January 23, 2022
Don’t Be Scared – Part 2
Series: Off Color
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Philippians 4:4-9

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The Off Color series provides valuable insight to help us master our emotions and not allow emotions to master us. Pastor Philip calls believers to engage their emotions properly and to enjoy God’s goodness in all circumstances of life.

More From This Series


Well, let’s take our Bible and turn to Philippians 4:4–9.
We started a new series last week called Off Color. Let me explain. You and I have emotions, and that’s a God-given capacity. It’s a wonderful thing to express yourself emotionally. It’s part of our nature. It’s a reflection of being made in God’s image. But good emotions can become bad emotions.
We can express our emotions selfishly and sinfully. As fallen creatures, even our emotions have become depraved and mangled and twisted, and therefore they need to be redeemed. Even our emotions need to be redeemed and sanctified in the sufficiency of God’s Word and through the work of the Holy Spirit.
So, we have started a series called Off Color: Dealing with Unwelcome Emotions, and we have kind of color-coded our emotions. If you have listened across the years, we’ve often associated colors with certain emotions. We’re going to look at white with fear, blue with depression, red with anger, green with envy, black with guilt, and gray with indecision.
Last week we started white with fear, and we want to come back and take another look at this issue of anxiety. It might even spill over into next Sunday morning.
I had so much feedback from last week. Several people in first service and in between services said to me, “How did you know I needed that?” Because we all need it. Some of us severely struggle with anxiety. A hundred percent of us will deal with it in seasons of life, so we need to hear this.
“Don’t Be Scared.” Philippians 4:4–9. Stand in honor of God’s Word. Open your copy of God’s Word, or turn your phone on and follow along and read. I’m reading from the New King James translation of Holy Scripture.
Philippians 4:4–9: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing . . .” That’s quite a statement, isn’t it? “Be anxious for nothing.” That’s an imperative actually in the Greek. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not a wish. It’s a command: stop worrying. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on [mull over, think about, concentrate on] these things. The things which you have learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
So reads God’s Word. You may be seated. Keep your Bibles open and your hearts open as well.
In his book Mastering Your Emotions, Adrian Rogers tells the story of a man who fell behind in his mortgage payments. His wife was ill, and therefore the medical bills were piling up, making him more and more anxious. The bank had a lien on his farm. In a state of depression and desperation, he decided the only remedy was to rob the bank that wouldn’t give him any more money.
Now, he wasn’t a hardened criminal. He wasn’t a natural-born bank robber, and so he had to kind of talk himself into doing this. He’d come up with a plan. He would take a bag in, and he would shove that in the direction of the teller. He’d take a gun in, but with no intention of using it—just to scare her so she’d put the money in the bag. And on he’d go.
But again, he was all anxious and wound up. He had to talk himself into it at times. The day comes, and he goes in all wound up. He mistakenly hands the bank teller the gun, and he sticks the bag in her face. Then he says, “Don’t stick with me. This is a mess up.”
Now, you can understand how that kind of worked out. “Don’t stick with me. This is a mess up.” Because anxiety and worry has a way of messing with us. It has a way of messing things up for us. It’s not our friend. Although we indulge its company, it is not our friend. It’s our enemy. You know this, but you keep forgetting this, and so do I. It doesn’t make things better. It makes things worse. That’s why in our new series, Off Color: Dealing with Unwelcome Emotions, starting with being white with fear, we decided to turn to Philippians 4:4–9 and remind ourselves not to be scared, not to be anxious—because worry has a way of messing with us and messing things up for us.
Now, if you were with us last week, we defined its meaning, we described its sources, and we began to detail its effects, just by way of introduction. I want to come back to that this morning. Let’s keep detailing its effects.
Remember, worry is not our friend; it’s our enemy. Worry doesn’t make things better; it makes things worse. We saw that worry makes us negative because worry tends to think about negative outcomes. When you marinate in that, when you swim in those waters, you tend to be negative. That’s why we’re told here in Philippians 4:8–9 to focus on things which are upright and positive, optimistic and hopeful.
Worry makes us negative. Worry makes us lazy. It drains us of motivation and paralyzes our will to act. Like the guy described in Proverbs 22:13, there’s a lion outside. As Lou Priolo says, “People who are sinful tend to be lazy because they focus not on their responsibilities but on their fears.” They focus on their fears, so they become immobilized and paralyzed.
Worry makes us lazy. Worry makes us negative. Worry dishonors and slights God. That’s the point Jesus made in his sermon on worry in the Sermon on the Mount, right? It harms our witness. It damages the gospel because it gives people the wrong impression about God—as if he doesn’t care, as if he has left us as orphans in this world. Jesus chastised His disciples for their lack of faith in God and the fact that they were living among the Gentiles in a manner similar to the way the Gentiles lived.
Number four: It damages our health. It kills bodily strength. It produces ulcers, overeating. It can create irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension, blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks. Jesus warned us in Matthew 6:27. “I’ve got a question,” He says. “Does your worrying add to your height?” Or the Greek could possibly mean, “Does worry add any length of days to your days?” No, it doesn’t. It’s the opposite.
As Corrie ten Boom says, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow. It empties today of strength.” See, we worry about a situation, but in worrying about a situation, we make ourselves weaker in dealing with that situation.
Some years ago, I was at a pastor’s conference, and we were talking, as pastors do. In the conversation, this brother from Ohio injected. He said, “You know, it takes guts to be a pastor.” We all agreed. Then he went on to tell us a rather sad story about internal strife in his church. He told us about the pressure that was put on him and the leadership and his family—so much so that, after going through months of that, he perforated a small intestine. He had to go in for an operation, and they removed 13 inches of his intestine because of stress and worry and anxiety. So, with a rather wry smile on his mouth, he says, “Guys, it takes guts to be a pastor, 13 inches of guts.”
That’s kind of a funny story but a sad story, because that’s what worry, stress, and anxiety does. It damages our health and our holiness and our happiness.
Here’s where we pick up. Number five: Worry makes secondary things primary. Let’s go to Luke 10:38–42 here. One of my favorite stories in the gospel of Luke is the story of Jesus coming to the house of Martha and Mary. I want us to read the text of God’s Word: “Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.” How nice. She’s got the gift of hospitality. That’s a wonderful thing.
“And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted . . .” Pause. Remember how we defined “worry” and “anxiety” last week? It means a divided mind. It means a distracted heart. It means that you allow a present situation or an anticipated situation tomorrow to drag you all over the place mentally—so much so that you lose your calm and composure. That’s what’s going on here.
“But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care . . . ?’” It’s kind of similar to the words of the disciples, right? “Lord, don’t you care we perish?” “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Notice verse 41: “And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha.’” She didn’t listen. “Martha.” Got her attention. “You are worried and troubled about many things.” See? Her mind’s gone in all kinds of directions. “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Worry makes secondary things primary. If I was just to summarize this story, it’s this: Man shall not live by bread alone. We need to eat. Our body needs fuel. We need to eat well. We need to eat regularly. But we’re not just body; we’re body and soul. Our soul needs food, and that food is the Word of God. “Man shall not that live,” says Jesus, “by bread alone” (Matt. 4:4). And here, on a particular day in the house of Mary and Martha, we have the bread of life Himself. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35).
Martha was so distracted by table settings, by tea and scones, that she missed the opportunity to be fed the Word of God. Mary had chosen what was needed. Mary had chosen what was good. Mary was involved in something that would not be taken away from her. What’s the point? Anxiety is a distracting care, and it’s such a distracting care that it will make secondary things primary.
In fact, I read a sermon by a Southern Baptist some years ago, and I loved his outline of that passage. If you look at the words that Jesus used to describe Martha and the words that He used to describe Mary, you’ve got this contrast. He said that the pressing can crowd out the necessary, and the good can crowd out the best, and the temporal can crowd out the eternal. You know what will do that faster than anything else? A heart gripped in worry and a mind gripped in anxiety.
Number six: Worry is a waste of time. We’re back to Matthew 6:27, where Jesus says, “Hey, I’ve got a question. Does worrying add any days to your life, or does worry add any inches to your height?” Well, of course not. Worry doesn’t do anything positive. It’s negative. It can damage your health, but it doesn’t do anything positive. It’s a waste of time. It’s futile. If anything, it’s negative, and its effect makes a situation worse. You’ve heard this said before, I think, but it’s worth remembering: worry’s like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won’t be taking you anywhere soon. It’s futile.
Bishop Trench heard of a man who remarked to his pastor, “Don’t tell me that worry doesn’t work. It must work because most of the things I worried about never happened.” Well, I think he missed the point that it doesn’t happen and that worry doesn’t make anything happen that’s good.
Another pastor told about a woman who worried for 40 years that she would die of cancer. She died of pneumonia at age 70. She wasted 40 years worrying about the wrong illness. Just a waste of time. It’s futile.
Number seven: Worry causes us to make bad decisions. A divided mind is at the heart of worry, right? It’s a distracted mind. It’s a double-minded mind. A divided mind doesn’t allow us to be clear in our decision-making. It doesn’t bring about a confidence about the choices we’re about to make because we’re dragged one way and we’re dragged another. We don’t ever settle down to chart a path. Worry distorts our judgment.
I’ll give you an example of this. Write down Genesis 12. It’s a story about Abraham. Because of famine, Abraham took his wife, Sarah, and his family and went down into Egypt, where some food was to be found. But as he crossed the border, he had this thought: “You know, my wife is stunning. She’s a beautiful woman. I’m going to get down there, and some prince of Egypt or Pharaoh’s going to catch an eye of her, and I’ll be toast. They’ll kill me, and they’ll add her to their harem.” So he says, “Hey, Sarah, when we get to Egypt, pretend to be my sister.”
Read the text. When they get to Egypt, she pretends to be his sister because Abraham’s anxious, worried, and fearful. Sure enough, a prince of Egypt sees her and goes, “Wow,” and tells Pharaoh. He invites Sarah to the palace, probably with the intention of adding her to his harem, and she stays there for a while.
It says in the text, “But the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues.” I don’t know what that meant, but Pharaoh was disturbed, and it made him wonder, “Hey, what’s going on?” Out of that comes this knowledge: “Hey, you know what? This isn’t Sarah, Abraham’s sister. This is Sarah, Abraham’s wife.” In most circumstances, Pharaoh would’ve killed Abraham. Abraham anticipated that. But out of fear of God, no doubt, he says to Abraham, “Hey, you shouldn’t have done that. Now take your wife and get out of here.”
Worry causes us to make bad decisions. Abraham got away with it, but there could have been another story where he lost his life, and maybe even Sarah could have lost her life.
Number eight: Worry impairs worship.
Let’s go back to the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus addresses the issue of worry. See, we tend to go to verse 25: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry 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?”
But actually it’s prefaced by verse 24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money, material things].”
He goes on to talk about worry in the context of material things. The disciples are concerned about their material needs. According to Jesus, anxiety may be a symptom of worship that has gone amiss.
Paul Tautges, a biblical counselor, speaks to that text in his book on anxiety. I’ll let him speak to us: “In our passage, Jesus says that it’s impossible to serve two masters. We were created to be singular in our worship. If we worship money and make it a god, then we cannot worship the true God. And if we worship God, we will no longer worship money. The real estate of the human heart has enough space for only one throne. But when sin entered the world in the form of unbelief, the heart of man became duplicitous. It is disloyal and makes our worship become distorted. That’s where anxiety may enter the picture. According to Jesus, anxiety may be a symptom of worship gone amiss.”
So, you get focused on something under the sun, amidst the creation, something beneath God. But that becomes your focus, and worries about it occupy your throne. Metaphorically speaking, God gets knocked off the throne, and your worship has gone amiss. It’s a bit like the former point. Worry tends to upset our priorities, making the secondary the primary. It can do that. It can impair our worship. At the heart of worry is: Who are you going to choose to worship? Who is your God?
Number nine: Finally, worry accelerates the very thing that is feared.
For this, we’ll go back to Job 3:25. These are words that have actually entered into the English language. You’ll have heard people say this, but it’s a reference that comes out of the Bible. Job says this: “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.” You see, worry can often be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Worry is a vicious emotional circle.
For example, let’s say you fear rejection or you’re anxious in a social context. You’re a little shy, a little bit more introvert. Out of a fear of rejection, you kind of withdraw, or you stand on the edges of things. You’re quiet. All right? You speak only when you’re spoken to, which tempts others to shy away from your shyness, not wanting to make you awkward, because they can sense your awkwardness. But since you’re awkward, they sense your awkwardness, and they step away. It’s reinforcing the fear of rejection. You get the point? It’s a vicious circle. That’s just one example of what anxiety can do. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, anxiety has a way of messing with us and messing us up. There’s nine negative effects, and that’s all by way of introduction. Having defined the meaning, described the sources, and detailed the effects, let’s discover the remedy.
All right, Philippians 4:4–9. We mentioned it a long time ago in this sermon, but here we are. We’re going to just start to expound it this morning and then next Sunday morning. This is a God-given prescription for worry. It’s a passage that has a prohibition to it: Be anxious for nothing. It has a prescription to it: Well, rejoice, be gentle, anticipate the Lord’s coming, pray, give thanks, and focus on the right things. It has a promise attached to it. Verse 7: “. . . and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Verse 9: “. . . and the God of peace will be with you.”
In fact, this section, I believe, is a revisiting of earlier themes like unity, joy, and prayer. It’s an outworking of our salvation in terms of sanctification, which Paul talks about in chapter 2:12–13. It’s a God-given prescription for peace. Who would like to enjoy some peace today? Well, you and I and every human heart. And it’s promised here. The peace of God will surpass all understanding, and it will guard your heart.
In fact, that Greek word is more than “guard.” It’s a military term that means “garrison.” See, Philippi was a Roman colony. It was a strategic city to the Romans, and therefore they had garrisoned their soldiers there. They’d headquartered themselves there. Roman law, Roman lifestyle dominated Philippi, and there was a complement of Roman Legionnaires who would’ve been easily seen around the city. That’s foreign to us, but someone living in Philippi would’ve often just walked by a Roman Legionnaire who was there to garrison the city.
You know about the insurgency of the IRA that tried to sever Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom against the will of a majority of its people. When I was growing up as a young man in Northern Ireland during these troubles, it wasn’t unusual for me or anyone walking the streets of Belfast to just bump into a fully dressed British soldier in body armor and carrying a rifle. It just became an everyday thing because soldiers were garrisoned in Belfast to guard our city and our people against the IRA.
Paul is saying, “You know what? God wants to guard your heart. He wants to send His peace to guard the walls of your heart and your life.” Isn’t that a beautiful picture? To live a guarded life.
Let me tell you a quick story to illustrate this. There was a weekend I spent with a Presbyterian minister in Northern Ireland many years ago. He was known as the Reverend William McCrea, and he doubled up as a member of the British parliament. He was a good man. I’d gone to Israel with him and some friends. So one weekend, he invited me to come and stay with him and his wife, Anne, and their three daughters.
He was on an IRA assassination list, so his house had been fortified. The windows were bulletproof. There were cages around his windows. If you came through his front door, you immediately entered into a cage area where there was another metal door, just in case the IRA broke through. Not only that, but when we left in the morning, we were met by two RUC plain-clothes detectives who were like goodness and mercy who followed him all the days of his life. Everywhere he went, they went. They picked us up in the morning in a Ford Cortina, which was fully armored and bulletproof, and he went to preach. He went to preach in that car with these two fine men at his side.
I enjoyed that weekend. It was an insight into how some were willing to live for the sake of liberty and democracy. But I want to tell you that the true thing that guarded William McCrea’s heart was the peace of God. I spent two mornings with him around the kitchen table with Anne and the girls. Every morning before we left, the Word of God was read, and the peace of God was invited to guard and garrison their hearts against fear, which was very real and palpable for him. Other politicians had been murdered and shot. This was a real thing.
I came away from that weekend very much aware of all the protections that the British government had put in place to guard this man, but the true guardian of his heart was the peace of God. And it’s ours, my friend. It’s yours in Jesus Christ. In fact, you notice it’s the peace of God; it’s a slice of the very calm that you’ll find in the being of God. Nothing disturbs God, right? He’s in heaven, and He does whatever pleases Him. He laughs at the nations. We can have that kind of peace. The very peace that is found in the halls of heaven can be ours today.
So, let’s look at this text and remind ourselves, by the way, that the man who wrote it lived it. The man who wrote it, lived it. Okay? This isn’t something written by a first year student at the Master’s Seminary, a theological paper from a guy who doesn’t know what ends up. This is written by a battle-tested servant of Jesus Christ who’s writing from prison, who is dealing with all kinds of pressure.
You go to chapter 1, and he’s dealing with the jealousy and envy of fellow ministers. Go to chapter 2, and he almost lost a friend, Epaphroditus. Stay in chapter 1, and he tells us his life hangs in the balance. He doesn’t know whether he is going to live or die, but whatever the case, he prays that God would be magnified in his body. He hears about divisions in the church in chapter 4, and he’s aware of false teachers who are troubling that church and attacking the integrity of the gospel. A lot of stuff is going on in Paul’s life, but he’s at peace.
Paul, what’s your secret? Well, he’s got several. He’s going to tell us to rejoice, verse 4. He’s going to tell us to rest, verse 5. He’s going to tell us to recognize that Jesus is coming, verse 5. He’s going to tell us to turn our problems into prayers and requests, verse 6. He’s going to tell us to recount God’s blessing in our lives through thanksgiving, verse 6. He’s going to tell us to reflect on things that enlarge our faith, verses 8 and 9. And he is going to tell us to respond by doing what he does.
But let’s just cover two of those this morning: rejoice and rest.
Rejoice. Verse 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” The first wrung on the ladder out of the pit of anxiety is to renew our joy in God.
The theme of joy is threaded throughout this letter. It tolls like a bell. In chapter 4:1, he calls his converts his joy. In chapter 1:4, he prays for them with joy. In verses 10 and 17 of chapter 4, he rejoices in their generosity through Epaphroditus. In chapter 2:2, he asks them to unite to make his joy. In chapter 1, he rejoices that Christ is preached even by those who do it with wrong motives.
Joy is a bell that tolls throughout this chapter, and he calls them to renew their joy, to rejoice, to re-up on their joy. No matter the context, no matter the circumstance, he’s looking for an intentional act. This is an imperative, by the way. He’s commanding them to be joyful. Because you and I can choose to be joyful. Rejoice is a choice. And Paul calls us to make that choice, to make an intentional act of refocusing our soul and refreshing our soul in God—in His love, mercy, justice, faithfulness, sovereignty, sufficiency.
You see, joy is a shift not of circumstance but perspective. Rejoice, re-up on your joy, by focusing in the Lord, who He is, what He has done. You see, anxiety is a joy-killer. It feeds on and exaggerates actual problems or potential problems with a focus on negative outcomes. It creates inner agitation. It robs us of calm and an ability to be gentle. Paul says, “No, you need to rejoice in the Lord.”
In his book Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado gives a little acrostic for calm, which I think is very helpful.
Celebrate God’s goodness; rejoice in the Lord.
Ask for God’s help by making your request known to Him.
Leave your concerns with Him, with thanksgiving and a reflection on His faithfulness in the past.
Meditate on good things by thinking upon things which are of a good report.
That’s good. Where we’re at in verse 4 is C: celebrate God’s goodness in Christ. Rejoice in the Lord, not in your health, not in your husband’s love, present or absent, not in your child’s obedience, not in your financial situation. There’ll be times when we can rejoice in those things, when the sun’s to our face and the wind’s to our back. But since that changes, we’re always better focusing on the Lord who’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.
His mercy endures forever. The word is settled in heaven. His grace is sufficient. His peace surpasses human comprehension. Joy is the fruit of celebrating God’s goodness in Christ—where you intentionally push back against negative thoughts, dark moods, and crushing circumstances by focusing on what you know to be true of God, the gospel, and Jesus Christ. That’s where our focus needs to be. That’s where our joy needs to be.
Listen to Psalm 35:9–10: “And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation. All my bones shall say, ‘Lord, who is like You, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, yes, the poor and needy from him who plunders him?’” A lot of anxiety, anxious situations there, but we can find our joy in the Lord.
What about Psalm 104:33–34, where you have this similar rejoicing in the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord.” I love the way the New Living Translation puts that: “May all my thoughts be pleasing to him.”
See, you’re going to rejoice in Him. When we think hard about God—not ourselves, not our enemies, not our circumstances—joy bubbles come to the surface of our soul. We have reason to rejoice. We have reason to say, “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Because I enjoy God’s crazy love. I can experience God’s promised presence. I can know God’s sufficient grace, and I can live God’s perfect peace. Changing our outlook by an up-look is a choice. Let me say that again. Changing our outlook by an up-look is a choice. We’ve got to focus our hearts there.
Isn’t that the choice that Habakkuk made? Habakkuk 3:17–19: “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herds in the stalls”—basically, when things aren’t going well—“yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.”
That’s beautiful. Joy is never out of our reach, for the Lord is always at our hand. In fact, Paul lived that, didn’t he? I don’t have time to develop this, but if you go to Philippians 1:12–18, let me paint in the background. For two years in Judah, Paul had been kicked about like a political football. Then he appeals on the basis of his Roman citizenship so he gets out of that difficult situation, but on his way to Rome, what happens? He gets shipwrecked and nearly drowns in the Mediterranean Sea. He survives that, and he gets to Rome. While he’s in Rome—not sure if Caesar’s going to give him the thumbs up or thumbs down—he learns about the fact that some are actually preaching Christ out of envy and jealousy, using his circumstances to their own advantage. That’s discouraging.
But he says, “I want you to know, brothers, that this has all happened and turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. People are getting saved in Caesar’s house. I know about these brothers who are preaching Christ out of envy.” But look at verse 18: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” That’s focused thinking, my friend. That’s discipline, where he fights moods, thoughts, and negativity and rejoices in the Lord.
Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz—whose writings are very helpful—in her book on Genesis, God’s Story, tells about the afternoon she had just taken her kids out to lunch. It was the last day of school. Summer was coming. Everybody was in a good mood, and they’d gone out to lunch. They got home in the middle of the afternoon to find the door open. They get into the house, and they realize it had been rifled through. The grandmother’s clock was gone. The jewelry was gone. Anything of any importance in the home was gone. The police arrived, dusted the place down for fingerprints, and said, “Look, you know what? This was done by professionals. I know this is cold comfort, but no matter what you’d have done, they would’ve done this at some point.”
Eventually, she puts the kids to bed. Puts herself to bed. She’s lying on pillows that are missing their pillowcases because the thieves had used the pillowcases. They put all the good stuff in them. She’s lying there feeling very insecure. She begins to wonder, “What do I have in life that can’t be taken from me?” She gets pretty negative. “My health could be robbed by illness. My education could be outdated by advanced knowledge. My house could be burned to the ground. My children could leave home. My husband could drop dead tomorrow. My youth can be robbed by old age, my reputation by gossip.” She’s getting pretty distracted at this point. Until, which is often the case, if you’ve hidden God’s Word in your heart, it’ll come back to you.
She’s just lying there, and the Holy Spirit reminds her of something she had learned from Scripture. “Hold on a minute, doesn’t Peter say that we have an inheritance that can never perish? And Jesus said we have treasure that can never be stolen.” Then she begins to think about the things that she has not lost and she can never lose. Then she begins to rejoice in the Lord.
By the morning, this wonderful woman of God, who’s a good teacher, alphabetizes all the things that she has in Jesus Christ. A, accepted by God. B, beloved by God. C, chosen by God. D, delivered by God. E, enlightened by God. F, forgiven by God. I have G, the grace of God. H, hope for the future. I, inheritance in heaven. J, justification. K, knowledge of God. L, love. M, mercy. N, nearness to God. O, oneness with God. P, peace. Q, quickening of the Spirit. She goes the whole way down the alphabet. She chooses to rejoice in the Lord, and it brings a peace.
Okay. For a few minutes, let’s look at rest. Won’t be as long—famous last words. Don’t worry. Don’t worry, even though you have every right to worry knowing my history.
Verse 5: “Let your gentleness be known to all men.” Now, this has been variously translated “gentleness,” “sweet reasonableness,” “forbearance,” “yieldedness.” In fact, it speaks of not insisting on one’s rights. That’s the idea of gentleness. This kind of sweet reasonableness, this forbearance, this putting up with stuff and putting up with people. Patience, right? Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and so is patience.
By implication, it speaks of actually trusting God to bring justice and vindication. It’s what Jesus did, right? First Peter 2:23 says that when He was reviled, he didn’t revile; he didn’t fight back. He committed Himself to the creator who does righteously. It’s Paul in 2 Timothy 4:14: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him . . .” I’m not going to go after him. I’m just going to leave that with the Lord. I’m going to trust God to vindicate me.
In fact, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, a fantastic little resource John MacArthur put me onto years ago, says this of that word: “The word signifies a humble, patient steadfastness, which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, and maltreatment without hatred and malice, trusting in God in spite of all of it.”
It’s a resting in the sovereignty of God. That’s my closing thought. That’s how peace comes. That’s how we battle worry. We rest in the sovereignty of God. We’re being called here to be still and steadfast, knowing that God has us in the palm of His hand.
You can look it up on your own time: Isaiah 49:16. Our names are written in the palm of His hand. It’s where we live, in the palm of God’s hand. Isaiah 41:10 reinforces that we’re in the palm of God’s hand and that God’s got everything in hand because he’s sovereign. Leave room for His wrath. God will work all things together for good. Stop the worrying. Stop trying to take control.
John Kwasny, in his book Pursuing a Heart of Wisdom, says this: “Worry is the heart’s attempt to control what cannot be controlled. ” And that’s true, isn’t it? Anxiety of the heart, this deep and persistent anxiety, is fueled by a desperate longing to be God rather than letting God be God. I think that’s a true statement.
See, instead of resting—instead of giving that situation up to God, instead of realizing that God will vindicate us and bring justice, if not now then later, and that everything is in His hand and under His control—we don’t like where God puts us. We start to worry about it, and we start to try and take charge of it. We want to be God. We don’t want God choosing what we go through and what time we get out of it and how we get out of it.
That’s at the heart of worry. And that’s why the antidote to worry is to, as Max Lucado says, “Stabilize your soul with the sovereignty of God.” He also says, “God’s answer for troubled times has always been the same: heaven has an occupied throne.” It’s a beautiful statement. I want to read it again: “God’s answer for troubled times has always been the same: heaven has an occupied throne.”
That’s why you can give up your rights to the sovereignty and providence of God. Trust Him to bring justice in His time. Trust Him to work all things together for good, and show that to all men. Show them a peace that passes all human prescription and description. As you settle and stabilize your soul in the sovereignty of God, the throne of God is occupied.
Here are two examples of that, as the team comes up.
Isaiah 6: “In the year that King Uzziah died . . .” Hold the presses. This man, not perfect, had ruled Judah for 50 years and had brought prosperity and peace. Now he was dead. There’s a political vacuum. He had political rivals. Were the enemies of Israel about to pounce? Was the economy about to tank? But what do we read? “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up . . .” That’s the antidote for worry: an occupied throne.
Revelation 4:1. As futurists and pre-millennials here at Kindred, we believe that what you read from chapters 4 to 19 puts you in the great tribulation, the millennial kingdom, and the eternal state. It is not a fulfillment of AD 70 or a description of the ransacking of the city of Jerusalem; it’s future. We are taken into the future when everything will begin to collapse. Antichrist will be present. The world will be at war. God will be pouring out His wrath.
But I want you to understand how that all begins. John’s about to see some staggering things. He says in Revelation 4 that when he was called up, he saw “a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne,” which was a description of the Lord Jesus, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God. He saw a throne. That’s the remedy for anxiety: an occupied throne.
Stop trying to be God. Rest in His providence. He will justify His people, vindicate His church. He will punish the wicked. He will right wrongs. He will work all things together for good. Chill out.
Follow the example of Martin Luther in the conversation he had with Philip Melanchthon, a fellow reformer. Melanchthon said to Luther, “What will we decide to talk about today, Martin? What will be our agenda today?” Melanchthon said, “Why not discuss the governance of the universe?” To which Martin Luther replied, “This day, you and I will go fishing and leave the governance of the universe to God.”
Why don’t you go fishing and leave the governance of the universe to God. Why don’t you go walk with your children and remind yourself of the simple blessings of life and that God’s got everything in hand. Why don’t you go to sleep tonight and leave the governance of the universe to God.
Father, we thank you for Philippians 4. We thank you for this divine prescription, an antidote for our worries. Lord, we pray we would hear its admonition not to worry. We pray that we would look into the face of the man that wrote this and realize he lived it. It’s possible to not worry. It’s possible to live in a state of peace and constant joy. Paul did it. The martyrs have done it. Untold saints of God are doing it, and we can get to that place this morning. Lord, help us to rejoice, help us to rest, help us to leave the governance of the universe to You. For we pray it all in Jesus’ name. Amen.