Prayer, not anxiety

February 4, 2022
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Daily Scripture

Philippians 4:5-9

Philippians 4:5-9

5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. 9 Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.

Reflection Questions

Paul wrote this letter in prison (cf. Philippians 1:13-14). He knew his jailers might execute him or set him free (cf. Philippians 1:20-26). On the day he had a scribe write these words, he awoke in a dank Roman dungeon, never sure about whether and when guards might come to end his life. So his words were much more than just religious “happy talk.” With every reason to be anxious, he instead urged prayer, peace and a focus on the good and beautiful in life.

  • What did Paul say God gives if you present your requests to God in prayer? Do you ever wish he’d said, “Bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions—and God will make sure everything comes out just the way you want”? What made the gift of God’s peace more precious for the apostle, even facing potential execution, than any other gift?
  • Paul said God’s peace “exceeds all understanding.” At times, even in situations far short of what Paul faced, you may think worry and anxiety are the only “reasonable” attitude. How can an inner demand for total understanding, for everything to be logical, get in the way of peace? How can you value your mind, yet not expect or demand purely human explanations of everything? Can you trust that a prayer for God’s gift of inner peace is one prayer God will always answer?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, I want to walk every day in your peace, to focus on the excellent and admirable, even beyond the latest scandal or conflict. Keep my heart and mind safe in your hands. Amen.

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

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Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe & his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 & were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew & Jacob. Darren serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection.

This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, yet I had never before noticed Paul’s command in verse 8 telling us to focus our thoughts on those things that are excellent, admirable, true, holy, just, pure, lovely, & praiseworthy. Let’s consider this amazing charge.

One of the great God-given freedoms humans possess is to think whatever we want. We could be enduring a mind-numbing presentation on a Friday afternoon & simultaneously be happily picturing an upcoming vacation or maybe we are wondering about the KC Royals starting pitching rotation while watching a Hallmark movie where the hard-charging female executive finally finds true love with a bearded lumberjack who majored in 19th century French poetry. This used to be called “day-dreaming,” but we’ve upgraded the lingo to “multi-tasking” to make it seem to have more gravitas.

I choose to use this freedom to cleanse my mind before going to sleep each night by perusing old joke books & comic books. (This explains so much – Editor.) Here’s a few from last night:

  • An old country store had a sign on the door, “DANGER! BEWARE OF DOG!” A customer walks in, sees a basset hound lazing in the sun in the middle of the floor, & asks, “Is he really dangerous?” The grocer replied, “My lawyer advised me that he could be classified as a tripping hazard.”
  • A Mom was on a trip & asked her adult son to water her newly planted trees every day. When she called to remind him, he responded, “But it’s raining.” She replied, “Well, take an umbrella.”
  • An old codger is concerned his wife is getting hard of hearing. The doctor advises him to try a simple test: Ask her “What’s for dinner?” from 20 feet away, then 15, then 10, until you get a response. The husband goes home & asks his wife “What’s for dinner?” from 20 feet away & proceeds to move closer each time after getting no response. Finally, he is right behind her when he asks again. Exasperated, she replies, “For the 5th time, Harvey, CHICKEN!”

Sadly, many of us waste this freedom & voluntarily allow other people or entities to dictate what we are thinking about. The 1st thing we do each morning is to look at our electronic devices to see what’s trending or what is the news of the day & we then let those stories, headlines, or gossip cloud our thoughts throughout the day. Now, it might be necessary to consider traffic patterns for our commute, or, living in Kansas, it could be wise to check the weather to determine our attire for the morning, afternoon, & then evening, or maybe we need to see if we won the lottery–thus allowing us to skip work altogether. Everything else? Meh. It’s quite doubtful that someone from the State Department is going to call & say, “We haven’t been following the situation in Ukraine very closely. Could you bring us up-to-date?”

What if we fasted from our multi-media inputs & took Paul’s charge seriously? Now, I’m not encouraging us to be ignorant or not be engaged in our world (or doing something crazy like fasting from the news for 24-hours). Rather, what if we gave God 1st dibs on our day & deliberately directed our minds to ponder goodly, or even better, Godly thoughts & ideas? Let’s experiment with today’s passage:

  • What if our idle thoughts in the morning focused on genuinely trying to treat everyone with gentleness? What would that look like? What would we say or, perhaps more importantly, not say? How would people, like folks in our household, respond to such a change?
  • Or maybe we ponder the idea that the Lord is near. What if our picture of God was tweaked from being some far-off heavenly entity to, instead, being a nearby companion who is always online & eager for us to “text” Him? How might our joys & struggles of the day be transformed with this new image?
  • Or perhaps we wrestle with Paul’s encouraging us to not be anxious about anything. Paul isn’t arguing for us to ignore our concerns or saying they aren’t important, but I would submit he is encouraging us to turn them over to God to invite Him to come alongside us & share in the burden of our worries. How might our morning perspective change if we knew God was an eager partner to help us cope with our fears?
  • Or, finally, we could take a tip from Paul & make a list of things for which we are grateful. Instead of grinding on the imperfections & hassles of our daily lives, what if we offered heartfelt gratitude to God for just 3 blessings in our lives? (If we are feeling particularly curmudgeonly this a.m., start with warm shelter, nourishing food, &, the ol’ stand-by, the fact that we are still taking in oxygen.) How might making this list alter our attitude throughout the day?

We all know the old saying, “Garbage In / Garbage Out.” If we tweaked the adage to “Godly Ideas In / Godly Actions Out,” then we just might find our day’s perspective to be delightfully improved. Like the wife who was asked if she woke up grumpy in the morning. She responded, “Nah, I just let him sleep.”*

*(Exactly how old are these books? – Editor. Well, my “Treasury of Wit & Humor” is from 1946. That’s why my humor is so fresh & topical – DL. Um…– Editor.)