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(023) Philippians XVI: Why Pray When You Can Worry

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Philippians XVI:

Why Pray When You Can Worry?

Philippians 4:6-7

March 9, 2008

Prep: Reread Piper, leftovers, my prayer (“Through”)

Opening comments: Paintball, website and Prayer Room

Opening prayer

·         Justin McNeil’s mom

·         Sharron’s surgery

·         Face our anxieties

Last week...

This is the second part of a sermon within our series in Philippians. In other words, last week I ran out of time half way through the sermon.

·         Turn to your Bibles to Philippians 4:7. Try to bring your Bibles so you can makes notes, but if you forget, that’s okay. 

We reaching the end of Philippians, and Paul is throwing out miscellaneous instructions and commands, all of which describe how we bring Jesus into everyday life.

Last week, I said that Christians should be known for:

1. ...getting along and help others get along. (4:2-3)

2. ...rejoicing in every circumstance. (4:4)

3. ...their gentleness, not insisting on their rights. (4:5)

Anxious in America

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. Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

Anxiety, worry, stress, apprehension, all big issues today:

·         Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in America, affecting 40 million adults (18%)

·         $42 billion a year (almost 1/3 of mental health expenses).

·         Suffers are 3-5 times more likely to go to the doctor, 6 times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders.

Symptoms: Mood swings, anger, depressed, exhaustion, fragmentation, panic, change in sexual desire, over-spending.

Also: Self-medicating (small group is Jack Daniels and Jose Cuervo), grumpy, over-sleeping or insomnia, and isolation.

·         That’s 4 of the 7 dwarves: Bashful, Sleepy, Grumpy, and Dopey.

Q   Does this sound familiar?

Maybe worry isn’t something you worry about, but it’s is a really struggle for me. My body lets me know when I’m anxious.

Q   What are things that you worry about?

Instead of sermon notes, there is a place for your worry list. Write down your top three, and then shout out some.

·         My top three are raising our girls right, finances, and caring for this church (family, money, and work).

Q   How many of those things do we have complete control over?

We usually only worry about things we can’t control. Only 8% of worries are valid concerns; 92% are either out of our control, in the past, imaginary, or insignificant.

·         If you can do something about, do it, then it’s not a worry.

·         Marilyn keeps a notepad by the bed.

why pray when you can worry?

Q   Since we can’t control these things, what should we do?

In the words of the great philosopher Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, Be happy.”

I know that you’re facing bankruptcy, and your dog just died, but be happy! This works well for the minor stuff, but doesn’t handle the bigger things.

·         It’s actually a quote from Eastern mystic Meher Baba, and is dependent upon denying the realities of this physical life.

Fortunately, Paul’s solution is more theologically sound and effective than pretend you don’t have anything to worry about. Let’s find it in the diagramed version:

Do not be anxious about anything,

but in everything...present your requests to God. [antidote]

by [Means/tools] prayer [general conversation and

petition [supplication],

with [manner/attitude] thanksgiving,

[result] And the peace of God (which transcends all understanding) will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Looking at this diagram, we see Paul’s antidote to worry is simple: present our requests – Pray. That is such a surprising connection, and so profound.

·         Not don’t worry, not work harder, not give up, but pray.

In other words, rather than worry about things we cannot control, turn it over to God, who is the only one who can control it.

·         Life is so unpredictable, I thought I felt an earthquake (just the washer), but reminds me how little control we have.

Worry tries to take control of burdens we were never meant to carry, but praying put it back in God’s hands.

Prayer simultaneously does two things:

1. Prayers demonstrate and increases trust

2. Petitions allow us to participate in God’s actions

Prayer as trust

Anxiety can be a good indicator of trust in God; it’s like a trust meter. The more I worry instead of praying (which is a lot), the clearer it is I don’t trust God to take care of me.

·         I’m not saying that if you are suffering from panic attacks you should throw away your meds and trust God.

But for the majority of us, anxiety is sign that I am trying to trust myself, not God.

·         And this sort of anxiety is not a condition to be treated, it is a sin to be repented of.

How we respond in the difficult times is the clearest indicator of who we trust. And it demonstrates what we believe about God:

·         Prayer says that I believe he is a loving Father who wants to take care of me.

·         Trying to handle it on my own says I think he is a grumpy, stingy old boss who doesn’t want to help.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

Prayer says, “I know that you care more about what I care about then I care what I care about, because you care about me.”

Summary: So in prayer, demonstrate that we are putting our trust in God, putting the things I can’t control back into his hands.

·         I have on occasion literally “lifted it up to God.” Our spirit follows our body.

Prayer as action

Prayer is not only trust, it is action. God has given us the unfathomable opportunity and responsibility of affecting change through our prayers.

·         When we can do nothing else we can pray, and that is enough.

Not only so, but we pray so that we can do the impossible. If you want to only accomplish what you are capable of doing on your own, then there is no need to pray.

·         But we long to seeing God do awesome stuff, in us as individuals, in our families, and in our church, so we pray.

Preemptive Praise

Finally, Paul addressed the attitude we should have behind our requests: Thanksgiving.

Q   When does Paul say we should be thankful, before or after receiving the answer?

Gratitude before the answer is a sure sign of trust. Not trust that God will answer so much as trust that God is good and that his answer will be good.

·         We don’t always like his answers, and things may get worse before they get better.

Thanksgiving, before getting the answers, is vital for freedom from anxiety. It shows we believe God when he says “all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Rom. 8:28)

Irrational peace

And, Paul says, when we do this, the result is that God will give us a peace that transcends all understanding, that doesn’t make sense.

When I was in discussion with the elders about becoming your pastor, I felt such peace in the uncertainty, (very unusual for me), that I was worried I was being delusional or stupid.

·         But I was doing what I could, and praying.

During worship, find “Worry list,” cross out worry and write “prayer.” Give these things to God by praying and asking for him to take over, repent for not trusting him, and then thank God for whatever he chooses to do. Close by reading:

Matthew 6:25-33   25 ¶ "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  32 For the pagans run after all these things, [they thought the gods had to be coaxed into answering] and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV)

May the peace of God, which truly surpasses all understanding, fill and guard your hearts and minds, and may the unity of the Spirit bind us together as one body. Amen.

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