David Jeremiah - The Joy of Security
I heard about a lady who was worried because she wasn't worrying as much as she used to worry, and she was wondering what she should be worrying about that she wasn't worrying about. Another man who hired somebody to worry on his behalf, paid him to worry, paid him a lot of money, and his friend said, "Isn't that really a lot of money to spend"? He says, "Well, I don't know. I let him worry about that". So, you know, that's the way it goes. Some people try to get around worry in the simplest and craziest ways, but how many of you know Christians who still worry? And it must be true because Paul wrote this to a group of believers in Philippi, all of whom were Christ followers, and he gave this instruction to them about worrying.
In these four verses, which are very prominent texts in the Scripture, Paul does four things: First of all, he diagnoses the problem, and then he prescribes a cure, and then he recommends a program, and, finally, he gives a promise. And we're gonna go through those things today, one by one, just taking it as it comes in the Scripture itself. Let's begin with the problem, which is worry. Paul writes in Philippians 4:6, "Be anxious for nothing". Now, the New King James says, "anxious," but the Old King James says, "careful". The Old King James says, "Be careful for nothing".
Now, that's the key verse for a lot of young people, you and I both know, but that's not what that means. The word "careful" there is the word "anxiety". So Paul is saying, "Don't be anxious about anything". It's the same word for the word "worry," and it's translated from two words in the language of the New Testament. One means the word "mind," and the other is the word "divided". So "worry" is a "divided mind" that goes back and forth between what is true and what isn't true, and you never can make the connection. You're always worrying about what might happen, and when you do that, according to James, you are "unstable in all your ways". The word "anxious" that Paul uses here is a synonym for the word "worry," and it's the same word that Jesus used to describe Martha when he said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things". "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things". The Lord also use this word in talking with his disciples when he told them that they were to "take no thought about food and drink and clothing or shelter". In other words, he said, "Don't be anxious about all that because your heavenly Father knows what you need".
So, anxiety, though it is ultimately resolved through our faith in Christ, it can sneak back into our lives as Christians and begin to haunt us if we don't carefully watch out from the scriptural point of view. The problem is worry, and Paul gives us a prescription for that. Here it is in the next verse, verse 6, "but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus". Here's a marvelous contrast: "In nothing be anxious, but in everything be prayerful".
I'm convinced that we are confused about prayer. A lot of people don't understand prayer. They think that prayer is like a magic genie in Aladdin. You just sort of pray, and God does all these wonderful things for you, that prayer is a way for you to get everything that you want. I've actually heard sermons about that on television where people teach that if you pray, you can get whatever you want. God is not our magic genie. He is not automatically bound to give us everything we want. He often answers our prayers to give us what we need. Our goal as his children is to learn how to want what we need, and then we will be comfortable with how we pray. That's why the Bible can tell us, if we ask anything in his will, he will hear us. What does that mean? That means that, if I get my heart in sync with God's heart about what God wants for me, when I ask him for what I want and need, he will answer it because I'm already on his wavelength, and we're together in sync about prayer.
Paul said that when we are tempted to worry, we are to pray, and he gives us four different words here. Please notice them in the text. The first word is "prayer". That's kind of the general word for what we do when we pray. The second word is "supplication". That is an interesting word which means "to beg or entreat" somebody, to come to God, that's the kind of praying that we pray when we find out we got a serious illness, or when somebody that we love has just discovered they have a serious, what do we do? Supplication. It's in entreating. It's "Lord, please". I prayed that prayer. I know that prayer. The third prayer is "requests". Requests are the lists that we make. Do you have a list? You may not have it written down, but you got one in your head, certain things that you pray about all the time. That's the requests on this list. But the most important word of these four, more than "prayer," more than "supplication," more than "requests," is the word "thanksgiving".
Do you see that word in the Bible? Everything through prayer and supplication and request, and notice, the different word is not the word "and". It's the word "with". Listen to me, the first three, "prayer" and "supplication" and "requests," but then the word changes "with thanksgiving". So thanksgiving is not one of the four kinds of prayers. It's the condition that describes how you should offer the first three. So how do you pray? You pray with prayer and supplication and requests, and no matter what kind of prayer you're ever praying, it's always with thanksgiving. Gratitude is the unwritten promise of God. When we pray out of thanksgiving, we have a way of somehow getting God's attention like we don't in any other way. The Bible says that, “When we pray, we're to always pray with thanksgiving.”
Do you pray with thanksgiving? Do you take note of the things that God does for you? And always remember to say thank you. None of us does it perfectly, but it's a routine and a practice that we all need to cultivate in our lives. So notice, there are three circles that we live in. The first circle is the circle of worry. What's in that circle? Nada, nothing. "Be anxious for," what? "Nothing". The second circle is the circle of prayer. What are you supposed to pray for? Everything. And the third circle is the circle of thanksgiving, and what's in that circle? Anything. Worry about nothing, pray about everything, be thankful for anything, and you will find that you are starting to take a little bit of that anxiety out of your life, just by the first thing Paul tells you to do.
And let me encourage you, when you pray, don't pray church prayers. Don't pray sanitized prayers. Don't pray sanctified prayers. Talk to your Father and tell him what you need. Prayer is a conversation between you and God. It isn't a religious thing. It's not a church thing. It's your way of communicating with a Father in heaven who loves you more than you will ever know. Pray honestly and openly. But notice, the problem is worry, and the prescription is prayer, but there's a third thing in this text, and that's the program, and the program is right thinking and right action. Listen carefully: When anxious thoughts are removed by prayer, you have to replace them with something.
How many of you know, you don't get rid of your anxiety by going around all day saying to yourself, "I am not gonna worry as like I used to. I'm not gonna worry today like I worried yesterday. I'm not gonna be anxious, I am going to conquer anxiety". You know what happens when you do that? You take your worry to a whole new level, and you are now an expert in worrying. So when you get rid of worry through prayer, you have to replace it with something. How do you... so I've cast all my burdens on the Lord. Now what's next? And Paul says, "Okay, let me give you a follow-up program to your prayers".
Here's the first thing: Right thinking. He says, to avoid anxiety, we must think proper thoughts. Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren," he writes, "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of a good report, if there's any virtue, if there's anything praiseworthy, meditate or think on these things". Now, what Paul is saying is this: What we think has a lot to do with how we function. Paul tells us that there are certain things you need to program your mind with, certain things you need to think.
Now, he doesn't get into a lot of detailed here, but he gives us six guidelines, and I'll tell you what, if you go through these guidelines, and we're just gonna touch on 'em today, you will realize that there's a lot we can do as God's people to make sure that we stay in charge of what happens between our ears. We don't take that very seriously. We sort of allow that to just happen, don't we? We're very passive about it, but Paul tells us there's a way we can program our minds so that we become the beautiful people God wants us to be. First of all, "Whatsoever things are true," "whatsoever things are true".
How many of you know that the inability to cope with truth is a form of mental illness? When you learn to live with things that are not true, and function as if your non-truth was truth, you are in deep trouble and headed toward an abyss from which it is mostly impossible to recover. Truth is the touchstone of our lives, and we need to learn to think about those things which are true. What things are true? Jesus Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life". This book is truth. Truth in our culture today is that which corresponds with reality, but truth according to God is that which corresponds with his Word. Think about true things. Get rid of all of the false narratives that are so prevalent today, and think things that are true.
Guideline number two, "whatever things are noble," we are to think on things that are honorable, things that claim respect. If it is true that we externalize our thoughts, then honorable people are the result of honorable thoughts. Isn't that a great idea, to think about things that are noble? How many of you know there's a lot of stuff that we get messed up with in our world today, that's not very noble?
Number three, "whatever things are just," that's a general term for things that are righteous by both divine and human standards.
Number four, "whatever things are pure". Now, this was written by Paul, long before the Internet, so it wasn't nearly the problem in those days than it is in our day, but purity is a major, major war for many men in our culture today. The Bible says, if you don't wanna be filled with stress and anxiety and worry, get purity in your mind. Get rid of those things that will corrupt your thinking. Stay off of the late-night Internet. Discipline yourself to think those things which are pure. You cannot lift your mind and let it open to those things which are impure and live a Christian life that has any victory. It will totally destroy you. It will undercut everything you do. Whatever you do, if you're gonna be ruthless about anything, be ruthless about that. Tear the Internet connection out of the wall. Do whatever, you know, I remember seein' a commercial where they threw a computer out the window. That may not be a bad thought for some folks.
Guideline number five is "whatever things are lovely". I like that word, don't you? Say that word with me, "lovely, lovely". Do you know that it's only in the Bible one time, and it's right here in Philippians 4? "Lovely" is a word that is often found in the New Testament times, not in the Bible, but sometimes it was in an epitaph, sometimes it was in a writing. It was a term that could be used to describe fine art or music. A thorough reading of 1 Corinthians 13, will give you some ideas of what "lovely" is. It's the opposite of the confusion and disorder that so often rules in our day. What a great thing to think about things that are lovely. Lift your standard of thought. Get out of the doldrums, and get your standard of thought up here.
And, finally, number six, "whatever things are of a good report". That means "fair speaking" is literally what the words mean. It describes what is appealing. Listening to such reports builds you up. Take care to what you listen to. Have you ever heard people come up and say, "Have you heard what's goin' on with," someone, and you know you're about to get a bad report? Most often, you don't wanna do that. You don't wanna hear that. We're always open to bad reports. The Bible says, "Whatever things are of a good report". I love it when people come, "Let me tell you what's happened," and they tell you all the good things that are happening. I don't need anybody to fill my mind up with negative things.
So the Bible says, "Take control of the gate of your mind" because that's where you can do a lot of good when it comes to what you think about. What you think about, if it's not right, will be what you worry about. "It's just in my head, Pastor". No, if it's in your head, you let it in your head. You have control over your thoughts, and your thoughts come from the places you go and the things you do, and I just wanna remind you that Isaiah 26, verse 3, says, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you". Program your mind with positive things, and you will take another step toward avoiding worry in your life. And then here's the second part of that plan: To avoid anxiety, we must think proper thoughts, and to avoid anxiety, we must do proper things. Philippians 4:9, "The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, these do".
I remember that there was once a highway in Canada that read, "Take care which route you choose. You will be in it for the next 25 miles". Our thoughts make the routes that our actions follow. Our thinking issues in our doing. We ponder what we end up practicing. Our learning determines our living. And Paul says, "Not only should you think the right thoughts, you should do the right things". He instructs them to practice, "The things," notice this, "which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me," he said, "these things you watch me do, I'm the model here, these things, do".
Well, you say, "Pastor Jeremiah, what things is he talkin' about"? You could go through all of the book of Acts. You could take the whole life of Paul and script it all out and have hundreds of things that Paul said and that he did and that he encouraged people to follow, but let's just take Philippians. Let's just take the first three chapters of Philippians. Here's what we learn about Paul that he tells us we are to do in three chapters of one of his letters. Hang on. I'm gonna fly through this on the screen.
"Loving more, having greater discernment, being sincere and without offense, being filled with the fruits of righteousness, having conduct worthy of the Gospel, standing fast in one spirit, striving together for the Gospel, being like-minded of one accord, esteeming others better than yourself, working out your own salvation in fear and trembling, doing all things without complaining and disputing, holding fast the word of life, looking out for false teachers," verse 3 of chapter 3, and that's just three chapters about Paul. What is he saying? What Paul is saying is this: "You have the opportunity to carefully evaluate what the Bible says, but if you wanna translate it into flesh and blood, here's how I've lived my life".
I would never say that. I could never say that, but I'm not the apostle Paul. Under the inspiration of the Scripture, Paul said, "I am a living example of how you are to follow Christ". Here's what you do: Study his life, learn what he's doing, and do what he does. Paul's life matched his words. That's the kind of people, as leaders, we should all aspire to be. Great teachers follow their own teaching. You can't be a great teacher if you don't live the truth. If I stood up here and preach to you every week out of the Word of God and left a trail behind me of things that violated all the principles I taught, I would be useless.
In fact, I would be worse than useless. I would be a negative example of the things that God has called us to do. I can't be perfect, neither can anyone else, but I should aspire to the truth with the highest evidence in my life that I believe the things that we talk about. Paul said, "The things you have heard, the things you have received, the things you have seen in me, these things do". Now, here's the good part of all of this: Do you want a guarantee? You go to the doctor, and you say, "I've got this problem". Most often, they won't say to you, "Okay, take this, and I promise you, you will get better". But Paul isn't an average doctor. Paul is saying, "If you do what I tell you to do, you will be victorious over worry". You say, "Where is that"?
Okay, here we go. God's promise of peace, verse 7, "and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus, and the God of peace will be with you". If you pray, if you program your thoughts, if you do what the Word of God says for you to do, and if you do that, "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart". Notice God's protection: It says it will guard your heart. This is a tremendous Scripture, one of the best in the Word of God. It says, when you do these things, God will send his garrison, his armed guard, to stand in front of your heart's door so that it won't let any of these bad things into your heart that will cause you to worry. If you do these things, God promises to garrison your heart with his peace.
Notice how he describes this peace: "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding". How many of you know that kind of peace? You've gone through something that you'd never dreamed you'd ever go through, and God has intervened in your life and given you strength, and you try to explain it to somebody, especially somebody who's not a Christian, and they look at you like they have no idea what you're talkin' about. How could anybody have peace in the midst of that? Well, you can't explain it because it's a peace that surpasses all understanding. You have to experience it to know it.
Notice, not only does God give you his protection, he goes further than that. He gives you his presence. How many of you know there's two things here? There's the peace of God that garrisons your heart. That's protection. But there's the God of peace who comes to live within your heart. That's even better. I'd rather have the God of peace any day than the peace of God 'cause, when you get the God of peace, you can get the peace of God, amen? So the Bible says that, when you do these things, God will come, and he will have a very special presence in your life. You will get the presence of God in your life. He will be with you. His presence will be your comfort and encouragement.
When problems come, God will be with you. God draws near to us in times of desperate need in ways that we can't understand. How is it that God could be nearer to me today than he was before all this happened? It's not really possible because God is never any more near to us at one time than at the other, but when we go through these difficult times, we sense his presence like never before, and so many times, people have come to me and said, "Pastor, when I went through that, if God hadn't been with me, I don't know what I would've done," or have you had people say, "How do people who don't know the Lord go through times like this"?
The Bible says, when we put our trust in him, when we pray, when we take the Word of God seriously, when we determine we're gonna control what enters our mind, the Bible says God not only garrisons our heart with the peace of God, but he enters our heart with the presence of God, and that is sufficient to help us. And, finally, God's peace, he calls it the "peace of God, which surpasses all understanding".
So my question to you today is do you have that peace in your heart? Do you have that peace workin' for you? We do a little better with it sometimes than others, but we should be growing in our ability to turn over our cares to the Lord. "Cast your care upon him, for he cares for you". Let me tell you, you can choose to live your life worried to death, or you can choose to follow God's principles and live above worry and have the joy of the Lord in your heart. I pray that you will do the latter and let God control.