It was the year 1988. I was moving from being the Dean of the Cathedral in Armidale to be in charge of the Healing Ministry in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. It was obvious that the congregation would contain many people who were sick, sad, anxious and depressed. That’s why they came to such a service! How could I get them to be happy? Should I just teach them to join together in singing a song such as this one? “I’m H. A. P. P. Y. I’m H. A. P. P. Y. I Know I Am, I’m Sure I Am. I’m H. A. P. P. Y.” [NOTE 1} I’m sure that suggestion would have gone down like a lead balloon! You can’t make people happy by telling people to sing a song about happiness. There has to be another way.
How could I help people in this congregation to get rid of their worries and anxieties? Fortunately a brand new song had appeared on the charts in 1988 which became an instant hit. The words sounded promising. There were really mainly 4 of them. They were, “Don’t worry! Be happy!” Would that have helped the congregation if we had sung it together? No! Of course not! It doesn’t help to tell people who are anxious not to be anxious. Happiness and peace have to be based on something solid. There needs to be grounds upon which an increase in joy and peace can be experienced.
Praise God that He has given us a recipe which will help those who need help in these areas to receive it. It is found in Paul’s epistle to the Philippian church. It comes in the form of three commands which when obeyed can bring about a great change in those who need help to change.
Paul’s answer. In 3 commands
1]. The FIRST COMMAND
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” It’s not a suggestion. It’s a command from the One who created us, who knows how we are meant to function in life. We note too that it is “Rejoice in the Lord!” Not simply “Rejoice always.” Well how do we go about rejoicing in the Lord? We set out to do so, by:-
Rejoicing In Who He Is
He is the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, the Lord and Master of everything in this world. We sometimes sing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands” showing that He is in control of the whole universe. The personal aspect of the song emerges as the song continues, “He’s got a-you and me brother in His hands … He’s got a-you and me sister in His hands… He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Nothing and no one is outside of His ultimate control! He cares especially for all those who are His!
Rejoicing In What He Has Done For Us
He is the One who sent His Son into the world to die for sinners. Jesus, as He hung on the cross, cried out, Mar 15:34 “… “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Here is the magnitude of God’s hatred of sin that it had to be punished.
Here is the magnitude of God’s love that He did something about it, in sending His Son, the sinless One, to die for sinful humans.
But that wasn’t the end. Later Jesus cried on the cross, “It is finished!” The work of redemption had been completed. As Mark records in Mark 15:37 “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The writer to the Hebrews remarks on the significance of that incident as he/she writes, Heb 10:19 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.” It was a confidence based on the liberating truth that sin had been dealt with and that access to God was now available through His Son as the new and living way.
- He is the One who forgives us completely as we trust in Jesus. Forgiveness became available through what Jesus did on the cross.
- He is the One who gives us His Holy Spirit to indwell us and to transform us into His likeness as we put our trust in Him.
- He is the One who adopts us into His family. Paul wrote in Rom 8:15 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” We see the progression in Paul’s thought, adopted sons, children of God, heirs, fellow heirs with Christ, privileged to share in His sufferings and finally, being glorified with Him.
Rejoicing in the Lord should be our whole-hearted response to the love of God poured out for us in Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord.
2]. THE SECOND COMMAND
Php 4:5 “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” [“Gentleness” = reasonableness = graciousness= patience.]
We can be gracious to others because the Lord is at hand. The phrase “The Lord is at hand” has 2 meanings. It can mean that He is geographically close to His people and able to help them in their times of need. Jesus promised in His great commission in Mat 28:20, “… behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The word for “at hand” or “near” is the Greek word eggus, ἐγγύς meaning near in time and space. ] It can mean that Jesus is about to return. It’s worthwhile hanging on to our faith in Him because He will soon come to vindicate His people. He is near in (our) time and in (our) space.
If the Lord is at hand in both these ways, then it means that we can relax.
- We don’t have to force issues. He is in control.
- We don’t have to ensure that our will is done. Like Jesus we can pray “… not as I will, but as You will.”
- As Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer it is all about the Lord and His will and not about us or our will, Mat 6:10 “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” So we can be gracious to others knowing it’s all about Him and not about us. It’s His will that is to be sought and followed, not “ours” or “theirs”.
3]. THE THIRD COMMAND
Php 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
The word here for “anxious” is [merimnáō] which comes from [meris] meaning a part or a division. It means having a divided mind. A mind jumping from here to there and all over the place. A mind focussed on all the different possibilities that could happen, mostly negative. Thoughts out of control. A mind in a whirl.
- How do you overcome it? Paul tells us in this verse 6. Some have put it in a handy little saying, “When in a fix, Philippians 4:6.”
- Present your requests to God, ie., make them known to Him. He knows about your needs but He wants us to tells Him what they are. When we tell God in prayer what our needs are and He supplies them, we understand that He has listened to and has answered our prayers.
How do we make our needs known to Him? By:-
- Prayer. Humbly telling God our situation as an inferior asks of a superior or a creature asks of a Creator or a child asks of a Heavenly Father.
- Petition. [supplication}. Asking Him to supply our needs and the needs of those for whom we are concerned. The measure of His supply? Limitless, a never –ending supply, as Paul wrote in verse 19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” 4:19. Not “out of His riches ”but according to the measure of His riches in glory! Infinite resources. Enough for all the needs of all the people of every generation in every part of the world!
- Thanksgiving. [Greek word is “eucharistía”]. It is the word used of the Eucharist or the Holy Communion service. It involves thanking Him for His faithfulness in the past and thanking Him in advance, in expectancy, for His answer to our prayers. As Jesus said, Mk 11:24, “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” They are ours in Him but will be released in His way and in His time and through whom He wishes!
What will be the result of obeying those 3 commands from God through St Paul?
v.7. You will experience the peace of God. God’s own peace. As Jesus promised in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The peace of God brings an end to anxiety and fear.
- His peace is indescribable. It “transcends all understanding.” [Verse 7] We can never describe the full depths of the peace we can experience in this life. It has to be experienced to be believed. Even then there is more to experience and more to come to understand about the peace of God.
- His peace guards our hearts and our minds. [NOTE 2] Our mental and emotional health are protected by a sentry. It is the peace of God standing guard to keep our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus our Lord. The readers in Philippi would have understood this figure of speech. Philippi was a Roman garrison city, protected for every hour of every day. The inhabitants would have dwelt at peace knowing that no invaders could come and disturb their peace.
When our focus is right, directed on the Lord and we continue to rejoice in Him as a Person and in what He has done for us, we can experience deepening measures of His peace.
Paul believed that if his readers were to follow what he had written, then they could know the peace of God. But as he wrote a few verses later, they would experience the peace of God coming from the God of peace, Php 4:9 “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.” An inner peace coming from the God of peace!
ACTING ON THE PROMISES OF GOD. Let’s do what God has commanded us to do
I want you to think of an area of concern that you have. It may be for yourself or for a loved one or for a friend. It’s something you’ve had on your mind and you can’t stop thinking about it.
Let’s hand that thing over to the Lord in prayer. We act on what St Paul wrote, Phil 4:6 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
You can join in the prayer if you wish or pray it silently as I pray. [It may be helpful for readers of this article to pray the following prayer to the Lord. He will hear your prayer!)
“Lord I admit that I have been anxious about this concern.
- I now bring it before You in prayer and hand it over to You. (Tell the Lord what it is. Take your time in doing so.)
- I thank You Lord that You know about it and that You know what to do about it. Please work in the situation I have brought before You in prayer.
- I thank You that You have heard my prayer. I thank You for the answer You are bringing in Your way and in Your time.
- I now accept the peace You give me through Your Son Jesus Christ.
- I thank You that this peace which surpasses all understanding, will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.
- Accept my thanks for hearing my prayer and for answering it, In Jesus name. AMEN!”
[NOTE 1] In a lovely touch, as I spelt out the words of the song, many in the congregation spontaneously began to sing it!
[NOTE 2} “Guard” is phrouréō, φρουρέω which is a military term. It means to keep guarded!
Blog N0.245. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Tuesday 17th October 2017