09 July 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (4:5-4:6)

We have been talking about finding our joy and our direction, and stability from God. Because no matter how firm that mountain may look—God is the only eternal certainty. After all, Mt. St. Helens looked pretty stable at one time, didn’t it? Everything on earth will burn up one day—if it exists that long—but God is forever God. There are some who put all their trust in earthly things, and all of their time is consumed by whatever that thing is. It may be video games, it may be fantasy football, it may be any of a thousand things. But the one thing they have in common is they have an all-consuming desire for whatever it is, and they cannot live without it. Let me give you an example. John D. Rockefeller was the founder of Standard Oil back in 1870. Standard Oil was the first real “big oil” company in America. He retired 20 years later. Boy, wouldn’t that be nice? In 1902 his wealth was estimated to be around $200M. No telling what that would be worth today. By the time he died in 1937, he had built up a fortune of $1.4 BILLION. With all that money, this guy didn’t have a care in the world! OK, that’s not quite true. You see, every day, as soon as he woke up, the first thing on his mind was his money. All he thought about during the day was his money. And when he went to bed at night, the last thing he thought about was his money. He could have dined on anything he wanted—he could have had lobster and champagne for breakfast, lunch and dinner—but he didn’t. Fact of the matter was, his stomach was always in such turmoil that the only thing he could eat was crackers and milk.

But then, his mother gave him some advice. Moms are good about that stuff. She told him, “Why don’t you stop worrying so much about your money, and leave it up to GOD.” Moms are good at telling you things you don’t want to hear. So he set up a bunch of charities, and began giving his money to these charities. And it was reported that he had given away, at one point, a total of over $500M. Sure enough, thanks to mom’s advice, his health improved, his appetite came back. And his company started making even more money.

WORRY. John Rockefeller worried about money. We all worry about stuff. But we have a promise given to us by God, through the apostle Paul, that if we trust in God, we don’t have to worry. Does it mean we’re never going to be concerned about things? No. But if we trust in God to supply our needs, He will never let us down. We may not always get everything we WANT—but that ain't what it’s about, Amen? This morning we’re going to take the first steps in finding the peace of God.

Philippians 4:5-75 Let your gentleness be known to all men. 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.

I was looking at this passage, and a little light went on. See the little phrase at the end of verse 5The Lord is at hand, or, literally The Lord is near? I’m not going to take a bullet for this, and I don’t want to sound like I'm the foremost expert on this. But I kinda think that phrase should go at the beginning of verse 6. If we consider that that the apostle did not write in chapter and verse, but that the chapter and verse divisions came about some 1200 years later, I don’t think it would be far off to say that. Because if we do say that, listen to how verse 6 would read—The Lord is near, be anxious for nothing. But in all things, through prayer and supplication make your request known to God... Again, it’s not a hill I'm gonna die on. But it does make sense, doesn’t it?

So, we’re gonna take that reading and we’re gonna start there. In this passage, we have three principles to guide us when we get that bad news, when you walk in and the doctor says, “You might want to sit down.” Or when the mechanic comes out and says “Sir, I need to show you something.” Philippians 4:5-6a--The Lord is at hand, be anxious for nothing. It’s natural for us to be concerned about things. But sometimes that concern grows into worrying. And yes, there is a difference between “worry” and “concern.”

Concern is defined as—“an uneasy state of blended interest, uncertainty, and apprehension.” You're not sure what’s gonna happen, you're kinda watching and waiting.
Worry is—“mental distress or agitation resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated.”

You can't eat, you can't sleep, you're miserable and irritable all the time. That word “anxious” here, lies somewhere between the two, more on the worrying side. It means, “Greatly concerned…respecting something future or unknown; being in painful suspense…” It’s the same word our Lord Jesus uses in Matthew 6:25-30. You know, if there was ever a man who had every reason to worry and be anxious, it was our Lord Jesus Christ. Here was a man who knew everything that was going to happen to Him, who knew He was going to be nailed to a cross and suffer the wrath of God for all who would believe—and yet He spent His time comforting us, and telling us not to worry. Matthew 6:25-30“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” In other words, “Hey, you see those birds? Your Father in heaven feeds them. And aren’t you worth more than a pigeon?” “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

What He's telling us is, basically, “God gives these flowers a glory greater than Solomon in all his royal splendor. Don’t you think you're more important than a daffodil?” Did Jesus usually have a reason for saying everything He said? And when He says, “…even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these,” the natural tendency for us would have been to say, “What is He talking about? Solomon surrounded himself with magnificent clothes, and all the gold in the temple, and all the decorations!” But what is the difference between the glory that surrounded Solomon and the glory that is contained in the lilies of the field? Much of the glory that surrounded Solomon was man-made. It was fashioned by human hands—even though it was commanded by God. But, who shapes and fashions every single flower in the fields? Every flower that you see—whether it’s a rose in full bloom or a little buttercup growing wild in your lawn—every one of those flowers was thought of and designed and clothed by God.

Now, you're probably thinking, “What does that mean for me? I’m really thinking about flowers right now…” It means that the life that God has planned out for us—whether it is one of relative ease, or one filled with pain and heartache—is far better in the scope of eternity than anything our human minds could ever imagine. Unless we want to say that we know how to plan things better than God does. I ain't about to do that. Isaiah 55:8-9“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says YHVH. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Is it normal for us to not understand why God does what He does? He’s God, we’re not. That’s what the book of Job is all about. A man who was, as it says, blameless and upright before YHVH. And yet you read in the first two chapters, everything that happened to him, why did they happen? To show Job and to show us just how much we need to depend on God. “Why is God putting me through this?” Because He wants us to glorify Him.

Why didn’t God remove the thorn in Paul’s flesh? 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Remember those flowers? If God considers the beauty of a flower to be even more beautiful than King Solomon surrounded by all of glory and royal splendor of the temple, then do you think the life that God has planned out for us is better than what anybody else could come up with?

See, the key to this whole passage in Matthew 6:27--“Which of you, by worrying, can add one cubit to his stature?” Can we usually come up with something to worry about? Is sitting there worrying going to change things? What do you mean “No?” You mean I've been going about this all wrong? [/sarcasm] You see, worry—“mental distress or agitation”—is really a form of self-pity. It is fear directed inward. And it took me a long time to figure that one out. Don’t we think we’re doing good by worrying and fretting and wringing our hands over every little thing that comes up? But does worrying make us feel better? How does it make us feel? Miserable. But who is near? The Lord is near, be anxious for nothing.

Verse 6b--…in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God… Be anxious for nothing but—what are the next two words? In everything. “God’s too big to hear me. I don’t want to trouble Him with my little problems.” Isn't that what we hear sometimes? First of all, notice this: in verse 5, where does it say that Jesus is? The Lord is at hand. And when he says The Lord is near, he’s talking about location. James 4:7Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. He is near us—in fact, He is within us! Colossians 1:27--Christ in you, the hope of glory. So when we have something come up in our lives that we can't control, what should we do? And notice this next—the contrast.

What should we worry about? Nothing.
What should we pray about? Everything!

Basically, "Let all of your requests about everything be made known to God." How do we do that? Through prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. First, prayer. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer Now follow me here. Many people think of prayer as a way of changing God’s mind. You see these bumper stickers and license plates that say “Prayer changes things” and “God answers prayers.” These things are absolutely true. 1st Peter 3:12For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers. But, does “prayer change things” according to how WE want them to be—or how God wants them to be? Does “God answer prayers” according to our will, or His? Because—well, do we always know what to pray for? No. Romans 8:26…we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us…

We don’t always know what we need. We think we do. We think we need a million dollars in the bank and we think we need a $5000 plasma screen and we think we need $100 jeans and we think we need…fill in the blank. But our Lord Jesus said Matthew 6:8“…your Father knows what things you have need of, before you ask him.” So, help me out here, if it’s the Holy Spirit that actually does the praying for us, and if God knows what we need, then—what is the question? Why pray? Prayer is not about us changing God ’s mind. Prayer is about allowing God to change our hearts. 2nd Chronicles 7:14If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Do you hear the word “or” in there anywhere? No. This isn't a matter of “Choose one of the following options.” This is “All of the above.” If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, AND pray AND seek My face, AND turn from their wicked ways…

Prayer is about humbling ourselves before the Almighty Creator of all; the Eternal Giver of all, and saying, “Lord, I have nothing without you.” And the word Paul uses here for prayer means more than just getting on your knees and saying your bedtime prayers. It refers to a more worshipful type of prayer. So, when we have something troubling us, and Paul says to take it to God in prayer, he’s not saying we should just tell God what’s on our mind. He already knows what’s on our mind, right? So what is the attitude we should take when we pray? It should be one of humility. Humbleness. Ever heard the saying that “Some people want to serve God, as long as it is an advisory position?” “Now, God, here’s what you need to do for me…” And of course, God says, “Well, thanks. I'll take that under advisement.” When Paul tells us in everything through prayer he’s really saying, in everything, through worship God knows what you need. We don’t know what we need. We don’t know what to say. So we just bow down and worship His greatness and His glory.

Our prayers should not be—and don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here—our prayers should not be centered on ourselves and our comfort. Our prayers should be centered on God’s will being done in us and through us. Should we pray for Aunt Suzie’s cancer to be healed? Yes. We are told to pray for one another (James 5:16). But, should we be prepared in case God doesn’t cure that cancer? It may not be His will. And we have to be ready to accept that. Consider Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—Shadrach, Mishach and Abed-nego. You won't find many in the Bible with more faith in God than these guys. But listen to what they say in Daniel 3:17-18“…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if he doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Was Paul a man of faith? Listen to what he says in Philippians 1:20-21…Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. When we are seeking God through the tough times, we need to acknowledge that He is in control, and it is HIS will that is to be done.

Next, supplication. …in everything by prayer and supplication That word “supplication” is really a fancy way of saying “A request made out of a state of lack or poverty.” It’s not just a simple request. It’s not like we have some requisition form and toss it toward Heaven and say, “Hey, you're gonna get this for me, right?” But that’s exactly the kind of thinking that goes on with the prosperity teachers. That if you believe it—God HAS to give it to you. There’s a word that describes that kind of thinking. Starts with an ‘H’, rhymes with ‘heresy.’ Supplication means that we come before the Lord acknowledging that we have nothing, and we have no right to ask Him for anything, and that we are capable of nothing. Jesus told us in John 15:5“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” Supplication is more than saying that what we need DOES come from God—it’s saying that what we need MUST come from God.

In Ephesians 6, after Paul gets done listing the armor of God, he tells the saints at Ephesus to continue Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel… (Ephesians 6:18-19). He’s saying, “The things you need to overcome the evil one MUST come from God. And the words I need to make the gospel known MUST come from God. Let us all acknowledge that.” Psalm 119:170Let my supplication come before You; deliver me according to Your word. In other words, “Please hear my request and answer it in whatever way You see fit.” Basically. And it all has to do with the spiritual stability we talked about last week. That we may not be happy, but we have joy. Because things may be kinda cruddy right now, but one day, we’ll look back and say, “I went through all that?!” And our Lord will say, “Yes, I brought you through all that.” And it may take everything within us just to muster up the strength to say, “WOW!!”

Next week we will look at thanksgiving--and I ain't talking about turkey and football!

Jesus Christ is Lord.

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