Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It never goes well for fair weather believers

Good morning my friends.

I find many Christians waste a lot of unnecessary energy on unnecessary things. First of all, they worry too much. They let all kinds of things get to them and they fill their day with worries that they can do nothing about. They pray and quote scripture to themselves but they fail to allow that to go any further than surface deep; it does not make it to their heart. Second, they allow that worry to develop into fear. They fear almost everything including, or maybe especially, the unknown. Fear paralyzes a person's ability to cope and they begin to shut down. God definitely gets shut out at this point. They will allow people to pray with them but those prayers do not even scratch their surface and its more like water off a duck's back. Last comes depression and despair. This is the absence of hope. You would think it would be hard for a Christian to reach the  point of no hope but, given the right steps, any of us can reach it. The Apostle Paul gives the Philippians some points that, if listened to, will keep us far from this point of hopelessness.

In Philippians 4 Paul is ending his letter but he gives us a few things that have been widely quoted in moments of difficulty. I think these are things we need to be doing every day as preventative medicine. He writes:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! v. 4

Most of us appreciate these words and they make us feel great, but they are more than words. These words describe an attitude that we should have toward everything about our life. It takes in the understanding that God is using everything, every circumstance, every relationship, every experience for our good. Knowing that nothing is a waste in our life we can give thanks to our God for it. We can rejoice in everything. Sometimes we say, "If I don't laugh I will cry" to describe a weird reaction to heavy circumstances in our life. It loosely describes this attitude. If we refuse to recognize God's goodness in every circumstance then the heaviness of those things will crush us. We must always recognize the power, might and goodness of our God in everything. Truly we can rejoice in the Lord always, but we must allow this to be our perspective. Our own selfishness and self-centeredness will fight against us in this. If we maintain this attitude in the small things then it will be there in the big things as well.

Then Paul writes something that seems a bit out of context:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. v. 5

This fits into the attitude of rejoicing. Paul is writing that we need to remember that we are being watched. We may like to think we are in isolation and it does not affect anyone else how we deal with circumstances but it does. People who know we are followers of Jesus watch us to see how we will handle the difficult parts of life. Will we cave? Will we turn to other sources of help other than God? Will we be overcome by depression? Will we shout and scream and then curse  God and die? How will we handle our teenager getting pregnant, or our wife leaving us, or our father being killed by a drunk driver, or being robbed at gun point, or being assaulted, or being fired, or any of the thousands of other things that happen in a fallen world? Do we have the faith that compels us to trust God even in these circumstances? Do we have the faith that compels us to rejoice in the Lord even in these circumstances? We should because, the Lord is near. That's an important point Paul reminds us of here: Jesus promised to be with us to the very end of the age. Do we need any other promise?

Now Paul writes something that comes out of this attitude of rejoicing, of bearing our witness of trust and of understanding that the Lord is near:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. vs 6

Prayer. Not just a quick prayer out of some misguided obligation but true, honest, believing prayer. Paul makes it so clear; do not be anxious about anything. We should not feel worry, fear or anxiety about anything in life because we are trusting that God is using everything for our good. The worse possible thing that could happen to me is the death of a child, yet what is death to me? We do not fear death. We could go through a whole list of things here but you know my response will be the same because this is what the Word says. Perhaps it is not always easy but perhaps that is because we have not been developing this attitude in the little things in life. In EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. With thanksgiving; that speaks to the kind of relationship and attitude we have developed. Do not wait until the bad times to develop an attitude of faith, praise and prayer.

Look to the fruit of such a life based on this relationship of trust and thanksgiving:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. v.7

There you go. By maintaining this relationship of trust, thanksgiving and taking everything to the Lord, and I mean everything, you will experience peace in good and bad times. You will have peace when it does not make sense to have peace. Your trust in the Lord will have developed to such a point, he will have proven himself trustworthy in all the things you have brought to him, peace will be a natural thing for you. This peace will guard your heart and your mind from worry, fear, depression and despair because your mind will be fixed on Jesus.

I cannot emphasize enough that this is not going to happen if you have not been developing this relationship everyday. These are the fruit of a a deepening and growing relationship of trust and love. We cannot just declare we love Jesus and then do nothing about it. Like every relationship it requires time, effort and an act of trust. If you have neglected this relationship or have never really started on it you can begin today. Decide to make an effort to bring everything in your day to Jesus. Talk it over with him. Ask for advice from him. Ask his direction. Those things and circumstances that you are powerless to do anything about, give them over to the one who loved you enough to die for you. See what he does with it.We cannot just sing beautiful songs, we have to live for him. If you have not started doing this, start today.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

No comments: