It All Begins With A Thought

A Bible Study in Philippians 4:4-9

I’m going to wrap up a four-part walk-through in Philippians in this final study and we’ll look together at replacing ANXIETY with PEACE.

We are an anxious nation.

Alarmingly, I found out that 1 in 6 Americans takes a psychiatric drug [Scientific American magazine article].  Anxiety meds are second only to depression meds.  That said, I do believe meds that are used carefully are a gift of God.

But what if we turn too quickly to the pill bottle and too slowly to the Lord?

Mark Twain joked, “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life.  Most of them never happened.”

In this presented scripture for this study, I want to point out some suggestions that the apostle Paul gives us to advance through our ANXIETIES.  And if you are thinking, “I’m not anxious about anything,” perhaps a bible study on self-denial might be appropriate later.

FIRST, we need to have right thinking.

Paul says in VERSE 4 to REJOICE.  And to make sure we don’t miss it, he says it twice:  “Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!”  (AMP)

Philippians is all about JOY; Paul uses the word some 16 times!

When he says here to rejoice “always,” he suggests JOY is more than an emotion, since you can’t command an emotion.  You can’t force someone to be happy; they either are or they aren’t.  But Paul tells us to rejoice always.

JOY, then, must be a decision, a choice.

I once heard someone say, “Happiness comes from happenings, but joy comes from Jesus.”

Actually, JOY is an act of faith.  It supposes that regardless of how things look at the time, God is still on the throne; God loves me, God is for me, even though my circumstances seem bleak, God will see me through.

That’s why James could write, “Reckon it nothing but JOY, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials”  (James 1:2 ~ Weymouth New Testament).

James knew that God can use our TRIALS for good and to build our CHARACTER.

And that’s why Daniel’s three friends could defy King Nebuchadnezzar with confident JOY: (See Dan. 3:17-18)  

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”

RIGHT THINKING begins with choosing JOY!

The church at Philippi knew Paul lived this out.  When he visited their city, he had cast out a demon and inadvertently thwarted a money-making scheme, disgruntled businessmen falsely charged, beaten and thrown into prison, along with his buddy Silas.  You can read the whole story in Acts 16.

Sitting in their jail cell that night, they could have had a grand pity party.  Instead. they chose a worship service!

  • Wounded and behind bars, they sang hymns!
  • And God sent an earthquake unlocking every cell door without hurting anyone.

That same night the jailer and his family were all SAVED and the next day Paul and Silas were released.

All because they CHOSE JOY…despite of their circumstance.  They CHOSE to think right!

I don’t know about you, but when listening to the teaching from “experts” or pastors/teachers. scholars. I like to hear their examples to help enlighten the message.  I believe Paul felt the same way.

He gives us examples of what to think about in VERSE 8:

Paul says to turn our mind toward the POSITIVE, to FOCUS on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy.

WE ARE WHAT WE THINK!

While every SIN begins with a thought, so does every act of obedience!

Various people have been attributed to writing this poem:

Sow a thought, reap a word.

Sow a word, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

And sow a character, reap a destiny.

It all begins with a thought.

What if, when you wake up in the morning, instead of turning on the news, you read a short devotion out of “Our Daily Bread”?  I have it sent to me every morning to my Email address to read.  When you do this first thing in your day, you’re training your mind to think more positively.

Secondly, we need to PRAY right!

Verses 6 and 7 in the New Living Translation (NLT) sums this up with,

[6] Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done!

[7] Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

We are all good at worrying, but sometimes we feel ill-prepared to PRAY.

Yet, if you know how to WORRY, you should know how to pray!

  • Worrying is talking to yourself about things outside of your control.
  • Praying is talking to God about the things outside of your control.

When the ANXIETY level starts rising in your daily activities, talk to God about it.  Paul gives some hints as to how to pray right.

The word “pray” here, denotes a worshipful approach.

You come to God humbly, submitting your will to His.  You shouldn’t approach God like some heavenly slot machine hoping to hit the jackpot. You approach God with awe and respect by asking Him for what you need–and that’s called petition or supplication: the process of shifting your burden from you to God!

IT’S OKAY TO ASK.

Do you notice that in our asking, Paul says to do so “with thanksgiving”?  There’s nothing worse than a spoiled child who always says, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

We need to be grateful for what we already have, and we also need to be grateful for, however, God may choose to respond.

GRATEFULNESS in advance is another sign of FAITH.

We can be grateful because God cares for us.  Whether God says, “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait,” God is still a good God–all the time!

God wants us to PRAY with THANKSGIVING, regardless of the circumstances.

When you find yourself growing anxious, give it to God, and don’t take it back!  Follow the advice of 1 Peter 5:7.

Trust that God cares for you and is at work in your situation.  And begin to act on FAITH that God will direct your steps moving forward.

Someone once said, “If your knees are buckling, kneel on them.”

Instead of worrying, why not try praying.

The “START” Bible says, “If you have a BIG God, then you have a relatively small problem.  But if you have a BIG problem, then maybe you have a small god.”  (see footnote [i].)

The giant Goliath looked at the shepherd boy David and saw a small problem.  But David looked at Goliath and saw a large God along with a target too big to miss!

Look what God promises when we give our ANXIETY over to Him:  Verse 7 says “And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever taken your family to an unfamiliar beach or a community swimming pool and see the signs posted, “Life Guard On Duty?  And when you see the posted signs, how much confidence and security that comes to mind when entering the water.

A God who is on GUARD DUTY over your hearts and minds.

God’s Word found in your bibles says God never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4).  He’s always on guard duty, 24/7.  God will bring HIS PEACE to our entire being: body, soul, and spirit in a way beyond our understanding.

THINK RIGHT, PRAY RIGHT, and lastly,

LIVE RIGHT!

This is like the Nike principle: “JUST DO IT!”  Put your THOUGHTS and PRAYERS into ACTION.

Verse 5 gives us a description of how we should live as Christian believers–with “gentleness” (NIV), or “unselfishness” in the Amplified Bible.  The idea is to LIVE with graciousness out of a humble spirit.  You don’t always have to get your way!  That means you become willing to yield your rights to another.  And that’s especially good marital advice!!

That’s a hard principle to act on for some of us.  Why would anyone want to yield their rights to another?  The rest of verse 5 tells us why:

The LORD is near.

The Christian believer has the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, within them always.  Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us.

You are never alone, the Lord is near!!

But there is also an end-times application here:  Jesus is coming soon!  His return draws nearer every day.  So, LIVE the way He wants you to live now.

In Verse 9, Paul urges the Church to follow his example, not only what he says, but what he does.  Now there’s something that most of us wouldn’t advertise in our Christian community.  “Follow my example”.  

I learned early on that my kids would follow my ACTIONS a lot faster than they would my words as they grew older.  Despite what I said, it was what I did that counted.  WORDS are cheap.  ACTION matters!

So, put it into practice!  PRAY RIGHT.  And LIVE RIGHT.

And Paul promises us, “With the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us–Why worry?”

____________________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i] :  NKJV, Start: The Bible for New Believers, Thomas Nelson, 1227

Video:  YouTube – Mix Give Thanks, Don Moen

Images:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Exceptions noted in the text.

 

 

 

To SLEEP or Not to SLEEP? That’s the Question!

FIRST OF ALL, THERE IS “GOOD SLEEP” and there’s “BAD SLEEP”:

2489146362_6daf5bee61Have you ever taken a “RED-EYE” flight to a destination?  I did once, from Seattle, Washington to Chicago, Illinois; then transferred, after a two-hour layover at O’Hare Airport… to Detroit, Michigan.  All for a job interview in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Other than the flight duration, shaving in an airport public restroom, and putting on a wrinkled tie out of my briefcase, matching my wrinkled suit…I might have been more refreshed and alert if I could only SLEEP on airplanes!  But alas, unlike the gentlemen in the picture to the left, that didn’t happen.

Now the Flight Attendants on the RED-EYE did their best to make me comfortable, I still couldn’t seem to nod off.  Maybe because my mind was so wired, worried about the interview, I couldn’t sleep; or maybe it was FEAR!  FEAR that I would get lost in an unfamiliar airport, miss the connecting flight, etc.  Regardless my reasons, by the time I arrived at the perspective employer’s corporate office, I was definitely not rested or at peace at my destination.

“Sleep” is a Funny Thing–

When you need rest, SLEEP often doesn’t come.  You toss and turn…fidget…you’re in misery because you can’t sleep.

Then…when you need to stay awake, sometimes, SLEEP overtakes you and you can’t help but fall asleep.  Someone once said:  “You can buy sleep (it comes in a pill form), but you can’t buy rest.”

The Bible has a lot to say about “sleep”–

It’s probably because everybody does it!  But there’s GOOD sleep, there is BAD sleep.

Matthew 26:45-46 NASB:

[45]  “Then He came to the disciples, and said to them,  “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?  Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  

[46]  “Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

JESUS says 2 things about “sleep”:

26:45 – “Sleep on now.”

26:46 – “Rise, let us be going”…get up out of your sleep!

There’s a time to sleep…AND…there’s a time to wake-up.

The verses in Matthew seem to put “sleep” into two categories:

#1.  “Sleep On.”

SLEEP refreshes us for the events of the next day.  And in the verses in Matthew, Jesus is headed for the cross the next day; He wanted the disciples to stay up and pray with Him.

Every time He went to them, they were asleep and missed out on a wonderful experience of ministry.  Now, JESUS says, “sleep on”…for they will need their rest for the events of the next day.

SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING…there are times when we SHOULD sleep.  

We can see this illustrated in several Bible characters found sleeping.

ADAM – Genesis 2:18-22:

“[21]  And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam…”

God caused Adam to SLEEP, yet Adam didn’t sleep because he was tired; he didn’t FAIL God by going asleep (like the Disciples).  God CAUSED him to sleep.

It was GOOD that Adam slept.  WHY?  Because God was going to do SURGERY on Adam.  I would rather be put to SLEEP whenever anybody is going to do surgery on me.

We can apply this to our SPIRITUAL LIVES too!

Some things in our life, God wants to “put to sleep”, so He can do surgery on us–EXAMPLES…

WORRY –

We need to put our WORRY’S to sleep by given them to the Lord; FORGET those things behind, looking in faith to Christ Jesus:

“[13]  I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.  [14] I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in christ Jesus is calling us upward”  (Philippians 3:13-14 AMP).

GRUDGES –

We need to bury them deep, so they never surface again.

Holding GRUDGES or ILL-FEELINGS against someone can become like CANCER–it eats us up!  It doesn’t do near the damage to others as it does to us.

We need to bury the past…not dig it up, again, and again.

Philippians 3:13-14 (again):

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.    I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”  (KJV).

SINFUL HABITS –

2941673519_fd21e82e02We need to put them to sleep… so God can do surgery on us…they’ve been NIGHTMARES for too long…ruling and ruining our lives.

When God put Adam to sleep, he awoke…there was Eve…a help-mate, a companion, a blessing!

Those things that are hindering our SPIRITUAL GROWTH…we need for God to put them to sleep, and do surgery on us.

When I think of “sleep”, I think of…

JESUS – (Matthew 8:23-27)

It is the only time in Scripture we find Him sleeping.  AND…what a time to sleep!

[24]  And suddenly, behold, there arose a violent storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered up by the waves; but He [Jesus] was sleeping.”

Have you ever known someone like this…to sleep no matter what’s going on around them?  BUT…there was a PURPOSE for His sleeping…to test their faith.

What is the PURPOSE of the storms in our life?

I think it is the opportunity for us to cry out to God, like the Disciples cried out to Jesus:  “…Lord, rescue and preserve us!”…and He was ASLEEP!

Remember Psalm 121:4:

“Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

But sometimes it seems like God is SLEEPING, doesn’t it?  WHY?  Because of the same reason the Disciples found Jesus SLEEPING…to test their faith.

How did they wake JESUS?  With their prayer:  “Lord, save us!”  These trials and storms that come our way in life can bring us to our knees in prayer.  Sometimes, that’s the only way to get us on our knees…get our attention.

PRAYER will AWAKEN the POWER of God:

“If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, PRAY, SEEK, CRAVE, and require of necessity My face, and turn from their wicked ways, THEN will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land”  (2 Chronicles 7:14).

So…JESUS says, “Sleep on!”

There are good things about “sleep”.  BUT…there are some things that AREN’T so good.

Spiritually speaking, Jesus also said:  “Arise out of your sleep.”

1 Thessalonians 5:6:

“…let us not sleep, as the rest do, but let us keep wide awake (alert, watchful, cautious, and on our guard) and let us be sober (calm, collected, and circumspect”  (AMP).

#2.  “RISE ( ‘get up’ – AMP), LET US BE GOING” —

I found several people in the Bible who could apply the words of JESUS to  “Get up and let’s get going.”

When I think of “sleep”, I think of:

SAMSON – Judges 16:18-19 – Lulled to sleep by Delilah.

Satan loves to do that to us.  THEN…when he gets us to sleep, he starts with the scissors…taking away our strength and our usefulness (16:20-21).

Satan knew Samson’s weakness…WOMEN!  Satan knows OUR weaknesses too.  Maybe it’s love of money…the lust of the flesh…pride…the love of pleasure…I could go on and on.  You know what YOURS is…I know what MINE is.

Satan will lull you to sleep…THEN…get out the scissors…steal your JOY and USEFULNESS.  JESUS says: “Arise out of thy sleep”.

When I think of “sleep”, I think of…

JONAH – Jonah 1:4-5 – Slept in total indifference of the WILL of God and the CALL of God.

JONAH didn’t care about the lost of his generation like God did.  Jonah said:  “Let them ALL go to HELL…I don’t care.”  THEN…he went to SLEEP.

How many of us have done the same thing?  SATISFIED with our own salvation…we’re going to Heaven, and that’s all that matters.  If others don’t want to go there, that’s their tough luck!

What have we done?  We become like Jonah.  It’s time we woke out of our SLEEP.  JESUS said, “Get up, let us be going.”

TEN VIRGINS – (Matthew 25:1-5 AMP).

 Most of us are familiar with the parable Jesus gives regarding the kingdom of Heaven.  I did a study sometime go on the TEN VIRGINS and POSTED with the title, “Shout!  It’s Midnight And The Bridegroom is Here!” if interested.

[1] THEN THE kingdom of heaven shall be likened to TEN VIRGINS who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  [2] Five of them were foolish (thoughtless, without forethought) and five were wise (sensible, intelligent, and prudent).  [3] For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take any [extra] oil with them;  [4] But the wise took flasks of oil along with them [also] with their lamps.  [5] While the bridegroom lingered and was slow in coming, they ALL began nodding their heads, and they fell asleep.

The ladies weren’t living in light of the Lord’s soon return and were caught SLEEPING!  So whose attention was Jesus trying to reach in the parable?  I believe a “hint” is given in Matthew 24:51:  “…the pretenders…”

FIVE of them were caught UN-PREPARED…no oil…

FIVE of them were PREPARED…oil in their lamps.

BUT…ALL TEN were caught “sleeping”.

What is the LESSON here for us?

We don’t know WHEN Jesus is coming back so, we better not be caught “sleeping”.

THIS IS A “SLEEPY” GENERATION!

JESUS gives this warning in Mark 13:35-36:

“Therefore watch–give strict attention, be cautious and alert–for you do not know when the Master of the house is coming, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning.    [Watch, I say] lest He come suddenly and unexpectedly and find you asleep”  (Amplified Version).

Don’t be so sound ASLEEP, spiritually speaking, that you aren’t ready for the Lord’s coming.  Don’t be caught with EMPTY lamps; UNPREPARED.

Some THINGS need to be “put to sleep”-

…some sin…

…some habit…

…some worries…

…some grudges…

…some ill-feelings…

Maybe we need some trials in our life to see that JESUS isn’t “sleeping”…BUT…He cares about you…and is always there for you.  Maybe we need to see that Satan is trying to lull you to sleep…to steal your joy…our effectiveness as a Christian.  Remember that the five foolish virgins never ran out of oil, they never had it to begin with.

There are some things in our lives that we need to PUT TO SLEEP and other things that we need to WAKE-UP about.  Let’s agree with one another that the Holy Spirit [represented by the “oil”] be our teacher.

25-pent-10-virgins-with-tex1