Peace from God in Uncertainty
Peace from God in Uncertainty
Rev. Larry Kirk
Introduction: There was once a very successful businessman whose family was planning a vacation to England. As he, his wife, and his four daughters were preparing to board the ship to leave, urgent business caused the man to send his family on ahead. He planned to meet up with them soon. However, before he could set sail, he received a message from his wife saying that the ship that she and their four daughters were on had sunk and she was the only survivor. The wealthy businessman very quickly boarded a ship to go and meet his wife. The captain of this ship pointed out to the businessman the spot where it was believed his daughters had drowned. Returning to his cabin he wrote the words, “It is well; the will of God be done.” Later this man, Horatio Spafford, wrote the hymn we know as It is well, with my Soul.
Undoubtedly, there are some of us here today who are facing uncertainty about the future or who are suffering for whatever reason. We may look at this story of Mr. Spafford and consider it a fairy tale because, in the midst of our suffering, we do not believe that the peace with which he was able to write “It is well” can actually be obtained. However, in our text for today, Philippians 4:4-9, we will see that our uncertainties, our sufferings, regardless of how big or how small, can be faced and we can find peace but only through a deep dependence on God.
Read the text.
Transition: First of all, we see that…
Main Point: I. THROUGH PRAYER, GOD GRANTS US PEACE IN UNCERTAINTY AND SUFFERING
Place and Prove: In verse 6 Paul writes, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Then, he goes on to say, the peace of God will be with you. Paul says rather than being anxious about the uncertainty you are facing, take it to God in prayer and there you will find peace.
Sub point A: Going to God in prayer in the midst of uncertainty or suffering, shows our dependence on God. There is a reason that Paul encourages us to go to God in prayer before he encourages us to do anything else. He is not saying it flippantly, like it is the standard Sunday school answer, “If you have a problem, just pray.” Rather, Paul points us first to prayer, because, when we pray, we are showing our absolute dependence on God. We would have no need for prayer if we could do it ourselves. Why ask God for ‘our daily bread’ if we are confident that we can get it ourselves? Prayer by its nature shows that we are dependent on God whether it is for our daily bread, or peace and strength in the midst of uncertainty or suffering. One thing that should encourage us to pray is that we have confidence in prayer through Christ. Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Now here is why we can be confident, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Prayer shows us our dependence on God, and the only way we can even begin to pray is because of the work of Christ.
Sub point B: Going to God in prayer in the midst of uncertainty also guards our minds and our hearts. Paul says that by going to God in prayer, God grants us peace, which guards our hearts and our minds. This is vital when our thoughts and emotions are being drug from whim to whim by whatever situation we are in. Our hearts need to be guarded by Christ so that when we our facing uncertainty, doubt and other emotions don’t drag us away. Our minds need to be guarded by Christ so that when life is just not making sense, our thoughts don’t turn negative. But again, it is Christ who is doing the guarding, we are dependent upon him. Prayer puts us there.
Transition: So how does that look in life?
Illustration: I had a close friend call me up about six months into his marriage and tell me that things in his new marriage were not going well and he wasn’t sure how long it was going to last. They were already tossing around the “D” word and he was ready to pack up some things and leave. My heart immediately sank. Not only that, but I wondered what I would say. He was calling me because he was looking for answers or some sort of hope. All I could think of at the time was, “We need to pray.” I could have said, “I’m sorry that this is happening to you, but in Sunday school we learned that we should pray when we have problems…so just pray and it will all be better.” That may not have been the worst thing to say, but prayer is not about us. The point of prayer is not that we will feel better after saying “Amen” or that it is some sort of remedy that if we would just but take a spoonful of it, all our problems would be gone. If that was my view of prayer, then my friend would have found no use in praying in the midst of his uncertainty over his marriage. But prayer in its nature makes us bow to the Sovereign Lord and show that we are desperately dependent upon him in every situation.
So, for my friend whose marriage was quickly tail spinning, I prayed with him. Not because I thought we could fix the problem, but because I knew we couldn’t and we were dependent on God and his grace through Jesus Christ to mend his marriage.
Application: God wants us to come to him first in prayer so that we immediately recognize our dependence on him in the midst of our uncertainty. For some, maybe your marriage is struggling, seek God in prayer so that you will recognize dependence on him and find peace in him. Maybe you’ve lost your job and you have no idea how next month’s bills are going to get paid. Go to God in prayer so that you recognize your dependence on him in your financial crisis. So that Christ can guard your heart and your mind against all that you will face while you look for a new job and try to provide for your family somehow. So, that in the midst of financial chaos, you can find peace.
Whatever situation you are facing right now, pray, not as some over-simplified solution to your problem, but so that you will recognize your absolute dependence on God and find peace in him.
Transition: Not only through prayer, but also…
Main Point: II. THROUGH MEDITATION ON HIM, GOD GRANTS US PEACE IN UNCERTAINTY AND SUFFERING
Place and Prove: In verse 8 Paul writes, “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.” Paul says that in the midst of uncertainty, we need to meditate on God and things about God and here we will find peace. The words: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy certainly all describe God.
Sub point A: (What does it mean to think?) First of all, what does it mean to think on these things as Paul says? The word translated “think” really means to “occupy oneself with reckonings or calculations.” In other words, it is more than just an intellectual assent to something; it is a mulling over in our minds. So maybe the word, meditate, is a better description for us of what Paul is talking about. When we meditate on something it is more than just a passing thought. You might think of meditation as something you do with your eyes closed, sitting with your legs crossed in an incensed filled room. This is not quite what we are going for, but that description leads us down the right path in that meditation is different than just thinking about something. When we meditate, we concentrate or mull something over in our minds, much like a cow chews cud, over and over again. This is the idea that Paul is getting at here.
Sub point B: (What are we meditating on?) So what are we to be meditating on? Paul is not just talking about having the right kind of thoughts. Psychology tells us that having the right thoughts can allow us to have the right actions. But Paul is not talking Psychology, Paul is talking about God. God is the one who is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Paul is reminding the Philippians that their thinking must be controlled by the Gospel. Thus, we must not think about things that are contrary to the Gospel or to God; things that are untrue or unjust. Paul says, you know the Gospel, not let it control your thinking so that you may find the peace of God.
Illustration: I remember the Sunday after the attacks of 9/11. There was certainly not only unrest in our nation, but in every American city and I would say within every person who experienced that day. There was no peace in our land. So I go to Sunday School that day not quite knowing what to expect. What would be said? Who would offer an explanation for the week’s happenings? That morning our Sunday School teacher stood up and read Phil. 4:8, 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. After reading this he prayed and sat down. Honestly, for a moment I thought to myself, “What, this is it?” “The nation that I know is in unrest, my own heart is in unrest, no doubt the people around me are in unrest, and one measly verse is all you have to offer?” Honestly I had felt more comfort watching a bunch of old politicians sing ‘God Bless America’. But as I sat there and begin to truly understand what I heard, I realized that he was absolutely pointing us in the right direction. That day we had witnessed things that were dishonorable, unjust, and not at all lovely. But as Christians, my Sunday School teacher reminded us, we had something more. We had a God who is just and true and lovely. In the midst of national and personal uncertainty, our meditation on God was what would help point us to peace. Because we were believers our thoughts should be controlled by the Gospel and pointed to God.
Application: I wonder what circumstance you are going through right now and I wonder if your thoughts are being controlled by that situation and thus are causing you doubt and unrest. Or are your thoughts being controlled by the gospel, and thus are causing you to glory in the God of your salvation. If God has saved you then the Gospel should control your thinking and your mind should meditate on Him in the midst of whatever you are facing and there you will find peace.
Transition: So what do we do? Well, finally, we see that…
Main Point: III. THROUGH WALKING IN FAITH, GOD GRANTS US PEACE IN UNCERTAINTY AND SUFFERING
Place and Prove: Paul sums up this section in verse nine by saying, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Talking about praying and meditating on God are important in understanding the pursuit of peace in uncertainty, but Paul says that at some point we must step out and practice these things.
Sub point A: Beyond learning and receiving. Paul reminds the Philippians of all that they have learned and received. They are a very wise and mature group of Christians, and Paul knows this. However, it is one thing to know all about how to receive peace in the middle of our struggles, it is quite another to actually apply that knowledge. We can have all of the great Bible doctrines memorized, but if we are not able to apply them, we do not have true theology, we have useless knowledge. Paul knows that without the application of all that he has been saying the Philippians will find no peace.
Sub point B: (Living like Paul.) To help them with this application, Paul points to himself. Some might say that Paul is being proud here, but Paul truly was a great example and just as it helps us to have a person we know as an example, so it also helped the Philippians. For, what they saw in Paul was the same thing that they had heard from Paul. There was a connection between what he was talking about and how he was living. Paul was in prison, he knew what uncertainty and suffering looked like. He knew that in those dark moments the peace, and especially peace from God seem unattainably distant. Yet, through prayer and meditation on Christ, Paul through the Holy Spirit had found the way to peace. Maybe from an external view Paul’s life was still not in peace, but in his heart Paul truly knew the peace of God and the God of peace. He wanted the Philippians to experience this as well, but he knew that required action.
Illustration: Imagine if you saw this advertisement: “The best swimming lessons money can buy. Learn everything there is to know about the sport of swimming. From its origin, progression, and current trends. Learn every stroke there is to be known. Our lessons are taught by some of the world’s most well known swimmers, including Olympic champions. When we are finished with you, you too will be one of the most knowledgeable swimmers in the world. Disclaimer: Due to safety concerns no actual swimming in a pool will take place.” Now, doesn’t that sound ridiculous? This fictitious ad begs the question, “Are you really a swimming expert if you have never gotten in the water?” It is just as ridiculous to have the knowledge of the peace of God and even how to obtain it, but fail to do anything.
Application: I suspect that there are some present who have been in some sort of crisis whether it be financial, marital, or spiritual, for some time. You might feel as if your suffering will never end. We have talked about praying and why that is important. We have talked about how thinking on, or meditating on God is also important. But that knowledge from Scripture will do us no good if we do not apply it. These are certainly not ‘2 Steps to Happiness’ or ‘2 Ways to a Better Life Now’ but rather these are means by which God uses the Holy Spirit to work peace in the circumstances of our lives that seem without hope and without a chance of peace.
Conclusion: In the end it’s not about the knowledge and its not about the doing, though both are necessary, ultimately it is about the God who works through them to rain down his peace.