What's there to Worry About?
Whether you are actively following the case of the Christian Baker in the supreme Court or not, most of us are well aware of the many Christian businesses who have faced with the potential loss of their businesses, and in some cases, their life savings, or even if they concede at this point to cater to same-sex weddings.
Many people think being a Christian means you should be happy all the time…but lets face it…sometimes life can really stink. Sometimes life can throw us some real curve balls, and there is just no pleasant way of dealing with them, regardless of the final outcome.
For example, even if this baker wins his case in the Supreme Court, and even though most of his legal bills have been pid through contributions, he still faces the fact that he has had a great deal of time battling this case, which must have drastically affected his business, assuming he has been able to operate it during this ordeal.
The question is, how do we deal with these situations as Christians? Are we supposed to endeavor to be happy even though we are going through a world of hurt?
Are we supposed to ignore our circumstances, or pretend that everything is hunky dory?
Christmas is a wonderful time to consider this topic, because amidst the joy of celebration comes a host of concerns that people experience this time of year. You have concerns over being to afford presents, concerns over how you will pay for the things you over spent on, concerns about taxes that are in the very near future, and that does not even touch on the many personal relation issues that come up during this time.
In this passage, Paul give us a simple outline to guide us during these times, so that we will come out ahead, no matter what happens. The main theme Paul wants us to understand is that our circumstances do not have to direct our responses. Even though we may be extremely unhappy with our circumstances, they do not have to define who we are and how we respond in light of them.
1. Do an Attitude Check ().
1. Do an Attitude Check ().
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Sometimes when we run into what may seem like a “No Win,” situation, it can come as a real surprise. How we respond from there has a lot to do with how we feel about the situation, more particularly, our attitude about the situation.
If we can get our attitude right, we might be able to get our response right. The Bible actually gives us a great example of this.
When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, and told her that she would conceive and have a child, aside from the aspect of her having no clue how this might be possible, considering it went against everything she had known about where babies come from, but imagine how this statement must have hit her. It was literally like being hit with a ton of bricks.
Here she was, a young virgin, engaged to be married, in a culture where adultery and fornication was punishable by death. If people thought she was pregnant by Joseph, which was her best case scenario, they would be scorned and looked down on, but since they were already engaged, there would have been little in the way of punishment. However, she knew that they had not been intimate with one another. So, she had no idea how he would respond. She had no idea how she would get out of this mess the Lord had put her in.
However, when we consider Mary’s response, we see the precise characteristics that Paul advocates in , just in a different order. Mary does an attitude check and conditions her attitude so it does not dwell on her circumstances.
The first thing Mary does is to adopt the proper attitude. In , after she is assured that the event would indeed transpire, Mary simply replies:
“I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
Essentially, Mary resigns herself to go through her circumstances, trusting that God has a plan. Next, when she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and receives a confirmation of what God had told her about the nature of the child she carried in her womb, Mary praises the Lord.
46 And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, 47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, 48 because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy.
Mary’s circumstances had not changed, but despite her circumstances and the possible future she faced, Mary humbled herself, accepting the situation she was in, and praised the Lord for who He is, but more importantly, believing that her circumstances were not necessarily the curse many would consider them to be.
When faced with circumstances beyond your control, especially ones where you can honestly see nothing good come from the situation, in verse 4, Paul tells his readers we should Rejoice! He does not mean for us to be happy with every lot we receive, but he tells us that even when we are beside ourselves with despair over what we are going through, we can find a reason to rejoice, because the joy inside of us does not result of our circumstances, but a result of the goodness of God.
Paul says, rejoice, in the Lord always. In other words, there is nothing you can go through that should diminish your joy over being a child of God, adopted into His family, and washed clean by the blood of Christ.
The other side of this is acceptance. Paul says to let your graciousness be known to everyone. The word gracious there literally means to yielding or equitable. Essentially, we need to simply accept what is, and praise God in the midst of what we are going through, exactly what Mary did.
Secondly, Paul says let it be known to everyone. What Paul is not saying is that we need to go around telling everyone what we are going through and how okay we are with it.
Let’s face it…as small as this town is, almost everyone knows everyone else’s business. Nothing bad happens without word getting out. So, you do not have to spread the word, people here. Many times when I wait to send out a phone tree regarding a death in the community, until the family has all been notified, I often see an announcement on Facebook by someone else long before I get the word from the family.
The word Paul uses for know is a is used in the passive tense. In other words, we are not involved in the action…we are more like a recipient of the action. Essentially, what he is saying is that as we embrace a sense of acceptance of our circumstances, people, knowing what we are going through, will notice how we are handling the situation, and they will know our gracious attitude in-light of our circumstances.
What he is saying is that as we embrace a sense of acceptance of our circumstances, people will notice how we are handling them, and they will know our gracious attitude in-spite of our circumstances.
So, the first thing you need to do is to check our attitude…we need to determine who we feel in your head and in our heart about the situation, what the Bible says about it, the promises you have from God regarding His faithfulness, and how you will approach it. Then, we need to Consider How we will Respond.
2. Consider Your Response ().
2. Consider Your Response ().
One of the most debilitating diseases that affects millions of people is depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in the US alone, it is estimated that 16 million people, have had at least one major depressive episode, and according to the WHO, that number is about 350 Million world wide.
The problem is not with a major depressive episode....everyone goes through some sort of depression at some point in their life: the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or some other major personal crisis is more than enough to trigger one. The problem is when it becomes a case of persistent depression, or a reoccurring case of depression.
This occurs when, even if the situation does not change, our focus on it does not either. It is essentially an inability to let go of the issue and move on however we can. It’s that tendency to dwell on the situation that leads us to a state of persistent depression. However, as we consider how we will respond to this, once our attitude is right, Paul gives us some very practical instructions on how to let go and move on in our lives.
In , Paul tells exactly how to deal with a “No Win” situation once our attitude is straight:
6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s advice is to first, stop worrying about something you can’t change. Essentially, he advises us to take to hear the serenity prayer with which so many of us are familiar.
“Lord, grant me the strength to change those things I can change, the peace to accept those things I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Once you determine that there is nothing we can do in your own power to change the situation, you need to stop worrying about it. Then, you need to take it to the One who can do something about it. There is nothing in your life in which God cannot intervene to change your situation.
Paul say that we need to stop worrying about any and every situation; instead, he advocates letting God become aware of our requests through the relationship we share with Him. He breaks it down in four segments.
Then, you need to take it to the One who can do something about it. There is nothing in your life in which God cannot intervene to change your situation.
Prayer describes the manner in which we approach God. It involves a penitent or humble attitude, recognizing our relationship with God. He is our Heavenly Father, so we can come to Him boldly, just as any child would come to their father, but as our Father, and as our creator and King, He deserves our respect and awe, so when we come to the Lord in prayer, it is in full recognition of whom He is, but also in recognition of our position before Him. We are His children, by means of the sacrifice He made on our behalf, His decision to willingly and permanently adopting us into His family. So, when we come to Him, it is with the level of respect that He deserves, as well as the knowledge that He already knows exactly what we are going to say, and what we might not intend to say. We come to him knowing that we are completely exposed before Him.
Paul says to bring our prayers and petitions to God. Petition emphasizes requesting an answer to a specific need. When a subject petitions a king, they are presenting a situation to the king, for which they are expecting an answer in one form or another. It is not just spilling your guts to God, it is presenting a case for Him to consider.
Paul goes on to say we should do it with an attitude of Thanksgiving. Whatever happens as a result of our prayers, we need to approach God with an attitude that says we are grateful just for the opportunity to be heard by Him. When one considers who God is and who we are, one cannot help but be amazed that we have the privilege of gaining audience with the king.
So, we need to be in the right mindset as we approach God, we need to come expecting to get answers to our concerns, and we need to be thankful for the opportunity to do so, and lastly, we need to be specific about what we are seeking from God.
The final point Paul makes is to let our requests be known to God…requests is similar in nature to petitions, however, it carries the weight of providing specific instances or concerns you would like addressed, but also provides God with exactly what you hope He will do about the situation.
Many times when we come to God in prayer, we bring Him a general situation, however, many times we do not have specific ideas about exactly how we would like God to respond to our problems.
The best comparisons I can think of is a child’s Christmas list. How many kids, when the make their Christmas list just write the word presents on a piece of paper and leave it at that?
None that I have ever met....
When a child makes a Christmas list, they list specific items they are hoping to get for Christmas, knowing that there is a real good chance that they will get at least some of those items, but if not, they are still happy, because they know that whatever they end up getting for Christmas will be great, even if it wasn’t on their list.
That’s how we need to deal with the problems we face in life. Once we have the right attitude, a spirit of worship toward God despite our problems, if we would bring them to God, with the right disposition, expecting that He will do something about it, and tell Him exactly what we are looking for from Him in this matter, already thankful, because we know that however He handles it will be great even if it is not what we planned, then we can let go of the problem and move on.
That is what leads to the result Paul is hoping they will receive....total inward peace. It does not mean that there is nothing in our life that is causing us undue harm or putting us in an uncomfortable situation, not does Paul infer that the Christian who does this will be happy. However, he or she will be at peace, completely content with however God handles the situation.
Christmas is an excellent time to remember that we have a god who came into this world for that very reason, to provide us with the means and the knowhow to have the sort of relationship with Him that we can not only be free from concerns about our eternal life, but also for our temporal life.
The benefits of a relationship with God is not just based on the future, but they can be a reality in the present. You just need to stop holding on to the dears that have been plaguing you, and start giving everything up to God and letting them go for good.
So, as we sing our hymn of invitation, we are first going to pray, and then, I want to give you the opportunity to come down to the altar and pray about any situation that you have been worrying about. Let God know what it is that plagues you, and ask Him to take control of the situation.
Then, just leave that concern there at the altar for Him to deal with how He sees fit.