16 July 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (4:5-4:7)

A while back we started looking at a passage that really gives us some of the clearest directions when we find ourselves in a situation that seems impossible. We saw that worry is not an option. We don’t just curl up into a little ball in the corner and fall to pieces. But if we remember the goodness of God, we can say, “This wasn’t how I wanted it to turn out, but I know that my God is good and He’ll provide.” Because He’s not simply some far-away ruler who sits on His cushy throne thinking up ways to make our lives miserable. He is quite honestly, nearer to us than we could even imagine, and He is the source of all good things. James 1:17Every good and perfect gift is from above, from the Father of Lights, in whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. And if humble ourselves, and lay our needs before God—the way He chooses to lead us may not seem like what we would choose. But when we look back, and we see that it was God who delivered us, we realize just what an awesome God He really is.

Philippians 4:5-75 The Lord is at hand, 6 be anxious for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Last time we looked at prayer and supplication. Prayer is our acknowledgment that God is the almighty, sovereign Lord of all creation. Supplication is “a request from a state of poverty.” So by prayer and supplication. Next we are to offer Thanksgiving. Literally, “grateful language to God as an act of worship.” Thanksgiving Day was established by George Washington for one reason—and it had nothing to do with football or sweet potato pie. Listen to these words from his first Thanksgiving Day address, in 1789—
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have…requested me to ‘recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God’…I do recommend and assign [a day] to be devoted…to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the [most generous] author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection…”
Now, I've chopped that down for time’s sake, but you get the idea. Our first president realized that it was the mighty hand of God that allowed us to come out from under the yolk of Britain and gain our freedom. And what we sometimes fail to remember—something that is not taught in public schools any more—is the fact that the greatest freedom we gained was our freedom to worship God. We can have all kinds of temporary blessings—we can have food, clothing, and shelter—but if we were to live in a country where His truths were hidden from us as they are in many countries—then we will simply wind up in Hell with a full belly. To worship God in fullness and in truth is the greatest freedom of all. 1st Chronicles 29:11-14Yours, O YHVH, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O YHVH, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You. Hmmm… Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Where have I heard that before?

Prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. Now, we could talk all day about the many blessings that we know about and we are aware of. But have you ever considered that sometimes the greatest blessings God gives us are the ones we don’t see? How many times has God kept us from doing something that would harm us and we don’t even know about it. Personal confession time here! And I think I can probably speak for many of us when I say this. There were times when I was on my way to doing something—probably not the best idea I ever had—and by all rights I should have gone and done it, and there was absolutely nothing preventing me from doing it—but it didn’t happen. And I look back and I think, “Ya know…I was on my way there…nothing was stopping me from doing it…I was bound and determined…what stopped me?” And what—or rather who—was it that held us back? God kept me from going there. And how can we not look up to the Heavens and say, “Thank you!” Because one of the most likely outcomes of that situation was…I would have gotten arrested, or shot and killed.

And even worse, I would have stood there before God, pleading my cause—something like, “Hey now, wait a minute! You saw it! He killed me! That’s gotta count for something, doesn’t it?” How many times did God preserve our lives so that we could live to see that day when we call upon Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior, so that we would not die and wind up in Hell? How many times do we forget to thank Him for those hidden mercies? Guilty as charged. Hebrews 13:15Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Colossians 3:17And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 1st Thessalonians 5:18In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1st Timothy 2:1I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men. So, we are to be anxious for nothing, but—in all things by prayer; in all things by supplication, and in all things giving thanks. John Gill put it this way:
“…a person [cannot] expect to succeed in the enjoyment of future mercies, when he is not thankful for past and present ones: in this manner therefore, at all times, upon every occasion, [we should give] humble petition and supplication, joined with thankfulness for all favours…”
So, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God… I thought God already knew what you need. Well, yes, He does (Matthew 6:8). So if God already knows what we need, why do we have to ask Him? What Paul is saying here is not so much that we inform God of what we need. But we lay our requests before Him, and we end by saying, “Thy will be done.” We are to declare and verbalize our requests. In other words…ask. 1st Peter 5:6-7Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. If your kids need something, who should be the first one they ask? Their parents. If a father loves his children, does he like to do things for them? If your child needs something for school, would it make sense for them to tell their friends, and sit in their room worrying about it? What should they do? Are we God’s children? Does God love His children? If we need something, who should we tell our needs to? Matthew 7:9-11“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

King David, whenever he had a difficult decision—did he fret and worry about it? What did he do? I remember reading through 1st and 2nd Samuel. And anytime he was faced with the choice of attacking a certain city or not, he didn’t look to his right or his left. Which way did he look? He didn’t ask Joab, he didn’t ask Abner. He asked God. Listen to 1st Samuel 23:1-5Then they told David, saying, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and they are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of YHVH, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” Did David ask his captains or his generals? No. Who did he ask first? And YHVH said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah.” But David's men said to him, “Look, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Remember earlier, I said that when God leads us, it may not make sense to us at first?

These guys were saying, “Look, we’re afraid just thinking about these guys! Let alone go and fight them face to face!” But they forgot who they were serving with. This man they were serving under—didn’t he already defeat a Philistine? Big guy, about 11’ tall? That’s one more reason we need to surround ourselves with godly people, who have been through some battles. You hear about women who are looking for their “knight in shining armor.” Uh, if that armor is nice and shiny—he hasn’t done too much fighting, and he probably won’t be ready when one comes along. Then David inquired of YHVH once again. And YHVH answered him and said, “Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.” What does God give David here with this statement? A promise. If God promises something, will He deliver? And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and struck them with a mighty blow, and took away their livestock. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. Look at the pattern: David had a dilemma, he took his request to God, God answered, God delivered. Let your requests be made known to God.

God answers prayers. But those prayers need to be prayed. Sometimes we get into that situation and we think, “Well, God will take care of it.” And nothing changes. James 4:2You do not have because you do not ask. When a person doesn’t pray, and nothing happens, and they wonder, “Oh, why didn’t God help me?” We ask them, “Well, did you pray about it?” “Well, no.” You gotta ask! Did you know—and I'm gonna be real careful when I say this—you cannot be saved without praying. Romans 10:9-10If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. You have to verbalize. Some people say, “My faith is personal, I keep it to myself.” That’s not an option. Matthew 10:32-33“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” You must verbalize Jesus as Lord if you want Him to confess you before the Father. BUT, if you “keep it to yourself,” you are, in effect, denying Christ. And just as you must confess Christ before man to be saved, you must verbalize your needs to God if you want Him to answer. Let your requests be made known to God.

Verse 7. …and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. What little 3-word phrase do we always hear around Christmas? “Peace on Earth!” Oh, isn't that wonderful? Are we ever gonna have “Peace on Earth?” It’s a noble thought. And let me ask you this: why is it, do you think, that we won’t have “Peace on Earth” until Christ returns? Yeah, because this world is filled with humans. And if there’s one thing we know about humans, it’s that we are self-centered, egotistical, selfish creatures that aren't happy if we don’t get everything we want. Tears For Fears may not have been Christians, but they got it right when they sang “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” James 4:1-2Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. We don’t ask God for what we need. So we try and get it by some means that ain't quite right. Let’s magnify that to the national level. Nations turn their backs on God; He doesn’t give them what they want; they fight and war with other nations. We will never have world peace so long as nations are ruled by humans.

So then what is this “peace of God?” that surpasses all understanding? It is the peace that reconciles us to God through the cross of Christ. Colossians 1:19-20For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. Before we get saved, we are enemies of God. We are on our own, given to every whim and desire we could ever have. We are alone, twisting and searching for that one thing that will give us peace in our lives. Question: can a person find a kind of peace from the world? Well, yes--but it’s a temporary kind of peace. It will make you feel good about yourself—but it’s not really true peace. Listen to the words of our Lord Jesus, in John 14:27“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” And how is it that a person can have peace in the world, and from the world, apart from Christ? Because that person is a friend of the world—therefore the world does not hate them. John 15:18-19“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

But they have a problem. If they are a friend of the world—what’s their problem? James 4:4friendship with the world is enmity against God. But listen to the words of the prophet in Isaiah 26:3You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. John MacArthur describes this peace of God as:
“Inner calm or tranquility…promised to the believer who has a thankful attitude based on unwavering confidence that God is able and willing to do what is best for His children.”
Parents, do your kids sit in school all day worrying about whether you're going to feed them when they get home? Do they have to wonder if you're gonna “change the rules” when they get home? Do they know that they have your love every single day they walk the earth? If we, being evil, know how to give good things to our children—does our Father in Heaven know how to give good things to His children? THAT is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. One dictionary calls it,
“the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.”
Whatever my lot thou hast caused me to say…what? It is well; it is well with my soul!

I'll finish with this example of the peace of God. Let’s say you had a family and a business here in Knoxville. What would you do if your son died, and then there was huge fire that wiped out half of Knoxville, wiping out your business and destroying you financially? Suppose you a friend in California offered to help you start over. You send your wife and kids ahead. But they are killed in a car wreck in the middle of Texas. Family, business, everything—gone. You're driving out to your friend’s place in California, and you pass the spot on the highway where your family had died. In 1871, Horatio Spafford showed us what to do. He had lost his son; he had lost everything in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. He sent his wife and kids ahead of him on a boat to England. Their ship hit another ship—sank. And as he was making the journey across the Atlantic himself, he passed that same spot where his wife and children had drowned. And he wrote these words:

When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot thou hast caused me to say,
It is well; it is well with my soul!
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul.

Prayer…supplication…thanksgiving. The peace of God surpasses all understanding.

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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