MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
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Philippians 4:6 7; Psalm 8:1 4; Colossians 3:15 17; Matthew 6:25 34
A. Listen to these words from the 8th Psalm: "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8:1)
"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon & the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" (Psalm 8:3 4).
I don't know just why God cares for us, but it is obvious that He does. In fact, one of the best known passages in the Bible testifies to that, for it tells us,
"God so loved the world that He gave His one & only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him" (John 3:16 17).
ILL. A songwriter asks, "Why should He love me so?
Love sent my Savior to die in my stead.
Why should He love me so? ...
Nails pierced His hands & His feet for my sin.
Why should He love me so?"
Again, I don't know why. All I know is that He does. And because of His love, He has made some wonderful promises to us.
Listen to this one, "Whoever comes to me I will never drive away." (John 6:37b) But that is just one of many! He promises to hear our prayers, & that He will always be with us. He promises to forgive our sins when we confess them & surrender our life into His hands.
And if we do, He promises that someday Jesus will come again & take us unto Himself. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, & we shall be with Him forever & ever.
B. Aren't those wonderful promises? And God has always kept His promises. But this morning I want to look at one particular promise, & it is found in Philippians 4:6 7.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer & petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus."
Did you hear that? God promises to give us "the peace of God." Now I don't know about you, but I need God's peace. This world is a very stressful place in which to live. Just look at the headlines! Things are constantly going on around us that cause anxiety & stress.
ILL. As I was preparing this sermon, Ethel went on the internet & typed in the question, "What are the 10 most stressful jobs in America?"
Over 300,000 websites popped up in answer to that question. I looked at some of them & found a variety of answers.
Certain categories were almost always included in the lists of "Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs." But there were differences - possibly the result of the personal experiences of those who were compiling the lists.
But let me tell you what the ABC Network listed as the Top 5 Most Stressful Jobs in America:
#5 - Medical Professionals - particularly Interns working long hours in emergency rooms, not yet having all the skills they need, & trying desperately to learn them.
#4 - Teachers, all teachers - particularly those in inner city schools dealing with kids who may be carrying guns or knives, & who have no respect for authority.
#3 - Police Officers - who must be hyper-vigilant to potential danger at every moment, yet extremely careful to practice restraint, & whose split-second judgments may be second-guessed at any time.
#2 - Deployed Military Personnel - separated from loved ones, under constant threat of attack or explosives, suffering from post-traumatic stress, & concerned about whether their jobs will be available when their tour of duty ends.
Now all 4 of those categories were high up in almost every list that I looked at. But I certainly didn't expect to see what ABC Network listed as #1. They listed as the most stressful job in America - Working Parents. And here is how ABC explained their decision:
"There's often no line of division between time spent working & time spent parenting, & it's a stressful combination in which balance is nearly impossible to achieve.
"When a child needs attention, the time spent taking care of his or her needs may conflict mightily with job responsibilities… Many parents are also teachers, soldiers, doctors, police officers or any of the other stressful jobs on this list."
Do you understand? They are saying that parents often face double stress situations - 1st as a parent, & 2nd as an employee. And this double-whammy can be especially difficult to handle! We really do live in a stress-filled society!
By the way, let me mention what one so-called expert said was the least stressful job in our society.
#1, according to him, is being a minister. Of course, everybody knows why. After all, preachers only work 2 hours a week. So we really have it made, don't we? By the way, if you believe that, I have a Brooklyn Bridge that I want to sell you.
Oh yes, he gave a reason for putting preachers at the top of the list. He said, "Preachers aren't stressed out because most of them are sure there is a heaven, & they're pretty sure they're going there."
Now that ought to tell you something. If being sure there is a heaven & that you're going there reduces stress, then what about you? Your life doesn't have to be filled with stress, either.
SUM. Well, we do live in a stressful world & one of God's promises is that He will provide us peace in the midst of it all. So let's take a closer look at that promise.
I. THE APOSTLE PAUL SAID
A. Look at Philippians 4:6,7 & see that if we're going to have the "peace" that God gives there are some things we need to do.
Vs. 6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer & petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Now what is he telling us we need to do?
Well, #1 is to "pray about everything." If we're going to receive God's promise of "peace," we are to pray about everything.
Frankly, folks, if we examine ourselves this morning, I think we would probably find ourselves in one of three different groups.
1. Some of us, & I hope not very many, don't pray about anything. Maybe you're not a Christian, or maybe you are a Christian but you've tried to pray in the past & it didn't seem to work, & now you don't pray at all.
So when problems & difficult situations arise, you just grit your teeth, clinch your fists, & try to handle it all by yourself. You don't pray because you're not sure there is a God, & if there is, you don't think He listens to you, anyway.
2. Then there is a second group into which probably most of us fall. We don't pray about everything, but we do pray about some things. We especially pray when we're in trouble & life is difficult, or when we're facing a major decision. Or perhaps something has happened, & our hearts are broken & we're grieving.
So we go to God in prayer, seeking His help. That's most of us, isn't it? We don't pray about everything but we do pray about some things.
3. Then I hope there are a number in this room who really are following Paul's advice to pray about everything. But maybe we need to understand what Paul means when he says to "pray about everything."
I don't think God expects us when you walk out to the car to say, "God, please give me the strength to open this door," & "God, help me to fit into the seat," & "God, help me get this seat belt fastened & close the door, & help me find the switch so I can put the key in. And God, please help the car to start."
I don't think that kind of detail is what Paul is talking about. He is simply telling us that God is concerned about every need of our lives, even those things that we think He is far too busy to be concerned about. Pray about everything.
B. Now the second thing he tells us is to "pray with thanksgiving."
Do you know what? If you study "peace" in the Bible you'll learn that almost every time the subject of "peace" is addressed you'll also find the subject of "gratitude." Listen, for instance, to Colossians 3:15 17.
Paul writes, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach & admonish one another with all wisdom, & as you sing psalms, hymns & spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Almost every time you find the subject of "peace" you'll find "gratitude" right next to it because the two go together. Now why is that true?
What kind of a person is a grateful person? Is a grateful person arrogant & proud & critical, always complaining? Is a grateful person someone who is greedy, who always wants more?
No, grateful people are those who recognize that everything they have is a gift from God. So they're constantly thanking God, & they can have peace because they're sensitive to the blessings of God in their lives.
C. Now this brings us to the good part. Listen to what God says He will do. Vs. 7 says, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus."
Paul says that God's peace will stand like a guard at the entryway to your life. In other words, when horrible thoughts & feelings come & try to dwell within us, God's peace says, "You're not welcome here. This life belongs to me!"
SUM. So if you're a Christian & you say, "Well, I don't have that kind of peace." Then you need to ask yourself, "Have I fulfilled my part of the bargain? Am I doing what God says I need to do?"
II. JESUS SAID
A. Now let's look at what Jesus says about "worry." The first thing He tells us to do is "just relax." Listen to Him in Matthew 6:25, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, & the body more important than clothes?"
Jesus is telling us not to worry about those things. "If you follow me," He says, "I'll take care of all that for you. Just don't worry about it."
ILL. I came across something written by an 85-year-old woman that I really like. She wrote, "If you live to be 75 years old you will live over 657,000 hours. That's almost 2/3rds of a million hours that you're going to live. That's too much to be anxious about all the time. So don't worry."
"Worry is kind of like a rocking chair. It is something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere. So don't worry."
Then, reflecting on her own life at age 85, she wrote, "God, if I had my life to live over, I would relax & ramble around & be sillier than I have been. I would take fewer things so seriously, & I would take more chances. I would take more trips & climb more mountains & swim more rivers.
"I would eat more ice cream & less prunes." (I like that.) "I would perhaps have some actual troubles but I'm sure I would have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I'm one of those people who have lived sensibly & safely, hour after hour, day after day.
"Oh, I have had my moments. And if I had it all to do over again I would have more of them. One moment after another instead of living so many years just sitting in a big chair, acting like all those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, or a raincoat.
"If I had it to do over again I would worry less. I would laugh more, & I would pick a lot more daisies."
B. The second thing Jesus says is, "value yourself." In vs. 26 He says, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, & yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"
Now that is a message we need to hear, because we live in a culture where some believe that we're just an accident of nature, that we have evolved from a monkey to what we are today. We're not created in the image of God. We're just a glob of life, a product of evolution, just another animal.
And the way people act today illustrates that many believe that. That is one reason why abortion is treated so casually - because in their eyes human life is not all that valuable. So if you don't want it, just dispose of it.
But Jesus says that we are more valuable than the baboon or the birds of the air or any other living creature because we have been created in the image of God. And God thinks we are so valuable that He sent His only begotten Son into the world for us. You are God's child & you are valuable in His sight.
C. In vs. 33 Jesus says, "But seek first His kingdom & His righteousness, & all these things will be given to you."
That's a wonderful promise, & if you're here this morning & you're not a Christian, then the place for you to begin is to accept Jesus as the Lord & Savior of your life. He paid the price for your sin. Will you come to Him as we stand & as we sing together this hymn of invitation?