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.