Sermon for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost

Text: Philippians 4:11b-13

Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.

Why worry?

How many of you here this morning believe that life would be improved if you spent more time worrying?
How many people here are totally free from any kind of worry?
How many people here would like to be free from everything that causes you to worry and be anxious?
Whether worry is a constant part of your everyday life;
whether you experience worry as only a slight distraction or something that completely paralyses you,
I feel confident in saying that we would all like to worry less.
Perhaps the only exceptions are those who seem to be happy when theyíre miserable).

God has something to say about worry. In his book, filled with events like the creation of the universe, the rise and fall of kingdoms, the beauty of heaven, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he also considers it important to give us some help with this very ordinary human emotion. Even though he is God of the universe, heís not just a God out there somewhere. Heís a God here, with us. He has something to say about the worry that plagues us almost every day.

There is no doubt that worry is a part of every day, some days to a greater or lesser degree.
We worry if we donít have a job; if we do have a job we worry about keeping it.
We worry how we are going to get around if we donít have a car; if we do have a car, we worry about keeping it on the road.
We worry if we are sick; if we are healthy, we worry about getting sick.
We worry that our children are never going to leave home; when they do leave home, we worry about them.
We worry if we donít have enough money; if we do have enough money, we worry about our investments and not losing it.

Someone said, "I have so many worries that if anything happens to me today it will be two weeks before I can get around to worrying about it."

Why is it that we worry so much? The amazing thing about worry, and we know this from experience, is that only a fraction of the things we worry about ever turn out to be real concerns. Most of the time, we worry about things that will never happen or about things in the past that we can never change. Researchers say that only 8% of the things we worry about are real problems that we have to face.

Before we go any further perhaps we should ask the question, what is worry? That does seem a silly question since we are all very experienced in worrying.

To put it simply worry is a lack of peace. Thatís why we toss and turn in bed at night when something is worrying us. Thatís why we are so unsettled and unhappy when something is on our mind. Worry can be so consuming that we can think of nothing else except what is worrying us.

We lack peace because from where we stand it seems that things are beyond our control. We feel incapable of making a decision, taking a step, correcting a situation so we continually turn it over in our minds and let whatever it is take control to the point it affects our health. We are anxious because we feel helpless and powerless to help ourselves and change things. We just canít help ourselves.

We are overcome with worry and the lack of peace that comes when we worry about the future. As we wait for the doctorís report, we worry about what our future might be. When we are heading to the airport to catch a plane we worry about possible hold ups that might make us late Ė the traffic, an accident, a flat tyre. We worry about the future of our children, our future job prospects, our retirement.

Paul is writing the last few lines of his letter to the Philippians. He gives them this piece of advice. "Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus."

He is saying Ė
Donít worry.
Pray to God.
Ask him for whatever you need.
And Godís peace will fill your life.

Jesus says something similar when he tells us not to be worried about food and drink and clothes. He points to the birds. They donít worry and yet God takes good care of them. Arenít you worth more to God than birds. Then he says to look at the flowers and notice how God clothes them with such beauty. He concludes, "Only people who donít know God are always worrying. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things."

Straight forward isnít it. Nothing too complicated. Jesus says, "Donít worry. Trust God, he knows exactly what you need". Paul says, "Donít worry. Pray to God and he will give you peace of mind." and I could add the words of St Peter, "God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him" (1 Peter 5:7 CEV).

To those of us, and I dare say that includes everyone here, who have made worrying an art form, we immediately begin to worry about what the Bible is telling us here. We worry that we worry too much.
We worry too much because we donít trust God enough to take care of our needs.
We worry that we worry too much because we donít take God at his word, that he loves and cares for us and is waiting to use his power in answer to our prayers.
We worry because we either forget to talk to God when we need him the most, or we get ourselves worked up into such a state that our lives and minds are so befuddled that we find it hard to pray.

Letís face it, we will struggle with worry and anxiety for the rest of our lives. And God knows it!! He knows that this is one of the failings of sinful people. He knows what is going on in our heads when we worry. He knows that we often got all uptight over things that we should simply place into Godís hands and be at peace. He knows when we donít eat, donít sleep, donít relax because we are worried.

He sent his Son into the world for exactly those times when we worry instead of looking to God to help. Jesus came to forgive worriers and to assure them that even their lack of trust in God is forgivable. When Paul said that he does wrong things that he didnít intend to do, you might say that he is talking to us worriers. We donít want to be anxious and upset, but as hard as we try not to, when the next low flying worry comes along we find ourselves caught up in it and uptight again. And what does Paul say, "What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue meÖ? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me" (Romans 7:18-20, 24,25 CEV). Like Paul, we know that we will fail again and again, but also with Paul we know that we have a Saviour who is ever so patient and always gracious toward his people, especially toward his people who are incurable worriers.

Our text today not only reminds us of the blessing of forgiveness and the peace that comes from Jesus our Saviour, but it also reminds us that when we take to God in prayer all the needs, worries, anxieties and stresses that fill our life, we are assured that "God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep our hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus."
I like this way of putting it.
Because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel" (CEV).

We have come here today to thank God for all the ways he provides for our needs. This Thanksgiving Festival reminds us that we really have nothing to worry about. God has been generous toward each of us, that he has given us more than we rightly deserve. He has not only cared for our physical well-being, but has also given us his Son Jesus to remove the guilty stain of sin with his forgiveness and to make us new people who are happy to live as God's people. He has adopted us into his family and calls us his dear children.

We have come here today with songs of praise on our lips and prayers of thanks for the generosity and goodness of our God. We are reminded again that all things come from his loving hand.
Every person who looks after our  health, education, and welfare
every person who governs us and keep our community safe
every piece of clothing,
every morsel of food and drink of water,
every dollar we have had in our hands,
- all have come to us from the hand of God. We praise God for seedtime and harvest, for the time and abilities he has given us to carry out our daily tasks.
We really have nothing to worry about Ė he holds us in his hands and lovingly takes care of every need. He lovingly holds those whom we love and worry about so much in his hand and cares for their needs.

You may have watched a small child in a swimming pool with a parent. The water is up to the parentís chest, far too deep for the child to go out by himself. But the child is laughing and splashing, having a great time in spite of the danger. And why is the child so happy? Because he is being held tightly by his parent. The child trusts the parent not to let go. And if the child suddenly becomes anxious, the parent will hold on to the child even tighter, assuring the child that he is safe.

Godís attitude toward us doesnít change. He must be awfully disappointed in us at times, but that doesnít stop his love for us, and holding us tightly, especially those times when we are worried.

Let us praise and thank God that there is no problem too big or too difficult for God to handle. What is there to be anxious about? God is in control. Peace in the face of our problems is just a prayer away.

And God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.


CEV Contemporary English Version 1995 © The Bible Society in Australia


© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
26th August
, 2001

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Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, revised Australian edition 1994.

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