This sermon is on Philippians 4:5,6:“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’
- Ever have an anxious moment? Forget moment! What about anxious days? Weeks? How about sleepless nights because of worry? Have you ever begun to worry about how much you worry, become anxious about your anxiety?
- We use the English words “anxiety” and “worry” to translate a single word from the New Testament’s original language. The difference between worry and anxiety may be one of degree, but both words describe emotional responses to imagined threats. Worry and anxiety represent fear of what might be, not what is happening right now this minute, but what you imagine might happen in the future. The future is uncertain enough the way it is, but if you have a good imagination, you can multiply that into a containerized cargo ship of potential terror.
- As a recovering anxious person, I can tell you that anxiety and worrying about worry are no fun. And if you suffer from worry and anxiety, knowing that the Bible says “don’t” doesn’t help matters, because you begin to get anxious about that! But, Jesus said, “Don’t worry about what you don’t have yet”, and Paul wrote, “don’t be anxious about anything”. Why? Why is there no reason to ever fear what the uncertain future might hold?Future
- There’s no reason to fear even the worst thing you could imagine about the future, because God has charge of the future; God knows what you need, and will give it to you when you need it. Romans 8 insists that even if a worst case scenario does occur, like being diagnosed with ALS, it doesn’t mean that God’s love has failed, or that you have been separated from God’s grace (Believe me, I can affirm that is true). As a Christian, nothing in your future will be able to break your connection with God’s love. Because no matter how painful or dreadful your circumstances become, your ultimate eternal future is not at stake.
- Second thing: Christians have been united with Jesus in the salvation events of his death, resurrection, and ascension; any follower of Jesus can have unshakable confidence and strength to face every situation, no matter how vivid their imagination. No matter how tragic their reality becomes. Rather than uncertainty about yourself and the future, as a Christian you can have complete certainty that God loves you; Jesus is on your side, living in and through you; God wants the best for you, and is demonstrating his glory in and through you as he prepares you for your true life.
- But many of us have no point of reference for what it means to not be anxious. If worry and anxiety are almost second nature, how are you to be instead? I didn’t discover what that was until late in life. Instead of feeling some degree of fear about the things that might be, living life wound tight, feeling stressed, worn out, defensive and consumed with your own misery, your life exuding misery, the New Testament says Jesus’ followers should exude gentleness.
- Yes. Gentleness.
- A term that has a bad rep, especially for us manly men. Perhaps it stems from the mythology of the Old West. The Old West mythology teaches us that the guy who wants to be gentle, to avoid violent confrontations, to not carry a gun, will give up his water holes to the greedy bad guy instead of fighting for them. According the mythology, that guy ends up either dead, or finally realizes the truth that you must stand up to evil, gun in hand if need be. The lesson is that the gentle person ends up facing intolerable humiliation and abuse. Right?
- Here’s what the New Testament concept of “gentle” is. It comes from the Greek word Epieikes (ep*ee*ay*kes). You have Epieikes when you are not easily moved by insults and injuries, whether they have actually happened, or you imagine that they might. You have Epieikes when you are not easily annoyed by adversity, real or imagined possibility, but retain an even keel about it all. When you see “gentle” in the New Testament, think of gentle, as in a “gentle horse”. For most things, a gentle horse is a good thing! – A horse that is steady, not flighty, dependable to be obedient no matter what, not easily spooked. It goes about its work with energy and does it well, but puts up with the little cow-poke clumsily climbing on its back and pulling its ears.
- Epieikes gentleness results from being confident; from no longer tip toeing, grimacing through life because of what might be around the corner.
- Epieikes comes from the confidence of knowing that you have been united with Jesus; that nothing, ever, can come between you and God.
- Epieikes comes from being convinced that you can live one day at a time, because God has tomorrow covered for you.
- When you surrender being an anxious person, you become an Epieikes person.
- Let me share with you a prayer to shape your life around union w/ Jesus, and God’s grace.
- Lord, Today I want an Epieikes person, not an anxious person. Therefore:
– silence the critical voice in me, and give me eyes to see the positive in myself and those around me.
– Correct my vision, so that I will see life as full of creative options, not frightening either/or circumstances.
– Give me clarity and certainty about your purpose for me, so that I can focus on the mission, not weakness, or negative what ifs.
– Give me the courage to take responsibility for my actions, and seek to grow in Christ-like behavior, rather than fixate on the behavior of others toward me.
– Connect me today to people, particularly those I’m in conflict with; don’t allow me to separate from others out of anxiety and worry.
- Pray it through, thinking it through.
– How is your critical voice being hard on you or someone else?
– Where are you uptight because you only see either/or outcomes – and what if there really are options?
– How will God’s mission for your life – to love him with your entire being, love your neighbor as well as yourself, and be involved in making disciples from all kinds of people – be lived out in your life? Take time to pray about it.
– Where are you blaming others or circumstances for life’s situations? What is in your power to do something about, and what do you need to shrug your shoulders about and accept in gentleness?
– Who are you avoiding, and how will you connect with other people today?
As a recovering anxious person, better yet, a growing Epieikes person, what I have shared here has completely changed my life. The change was swift, and has sustained me through being diagnosed with ALS, the end of a career, financial uncertainty, and a degenerating body. My prayer is that you will surrender your anxiety to the Lord Jesus, so that he can transform you into an Epieikes person.