Summary: Make room in your heart for the coming of Christ by sweeping your stress away, based on Philippians 4:4-7
Secrets to Joy and Peace
Stress Sweeping Strategies Series
Samuel M. Stone
4 Rejoiceq in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.r 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry 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.
I saw many of you wearing the green button on your clothes that says “Merry Christmas,” emphasizing Christ in the word Christmas. Nowadays, some people start to pronounce Xmas, instead of Christmas. Xmas means Christmas without Christ. I want to show you a video about a Christmas linebacker. Each time someone say Xmas, he would attack that person and "knock a little sense" into the meaning of Christmas. [Video Clip “Christmas Linebacker” from SermonSpice.com]
I hope this clip bring you some laughter and joy, especially to the football lovers.
The scripture lesson for this morning is from the lectionary reading of the epistle of Paul to the Philippians. This is one of the most beautiful passages in the scripture that you all need to memorize it, and I am sure some of you have already done so. The passage is very useful because it can help you sweep your stress away when time gets tough.
Like the prophet Jeremiah we talked about two weeks ago, Paul wrote this letter in prison. Normally, he should have been under a great deal of stress, yet he is able to rejoice and invite others to rejoice with him. Our question is, “What is his secret?” Many of us have a great deal of stress, especially at this time of the year, but I am sure we are not as bad as a prisoner like Paul. If he could use his God-given wisdom and peace to face his highly stressful condition, you and I can definitely deal with our situations with the same wisdom.
Rejoice in all circumstances
Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." He repeats it twice to make sure people heard him. In this brief letter, Paul uses the word "joy" or "rejoice" more than ten times, even though this is not the theme of the letter.
To Paul, being joyful is a not a feeling, but it is a choice. He uses an action word “rejoice” rather than a feeling word. He is saying that you can rejoice in any condition. In the book of Acts, Paul and Silas were beat up, thrown into prison and shackled. But they were still able to rejoice.
Acts 16:23-25, "After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them."
Now Paul is in another prison. With his life in danger, Paul urges the people to rejoice with him.
You might ask, "How can I rejoice when I am under stress? I have no reason to rejoice in that kind of circumstances, unless I am crazy." But, Paul wasn’t crazy. In this verse he tells us the secret, which is in the phrase "in the Lord." He doesn’t just say, "Rejoice, like a fool." He says, "Rejoice in the Lord." Stressful times can make us lose focus on who we are. We forget that we are God’s beloved children. If you come to the small group lately, we are studying a very important lesson this past week, that is to recognize that you are not who you think we are, or who other people think you are. You are who God created you to be. One of the most important messages from the Bible is that you are God’s beloved. That’s what the phrase "in the Lord" means. You are ’in,’ like ’inside,’ the Lord.
Have you been to some small villages where people raise chickens in their yards? I think one of the cutest creatures in the world is the little chicks, so fluffy and delicate. You would see them running after the mother hen. I once saw in a friend’s backyard a falcon circling in the air waiting for the opportunity to catch one of the chicks. As soon as that falcon shot down for a catch, the mother hen would stretch out her wings and the little chick would run under her wings and hide in her belly. What’s interesting is that they continue to chirp joyfully beneath their mother’s wing.
When you are under stress, you can still chirp and rejoice “in the Lord.” Even if physically you are under stress, spiritually you need to know that you are you are in the Lord, and nothing can harm you. Don’t let your stress define you. Let God’s word define you. You are God’s beloved. So you can rejoice.