Read Philippians 4:4-9
It is hard to keep a positive attitude in these stressful times. With all that we have had to give up, reschedule and do without, the negative looms large.
The Apostle Paul has a word for us. His letter to the church at Philippi is a letter filled with joy, even though the fledgling church is experiencing uncertain and anxious times. Paul begins this passage by exhorting the people to rejoice, reminding them who they are and whose they are. Then he says, “Let your gentleness be known to everyone.” (v. 4)
How often I need reminded these days to be gentle with those who are sharing bad news, negative attitudes, those who are experiencing fear and anxiety! While some folks’ concerns seem irrational and unrealistic, it is more helpful to listen to them than to challenge them.
Then comes the showstopper: “Do not worry about anything,” says Paul. (v.6) Are you kidding me? These are unprecedented times! What is ahead for our community, our nation, our world? Yet, someone has said, and I firmly believe it:
worrying is simply unchristian!
Worrying implies that God may not be able to handle the situation. We need to remember God has never left us nor forsaken us, and God has promised to be with us throughout our lives, in life after death, and forever. That is not only a cause for hope, but for great joy!
A prominent woman in a congregation I served told me this passage, Philippians 4:4-9, was her favorite Scripture. I could see why. When she and her husband were in their late 80s, my wife and I saw them on New Year’s Eve at Severance Hall dancing in the Rotunda well after midnight, while we were tired and ready to go home. What gave this woman her zest for living? She followed the Apostle Paul’s instructions. She not only read his words, she lived them. She disciplined her mind to focus on what is excellent and praiseworthy, what is honorable and just and pleasing.
Recently my wife and I bought a new stove. It quit working after less than one day! When the repairman came, days later, he discovered that the stove had been wired incorrectly. The motor was fried and could have caused a major fire. Because of the Coronavirus delays, it will be weeks until the company can replace our stove. But my wife, Barb, is resourceful. She remembered that we have a camping stove, a hot plate that we could put on top of our stove to use in the meantime, while restaurants are not open, and we are sheltered at home.
We are thankful we did not have a fire, and that we are safe. Paul would say, “If there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (v. 8)
My friends, regardless of our circumstances, we always have reason to rejoice and give thanks, for as Paul reminds us, “the God of peace will be with us.” (v. 9)
Dear God, we are tempted every day to dwell on the negative aspects of our lives. In challenging circumstances, help us to resist anxiety and worry, and place our faith and trust in you. Help us to dwell on our blessings, on the good things, and most of all, help us to focus on your love and presence with us. Calm us and fill us with joy and peace. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Charles Yoost, Lakeside Chautauqua Director of Religious Life