Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 17, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:4-7. This is the second Sunday that we are in this text due to its immense relevance and truth to our lives. As always, there is a lot of ground to cover, so lets get right to it and read our text, pray, and allow God to speak to us in our need.
Last week we talked exclusively about joy. Verse 4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” We saw that we are designed for joy. Our hearts and souls crave joy. Every decision you make in life is filtered through the question, will this make me happy?
Unfortunately, humanity, because of sin, pursues joy in the wrong place. We look for joy in things of this world, instead of the One who created the world. God designed us to find joy only in Him. As we said last week, the chief end of man is to glorify god and enjoy him forever. This confession is supported by passages like Psalm 16:11.
Good and Bad Concern
The Greek word for anxious is merimnaó. This word can be used positively or negatively. Early in this letter Paul used it in a positive way when he was speaking about Timothy in Philippians 2:20, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned (merimnaó) for your welfare.” Obviously when Paul uses the word merimnao, he is speaking of good qualities of Timothy.
However, in out text for today, Paul is talking about the negative form of merimnaó . Which means to be worried, distracted, “to go to pieces.”
I believe this distinction is important for us to understand. We need to recognize that there is a God glorifying concern. It is a concern that drives us to love people. It is a concern that Timothy and Paul had for the people of Philippi. It is the same concern I have for each of you, and my wife, and my children; specifically my concern “for your progress and joy in the faith.” The reason I think this is important is because I believe too many people take “Don’t worry about it” too far; the “let go and let God” philosophy of discipleship can lead to apathy and isolation within the body of Christ. So as we talk about anxiety, understand we are not talking about the Godly concern, compassion, and love that we are called to have for other people.
Do Not Be Anxious
What Paul is talking about in our text is the bad anxiety. In fact let’s start the same place that we started last week with the recognition that this is a command, “Do not be anxious.” This means that being anxious is against the will of God. It is a sin to be anxious.
So once again, like last week, let’s ask the question, do you think of anxiety this way? When you are worried about money, relationships, health, your job, tornadoes, persecution, etc. do you recognize that God is not pleased by your anxiety? Do you recognize that Jesus died to pay for you sins, one being your anxiety? Let’s look at some other passages that supports this command not to be anxious.
Here is a quote from John MacArthur, “Worry is the sin of distrusting the promise and providence of God, and yet it is a sin that Christians commit perhaps more frequently than any other.”
And today we see the command of God telling us to not be anxious about anything. This means don’t be anxious about your job, your finances, your health, your children, your retirement, your life. We are a nation of worriers. We live in the most affluent place and the most affluent time in all of history. We are the cream of the historical crop, yet we walk around afraid of our shadow. I have never once lived in a house that didn’t have food in the cupboards. I have never once gone to a closet that had empty hangers. I have never once gone without medicine for myself or my family. I have never once gone to bed worried about neighborhood bombings, or someone kicking down my door to take me hostage. And I am guessing that very few of you have either, however we run around like the sky is falling.
You of Little Faith
Why? Because we lack faith in an all-powerful, all knowing, all present, all loving, Sovereign God of this Universe. We have taken the God Who Is, and shrunk him down to the God we want him to be, and because of that, our lives are a wreck. We don’t believe that God is in control. We don’t believe that he has the power to change hearts, move mountains, heal disease, provide bread, or calm the storms. We don’t believe the God of the Bible.
We forget that Jesus himself says in Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” If God is control of the falling of a sparrow, he is control of your life. Trust him.
We forget what it says in Ephesians 1:11, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” All things include your current circumstances. Trust him.
We forget the promise of Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Whether you recognize it or not, if you love God your struggles, no matter what they are, are being used by God for your good. If you do not love God, then this promise is not for you, because all things will actually work towards bad, namely your destruction in Hell.
How crucial are these text! We desperately need to remember these words when our marriages are hanging by a thread, when we lose our job, when we get the call from the doctor, when our lives are falling to pieces. So how do we do it?
We Pray with Gratitude
Verse 6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The answer to your anxiety is to pray with thanksgiving.
This is important, the text doesn't just say pray, but pray with thanksgiving. This is crucial. And I am guessing that very few of you implement this. My guess is that you are really good at praying and making your requests known to God, but rarely is your heart full of gratitude. Most likely you are so focused on your problems, the last thing on your mind is to be thankful, but this is exactly what you must do.
So how might this look? Lets say I go to the doctor and they tell me I have cancer. That night I am laying in my bed and can't sleep because I have a thousands thoughts running through my mind. My wife, my kids, this church, the chemo, the finances, the uncertainty, etc. Then I start to pray:
“Father, I am a wreck. I don't know what I am going to do. Thank you for being with me in this time of difficulty, and thank you for hearing my cry. Father, I am worried about my wife and kids. They are so precious to me. Thank you Lord for blessing me with me. Thank you for putting them in my life. If something happens to me, please be with them. Father, I am not sure how this is going to work with Cornerstone. I don't know if I will be able to keep up the pace. You are doing so much good in those people's heart, and they are so on fire for you. I praise you and thank you for all you have done. Will you keep doing it? Father, I am scared about dying. I am scared of the pain and the uncertainty surrounding it. Father, thank you for the life that you have given me. Thank you for all the days that you have blessed me with. Thank you for creating me and sustaining me up until this point. Father, if you do decide that I should die. I thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for sending him to die on the cross for my sins, thank you for pouring out your wrath upon him, so that I could be forgiven and have eternal life in your presence. Thank you that death is not the end, but the beginning. Thank you for the glory that awaits me in your presence. Thank you for loving me and never forsaking me.”
When I pray that way, what do you think is running though my mind at the end of that prayer? More of God's Sovereignty and less of my anxiety. When I put my worries up against His blessings, His goodness vastly overshadows my problems. When I pray with God-centeredness, my perspective on my situation changes. I quickly realize that God has always been in control and will always be in control.
This is what I love about this text, it is so practical. When we implement this strategy of praying with thanksgiving, our prayers are being answered just by the formula of our prayer, and the pinnacle of the formula is gratitude for Jesus Christ. There is no greater blessing in our life the the gift of God's Son. No matter what you have going on in your life, if you pray to God with thanksgiving in your heart for the gift of Jesus Christ then the peace of God will descend upon your mind and your heart. Why?
I have no doubt that this is was how Paul lived his life. Remember, when Paul wrote this letter, he was not skipping through the tulips, he was walking thought the valley of the shadow of death, chained to a Roman guard. He had way more “problems” then most of you will ever experience, and it was the Soverign Love of God that sustained him in the hardest of times. I have no doubt that this is how all the apostles lived, for they had to. Our lives are pleasure cruises compared to theirs. Listen to what Peter says.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 26, 2015
Open your Bible to Philippians 4:1. Today we are going to examine only one verse. However, as many of you know, you can never really only examine one verse; for to understand that one verse you must, in a sense, examine the entire Bible.
What I find fascinating, is the mighty hand of God guiding our Church. Some of you will recognize that what are doing today is reinforcing what we are doing on Wednesday nights at our ACTS 242 Adult Bible study. This last Wednesday we were encouraged to meditate on the Word of God; to think about it; to contemplate it; to soak in it. As I have said before, reading the Bible is not a race. Our deepest desire is to know the one true God. If that means that we do it one verse at a time, then so be it. Therefore let us read our text, pray that God would give us understanding, and then meditate on God’s Word.
This last week I read a blog article by Jackson WU who was posting on a website named Training Leaders International. The title of his blog was “The Most Important Words in the Bible.” Can you guess what he believed to be the most important words? Perhaps you would guess Jesus...God…grace…cross…faith…hope…love. Those are all good words, but Jackson claimed that the most important words in the Bible were conjunctions. Do you know what conjunctions are? Conjunctions are words such as because, however, for, so, and therefore. These he claimed were the most important words in the entire Bible. Why? One reason is because conjunctions, many times, connect the command with the promise. Without conjunctions commands lack power, lack strength, they lack foundation. We can see this in our text today.
The first word that starts chapter 4 of Philippians is “Therefore.” This word is really in the Greek manuscript. They are not just throwing in that word to make it more readable. The Greek word is hóste. This is a conjunction. It joins two thoughts. It is somewhat unfortunate that these thoughts are separated by a chapter shift. So let us look at both sides of the conjunction. First let us look at the thought in verse 1.
The Greek word for stand firm is “stékó.” This word can be translated into English as stand firm, stand fast, persevere. As some of you have learned recently, when attempting to figure out what words mean in the Bible, we should use the Bible. So what we do is we conduct a word study on steko. We find other places that this word has been used. To do this you can use a concordance. If you are old school, you can use a concordance that is in book form, or if you are comfortable with the Computer then there are plenty of online concordances. I use Biblehub.com and on that site I use what is called Strong’s Concordance. Paul actually uses this word somewhat frequently in his letters. In fact, he has a used this word earlier in Philippians.
In the Lord
This leads to the question, don't relent, hold position, be strong in what? Paul's command is for the church to stand firm in the Lord. What does it mean to be in the Lord? First, I think we need to understand that to be in the Lord is a statement of position. It is a description of location. If I ask, where is the car? And someone answers, “it is in the garage.” This is a description of location.
This is exactly what Paul is speaking to. He is speaking of the Christian location. This is something I think so many people don't get, and by so many people I mean religious people, who think they are saved but are not saved. They view being a Christian, not as a location but as an activity. They see Christianity as something that is scheduled. This is not what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian is to place your life entirely in the hands of Jesus Christ. To fully and completely abide in him. This is a radical repositioning of your life.
So the question we must all ask ourselves is, are you in the Lord, are you hidden in Christ, do you abide in Jesus, are you in the Ark of God's Grace, with the door shut behind you? Or are you playing church? If you are playing Church, the game you are actually playing is Russian roulette with your soul, for at any moment that door could shut in your face. And when God says time is up, then time is up. It is too late. Time is truly of the essence. The rain could start falling at any moment. Chose today to leave this world behind you and enter into a union with Jesus Christ.
Now for those who are in the Lord, does that mean being in the Ark is like a ride on the love boat? That being in Christ is like riding a pleasure boat in the Caribbean? Absolutely not, it is, in fact, more like a ride on battleship.
Implicit in these statements of standing firm is the existence of a force that is pushing against you, a force that is attempting to make you not stand, attempting to cause you to fall, attempting to knock you over, attempting to take the hill that you have secured.
What is Paul referring to? Paul is referring to the attacks that he just got speaking about in Chapter 3. The dogs, the evildoers, the mutilators of the flesh, enemies of the cross, whose God is their belly, glory in their shame, and set their minds on earthly things. This is the force that Paul is speaking of. It is the force of the World. The World that lies in the hands of Satan.
When you align yourself with Jesus Christ, and choose to follow Him and to be found in Him, you no longer walk as an enemy of the cross, but an enemy of the World. When we bear the image of Jesus Christ we are guaranteed to be treated the exact same way as our Savior. Jesus tells us this.
However, we must also be aware that persecution is not just murder it is also the threat of murder. This type persecution is becoming more and more prevalent. For those who participated in the Secret Church gathering on Friday night you are already aware of this, but the Church in which the live event was being broadcast, the Church at Brooks Hills, the Church we are going to be partnering with in our Guatemala Mission trip, received a threat. The threat was legitimate enough that they moved the taping to an undisclosed location.
But it is not just large events like Secret Church, with well known pastors speaking, it is also Christian businesses. I am sure you are familiar with Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana. After speaking out that they were a Christian business that would not cater a gay wedding, they immediately started to receive threats, no not from ISIS, but from average Americans. One was a female high school coach, we tweeted, “Who is going to Walkerton, Indiana with me to burn down Memories Pizza.”
This is the America in which we live in. If you place your faith in Christ stand upon the inerrant Word of God, you will be persecuted. It won't just be from ISIS. It will be nice little high school volleyball coach that lives next door. In fact for many of you, it may come from even closer to home.
The question is, will you stand firm? Will you remain strong? Will you hold to what you are taught in God's Word? Will you persevere? Will you endure? Or will you fall? Will you sell your soul to gain favor with the World?
God has commanded us to stand firm in Christ, but how are we to do this when all the World seems to be chanting for our heads on a platter. This is were the word “therefore” is so crucial. For “therefore” points back to the foundation of the command. So what does the therefore point back to?