As you can see, my number of weeks don’t quite work out to fifty-two, so I’ll call next week’s post “finale.” This must be week fifty-one but who’s counting except me? Can you believe how quickly the year has passed? In August, after our storm Ike and being without electricity for two weeks, we had a beautiful full moon for a few days which made us feel safer that it wasn’t so dark. I started noticing the fleeting stages of the moon and placed a widget on my home page to be more aware. I couldn’t believe how quickly the days went from new moon to full to new moon again all in the course of a month. Psalm 90:12 advises, “teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I can’t think of a better way to number them than to actually be present within each day, taking note of our blessings and helping others along the way. “Encourage one another as long as it is called “today.” (Hebrews 3:13) We could get a little desperate right now as another year slips through our fingers and feel our time has slipped away for opportunity. But as long as it is called today, it isn’t too late. That is one of the wonderful promises of our magnificent Lord. If we are alive and breathing, we still have a chance. God has graciously granted me many do-overs in life, not because I earned them, but because of His bounteous forgiveness and Grace.
As we join Bev with Cover to Cover, this week’s passages were so full of instruction in Godly living. I want to hone in on one particular passage though that has literally been a holy prescription for me for anxiety. As Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed, and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Like good medicine for the soul, Philippians 4:4-7, 8-9 has been a formula for me to rest in His arms.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (v. 4). Paul says “Listen up! AGAIN, I’ll say this: Christians are to rejoice, always in the Lord. Where? Not in things, not in others, but in our One who gives us all things. This one step is the beginning to healing of anxiety. You cannot be happy and anxious at the same time. And what better cause to rejoice than in our One who is near!
Paul continues: “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (v. 5) Gentleness and joy come from valuing the eternal over the every day. I cannot be gentle and selfish at the same time. Forsaking all self imposed entitlements, not needing to have the last word, letting others take priority over self puts a focus on eternal priorities instead of the temporary arguments of the day. Gentleness is victory over selfishness, and it does not go unnoticed by God. For, the Lord is near.
“The Lord is near” (v. 5) Knowing God is near should be viewed in two ways. Living our lives with the awareness of the Lord’s presence causes us to live righteously and remember to call upon Him. Second, the Lord’s coming is soon. This affects how we live daily. We must be always ready to be receive our inheritance in Glory.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (v. 6) Anxiety is destructive to the work of God. Christ told us that we should not be anxious because our Father, who loves us, will surely take care of us. Worry is futile and it chokes out the Word in our heart. If we focus on what we need, what we are lacking, we cannot focus on what counts for eternity. But the remedy follows in Paul’s next words: “But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”. The answer to anxiety is prayer. And prayer is the answer to every sort of anxiety because we can bring it all to God in prayer. The big, the little-nothing is insignificant to the Lord. Paul divides it into three parts: prayer including worshipful praise, petitions, and thanksgiving. Every prayer should include these three elements. A thankful heart has no room for anxiety. And one that rests everything in God’s hands has no need for worry.
And we are given a promise if we follow these instructions: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (v. 7). This kind of peace is independent of worldly things. It transcends all understanding. Authentic peace is hard to grasp by worldly standards, but you know when you have it. It’s so hard to explain. Each one of us in Christ probably has experienced this peace that makes no sense when our world around is seems to be falling apart. Only God can offer this kind of amazing peace. Christ offered these words in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” Authentic peace can only come from God. His perfect peace “guards your hearts and your minds” (vs. 7). The peace of God protects and keeps our hearts and our minds clear of anxiety. Like a soldier placed to watch over us, the peace of God guards us from the ups and downs of daily living.
And finally, verses 8-9 tell us to replace our worrisome thoughts with better things. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” We need something to keep our mind busy to replace those anxious thoughts. This is a short list of how to turn the bad thoughts into something worthy of our attention. In doing so, God’s peace is promised. These verses hold the key to our peace that is beyond understanding, but given freely in Christ.
This particular passage is just one of many where God literally sent forth His Word and it continues to heal me and “rescue me from the grave.” (Psalm 107:20) His words are life-giving promises and every one proves faithful. Claim His Word over your life, and He will change you from the inside out. He is faithful to His word and to His children.
Magnificent blessings of Christmas joy to each of you. As you celebrate, consider the mystery of a God who loved us enough to leave His throne in heaven to reconcile us unto Him, bearing all our grief, all our sin, and making us His righteousness, that we may see Glory. May 2009 be filled with blessings of good health, much joy, and His perfect love infiltrating every corner of your heart. Merry, merry Christmas. The Lord is come!