The Joy of Trusting God and Not Worrying
In Philippians 4:1 Paul again reiterates his love for the Philippians and encourages them to stand firm in faith. During times of trial it is often difficult to stand firm in faith. Often we start to doubt God and think He is the bad guy. To stand firm is to be assured that God is good no matter what is happening and we need other faithful believers around to help us do that. The opposite of standing firm is to be tossed back and forth like the waves of the sea (James 1:6). It is most often our emotions that cause us to be tossed and turned. Faith does not need to rely on how you feel – pressing on is also pressing through those feelings to believe God no matter how you feel.
I am not suggesting we don’t have feelings about circumstances in our life – I am only suggesting that our faith would direct us and not our feelings. Feelings are frequently wrong. God and His Word are truth. Our feelings can get us into all sorts of negative thinking but faith will help us rise above to see what is happening through our trust in the Lord – through faith in Him. I have often found that I stand the most firm in faith when I am on my knees – remembering God is God and I am not.
In verses 2-3 Paul brings up a few different people, namely Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement. We don’t know anything more about these people than what it says right here. It seems as though these two women were having some sort of disagreement and Paul is encouraging them to be of the same mind and asking others to help them.
When you disagree with someone, what do you think about? Do your feelings get you to believe lies about that person or situation? Does your mind think about lies and every bad, wrong, impure, ugly, unfaithful, and awful thing that is happening or could happen? I am smiling while I write that for two reasons. One, because I have done that many times; and two, because it is exactly opposite of what God’s Word tells us to think about in Philippians 4:8. Our mind, our mindset and thinking is brought up seven times in the letter to the Philippians. Our joy will be significantly affected by what we spend our time thinking about. Paul spent the majority of his time thinking about the gospel which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8). How might your troubles look in the light of the gospel?
When we see through the eyes of faith in the gospel we start to see our troubles through the perspective of eternity. That is why Paul could say; “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” This statement is only possible in the light of eternity through the gospel of peace. One of the greatest fears in life is death and that is already won for us through Christ.
We have been created in the image of God and with that we are able to think about what we are thinking about. No other animal or living thing can do that. My dog Kirby cannot ask himself why he has been thinking about a bone all day. He has no ability to do that. But we, as humans, can pause to consider why we have been thinking about that nasty person at work all day long. Not only can we consider it, but we can change the way we think. We can say to ourselves, “I am not going to focus on that anymore.” The funny thing is, we don’t use that God given ability very often. We allow all sorts of random thoughts to invade our minds and rob us of our peace and our gentleness and love toward one another is affected when that happens.
I know pausing to think about what you are thinking about and breaking a pattern of thinking is not easy – but with God it is possible. Romans 12:2 says; “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
As our focus changes from ourselves to Christ and others – which means we don’t conform to the world because most of the world will tell us to think about ourselves – our mind is transformed to respond like the mind of Christ. Not only is God looking to transform our hearts, he also desires to transform our minds. Our actions and reactions to the world around us will not change if our minds are not transformed.
Isn’t it true that whatever you practice you generally get pretty good at? Well the same is true with our mind. Practice thinking about God and His goodness and you will eventually get good at it. Practice focusing on Christ instead of your problems and in time you will do it naturally.
Philippians 4:6-7 states; “Do not worry about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I memorized these verses years ago because it is so helpful when worry and negative thinking takes hold. It really is giving us instructions for living without worry and the solution is to focus on God. Pray about everything. Thank God for what you have. Give Him your requests. But the part that is implied that is not stated is TRUST! We can offer prayers up to God all day long but if we don’t trust that he hears them, that he is working on our behalf and that something good will come, we won’t have the peace that is mentioned in verse 7. Peace that surpasses all understanding. That is peace through even the worst circumstances. Peace — even when it would seem reasonable to be completely falling apart.
Just today I went to visit an elderly man in the hospital. He is very sick with pneumonia and multiple other chronic conditions. His voice was so soft I had to lean in to hear him speak. Near the end of my visit I started looking in my bible for a verse when suddenly he quietly began to sing….
Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
That sums up what needs to be said better than anything else I could write. Imagine the joy that awaits us when we live a life trusting in God and not worrying – where our thoughts are filtered by our knowledge and faith in Christ. A place where we lift everything up in prayer. That would be Pure JOY!
I hope you take a look at the homework this week. I also wrote a blog many years ago about worry that I thought some of you may enjoy. It is called “The Predator Named Worry.” Enjoy!