Today we’re wrapping up our series called “Perspective” in week four of our four-part series from the Book of Philippians and the apostle Paul is encouraging us to take a different perspective on worry. As we’ve been going through this letter to the church in Philippi, we’ve discovered that Paul refused to let his situation or environment control his attitude. And we’ve learned that joy, that having true lasting joy, isn’t really dependent on our external circumstances, but the reality is, that as believers in Jesus Christ, we can be as happy as we choose to be.
Abraham Lincoln said it this way, “Man is as happy as he makes up his mind to be.”
Happiness is a habit that you choose to develop, an attitude that you learn, and the apostle Paul, writing this letter from prison, was full of joy, because he refused to worry about a future that was in God’s hands. Instead, he spent his days doing, saying, and thinking on the right things. You see, when we worry, it’s the result of habitually doing, saying, and thinking of the wrong things.
Craig Groeschel in his book Soul Detox said, “Whatever you fear the most reveals what you value the most.”
If you’re worried about your job, it’s because you value your job. If you’re worried about your children, it’s because you value your children. And so, what you fear most reveals what you value the most.
And the second thing Craig said is: “What you fear the most reveals where you trust God the least.”
And so, this is where we connect the dots, where we cross over, because what you fear most, what you worry about the most, is actually where you trust God the least. You could say, that worry is an expression of a deeper spiritual condition.
John MacArthur defined worry this way, “Worry is the sin of distrusting the promise and providence of God and yet it is a sin that Christians commit perhaps more frequently than any other.”
You see, all of us at one point or another worry. Some of us worry about the economy, some worry about their health, some worry about the end times, some worry about their children, and I could go on and on and on. But you know what? It’s hard to be happy, it’s hard to experience joy in life, when you’re worried and anxious about every little thing. The good news is that you don’t have to be worried, you don’t have to live in a perpetual condition of anxiety, because we know that God is in control, we know that he has a plan, and we know that nothing will happen that he can’t handle. Yet there are people you know that worry when there’s nothing to worry about. It’s like, if there is nothing going wrong right now they worry because it’s gotta be right around the corner. Do you know what I mean? And so the first point I want to make today is that worry really is a matter of perspective. We don’t have to worry, number one…
You know, for some people watching a ballgame can be a very stressful experience. But thanks to ESPN Classic and the NFL Network there are games you can see over and over and over again. If you’ve ever watched a ballgame a second time, you know it’s not nearly as stressful when you know what the final score will be. If your guy fumbles or throws an interception late in the fourth quarter and it looks like the game is on the line, you can sit back and relax, because you know that things are going to work out. Worry really is a matter of perspective.
Now, if there was anyone that truly had a reason to worry it was the apostle Paul as he was writing the fourth chapter of Philippians. If you remember, he was actually in chains for preaching the good news about Jesus’ resurrection. He wasn’t in an actual prison, but he was in house arrest, he was on something like death row, where he was chained 24 hours a day to a Roman soldier, and he was waiting for what could be the sentence that would condemn him to death. He’s waiting for what could be the worst news of his life. Any moment he could find out his time was up, and so if anyone had a right to worry it would’ve been the apostle Paul. But Paul had a different perspective on God than a lot of other people did. You see, the apostle Paul was the one who said in Romans chapter 8,
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35).
Answering his own question he said, “No; nothing can separate you from God!” And in verse 37 he tells us,
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
You see, Paul knew that we don’t have to worry, because he had a different perspective. Paul had seen the faithfulness of God when he was shipwrecked, when he was bitten by poisonous snakes, when he was persecuted, stoned, and left for dead. He had seen the faithfulness of God when they whipped him, when they imprisoned him time and time again, and because of what he’d experienced he could say, “You don’t have to worry.” And so as a prisoner of the Roman guard he writes in Philippians chapter 4, verse four,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4).
He says, “Rejoice in the Lord” and he says it again. Why? Because, “The Lord is near“ (Philippians 4:5). And when you’ve seen the Lord face-to-face like Paul has it changes your perspective. He’s going to show us that you don’t have to worry when you know the Lord like he knows the Lord. And so, number two, we don’t have to worry about what will happen…
Even when we don’t know exactly how things are going to work out, even though things don’t always work out the way we want them to, we do have the privilege of putting everything into the hands of God, knowing that he is in control of every situation, and that everything will work out for the best. Here’s how Paul says it in verse six,
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Paul says that we should pray about anything and everything. I would suggest that if there were ever a verse to memorize, to take literally, and to make your own, this should be that one. Pray about everything.
Now maybe you’ve heard people say, “God has more important things to worry about than my problems.” And I know I’ve heard that countless times, but our God is bigger and greater than all the poverty, famine, and war in the world. As a matter of fact, Ephesians chapter 3 tells us that our:
“(God) is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
I realize there are huge problems in the world, but I also realize that God is greater than our ability to even imagine, and that he has the capacity and the desire to look after the smallest details of your life. That’s why Peter tells us in chapter 5,
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Jesus was very clear in Matthew chapter 6, verse 25, when he said,
"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? 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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25-27).
You see, you and I don’t have to worry about how it’s going to work out when we know who’s in charge. And if we know who’s in charge, we have the privilege of being able to pray about everything. And so we can pray with confidence, knowing that even when things don’t go the way we think they should, we can still be sure that things will ultimately go the way they need to go. That’s why Paul said in Romans chapter 8, verse 28,
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
And so we don’t have to worry about what will happen when we know who’s in charge. And therefore, we can choose joy, because we can choose to give everything to God, and we can choose to trust him to take care of the details. The apostle Paul tells us in verse seven that when you do this…
“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
We don’t need to worry about what will happen, we don’t need to worry about how it’s going to work out, all we need to do is learn to trust God. And so maybe you’re worried about your kids, your spouse, national security, your job, or your health; but what you need to do is to pray about everything, give it to God and don’t worry, because he’s got it. You see, when you worry you’ve taken it back from God and basically said, “God I don’t trust you with this, you can’t handle this, and so I’m going to do it my way.”
Now having said that, I need to give you a qualifier, because that doesn’t mean that you don’t do anything, it doesn’t mean that. If you can do something about it, do something about it, but when there’s something you can’t do, you don’t worry about it, and you give it to God.
Joyce Meyers said it this way, "If we will do what we can do, God will do what we cannot do."
So, when there’s something you can’t do, you don’t worry about it, but you give it to God. When someone close to you is sick, when your marriage is struggling, when your kids are in trouble and your future is uncertain, you give it to God. You trust him with it, because you can’t change anything by worrying about it. Just tell yourself, “I’m not going to worry about anything, but in everything I’m going to present my requests to God, knowing that the peace of God, which goes beyond my ability to understand, will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” You see, when we give it to the Lord, we don’t have to worry about it, because we know who’s in charge. It’s a matter of perspective and God’s got this! And so therefore, Paul tells us in verse eight,
“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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, spent much of his life struggling with serious health issues, but in spite of the circumstances he remained optimistic. One day when his fever was running high and he couldn’t control his coughing, his wife said, “I guess you still believe it’s a wonderful day.” Stevenson replied, “Yes, I do. I will never permit a row of medicine bottles to block my horizon.” You see, unhappy people always have something blocking their horizon; maybe it’s a health problem, a relationship problem, a financial problem, or a failed expectation, and it prevents them from experiencing true joy. But the fact is that we all have these things in our way, any of us could choose to focus on the negative if we wanted to. It’s all a matter of having the right perspective.
Now notice, Paul didn’t say, “If anything’s gone wrong, if things are getting worse, if you’re miserable, think about such things.” No, Paul says, “Think about all these good things.” You see, you don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen when you know who is in charge. You just give it to the Lord and you let his peace guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. And so, in spite of your circumstances, you focus on what’s true right now. You say, “I know that God loves me, I know that he’s with me, and I know that he’ll work all things together for my good.” And so Paul tells us, “Think about such things, those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, anything that is excellent or praiseworthy.”
Yet today, in our consumer driven society, especially now around Christmas time, we find many of us really worried about what we have or don’t have and our status in life. We’re constantly bombarded by images of the good life. We’re reminded day in and day out of what we could have. A lot of people today are discontent with the way they look, the way they feel, and their status in life, but that’s because they’re focusing on the wrong things. And so Paul’s going to say number three, we don’t have to worry about what we have.
You see, you can be sure of this, whatever your conditions are today, whether it’s emotional, physical, financial, or whatever, they will most certainly change. If you’re in the valley right now, there’s a mountaintop on your horizon, and if you’re on top, king of the hill right now, there’s a valley not far away. It’s just the roller coaster nature of our existence. We go through ups and downs again and again. But if you can only be happy when you’re at the peak, then you’re only going to be happy for a small portion of your life. I encourage you to take a look at where you are, to examine your life right now, and make a choice to say, “This is good enough. I can be content with this.”
You see Paul was able to accept every situation he faced, knowing that Jesus was there with him, giving him the strength to endure. He was in chains, but from his perspective he wasn’t in need. He’d learned to be content. It was something that God had taught him. It was spiritually discerned, because we’re not naturally content, we’re naturally discontent because of our sinful nature. And yet what happened was this guy came to visit Paul in Rome with a financial gift, he’d risked his life to get this gift to the apostle, and Paul was touched because they were concerned for him, they were praying for him, and they loved him. He says in verse 10,
“I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:10-12).
In other words, Paul tells us, “Because of God’s goodness, I’ve learned to be content whatever the circumstances, whether good or bad, in need or plenty, no matter what’s going on, here’s the secret, here’s what you need to know. No matter where I am, no matter what’s going on, no matter what I have or don’t have, I don’t have to worry, because verse 13:
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
Paul says, “It doesn’t matter what I have or don’t have,” but notice that he’s not saying he’s not trying to improve himself or improve his situation. In Philippians 3:14 he tells us, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize…” There’s a really big difference between complacency and contentment.
You see, complacency says, “I’ll accept what I have and I won’t try any harder for anything better.”
Contentment says, “Even though I haven’t reached the finish line, even though I haven’t yet fulfilled my dreams, I can fully appreciate and fully enjoy this step in the journey.”
Today, I encourage you to look at your situation like Paul, with the eyes of contentment, recognizing the presence of God in the details of your life. Accepting each day with a sense of gratitude. Facing each moment with a sense of assurance, knowing that whether it’s easy or not, you can endure it through Christ who gives you strength.
Paul tells us, “it doesn’t matter whatever the circumstances, in any and every situation, because of my perspective, because I’ve seen God’s goodness, I’ve heard his voice, I’ve experienced his presence in the greatest trials, and he’s never left me nor forsaken me. His love is better than life…” Philippians chapter 1, verse 21, he says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” because my life is not mine. I’m hidden with God in Christ. When you look at me I want you to see the Lord, because I’m in Christ. I don’t have to worry, because it’s not about me, it’s not about my job, it’s not about my money, it’s not about my relationships, it’s not even about my health, because I’ve given this to the Lord. My health is in Him, my life is in Him, my security is in Him, my relationships are for Him, and my provision is found in Him. None of it’s in my ability to control so I don’t have to worry. My life is in the Lord.
Therefore, Paul says, “I rejoice greatly in the Lord! Whether living in plenty or in want, whether having everything just the way I want it or being chained up to a Roman guard, I can rejoice in the Lord, because I know that He is working in all things to bring about good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” You see, it's a different perspective. He said, “I don't have to worry because my life is hidden in Christ Jesus. He will meet all of my needs because He is the Lord of all.” And suddenly, when you get to that place, you see from my perspective, you find that it's not about you, but it's all about Him.
You see, when we’re hidden in Christ, when we follow Paul’s example, we don’t have to worry because we have the right perspective. We don’t have to worry about what will happen when we know who’s in charge. We don’t have to worry about what we have when we know who truly satisfies. And so today, whatever you carried in here that’s concerning you, you’re going to give it to God. We’re going to do what we can do and we’re going to trust God with what we can’t do. We’re going to give it to God, we’re going to pray about everything, we’re going to worry about nothing, because when it’s in the Lord’s hands, that’s when the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Let’s pray together.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
December 04, 2016
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.