Sermon: Peace of God

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phi 4:2-7 NIV)
Today we are beginning a sermon series on prayer. Today’s sermon is about the relationship between prayer and anxiety. Paul tells us that the opposite of anxiety is God’s peace in our lives that only comes through prayer. But before we talk about prayer and it’s relation to peace as a spiritual antidote to the bane of anxiety let us first deal with the nature of anxiety.
Why do we worry? For some, if we don’t have anything to worry about… we would worry about that!
Rev. Brandon Obrien says that he hails… “from a long line of worriers. From my dad, I inherited an inability to sleep until I resolve whatever issue is currently on my mind; from my mom, I received a proclivity for stomachaches before exams.
It’s not all bad, I suppose; worry has historically been a powerful motivator for me. One Saturday night I went to sleep unprepared for the sermon I was set to deliver the next morning. I dreamed all my biblical studies professors, previous pastors, and mentors arrived at church to hear me preach, only to discover that I was shooting from the hip. I woke up in a cold sweat and worked on my sermon till morning.
I’d like to think that my tendency to worry is evidence of my unwavering sense of responsibility. Truth is, worry reveals a deep-seated self-reliance. I might say with Oliver Cromwell, “Put your trust in God; but mind to keep your powder dry.” But when I remember God’s faithfulness in the past, and remember that he alone has brought me through, I am able to replace worry with worship. This simple action ensures that my faith is not in my keeping the powder dry, but in God’s promise to secure the victory.”
Worry is an emotional effect brought about by of our deep-seated prideful reliance on ourselves. If pride is writing a check that we can’t back-up, then worry or anxiety is what happens when our check bounces. However, when we replace worry with worship (as Obrien contends) we are replacing self-reliance with a reliance or dependence upon God. This is where prayer comes in: prayer is a particular mode of worship where we replace our reliance upon ourselves with a reliance upon God, where we rest in God: the recumbency of prayer. Prayer is saying: “God…Thy will be done!” Prayer is never about changing God…but changing us!!
What is it that God wants to change about us: he does not want us to keep relying on ourselves, but on Him! Prayer is one of God’s methods of turning us to him. Ravi Zacharias says, Prayer is a constant reminder that the human being is not autonomous. Prayer, in its most basic form, is the surging of the human spirit in its weakness, grasping at the Spirit of God in His strength. And when we turn to Him and rely on Him we rest in Him: “Shalom!” This is what Paul means when he says: “. 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.” In our text this morning, Paul is first saying do not worry about anything because you do not control anything! Secondly, but in everything come to God in prayer because God controls everything! Thirdly come to God with your plea with thanksgiving! And fourthly (God will then act the way you want him to?) No! The peace of God (God’s peace) will guard, protect, and shelter your hearts and minds (feelings and thinking) in Christ Jesus, a peace that surpassed all human understanding! Notice Paul is saying that the purpose of prayer is the peace of God: resting, relying, depending on God and God alone. Paul does not say that after you petition God and after God gives you want you want, then you can rest and trust in God. If that were the case we would be trusting in the gifts of God and not God, the benefits not the benefactor. The purpose of prayer is to attain God’s peace as reliance on God. Just as light displaces darkness, the peace of God displaces worry, anxiety, and angst. If we let God write the check, it won’t bounce!!
However, how many times has prayer been construed the opposite way: instead of looking at prayer as a mode of worship where we replace our reliance upon ourselves with a reliance upon God—we treat prayer as a way to change or manipulate God into acting the way we want God to act on our behalf. There is a modern heresy in the church today called Word of Faith! You are entitled to health and wealth and happiness. It is a right that God must deliver on if you say the magic words. This modern heresy treats God like a genie in a bottle. All you have to do is rub God the right way!!
Philip Yancey says that —“If prayer stands as the place where God and human beings meet in worship, then I must learn about prayer. Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes: why God doesn’t act the way we want God to, and why I don’t act the way God wants me to. Prayer is the precise point where those themes converge.” Another way to state this is to say prayer is either “Thy will be done!” or My will be done!” This is a struggle that we Christians must deal with constantly. This is why Paul commands us not to be anxious, but pray; both the command to pray and not be anxious are in the present imperative: pray continuously so as to keep at bay anxiety. A constant struggle that God’s will be done and not our own!
But these two (anxiety and peace) are many times mixed. John Calvin noted this in his Institutes when he says: “Surely, while we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not [sic] tinged with doubt or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety.” He goes on to talk about David who constantly struggled with belief and unbelief, belief in God’s will and promises versus unbelief in God’s will and promises which is nothing more than belief in ourselves by default.
In conclusion, this is why we worry and this is why we need to come to God in prayer. May we continue to be people of God who are continually learning to lean and depend on God so that the peace of God which passed all understanding will keep our hearts and minds through prayer? Amen.

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