Hello to all of our BYM! Hope ALL are staying warm and avoiding the maladies that suddenly cold weather can bring.
Pastor John is continuing with us in addressing the issue of worry and anxiety and how it relates to our faith. So, last Lord's Day he started out by reading from Paul's Letter to the Philippians chapter 4 verses 11 and 12. “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.”
Now really - how often have we heard someone say “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances”? Surely far more common is seeing and hearing all around us folks who are never satisfied, never happy no matter how extensive their material endowments. They are constantly consumed with worry.
Pastor John re-emphasized the issue by rereading Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
He then related to us recent graphic experiences he has had at his house. He showed us pictures of little creepy crawlies of various kinds he had found infesting portions of his house. As unpleasant as their appearance was, their presence pointed to a worse basic problem: in this case mold in the structure of his house. So he felt compelled to take decisive action to address the underlying problem.
Well then, how about addressing the more fundamental problem of anxiety, of lack of peace, of being in pieces?
God calls us to take action regarding the underlying problem. In this case, we know from Philippians 4:6 above that we should let our requests be known to God. This means that we should pray. The curious thing is that the need for prayer among men is so fundamental that the world over, whatever the cultural or religious circumstances, men have always had the urge to pray, even if they mostly did not know who to pray to.
Pastor John put it with beautiful simplicity. When we are thirsty, we know enough to drink. When we are hungry, we know enough to eat. When we are anxious, we should know enough to pray. As followers of the Christ we surely know who to pray to.
To teach us to understand what contentment really means, Pastor John contrasted contentment with covetousness. First he reminded us that the Apostle Paul wrote “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” Even when he was in chains in prison!
The opposite of being content is to covet. What does it mean to covet? It can be defined two ways: (1) to earnestly wish for, and (2) to desire what somebody else has. Okay, why do we covet? Here Pastor John took us to the next step of fundamental understanding. We covet something because it will bring us a step closer to that which we covet even more, taking us from the material to the social. In short, we want to be envied, which is something very like being accepted, which is something immediately adjacent to being loved. This illustrates a basic notion that our happiness is totally bound up in our advantageous relationships with others.
But, is that really possible? Where is God in that?
Pastor John reread Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” In context of the letter this assertion means that “I will have whatever I need to endure whatever my situation of the moment.” Jesus Son of God covets each of us so in truth none of us needs to be a coveter. This is not about a resolve to stop coveting but instead it is about finding the objects we would covet just not important as we thought when we finally internalize our grasp and understanding of the larger picture. Success is to be so content in Jesus that the rest of this existence, all of the trappings of this life, are of only secondary concern to us at most. Covetousness is then dead.
Further illustrating the point Pastor John delighted us with the adventures of his toddler son. The darling child was given the gift of a marvelous toy. But as it was being opened, a section of cardboard detached from the rest of the packaging, which of course is material far secondary to the toy. But the toddler immediately amused himself in playing with the bit of cardboard and ignoring the toy. Now, how often are God's intended children like that? How often do we become enamored of some perishable material bauble, and remain oblivious to God?
Finally Pastor John bid us to remember the story of the donkey in the well. Those who thought that the poor trapped animal's case was hopeless went about shoveling dirt down the well to smother him and put him out of his misery. But the donkey shook off all the dirt each time shovels-full of it came down the well. After many shovels-full had come down the well, the donkey had built up a ramp of dirt beneath him that enabled him to climb out. From this little story we are reminded that the need is not to fight-off anxiety with sweet platitudes that mean nothing, but to channel the anxiety in a constructive way to a successful outcome.
So, we channel our worries into humble prayer and then we have the peace of God, which truly transcends all understanding.