Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Our Epistle for this week, from Philippians 4:4-7, came up also in a special Thanksgiving service which I recently led. It applies just as well to the preparations we make for the Christmas season. Here Paul tells the Philippians not to be anxious about anything. That seems really difficult, especially when we think not only of festive occasions, but also of the many trials that can come upon us at any time. In my country, we are approaching the shortest day of the year. We move into the coldest time of year, the time when a lot of industry that depends on work outside closes down due to weather, the time when seasonal employment in the retail sector is getting ready to be cut off, the time when some types of manufacturing shut down for a while to retool for the next year’s model of whatever they are making. There’s some uncertainty there. We are also moving into the season when influenza and other related illnesses predictably claim the lives of 12,000 to 60,000 Americans each year. That’s a whole lot of uncertainty, produced from what most of us would consider a fairly routine type of infection. Don’t be anxious? This is EXACTLY the right time to be anxious!
What’s the rest of verse 6? We commit everything to God through Jesus in prayer. We give him thanks. We are telling a heavenly Father who cares about the troubles we may face, about the fears we have, about our uncertainty, about the troubles of those around us, big and small. And we can do it with thanksgiving. After all, the Lord is able and willing to care for the needs of His people. There’s no reason to think He would abandon us. He likes us to bring our problems before Him. He cares for his children.
As we commit our concerns to the Lord, I want to observe something in verse seven. It is often misquoted, as a benediction or a wish for someone. “May the peace of God…” But this isn’t what the apostle Paul said. He made a statement, a factual statement. “The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds.” This is the natural result of turning our concerns over to the Lord. He will guard our hearts with His peace. There’s no room left for that anxiety. Yes, there’s a lot of uncertainty in our lives. But who is in charge of the world? Not I, not my fears, not my hopes, nor even my thoughts and prayers. God almighty is in charge of the world. As we commit our cares to Him, He will guard our hearts and minds. No fear. Uncertainty, yes, but fear? Not at all.
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