2010-04-11(am) Philippians 4:2-9 Prayer: No Worries
Gems, what is your theme verse this year? And your theme verse comes from Philippians. Do you know what Philippians is all about? It is all about joy in suffering. Suffering is a reality of life, and when we worry, we worry about suffering. We worry about our own suffering, and we worry about the suffering of others.
Joy in suffering isn’t like going around saying, “Yes! I’m suffering! Yay, I love suffering!” No, it isn’t like that at all. This little book of the Bible called the letter to the Philippians explains why we can have joy in suffering, why we really shouldn’t worry about anything.
The reason is this. We don’t worry about suffering because we know where we’re going. We don’t worry because of what Christ has promised us. At the end of chapter 3 we read: “But our citizenship is in heaven – and we also await a saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 3:21 who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).
John Newton, former slave trader, author of the song Amazing Grace, describes worrying about suffering in life by telling this story.
“Suppose there was a man who was promised a million dollars. This was the 1800’s so a million dollars was worth a lot of money back then. All he had to do to get his million dollars was travel to New York city and it would be there waiting for him. He climbs into his buggy and makes his way. A mile from his destination, one of the wheels falls off his buggy and he is forced to walk the rest of the way. All he thinks about is, “My buggy’s wheel is broken, and I have to walk now. I can’t believe it. The wheel is broken. I have to walk. This is just terrible. I hate this!
Now, you realise how foolish this man was, don’t you? He was only a mile away! That’s not too far to walk, is it? And, he’s getting a million dollars! Who cares about the buggy! With a million dollars, he can pay to fix it, or get a brand new one!
Do you see what worries end up doing to us? They encourage us to fixate our attention on the problem, and take it off the solution. They make us focus on the suffering of this life, and prevent us from enjoying the gift of eternal life, which is already promised to us! So instead of rejoicing in the joy of Christ, as we go through this life, worries make us unhappy, sad, and listless, focussing on things we cannot change, taking our minds off the million dollars which waits for us just down the road!
That’s why we’re taught to rejoice! The million dollars is just a short stroll down the road! The gift of everlasting life is just a short journey through this life! Heaven awaits! We experience it’s joys even now! Don’t let worry rob you of your promise!
Rejoice, again, Paul says, rejoice! The Lord is near! By all means, the Lord is near! Jesus said, “Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus, after ascending into heaven, sent the Holy Spirit to do as he promised. The Holy Spirit is present in our lives. He lives in our hearts. He gives us comfort when we go through hard times. He keeps us focussed on the prize, on Jesus Christ.
Now, it is one thing to say this, but it is another to do it. This brings us to our passage this morning, which gives us the 4 p’s of prayer: Person, Place, Purpose and Peace.
Let’s look at ways we can put your theme verse into practise. Your counsellor, Kimberley, asked you to list some of the things you worry about. I’m just going to read them: college, Haiti, house starting on fire, school, what to wear, Grandparents, Family who are far away, farm life/harvesting/planting, Dad’s job, mom says we don’t have any money.
Now, this is a weighty list. It shows that you girls have a lot on your mind, a lot weighing on your hearts. The source of your worry might be different from that of the Philippians, but it is not less important. These are very real concerns.
God knew that you would have them. God knew what the Philippians would endure. So he inspired the apostle Paul to encourage them and us. God knows your concerns. God knows your needs even before you ask him. Jesus Christ has walked a mile in your shoes. In fact, Jesus Christ willingly suffered the greatest cause for worry, God’s wrath against sin, so that we might live worry free.
What do you do when you are stressed about something? You talk to a friend, or you talk to your parents, right? You also go to your Father in heaven. You pray.
When you pray, you first think about the person you’re praying to, right? Whom are you praying to? Your Father in heaven. He’s a perfect father. He never lets you down, not ever. He knows what you need even before you realise it. In fact, he knew everything about you even before you were born. He knew everything that would happen to you even before he created the world.
He knows about your worries. He knows about your struggles. He knows about your stress. And knowing about them, he acts on them. First off, he sent Jesus to deal with them. Then he sent his Holy Spirit to help you deal with them.
And when you’re at wits end, when you turn to God in prayer, he envelops you in his arms, and comforts you. He’s a loving, caring, providing Father, who will never harm you.
The Bible is full of these pictures of God. David says, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” God is with you, in everything.
Person-the Lord is near, the second P is place. Paul tells us to not be anxious, not worry about anything, but in everything to pray. Elsewhere, we taught to pray without ceasing! So, we can pray anywhere.
And because God is always with us, we can pray to God in any place. We can pray to God in church, we can pray at school, at home, at work, inside, outside anywhere. Our postures, our position for prayer is limitless. God does not require us to pray a certain number of times per day, facing a specific direction. Actually, God tells us to pray continually.
Because God is our Father, we can speak to him at any time, any place, any situation. So, let’s say you’re getting ready to go to sleep, and you think, “I’m just worried about the house catching fire.” You can pray to God, right away. In fact, the GEMS were taught to turn their worries into prayers, right?
Congregation, have you thought of doing that? Turn your worries into prayers. Sometimes, this is where journaling your prayers can help. You write down your worry, then turn it into a prayer. It could go something like this, “I’m worried my dress won’t come in time.” So then you pray, “Father in heaven. You know my concerns. You know what I need, you even know what I want. You’re a great, loving, merciful Father. I’m worried about my dress. I’m worried that it won’t come on time. I know that worrying won’t change anything. I know that worrying just makes me anxious and unhappy. Because you are sovereign God, you are fully in control of my life, of the entire universe. Since I see the sun come up every day, I know I can trust you to handle something as insignificant as my dress. Thank you for loving me so much, amen.”
And we can, and do pray for everything like that. We can turn not only our worries, but our whole lives into a prayer, we can pray without ceasing. Wow, what a beautiful sunrise! You are a gifted creator, Father! Wow, I got a high grade on my paper! Thank you, Lord for making me a hard worker and a good student!
So, because God is a person, a Father, we can pray to him. Because God is always with us, in the person of the Holy Spirit, we can pray anytime and anywhere, the place doesn’t matter. We pray, because there’s a reason, a purpose for prayer.
The purpose of praying is to get to know God. In prayer, we learn more about God. It helps to know that someone is listening to us. When we pray, we receive comfort from God. God is so big, so much bigger than we are, he can handle anything.
Do you remember running into your parent’s room when you had a bad dream, or were awakened by a thunderstorm? You run in there, and you feel comforted knowing that you’re not alone, knowing that they will protect you.
That’s the comfort we receive from God when we pray. We know that he’s on our side. We know that he watches over us. We know that he will care for us. Cast all your cares upon me, for I care for you.
The purpose of prayer, gets our minds off of what is trying to drive us to distraction, and it puts our minds on something that is useful, beautiful and powerful. In verse 8, Paul tells us “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
When you pray, don’t simply bring your requests to God and leave it at that. Think about who God is! The purpose of prayer is to know God. To get hold of him. To know God. We think about God. How loving he is. How strong he is. We marvel at his power! We read the Bible and we see how God rescued Israel from Egypt. We see how God raised up Babylon and the other nations to warn Israel. We see in the Bible that God is in control of all the events of the world, even the events we are in.
And because we see all that, we know that we can trust him. That gives us peace that passes all understanding. There’s peace that comes from God. God gives it to us when we pray. When we put our faith and trust in God, he gives us assurance that, yes, he’s heard us, and he’ll take care of us.
King David knew what this is like. He knew what it was to trust in God. This is how he put it. “God sets a table full of great food, a feast, before me, even though my enemies swarm all around me. They can’t touch me, because God is stopping them.”
So then, when dealing with worries, struggles, stress, remember the four P’s: Person, who you’re praying to; Place, that you can pray wherever you are; Purpose, what you learn about God and receive from him when you pray; and Peace, what God pours out on you when you trust in him.
Remember Jesus’ promise to us, “I go to prepare a place for you.” We’re on a journey that Jesus has already travelled, he’s leading and guiding us. We’re on our way to getting a million dollars, even more, actually, eternal life, face to face with Jesus, an and to suffering and tears, an end to sin, that’s where we’re going. Let’s not allow broken wheels, broken relationships, broken homes, sin, broken anything take our eyes off the prize: Jesus Christ! Let’s focus on him! Amen.