Philippians 4:1-9 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Chris Lee, Gracepoint Berkeley

What is the relationship between “being anxious” and “prayer”?  Why is it important to present our requests to God with thanksgiving?

On the surface, it seems like my anxieties have to do with the high stakes involved in what we do in our service for God.  When other people are counting on me to be faithful to my responsibility, I don’t want my negligence or carelessness to dampen the atmosphere, or cause people to miss out on something important that God wants to communicate to them.  However, I notice that often anxiety causes me to have little room in my heart for people.

"Anxiety"

It causes me to become blind to others’ needs because though seeing, I really don’t see since there is little room in my heart and mind to notice the importance of what I am seeing.  If that is so, then is that anxiety really coming from desire to serve people in ways that would benefit them?  Upon honest examination, I know that usually it comes from concerns about myself.  What I am really anxious about is, how will I look when I fail? How am I going to look when something I am working on turns disastrous?  This kind of anxiety comes because  in some ways, I’ve drifted away from God.  I’ve forgotten that I am God’s servant, his mere instrument.  I’ve forgotten that He is the one who provides the resources and enables me to do anything.  As a result, I’ve let selfish ambition drive me.  I’ve also let myself be controlled by the attitude that says, “I am the one entirely responsible for making sure this goes well.”  Prayer helps me to restore my identity as God’s servant and His instrument.  Prayer helps me to see the inappropriateness of doing anything for myself, and to repent for this sin.  Prayer also helps me to depend on Him and find my confidence in him.  One aspect of prayer time that I get excited about is when God gives some thought or idea regarding an issue that had been a burden in my heart.  I know it’s from God because I am certain that I would not have thought of it on my own.  Such moments help me to experience the joy of depending on God and receiving from Him.  Along with it, there comes a sense of confidence that if I humbly depend on him and obey what He tells me, everything will be ok.  Even when God does not speak in such a way, through thanksgiving, He reminds me that indeed I can bring everything to Him in prayer.  When I begin to look for reasons to give thanks to Him, at the outset, sometimes I can’t think of many.  However, as I keep thinking about what’s been happening around me and in our church, I am surprised by the number of reasons I can come up with to thank God.  He had been working in our midst, but I had not noticed many of His activities until I intentionally made the effort to give Him thanks.  It’s a constant battle to discipline myself in this area, but when I am able to see more clearly the unchanging character of God through thanksgiving, I am enabled to have greater assurance that God can and will do His work through us.

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Submitted by Kevin Han, Gracepoint Davis

v. 6-7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Being Anxious:
It seems to me that one of the biggest characteristics and the outcome of a life attempted to live without God is anxiety.  The flavor and the color of anxiety are the sentiments of “Oh no, what is going to happen (to me)”, or “please don’t let that happen.”  At the very foundation, it’s the self-perspective driven fear against the bad outcome/result, some negative circumstance or the undesirable consequence or sorts.  All of those fears really testify to the very basic fact that we do not have control over everything, and in fact, only over a very few things.  Things happen beyond our predictions or desires.  Despite our very best efforts, we can’t completely shape the outcome.  There are infinite number of ways in which something can go wrong, while we can only control very finite number of things.  A lot of life seems to be left to chance, to things beyond us.  On top of all that, if you throw in our self-centered desires of how we like things to turn out for our own liking (greed), anxiety becomes the only certain outcome.

When we think about those realities, for anyone to say “Do not be anxious about anything” seems incredibly absurd.  In fact, anxiety seems to be the only sensible reaction even though it does not help the situation at all.  But Apostle Paul was able to confidently command this, not because he’s telling us to be delusional about the situation and ourselves, but because of this very important fact about life:  There is God.  And that simple fact alone, changes everything.  And what’s even more important, is the fact that God is Good and very Loving.

When it comes to anxiety, the very attribute of God that makes anxiety absurd, is the fact that we have a God who is very very involved and engaged to the very detailed lives of everyone.  If we look carefully at what Apostle Paul tells us to do, this loving character of God becomes obvious.

“In everything,” God wants to hear about everything.  “Everything” is a love word, because when we love someone, we become interested in about everything about the person.  The professors only want to hear about your research or the term paper or what you are learning about that particular subject.  The managers only want to hear about productivity, and sometimes about your personal life to the degree of how much it may affect your performance in most cases.  But God wants to be attuned to everything, all aspects.  One reason for it is because when He reigns over every aspect of our lives, that is the best for us.

Personally, I think the most important aspect of all of this, is that God is Good in the sense that He is Sovereign.  It’s a bit more difficult concept to grasp, but I believe it is a lesson that God is showing me more and more.  In my personal life, I was able to witness the Good that God made out of even the most tragic incident of death of someone that I dearly loved.  It took some time to see it all unfold, but it is undoubted now.  So the “everything” even includes the most tragic or the darkest events in our lives.  Our sense and understanding of “Good” is ultimately limited and relative, but God’s Good is absolute.  So we can trust in that.  As Apostle Paul said, the peace that comes from recognizing God in all situations indeed “surpasses all understanding.”  That only further proves our own limited knowledge and perspective, but really testifies to God’s Sovereign Goodness that is far beyond what I can understand.

Even as a Christian, I often live forgetting God’s existence, or forgetting His Goodness, or ignoring His sovereignty.  And it is those times that I get overwhelmed with anxiety.  I think it is a good way to check my heart, to see if I am living in trust, living in constant connection with God through prayer and obeying His word.  Anxiety and God are totally exclusive.  As Apostle Paul commanded, I need to constantly go back to the foundational fact of God and His grace as clearly demonstrated on the Cross, that when I look out into the world, I can rise above the anxieties of living in a chaotic life out of control trying to just survive, to a see a place where God is actively working and causing Good out of every situation through His Sovereignty, that very Good work that I can be freed up from my anxieties to participate in loving in Christ’s name.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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