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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ANXIETY or TRUST- Is it A choice?

(Philippians 4:1-13, 1 Peter 5:7)
“It is not the things themselves that trouble us, but our thoughts about those things.” Epictetus.
In his book Believe and Belong Power, Bruce Larson tells about the gigantic statue of Atlas in the entrance of the RCA Building on Fifth Avenue in New York City. There is Atlas, struggling and straining and holding the world on his shoulders. “Now that's one way to live," said Mr. Larson, "trying to carry the world on your shoulders." On the other side of Fifth Avenue, Larson reminds us, is Saint Patrick's Cathedral. There, behind the high altar, is a small statue of Jesus as a little boy—about eight or nine years old and, with no effort at all, he is holding the whole world in one hand. We have a choice. We can carry the world on our shoulders or we can say, “I give up, Lord, there's my life. I give you my world, the whole world.”
Trusting God with our anxieties can help us find a solution (Philippians 4:1-3). By focusing on God, He will help us in our mutual need and service to God instead of arguing with each other like the two women mentioned in Philippians 1-2. Paul’s concern about the pain such division causes must been heavy on his heart when he said, “....please stay true to the Lord, my dear friends. And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.” Self-centeredness always leads to conflict and unnecessary anxiety. It is normal for a disagreement to happen in a church, like any other place where people come together. Differences of opinion must be respected, and the disagreement should be resolved with the help of mature and Godly Christians for God’s sake and for the well-being of the church. How do we resolve problems in the church? By listening to godly counsel, it is possible to reconcile and get along (Philippians 4:3). Paul appeals to the leaders of the church to help the two women reconcile. We have witnessed that those who are at odds with each other have the tendency to magnify the problem. That’s why a wise and impartial intervention is needed. As Paul said, “...I ask you, my true teammate, to help these women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. And they worked with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.” See also Revelations 3:5. Paul’s wise advice shows us that people in conflict are to be loved and honored for their past faithful service and adopted children of God, as in Romans 8:16. They are not to be easily discarded because their shortcomings. The goal set by the Lord is restoration. We should keep in mind that when we try to reconcile people, the goal is to restore if the people are willing to reconcile; if not, let God do the rest–but we leave the door open. We can’t do better than what our Lord teaches us regarding forgiveness and reconciliation in Matthew 18, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the fault. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If that person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. If the church decides you are right, but the other person won't accept it, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” The church that follows Jesus’ teaching will stand as a light that shines in the darkness instead of joining the darkness by giving in to seek approval and acceptance by the very people who need the light of Christ. We show the light of Christ when we turn to God calmly to seek his wisdom in the time of conflict and anxiety in prayer and thanksgiving.
Trusting in God can help us to seek God’s wisdom in prayer (Philippians 4:4-7). Paul’s wise advice, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” Why did Paul tell the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always?” If their minds were to focus on the Lord, they would depend on him to protect them from any harm and they would not allow anxiety to hinder them from looking for practical solution. Look at the next line from Paul, “...let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” Why is that important? Because lack of reasonableness drives people to act out their feelings and harm people verbally and physically. We see acts of violence on the media, angry people shooting at random and destroying the lives of people. Such acts ignore God’s command. To avoid irrational acts, remember that the Lord is near and we can call on him for help. The result will be amazing peace in grace. Here is the promise, “Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, and always giving thanks. And God's peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Let us pay close attention to God’s to-do list to help us to reduce our anxieties. Don’t worry about anything–that is a command. Why? Worry is a waste of time. Don’t hesitate to phone heaven 24/7—God has limitless resources. Don’t forget gratitude for the past answered prayers and God’s goodness. Don’t forget to open your heart and mind to God’s peace. Trusting in God focuses us on positive thoughts and winning attitudes (Philippians 4:8-13) When our heart and minds are preoccupied by worry, thinking positively is difficult; that’s why so many people feel depressed and hopeless. To combat such negative feelings, we can decorate our minds with the beautiful thoughts as Paul advises us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.” We can keep our inner life calm by focusing in on the above mind foods (verse 8). Paul, despite his imprisonment, kept his joy by looking to Jesus, and Paul tells us in verse 9 to follow his example. His secret of joy was in knowing that he was loved by Christ. He said in Romans 8:38-39, “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.”
Christ is sufficient to meet our needs, physical and spiritual. We read in Philippians 4:10-13. “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me....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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Paul learned to depend on God for all his needs and Christ proved to Paul by becoming his provision in his times of need and his strength when he was weak and tired. The same Christ is able to help us with all our needs if we call on him, as the writer of today’s Hymn, “O Happy Day” found out.
Eighteen of Monica Dodridge’s nineteen children died in infancy. When number twenty arrived on June 26, 1702, he, too, appeared stillborn. But while being laid aside, he cried out. Monica determined then and there to raise Philip for the Lord Monica taught her son the lessons of Scripture. When he was later orphaned, Philip wrote in his diary, "God is an immortal Father, my soul rejoices in Him; He hath hitherto helped me and provided for me; may it be my study to approve myself a more affectionate, grateful, and dutiful child." But he was destitute, and though he longed to be a minister, there seemed no way to afford the necessary education. Friends advised him to prepare for another profession, but before making a final decision, Philip set apart a day for earnest prayer. While he was praying, the postman arrived with a letter from a wealthy benefactor offering to finance his training Philip resolved henceforth to live a life of prayer At age 27, Philip was asked to become the head of a seminary for non-Anglican ministerial students in Northampton, England. His health was frail, and he didn't think he was well enough for the new responsibilities. But while passing a house, he overheard a child reading Deuteronomy 33:25: “...and as your days are, so shall your strength be." He took it as a word from God and accepted the call. The reputation of Northampton Academy radiated through England, and students flocked there, in part, because of Philip's chapel sermons and his powerful prayer life. For twenty years, Philip trained students, and his books became "must reads" for the Christians of his day—and ours.
Closing thoughts: anxiety or trust: is it a choice? The answer is yes. We all have experienced God’s gracious answers to our prayers. Prayer doesn’t eliminate problems of life, but it helps us and draws us to our maker and sustainer. As Dr. Dallas Willard put it, “God will meet us in love, and love will keep our minds directed toward him as the magnet pulls the needle of the compass.” Prayer will keep us from continuous worry by connecting us to God’s abundant life and abiding presence. May God, the life giver and the sustainer and the destiny of our journey keep us in his peace as we gaze at his beauty.
Pastor Shim Habte
Willows United Methodist Church
544 N. Shasta St.
Willows, CA 95988 (530) 934 -3190
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