R.C. Chapman was a well-heeled young gentleman living in 19th Century England, and he had a lot going for him. He was born with the proverbial silver spoon dangling from his mouth, he excelled at his elite school, and he established a law practice at a prodigious age. The cherry on top of that generous dollop of smiling providence was a small fortune he inherited at age twenty-three. Naturally, it could be assumed that the young man was set for life and would settle into a comfortable life of ease and merriment. But that prognosis would overlook the dramatic effect sanctification has on true Christians.
At age twenty Chapman was born again. Before his thirtieth birthday he calmly and deliberately veered off the promising professional path onto the sparse road less travelled, to become the pastor of a small church in Barnstaple, Devon. He also invested his considerable wealth directly into the work of that ministry, leaving himself with nothing beyond a modest home and bare necessities.
Chapman had a remarkable trust in God’s provision and a gushing generosity. A story is told how that once he travelled to preach at a conference and gave away all his travel money at the conference, leaving him no ticket to get back. He was paid an honorarium but by the time he got to the train station he had given that away to a needy soul he encountered. His companion asked how he intended to pay for the train. Chapman replied confidently, “To whom does the money belong, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.”
At the station a man disembarking the arriving train recognized Chapman and hurried over to him and handed him a five-pound note, saying, “I have had this in my pocket for some time, and am glad I met you.” The man left and after a moment Chapman playfully asked his companion, “To whom does the money belong?”
Some would call R.C. Chapman presumptuous.
But let me ask you this: Do think it is more Christlike to presume that God will provide… or to fret and worry that he won’t?
It’s easier to preach on some texts than to live them! One such passage is Philippians 4:6-7.
Let’s continue to unpack the four aspects of God’s command to avoid anxiety:
[We looked at the first two last week.]
Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Paul is not offering us a technique to combat worry, nor is he suggesting that the remedy for anxiety is to simply accept your circumstances. No, the remedy he offers for anxiety is that we must involve Jesus in our circumstances. That is what prayer does. It is not a mantra to calm you down. It is a conversation with a Person who is capable of intervening in your circumstances.
Pray to God because he is real, and the act of prayer puts Jesus in the picture.
Supplicate him because he is the source of peace in your situation.
Offer thanksgiving because he is good and has already given you much.
Make a request because he is powerful and he is the one who is sovereign over your situation.
Remember from last week that anxiety is the unproductive concern about something you can’t do anything about and that might not happen. So, if you can do something, then do it. That’s not anxiety, that’s acting on information. But if you can’t do anything about it and don’t know the future, then you must channel your fretting and worry into prayer because God does know the future and can do something.
If you grasp this…truly…it will change your life. It will alter your thinking and you will pray more and more about more and more. Do you ever feel that it is silly to pray that God calms your nerves about an exam, because there are people who have “real problems” like cancer and poverty and persecution? Well the command is: in everything … let your requests be made known to God.
Overcoming anxiety is a lifestyle, it’s a worldview. It’s in everything. When you practice the skill of praying you build a reflex and a habit that makes prayer for the “big things” more natural.
If you believe that God is good, that he loves you, that he is sovereign and able to act… then the anxiety you experience will decrease.
Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Peace is tranquility, calmness, a sense of centered well-being. These are the goals of Zen gurus, yogis, day spas, and meditation retreats. But here Paul promises that if you repent of anxiety rather than excuse it, and if you focus on gratitude to God, and ask God for his involvement: you will experience true peace.
The Greek word for peace is irene. It means peace of mind, tranquility arising from reconciliation with God and a sense of a divine favor. The Old Testament equivalent is Shalom.
This isn’t an artificial ‘ignorance is bliss’ type of peace. It’s the peace that comes from God—it is supernatural. And it is a gift from God. You merely need to ask for it.
Anxiety happens in your thinking and feeling, not in reality. Remember that anxiety is not a fearful reaction to a situation that is happening, but one that is not happening yet and only might happen in the future. So the remedy is administered to the heart and mind. Peace comes from being at peace with God through Christ.
So, when the landlord says your rent is late, he may have to litigate… don’t worry, be godly.