Finding Peace In the Midst of Turmoil
March 18, 2020
This has been quite a week: with the WHO declaring the Coronavirus Outbreak a pandemic; our President Declaring a National Emergency; Universities cancelling classes or just sending students home; all flights coming from Europe suspended; a free-falling financial market; and almost every major Professional Sporting League postponing or ending their seasons, along with both the men’s and women’s NCAA championships canceled. And now all over the country public gatherings of any kind are being suspended for the next two, three or four weeks; including our church service. We have never seen anything like this in our lifetime.
So how are you doing? Are you staying calm and trusting God? Are you worried for your health and the health of your loved ones? Are you worried that your nest egg might be ruined or our economy might end up in the dumpster? How’s your anxiety level? Are you finding peace in the midst of this turmoil or are you battling fear? You see, there is no doubt in my mind that no matter how our country is handling this crisis, each one of us is affected in some way. I worry about what might happen if this virus enters the facility where my mom lives. You might be worrying about what might happen with you if you contract this disease. So how are you doing? How’s your anxiety level today? My guess is that some of you are just fine. Some of you may think this is all overblown hype. But my guess is that each one of us has some degree of concern caused by the turmoil this virus has created.
Two weeks I spoke to you about how God may have other plans for us. Little did I know that His plans would include canceling our worship services, and that I’d be speaking to you in an online capacity. Let me just say, I would rather preach before you face to face, than in this online forum. But I know this is the right thing to do for now. And I also know, that God’s Word has a lot to say about Finding Peace in the Midst of Turmoil.
God’s Word is very clear about helping us handle our worries; about helping us handle the fallout out from panicked toilet paper hoarders; and about helping us deal with fears of an uncertain future. That’s why today my message comes from Philippians 4:6-7, where God’s Word tells us how we can find peace in the midst of turmoil. So if you want to follow along in your Bible, listen to the instruction God gives us today: Be anxious for nothing. But in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
God’s Word for us today begins with a command God expects us to obey when it comes to worrying about all the ramifications of the coronavirus. His Word literally says to us: 1. Stop Worrying: “Be anxious for nothing” If you know God through faith in Jesus Christ, then you know that God has your back. You know that God is in control. He is always with you. He is always for you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. David said, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” Our God is constantly predisposed to you to look out for you and protect you. You are the apple of His eye. You are His beloved. So this command, “Be anxious for nothing,” means exactly that. God does not want you to lose sleep over anything in your life. He wants you to trust Him when everyone else is freaking out.
Let me explain this a bit further. This is not a call to adopt the Wart Hog philosophy of Akunamata “no worries.” So this is not a call to be a slacker or irresponsible. God never teaches us to stop looking out for our own interests. In fact He says this to us: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4 God wants you to take responsible actions to care for yourself and your loved ones. He wants you to take appropriate actions. He wants you to look out for your own interests, but not to ignore the interest of others. So if this pandemic worsens, this means go ahead a shop for groceries and toilet paper, but consider the needs of others. Don’t buy out the store. Be responsible and be considerate. Look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.
This is not a call to be apathetic, as if we are to resign ourselves to the fate that we are victims of this crisis and it doesn’t matter what we do. No we are to take an active stance in the midst of any crisis and learn how God would have us respond. And the most active way we can respond is by loving our neighbors. Christians historically have been the care givers and helpers in times of crisis. So we need to careful ourselves, but the opportunity to give care has never been greater. So this is not a call to be apathetic but to be active in love.
This is not a call to repress your worries. Sometimes we think we can use our own will power to stop worrying and pull ourselves together. Often, when we are “told” to stop worrying, we think that we just need to muster up the strength within and repress our worries. This not only is that bad Theology, it is bad psychology. It’s like telling a drug addict to stop using drugs. If he had the power to do that, he would have done so already. So no, this is not a call to repress your worries.
This is not a call to ignore your circumstances. It’s a call to faith; a call to trust. In other words, when you are controlled by your worries, you are not living by faith. And God call us to trust Him to care for us no matter what we are facing. It’s what Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? … Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:25-33
So taking all this together, when we are commanded to stop worrying, “to be anxious about nothing,” it’s a signal to start trusting. And the way we start trusting is by coming to God in prayer.
2. Start Praying: “But in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” Now what I appreciate about this instruction, is that we are not simplytold to pray, but HOW to pray. He breaks this down in two steps:
Step One: We are to come before God in Worship This word for “prayer” here is the Greek word for prayer that addresses God as an act of worship. So this is our posture in prayer – an attitude we bring before God in prayer. Worshipful prayer comes into His presence, focuses on who God is and soon forgets about our worries.
This is why one of the best ways to learn how to pray is to pray the Psalms. Listen to the focus of worship in a couple of these Psalms:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Psalm 46:1-3
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. Psalm 62:1-2
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! Psalm 84:10-12
You see, sometimes it’s not simply a matter of God removing our worries. Sometimes it’s a matter of worship. It’s like what Ruth Bell Graham once said, “Worship and worry cannot live in the same heart; they are mutually exclusive.” This text shows that 90 if not 100 percent of all your worries will be eliminated if you just learn to come before God in worship. In the presence of His greatness, our great worries will lose their power over us. In recounting how loving He is to us, His perfect love drives out fear. This is how we combat anxiety: by worshiping God in prayer. But that’s just the first step, now…
Step Two: We are to Bring our Petitions to Him with Thanksgiving Again, our prayer is meant to be more than bringing a grocery list of concerns and needs to God. We are to bring our concerns to Him with an attitude of thanksgiving. Why is this important?
Martyn Lloyd-Jones says it like this: “If, while we pray to God, we have a grudge against Him in our hearts, we have no right to expect that the peace of God will keep our heart and mind. If we go on our knees feeling that God is against us, we may as well get up and go out. We must approach Him with thanksgiving. There must be no doubt in our heart as to the goodness of God. We must have positive reasons for thanking God.”
Being thankful is critical for us. It’s not about being thankful for the crisis we are in. But being thankful for how God has already been so good to you. Think about all that God has already done for you. You can thank Him for that.
Thank Him for giving Jesus to die in your place.
Thank Him for adopting you into His family.
Thank Him for cleansing you of all your sin.
Thank Him for always being with you and always being for you.
Thank Him for every time He had answered your prayers.
Thank Him for giving you access into His presence to pray.
Thank Him for His Word.
Thank Him that your future is secure with Him.
Thank Him for the hope of heaven and seeing Him face to face.
And thank Him that one day there will be no more tears, no more suffering and no more pain.
We have so much to thank God for. He has been so good to us. And when we thank Him for all His goodness, not only will our confidence grow, but the things we worry about will loosen their grip on us.
So when you stop worrying and start praying with worship and thanksgiving, then God says something profound will happen. What is that?
3. God Starts Giving: “and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We stop worrying, start praying and then God starts giving. What’s He give?
God gives us His peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 the world cannot understand the peace God gives because this peace is only found through faith in Jesus Christ. And there is no way to explain what this peace is like. It must be experienced. And when it’s experienced what happens is this: It is God’s peace that guards your heart: God’s peace takes up a position over our hearts and minds and keeps anxiety out.
The picture here is a military one, of a garrison of soldiers who guard the city gate and controls who comes in and who goes out. We are on the inside, and the things that attack our heart and mind are kept outside. The peace of God does not let them in and we are kept in perfect peace. It is God who does this for us when we pray the way we are instructed to pray here. This peace comes not from our efforts, but out of a response to our faith in God. We pray and bring our requests to God with thanksgiving and God gives us His peace. HE guards are hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. HE protects us. HE Is OUR PEACE.
That’s what’s so amazing about our God. Our God provides protection for our hearts and minds in the midst of the turmoil around us. He waits to give us His peace, and He gives it in abundance when we come to Him in prayer. So then, prayer is not always about getting what you want, it’s about God giving you what you need. Prayer is not always about getting out of the difficulties surrounding you, but is about bringing God into your difficulties – it’s about God giving you His peace.
That’s how God works. He is a God of grace, who gives us His very presence to protect our hearts from anxiety and fear. I am certain in the days and weeks ahead each of us will face times of uncertainty, concern, anxiety and even fear. But God wants to guard our hearts and minds and help us handle anything that comes our way. So whenever you are tempted to worry, be anxious, fret or even fear, remember what God’s Word says:
Be anxious for nothing. But in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Do you have the peace of God today? If not, would you simply pray with me?
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