Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, IA
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
At first I was going to preach on the Old Testament lesson for today. 10And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Wow! If that isn’t talking about Thanksgiving I don’t know what it is talking about. Eating and being full… in a few hours we’ll all be sitting (or sleeping) around the television having football dreams… with turkey and gravy on our breath. It’s a day for overeating. “You shall eat and be full” Cranberries, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie… and family all together, all overeating. What better way is there to celebrate having everything we need then eating more than we should?
But then I read this text and I thought it had more to say to us today.
6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, 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. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6-9 (ESV)
Do not be anxious about anything… those are pretty nice words to hear, and I must admit it’s difficult especially for me. I’m an anxious person. I worry about the bills, I worry about my kids, and I worry about my wife. I worry about weather people are going to show up for meetings and bible studies here at church. Lots of nights I lay on my bed with the worries that go along with being Pastor for more than 400 people. I realized off the bat that if this text was talking to anyone, it was talking to me because I get anxious about things. And there are those words staring me in the face; Do not be anxious about anything…
Of course I’m not the only one who worries about things. To live is to worry. “That’s life!” we say, secretly wishing that it weren’t so. Lots of you worry about things that I haven’t even dreamed of. I don’t know what it is to worry about crops, or weather the hogs are going to survive the latest strain of disease that is coming over them. I don’t know what it is to worry about keeping a factory job when the management changes.
Running a business
Live on a fixed (decreasing) income.
Or the many things that are on your plate to worry about. Of course really we only worry because we care. The original word that Paul uses here really means to be “troubled with cares.” No one worries about people and things he doesn’t care about. And it’s good to care about people and things. St. Paul doesn’t tell us not to care about things that are going on. He says not to be anxious. Do you hear the word “anger” in “anxious.” Well, it’s in there in a way. They both come from the same root word. They are related. Did you know the word anger means “to strangle?” It means to be so upset that you want to strangle something. You’ve been there wanting to strangle something. I’ve been there wanting to strangle something. When we are anxious we get pushed to the brink, and those feelings take control out of our lives. But the text says, Do not be anxious about anything…
It’s easy to say, it’s easy to read it out, but to really apply it is something else entirely. Do not be anxious about anything… That’s something I’m just not sure I can do. Actually it sounds like something else to worry about.
Maybe Paul just didn’t have a firm grasp on reality. Maybe he never had to worry about anything. But a quick review of his life will tell you that that’s not true. From the time Jesus struck him blind on the road to Damascus and told him to switch sides and be His advocate to the world, Paul’s life was one anxious moment after another. Beatings, stoning, threats, shipwreck, “I bear on my body the marks of Christ.” He said. He knew what it was to suffer for Jesus every day. If anyone had a right to be anxious it was Paul. Instead he says Do not be anxious about anything… What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things. Paul knew what it was to be anxious, I’m sure he spent many anxious hours in his life.
You know we are going to be anxious. We are going to worry about things. That’s not the point Paul is making. He’s not making a point about not being anxious. He’s making a point about what you do with those moments when they come.
You see, he says do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. He says when you are tempted to be anxious about anything, big or small, manageable or not, take them all to God in prayer. Make these things known to God. It’s not that he doesn’t already know about them making them known to him is for your sake. Talk to Him about them. Take it to the Lord in prayer. The song goes… anything and everything…
Now here’s the really important part. Look what God promises: And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Paul doesn’t say that the thing that’s making you anxious will go away. He’s saying that when you talk to God about what is making you anxious, your heart and mind will be kept on Jesus. In spite of your worry, God will give you peace about your relationship to Him.
You know, as well as I do, that when things are going well, when there is nothing to worry about Jesus gets pushed out of our lives. He moves from the absolute need pile to the need in reserve pile. When things are going well, we feel in control, we don’t think we need any help. And for lots of us that’s where we are most of the time. “No worries, mate!” everything’s just fine. Jesus gets left here in church or on our pillow after prayer, or on the shelf where He’s readily accessible when we need Him. There’s nothing like a good worry to get our perspective back.
Why do you think Paul says use prayer with thanksgiving? Pastor you don’t really mean that we should be thankful for our troubles, do you? That’s not really what we gather around that turkey table to talk about. We want to be thankful for money and good crops and good health and lots of family. We don’t want to be thankful for sickness and pain and trouble! But that’s what Paul is saying. “Look at what the things that make you anxious do. They turn you to God in prayer. They keep you looking at Jesus. They remind you of the consequences of your sin, and they remind you what God has done about our sin. And all that gives you peace.”
What do you think Paul is talking about when he says “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”? He’s talking about Jesus. Who was more true, and honorable, and just and pure and lovely and…? After all, look at how much He loves you, and not because you are lovable and trouble free, but simply because of who He is, pure and lovely and commendable and excellent…
And there is nothing like trouble in your life to help you remember Jesus’ love for you and the trouble that He suffered for you. You know about the cross. You know how it was love that put Him there and love that kept Him there to die. He suffered more than we can imagine because the suffering that He took was the suffering for all of us. And with that suffering He brings peace. Isn’t it amazing that it takes suffering, pain and death to bring peace?
Well, anxiety is the opposite of peace. Anxiety is what we get because we don’t want to trust in God. Anxiety is what we get when we strike out on our own and push God away. Anxiety is what we get from separating ourselves from God. And that’s where we’d be if it weren’t for Jesus. But we are not separated from God. We may put Jesus on the shelf but He never gives up on us. On the cross Jesus suffered separation from His Father. God looked away from Him and allowed Him to die. It was what we deserved, but what He received. And with that separation gone forever, we never have to experience it. We are never out of God’s hands. We are always in His loving care. You see that’s peace, that’s the peace of God that passes all understanding.
And you know what else? That peace is true weather we feel it or not, because it’s not founded on our feelings, or our actions, or even our promises. That peace is founded on Jesus Christ. That peace comes from knowing and trusting in Jesus, because He is the one who ended our separation from God. Jesus is what makes it sure, no matter what the worry or anxiety is.
So when Paul says, do not be anxious about anything, what he’s saying is let your troubles turn you to Christ. Let your problems remind you of the cross. Take them all to God in prayer and you’ll receive peace. But it’s peace that’s more than just a feeling. It’s real peace that is found in Jesus Christ.
10And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. And maybe, just maybe you’ll not only be thankful for the good things… maybe you’ll be able to be thankful for some of your troubles, too. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.