At Gateway Church in Austin, we are going through a series called Emoji: ManageYour Moods.
Here is an overview of the series:
The life of the Apostle Paul is one of hardship, pain and uncertainty, and yet his letters to the early churches are filled with expressions of peace and joy! How did this man, who endured so much, encourage so many to have joy in all circumstances?
This week I spoke on “Peace in Uncertainty.”
Click for the Next Steps for this message.
Listen here for the message I shared at Gateway South:
Here are notes from the message:
Paul’s letters are written to help people who follow Jesus know how to live.
The Philippians were anxious because their pastor became deathly ill while visiting Paul, and Paul was in prison. In addition, there was conflict between the message Paul shared and the one that the Judaizers shared (adding religious rules to the message of Jesus).
To overcome anxiety:
1. Remember “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20)
Throughout his letters to the churches, Paul encouraged them to remember that our problems in this life are temporary and “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
2. The battle is in our minds.
To a group of people really struggling to overcome temptations, the Corinthians, Paul encourages them that the battle to change begins in the mind. He writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5:
“we take captive every thought”
Every thought that comes into our mind that distracts us or takes us down the wrong path needs to be taken captive.
A newer translation of the Bible called The Voice reads like this: “We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion….”
So often how we feel determines how we act. Instead, our actions can precede our emotions. No matter how emotionally-driven you are, you’ve seen this work. We wake up and don’t feel like working out. We do it anyway, and we feel so much better, and we’re even glad that we did.
If you struggle with letting your emotions control you, come up with a plan of what you know you should be doing and get others to keep you accountable to help you in that. Then do what you know you should do, no matter how you feel about it later.
For others of us, it’s our thoughts rather than our emotions that lead us astray. We come to closure too soon on an issue or we judge others unfairly.
Our thoughts and emotions can lead us down the wrong path!
We can take our thoughts and emotions captive and instead renew our mind!
3. Take off the negative thoughts and put on the positive thoughts.
Once again, the Bible has a path out that includes taking our thoughts captive and renewing our mind.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:6-8 (NIV)
When you find yourself stuck worrying and fighting anxiety and fear, stop. Start praying by thanking God. Notice it doesn’t just say “present your petitions to God.” Paul knew we could get caught just praying very anxious prayers. Rather than our time in prayer just being all about what we need or what we want, we need to take the time to acknowledge all He has already done for us!
Consider your thoughts: are they taking you in a positive direction or into a negative one? If negative, then take that thought captive and renew your mind by going down a different path.
Measure your thoughts by the words Paul uses.
Are your thoughts Pure, Praiseworthy, Lovely, Admirable, Noble, True, Excellent, or Right? If not, then you are going the wrong direction.
Like a planter, our mind reaps what we sow. If you sow dark thoughts you will reap dark actions. If you sow God-honoring thoughts, your actions will follow.
Sometimes we cannot get scary or anxious thoughts out our heads because we won’t stop putting them in there!
4. Peace is not dependent on circumstances.
We can experience peace in life even in the midst of the most challenging of circumstances.
In spite of the troubles he faced. Paul wrote to the churches about joy and contentment and satisfaction regardless of one’s circumstances. He experienced the supernatural love of God that helped him feel joy even though he was in jail, separated from his friends, and he faced execution for his faith. Even still, Paul reminded his friends in these letters that death isn’t a bad thing since it is then we will enter into God’s presence. He definitely was not wanting to die in a suicidal sense, but he was not afraid of death after all he had faced.
One of the most famous verses written by Paul is Philippians 4:13. While Paul was in prison he wrote these words:
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Often that verse is misapplied. We hear that verse used in the same way we hear pop stars and celebrities say: “You can do anything as long as you believe! Never give up on your dreams!”
Unfortunately, this is not always true.
Some of us are pursuing dreams not meant for us.
When this is the case, we will never be satisfied.
We cannot do anything we want as long as we believe! Instead, we can find satisfaction as we discover God’s design for our lives and pursue Him and His dream for our lives.
And by the way, God’s dream for us is far better than what we could ever ask or imagine!
When you read Philippians 4:13 in its context, a very different and profound picture emerges.
Paul in prison writes these words in Philippians 4:10-13:
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me…. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Paul is in prison and his friends from the church in Philippi sent a friend to encourage him. Paul says to them: “There are times when I had a lot, and there are times when I have had very little. In either case, with Christ’s strength I can be content. I can be satisfied regardless of my circumstances.”
Paul uses this word translated as “content” or “satisfied” three different times.
Do you have a faith that remains strong in spite of your circumstances? Or do you circumstances determine your level of faith?
When things don’t go your way, do you find yourself anxious or angry or easily annoyed or easily frustrated? When others let you down, do you isolate from community or even start to doubt God?
You and I can experience satisfaction in life no matter what we may face.
If things don’t go your way, you can still have peace.
We can trust God with others who oppose us or don’t do what we want them to do.
Whether you are in a house with screaming kids or at job where tensions are high or in a place where you are facing persecution and threats because of your faith, God’s supernatural peace and contentment are there for us.