Summary: Learn to rejoice, relax and replace anxiety with peace
This morning, we will continue in Philippians, chapter 4, verses 4-7. If you want a title to organize your thoughts, the title is "God and Our Emotional Health." By the way, we will finish this short letter by the end of February. We will alternate between a study from the Psalms in the Old Testament and the first short letter by the Apostle John beginning March.
Many hospitals and researchers have found that those who have a personal relationship with God through a worship community such as church worship and prayer group generally do better in their physical and emotional health and recovery. This morning, I’m not going to give biblical reasons for their findings, but I will offer insights from Paul’s letter to the Philippians on why and what difference God makes in our emotional health.
I like to read from a transcript by Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, "You may recall the chess victory by the computer Deep Blue over the world champion Gary Kasparov, which caused many to compare the similarities of machines and humans. Yale professor David Gelertner disagrees.
"He writes, ’The idea that Deep Blue has a mind is absurd. How can an object that wants nothing, fears nothing, enjoys nothing, needs nothing and cares about nothing have a mind? It can win at chess, but not because it wants to. It isn’t happy when it wins or sad when it loses. What are its [post]-match plans if it beats Kasparov? Is it hoping to take Deep Pink out for a night on the town?’
"He continues: ’The gap between the human and the surrogate is permanent and will never be closed. Machines will continue to make life easier, healthier, richer and more puzzling. And humans will continue to care, ultimately, about the same things they always have: about themselves, about one another, and many of them, about God.’ What a unique capacity God has put within us-the capacity to feel."
The unique capacity to feel is not often appreciated, and for many men, "healthy" and "emotions" are not two words that show up in the same sentence. This morning, we will look at how having a personal relationship with God, where you are growing in your knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, will help you experience healthy emotions. Our passage is Philippians 4:4-7.
Many who have commented about this letter to the Philippians have titled the entire letter as a "letter of joy." You might expect a joyful letter to be written by one lover to another as they look forward to reuniting. But in this case, if you remember, Paul is writing from a prison cell, and he’s not only unsure about reuniting with the Philippians, but he’s not even sure that the Roman Emperor will allow him to keep his head on his shoulder.
Furthermore, the Christians at Philippi have very little to rejoice about. They are a minority in an anti-Christian city. Romans were suspicious of the Christians, and the religious Jewish leaders were antagonistic toward the Christians. Finally, as we saw last week, there was strife and disagreement inside the church. So Paul had to emphasize and explain to the Philippians to rejoice.
What we will study this morning cannot be thoroughly explained, because true emotional health involves the Divine. If you already have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, what you’ll hear this morning is nothing new, but a reminder, and we all need to be reminded. But if you don’t have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, I’m not sure you’ll understand everything we will talk about.
To explain the truth in Paul’s words to one who does not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ would be like trying to explain love in a marriage to a junior high girl who has a crush on a junior high boy. You might understand the words but you won’t have the experience. But if you listen carefully, you may discover good reasons for a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
In this morning’s passage, Paul calls the persecuted Christians in Philippi to experience joy, relaxation, and peace. But can one experience such emotional health when one’s circumstances and relationships don’t justify such an experience?
Paul reminds the Philippians, and I want to remind us this morning, that when you know Christ, you can rejoice always. We see this in verse 4. Paul is not calling us to rejoice in our circumstances or in our relationships with others, because our circumstances and relationships may not give us reasons to rejoice. Paul calls us to rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ always.
Paul is not calling us to always feel or experience joy. Emotional health is not a denial of evil, injustice or loss in our lives. No one can or should always feel joy. Even Jesus Christ was well acquainted with sorrow. He cried at the death of his friend, Lazarus, and He cried at the pitiful state Jerusalem was in.