As you sit down to read this today, it is Wednesday, the middle of the week. You are smack dab in the middle of the craziness of life in the modern world. Work is busy, family and relational pressures are beginning to wear on you. Church responsibilities are becoming more of a burden than a privilege. Is this a fair description of your state of being? Are these, and other, factors beginning to fray the edges of your heart? Do you find that when this kind of fatigue sets in that you are a little more susceptible to your pet temptations? Perhaps the piece of pie after lunch looks a little sweeter. The second glance at that pretty woman or that handsome man doesn’t seem so harmful. The raised voice and harsh words to the kids seem more justified. The little nip from the bottle to take the edge off at the end of day seems like a logical course of action. Here, in the middle of the week, do these thoughts that seemed so detestable to you on Sunday creep up and become enticing?
Why is that? How can we so quickly fall into the trap of the sin that we thought we had already given up to Jesus? Today’s passage holds some keys to this question.
Read Philippians 4:6-9.
What are we called to do with our anxious, stressed out thoughts?
What will we receive when we do this?
What will happen to us when we receive this?
In vv. 8-9 what is supposed to be the focus of our thought life?
Food for thought:
Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” If you have spent any time meditating on that verse you should have asked the first and most obvious question, “How do you guard your heart?” Today’s passage gives us a little clue and one specific way to guard our hearts. If we want to guard our heart then we need to dump all of our worries at the feet of Jesus. Worrying, being “anxious”, about things is like hardening of the arteries of the soul. Worrying chokes us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When we worry we get tense in the shoulders which restricts flow of blood to the head and causes tension headaches. Worrying causes gastrointestinal distress and can cause us to double over with abdominal pain. Worry can give us chest pains and heart problems. Worry is a form of fear and fear causes our brain to retreat from the logical, upper brain, and regress into the reactionary, emotional part of our brain where the flight or fight reflexes are more apt to kick into gear at the drop of a hat. We become hyper-alert and overly cautious and paranoid of people, keeping them at an arms distance for fear that they may be dangerous. When we worry we hold on to things and can’t let them go.
Steven Covey defines worry as stressing over things that we can’t control anyway. Think about it. If we could control something, we would, and then it would be under control and we wouldn’t think about it. So, when we worry we are wasting energy, stressing ourselves out, and making it extremely difficult to experience the love of others and the love of God in our lives.
Paul encourages believers to take those anxious thoughts and present them to Jesus. When we realize that we are not in control of our lives and that Jesus is in control, then we can let go. One by one our fingers are pried off of whatever we are holding on to, and, as the grip is relaxed, the peace of God begins to flow into our souls.
When the peace of God begins to take root, then everything changes. When we are at peace we don’t see everyone around us as the opposition or the reason for our stress. We can begin to see people as an opportunity to express love. When we are at peace, we don’t have to be in a hurry. We can take time to do the important things like read the Bible, talk with friends, hug our kids, and go for a walk. When we are at peace, the edges of our hearts are not frayed. When we are at peace, we have the ability to focus our minds on the list found in vv. 8-9. When we focus our minds on these things then the little temptations that we face will not even be able to get onto our radar and we will be able to see them for the little, ugly imps that they truly are.
So, take a deep breath. If you are stressed, write down the things that are freaking you out and hold them up in the air. Say, “Father, I give these things to you. I can’t handle them, but I know you can. Please let your peace flood my soul and allow me to see this situation from an eternal perspective.” Today, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your heart in Christ Jesus.