. Not just do it once or twice. It’s your daily routine and lifestyle. It refers to repeated performance or a habitual act.  

For example, when Jesus was nearing the end of His life just before He was arrested and crucified Luke says Jesus “came and went, as was His habit, to the Mount of Olives” (Luke 22:39, NASB; see also Luke 4:16). In context, Luke is referring to Jesus’ prayer life. Jesus had a habit of going to the Mount of Olives to get away from people and spend time talking to the Heavenly Father about whatever was on His mind. That was something Jesus did on a regular basis.

Let me give you another example. In the town of Joppa there was this woman named Dorcas who the Bible says, “was excelling in acts of kindness and charity which she did habitually” (Acts 9:36, NASB). This is something she did regularly. She was known for this.

One more example. We are told in Hebrews 10, “Let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NASB). Some believers had the habit of not gathering with other believers for worship and spiritual growth, while others had the habit of meeting together, encouraging one another to keep on loving and to keep on doing good when life got tough.

A habit is something you have a tendency to do or practice on a regular basis. When Paul says practice these things he is saying make it your tendency to respond to anxious situations with these seven practices of peace. When you are faced with something that causes anxiety, fear, or worry practice being gentle, calm, joyful, and aware. When Paul says practice these things he is not talking about a one-stop-shop to fix it and then you are done. He has in mind someone going to God’s Gym to work on how they think, how they react, what they believe, and to practice what God says.

Your gym is your life. You put these into practice in your marriage, with your kids, with the people you work with, at school, regarding your health or finances. When you sense that you are getting stressed out about your finances, you put the practices of peace to work. You work on making it a habit to respond to difficult people with gentleness.

Practicing is to be intentional

Practicing requires knowledge and effort to make it habitual. Number three, practicing is to be intentional. Being intentional involves consciously and thoughtfully directing our actions, words, attitudes, and priorities rather than coasting through life passively. As a follower of Jesus, you are called to be intentional in how you live, act, speak, and think.

What I’m about to say sounds overly simplistic, but I need to address something at this point. When we talk about intentional practice, we are talking about practice that is deliberate, planned and purposeful.

For example, let’s pretend I’m a master chef and I know how to cook. You come to me and ask, “Jeff, would you teach me how to cook?” I say okay and I give you a cookbook to read and a video to watch about cooking. That’s a start. You are getting educated about cooking, but you are not learning how to cook yet. You are studying about cooking, but you are not practicing cooking.

Intentional looks like this. Let’s develop a plan. Why don’t you come over every Monday night and let’s cook something specific. I will show you how to use heat, measuring cups, show you some shortcuts. I will show you some of the tools of the trade and how to use them. I will let you mix, bake, blend, and spread. During the week there are some things I want you to read and some videos I want you to watch. We will talk about those while we practice cooking on Monday night. That’s intentional. You decide what you are going to cook, when you are going to cook, and what you need to learn in the process.

The same is true for managing anxiety. It’s one thing to listen to God’s Word on managing anxiety, but it is another thing to practice God’s Word on anxiety. Let’s take the practice of gentleness for example. Here is what it could look like.

  • Study God’s Word on gentleness.
  • Pray and ask God to help you grow in gentleness.
  • Look for opportunities to be gentle, when you would have not been.
  • Ask yourself what is a gentle way to respond or react to this?
  • Evaluation yourself afterwards. Did I respond with a gentle spirit? Did I increase my stress and the other person’s stress unnecessarily?

You take the idea of gentleness, and you go to work and you practice speaking and responding to people who annoy you with a gentle tone and kind words. Or you decide you want to speak to your family with more gentleness and kindness. So you think through what you are going to say or how you want to respond and then do it when you have an opportunity.

This is not just praying to be more gentle or wanting to be more gentle, but practicing gentleness. You are going to think through what you are going to say, how you are going to say it, how you will respond, and you will consider your tone and body language. You want everything about you to be gentle. You are going to practice gentleness. You are not practicing on winning the argument, being right, or getting your way. You are practicing gentleness.

Several years ago, Pam and I were discussing conflict management in our house and specifically with each other. We both agreed that when one of us made the other mad we would say, “I love you, but I don’t like you right now and I need to calm down and think about this.” That was an intentional statement that we both agreed on that we could use to express our love and commitment to each other while being mad or disappointed with one another. That statement affirms our love, affirms how we feel at the moment, and gives us time to think through it. That’s what practicing gentleness with intentionality looks like.

Practicing requires guidance

Number four, practicing requires guidance. You are not alone in this. The Holy Spirit will help you, guide you, and teach you what you need to know about managing anxiety as you study His Word. The Holy Spirit will also provide other believers in your life as examples to learn from and follow. You are a disciple, you are a learner of Jesus, and this will take time.

Jesus says something significant about this in John 14:6, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you” (CSB). Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as a “Counselor” which can also be translated comforter, helper, companion, strengthener, and advocate.

This Counselor acts like a great coach. He will teach you and remind you what you need to know. The Holy Spirit will guide you, lead you, help train you, and encourage you along the way. As you study God’s Word and talk to the Heavenly Father about the seven practices of peace, the Holy Spirit will train you how to “rejoice in the Lord” and how to express gentleness and how to be aware of God’s presence and how to pray about what you are anxious about and how to think along with providing others to follow as examples to learn from.

Practicing feels awkward

Number five, practicing feels awkward. When you start practicing the seven practices of peace it will feel awkward. It will not feel natural. Overtime the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature has trained you to feel a certain way, think a certain way, and react a certain way when you hear certain news about the future, when someone pushes one of your buttons, when you see clutter in your house, or when you tell someone to do something and they don’t do it. You have picked up some bad thought habits, emotional habits, and behavior habits that do not bring peace to you or to others, but add to the stress, to the anxiety, and to the worries. 

Your self is not used to being gentle, it wants to be harsh or rude when offended. Your self does not know how to rejoice in the Lord, when bad things happen. Your self does not know how to be calm when faced with conflict. Your self does not know how to pray in everything with thanksgiving because its demanding its rights or declaring itself as a victim. Your self does not know how to think on whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, or commendable about the situation or person because it immediately assumes the lies are true, the rumors are true, or assumes they know the other person’s motives, or what’s best. Your self does not want to follow others and learn from those who are doing it better because your self thinks it already knows better.

What this means is you will need to die to yourself. In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (CSB). As you practice the seven practices of peace you will discover that it feels like you are denying yourself because that’s exactly what you are doing.

You are going to want to say one thing when maybe you shouldn’t say anything at all. You will need to deny yourself. You will want to try to control someone or something, but you will need to let it go. You will need to deny yourself. This will feel awkward. When you begin practicing the seven practices of peace it may not feel natural, but feel uncomfortable.

There is something in Colossians 3:8-10 that you need to see. God’s Word says, “But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another….” Those are the practices of anxiety. They are an unhealthy response to anxiety, and they create more stress.

Then God’s Word goes on to say, “since you have put off the old self with its practices….” Here’s what’s been happening your whole life. You have been practicing unhealthy reactions to situations and people. You have become a master at it. You will need to make an intentional decision to “put off the old self with its practices.”

But then God’s Word says, “and have put on the new self.” Putting on the new self involves the seven practices of peace.

  • Instead of practicing anger you are going to practice peace.
  • Instead of practicing slander you are going to practice peace.
  • Instead of practicing filthy language you are going to practice peace.
  • Instead of lying, you are going to practice peace.

You are going to put on the new self. When you put on the new self it’s going to feel awkward at first.

Now watch this. God’s Word goes on to say, “You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator” (CSB). That’s another way to say you are being made more and more like Christ and you are being made more and more like the person God’s designed you to be.

As this transformation happens it will feel awkward. You must think differently, react differently, talk differently, and behave differently. You are learning how to do something new. You may feel spiritually uncomfortable, embarrassed, or clumsy at times.

It’s like when you first learn to drive, play golf, learn to swim, or learn a new language. The car is going to jerk and shake. You are going to miss the ball and hit bad shots. You are going to get water in your face and feel like you are drowning. You are going to slaughter the new language. Remember, practice makes improvement. God wants you to improve how you handle the people and things and thoughts that create stress and anxiety in your life, those things that try to steal your peace. God wants you to be aware, calm, and present for what He wants you to do and so you can minister and serve others at a deeper level. You will need to practice these things when it doesn’t matter so much.

Practicing is personal

Number six, practicing is personal. Within Philippians 4 there is what I call the implied you. The implied you is like this. Let’s say I’m looking at you and I say, “Bring me my Bible, please.” I didn’t say your name. I didn’t use the word you. The implication and context of our conversation is that I’m asking you to bring me my Bible. There is an implied you in that statement.

The same thing is happening here in Philippians. There is an implied you. God is talking to you.

  • God is telling you to rejoice in the Lord always.
  • God is telling you to be gentle.
  • God is saying the Lord is near to you.
  • God is telling you, do not be anxious about anything.
  • God is telling you to pray about everything.
  • God is saying He wants you to think on whatever is true.
  • God is saying you need to follow someone’s example on how to manage the anxiety in your life.

This is personal. Put your name and your life into these verses.

When you do this here is what happens. It begins to look like this. Let me show by using me as an example.

Jeff, rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Jeff, let your gentle spirit be known to all people. Jeff, the Lord is near. Jeff, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And Jeff, the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Finally Jeff, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things Jeff, and the God of peace will be with you.

Now, remove my name and put your name in there. Read it with your name in there. This is personal. This is God talking to you through His Word.

Practicing is preparing

Number seven, practicing is preparing. You practice joy, because you are going to need it. You practice gentleness, because you will need it. You practice calmness because you will need it.

Someone once said the one who learns and learns and doesn’t practice is like the one who plows and plows and never plants. You can read all the books on anxiety, go to great counselors on stress management, and listen to great teachers on being aware, calm, and present but at some point, you will need to actually do it.

The reason you practice is because practice pulls greatness out of you. The practice of peace does not happen in a lab or some quiet room. The practice of peace happens while you live life. There are these little moments in life where God gives you an opportunity to practice these things against smaller obstacles or lesser frustrations. When you practice these thing against the smaller things you develop spiritual muscle and skills for when the big anxieties hit.

God’s Word tell us about a shepherd boy named David. This David is the one who killed the giant Goliath in a one-on-one battle with his sling shot. This was not the first time David had killed something bigger than himself. In 1 Samuel 17 we are told that young David was shepherding his sheep when a lion attacked one of them. David killed the lion. We are also told that a bear attacked the sheep and David killed the bear as well (1 Samuel 17:34-36). Prior to that David had learned and practiced how to use a sling shot aimed at trees, bushes, snakes, rodents, and other smaller animals. He practiced his way up to Goliath. When the day came to face Goliath, he was ready.

The same is true for you. As you practice the seven practices of peace you will experience victory in less stressful and anxious areas of your life. You will find yourself becoming more skilled at it over time. You will move from the smaller animals of anxiety, to the lions of anxiety, to the bears of anxiety and when the Goliath anxiety shows up you will be ready for that as well.

God’s Word gives us wisdom on preparing.

  • Proverbs 22:3 says, “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” (NLT). A “prudent person” is someone who is wise enough to plan for the future in regards to danger. A prudent person says, “What obstacles and problems am I going to face in the future and how can I prepare for them?” What do I need to learn now and what skills do I need to develop spiritual muscle for the future? When you think about your anxieties and things that stress you out, God is telling you to practice gentleness, joy, awareness, calmness, prayer, thoughtfulness, and following others. A prudent person prepares themselves for life situations that will create anxiety in their life, so they are able to manage the anxieties rather than the anxieties managing them.
  • Let’s look at one more statement from God’s Word on preparation. Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (NLT). Back in Bible times, if they knew a battle was coming, they would get their horses prepared and ready for the battle. If you know that life will bring trouble (financial problems, health concerns, divorce, death, and host of other things) and life will be a battle against one anxiety after another then you need to prepare yourself for those battle. You prepare yourself against those battles against your anxieties, fears, worries, and doubts with the seven practices of peace. But in the end, you discover as you did what God wanted you to do, He gives you the victory over those anxieties.

When God’s Word talks about practicing these things it is also talking about preparing yourself with these things to do battle against the anxieties in your life.

Practicing produces stability

Number eight, practicing produces stability. When you are up against your anxieties you don’t want to be driven by your emotions, you want to be driven by your faith in what God’s Word says. As you practice these things you become more and more spiritually stable.

Let me show you this in 2 Peter 1:10 where Peter says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choice of you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble” (NASB). Peter’s list of what to practice and the list in Philippians are little different, but they do overlap. What I want you to see is the connection between practicing the things of God and spiritual stability. When you “practice these things” God’s Word says “you will never stumble.” This doesn’t mean you will never get hit by anxieties, never feel the force of fear, or never feel the push of worry. What it does mean is that as you practice these things you will not turn away from God, you will continue to trust God when you face your lions, bears, and Goliaths of anxiety. You will be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually stable.