Saturday, May 1, 2010

Don't Worry, Be Joyful!

Had gone through a period of very deep worry recently. It was so bad that it affected my work, and left me demoralized. But thank God so much... instead of scolding me for being worried, He actually kept encouraging me with Bible verses and passages directly whispered into my mind. And He also sent me brother after brother to encourage me in so many ways and directions.

As a result, I have come to see just how caring God is. He really is the compassionate and gracious God... if He cares for even the tiniest sparrow that falls to the ground, and knows the no. of hairs that fall off my head (though He might not replace them....), wow, He cares so deeply. I want to care for others, like Jesus cares for me! Amen!

As I was reading Philippians today, I saw some passages that spoke directly to the worries and burdens in my heart. You know, Philippians is a very good book for working adults with financial concerns. It was written to Christians, who though not persecuted in the physical sense, did get discriminated against in the economic sense. So they were understandably worried about their finances and potential loss of jobs. So I think the Philippian Christians can understand even better than us about the fear of losing their jobs / being scolded by their employers / being seen as bad testimonies by their peers (refusing to pay respect to the pagan deities who were supposed to be patrons of their respective guilds, etc.). 

1. The first passage reminded me of what really counts in life:
"I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage [the proper translation is actually "shit / dung / crap"] , so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith."
Philippians 3:7-9

2. Then the next passage that spoke to me what I ought to be doing instead of worrying:
"Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again - rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon."

Yes, I ought to be always full of joy in the Lord. Because one effect of worry is to make me more and more inconsiderate. I remember a lot of times I would flare up at my parents, because I was so caught up in my worries, even when they do care. :( There's a lot of negative effects. Worry also causes me to forget that the Lord is near, that He's coming soon to deliver me.

Now when thinking about worry, I think we shouldn't be so worried about the fact that we are worried. I think some people say that it's a sin to worry. That only gets us worried people more worried! (Win already lor.) I understand, from the context of the passage, that, on the contrary, God deeply cares about the fact that we are burdened in this fallen world with so many worries. So He tells us, "Don't worry lah. Cast all your anxieties on me, because I care for you." So I think one biblical way to help a person out of the trap of worrying is to point them towards the fact that God cares for them. It's God-centric, and also helps the person surrender to God.

3. But worry can be dangerous too. It causes us to start losing faith and start fleeing. I was playing Napoleon: Total War recently, and what struck me was the attention to morale in the game. The troops could have a lot of numbers, but when starting to lose units, they will start to get very concerned. (Which is perfectly normal, man.) If their morale got too low, they would start retreating, and then routing. However more well-disciplined units would stand and even fight to the death. In fact, they would actually fix their bayonets and charge ferociously toward the enemy instead. Yes, the more courageous troops were equally concerned about their own men getting killed. But they chose to override their natural fears with something greater in mind.

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 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.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about such things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me - everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you."
Philippians 4:6-9

This passage really touched me, because it really understands what I had been going through! Instead of getting demoralized by work and ministry deadlines and other worries e.g. will God meet my needs in this area? that area?, I can choose to fix my thots upon what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. And to practice the good things that I have been taught already.

4. So I want to share this study note that I have with you:

Worry is a completely unproductive emotion. It is the advance interest we pay on troubles that seldom come. But these verses give us the best antidote for worry - prayer. God wants to be the first one we turn to in times of worry or crisis. When we do, He promises a special blessing if we do the following four things:

1. Stop Worrying and Start Praying. Don't ever think that your need is too insignificant for God's attention. He wants us to pray about everything.

2. Tell God Your Needs. Even though God is all-knowing and is well aware of your situation, he desires that you verbalize your needs to him and place them in his hands.

3. Present Your Requests with Thanks. Instead of praying with feelings of doubt, we can thank God for his answers in advance because of the promises he has made to us in his Word.

4. Receive God's Peace. One you do these things, Philippians 4:7 says that you will experience God's peace. In the original Greek text, this verse literally means that God's peace will mount a guard / garrison" around your heart and mind to keep and protect you during those difficult times in your life.

The next time you are tempted to worry about something, channel into prayer all of the energy you would have put into worry. Say something like, "Lord, here is my problem. It looms ever larger in my path, so I am putting it into your hands. I am not going to worry, Lord. Instead, I am going to trust you. I am even going to thank you in advance for what you will do, because you know what you are doing."

This may not always be an easy thing to do, but if you want to overcome worry and experience God's peace, it is something you must consciously do.

May the peace of God be upon you as you work and study... and may the God of peace be with you even as you do what is good in His eyes! God bless... and go bless!

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