Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Philippians - Trust, Pray, and Be Thankful!

Philippians 4:6
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Do you trust the Lord? Or do you trust in yourself? Is “trusting the Lord” a cliché statement that we have come to speak in a well-meaning but utterly meaningless way? I find it very difficult sometimes to trust the Lord in the midst of disheartening or uncertain circumstances in my life. To a fault, I love control. I absolutely despise not knowing what is going on. I am a planner, which means that when a season in my life arrives with few answers and many unknowns, my initial response is to worry instead of trust many times. You would think that after being alive for twenty-six years that I would know myself well enough to know that I am not a trustworthy source when it comes to planning my life in comparison with the sovereignty and wisdom that the Lord provides for us!
My husband and I were married in November after dating for eleven months and being separated by 7,000 miles for six of those months! We found ourselves living in a very humble apartment on our seminary campus that I was more than eager to decorate with all of our many wedding gifts our first home! At the time, he was a full-time student and held a job on campus, and I was a second-grade teacher. One month into our marriage, we discovered much to our surprise that we were pregnant! We were surprised and overjoyed. In the meantime, we felt that the Lord was calling us to move off of our campus and closer to our church in order to serve more obediently there. Before we knew that we were expecting a child, we had already felt a calling to move. After only a few months of marriage, we were not sure of where we would live in a few months, and we were not sure of how we were going to be provided for since we were both going to have to find new jobs in a new place. The only thing that we were sure of was that there was absolutely no way that we were going to make it without the Lord’s provision. This particular season has truly been one of the Lord’s miraculous work in my life because He (so far!) has given me the faith and trust in Him to combat any worries that may creep into my mind about the many unknowns of our current situation. In this one situation alone (on top of the newness of learning how to be a godly wife after a few short moths of marriage), we are facing the reality of becoming parents, the reality of moving, the reality of finding new jobs, and the reality of financial burdens, all of which could easily become a source of worry and anxiety. Within the course of about three months, we have found a place to move to, and the Lord has abundantly provided us with fellow believers as well as financial blessings in order to journey down the path that He has for us. (At the time that I’m posting this (about 12 months after it was first written), the Lord called us to move back to our seminary campus before we had any job prospects, housing, or daycare for our 11-month-old daughter Within the span of about four weeks, He has provided jobs, housing, and childcare! He is so faithful, even when we are not!)   
I think I can conclude with confidence that if you are reading this post, you would not consider yourself to be an atheist. Yet even though we may not classify ourselves in that way, atheistic tendencies may infiltrate much of our thought patterns, especially when it comes to choosing to worry instead of choosing to trust in the Lord. Bockmuehl penned the following statement about worry that is rather convicting: “Worry can be a delayed symptom of a practical atheism that grows from persistent neglect of prayer and an addictive belief in self-sufficiency. Its remedy is prayer, thanksgiving, and gentleness towards others (vv. 5-6).”[i] When we neglect prayer and in turn attempt to “solve” and “reason” with our own problems, we are really dismissing the truth that God is the only One who has any control or wisdom over what we are going through. As believers, we should take great comfort in leaning on Him instead of on our own understanding, which is very limited (Prov. 3:5-6). For people who like to be in control, we sometimes cannot see how relinquishing that control is a very freeing and refreshing thing. Ultimately, even if we think we are in control, we aren’t; God always is in control. We just cause ourselves more stress and heartache when we fool ourselves into believing that we have to control and figure out everything. 
Martin makes the following statement: “Do not be anxious is a negative command based on the idea that anxiety (merimna) betrays a lack of trust in God’s care and is a species of ‘unconscious blasphemy’ against him.”[ii] When stated clearly, he makes it obvious that if a person worries, that directly shows that he or she does not trust the Lord to be who He says He is. How quickly we can drift into focusing on ourselves, our own strength, our own knowledge, and our circumstances and leave behind the beautiful truths that the Lord is in control, He is sovereign, He is wise, He is loving, and He is the ultimate source of peace! Even amidst the direst of circumstances, we have a reason to rejoice because of who He is. I want to be identified as a woman who trusts the Lord for who He is despite my circumstances. Our circumstances should not be the determining factor for our joy and trust. 
One author gives an antidote for the anxiety that can plague our hearts and minds: “rejoicing in the Lord always and in all circumstances, focusing on the needs of others and being compassionate, and of course prayer of the various sorts, always offered in gratitude.”[iii] Is prayer, with supplication and thankfulness, a part of your daily life? Can you rejoice in the Lord no matter what your circumstances hold? Do you call out for the needs of those around you? Do you daily remember the faithfulness of the Lord, which causes you to overflow with thankfulness?  

TRUTH #1: Believers have a command to be anxious for nothing.

TRUTH #2: All aspects of our life and experience should be covered in prayer.

TRUTH #3: The prayer life of a believer should include supplication and thanksgiving.  

APPLICATION: Do you trust the Lord? That seems like a simple question, but there is so much depth to it. If we really trust the Lord, then we will not turn to worry, anxiety, and control, which are all things that an atheist would do who does not believer that there even is a personal God. As believers, we do believe that there is a God, and not just any god, but the God of the universe who made us, loves us, called us, saved us, and cares about every detail of our lives. Make a list of at least ten things that the Lord has blessed you with or has done in your life over the course of this year. If you are like me, once you start your list, you’ll quickly realize that you could easily list way more than ten things! Our God is faithful and wise! Thank Him for being a personal God in whom we can trust for our every need.

FURTHER STUDY: Meditate on Proverbs 3:5-8 and Isaiah 55:8-9. List the specific truths we are supposed to obey based on these Scriptures. List the specific truths we learn about who God is.  How can you apply these truths to your life?

[i] Bockmuehl, 247.

[ii] Martin, 171.

[iii] Witherington III, 248.

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