Message for 5/3 “God in Troubled Times”

This Sunday, Pastor Steve recorded the message! You can watch it on YouTube, or read the sermon below.

3 May 2020 Sunday Message

Title: God in Troubled Times

Call to Worship: Philippians 4:4 – 7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Tithe and Offering Prayer; Father, we open our hearts, our minds, and our being to your promptings, your direction. Lord, we pray that you teach us to be happy givers of our very being, to further your kingdom in this hurting world. Amen!

Scripture Reading; 1 Peter 1:3-8

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us a new birth and a living hope. This hope is living because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He has given us new birth so that we might share in what belongs to him. This is a gift that can never be destroyed. It can never spoil or even fade away. It is kept in heaven for you. Through faith you are kept safe by God’s power. Your salvation is going to be completed. It is ready to be shown to you in the last days. Because you know all this, you have great joy. You have joy even though you may have had to suffer for a little while. You may have had to suffer sadness in all kinds of trouble. Your troubles have come in order to prove that your faith is real. Your faith is worth more than gold. That’s because gold can pass away even when fire has made it pure. Your faith is meant to bring praise, honor and glory to God. This will happen when Jesus Christ returns. Even though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not see him now, you believe in him. You are filled with a glorious joy that can’t be put into words.

Message: “God’s Peace in Troubled Times”

Hello to my church family in God, and anyone else who may be watching this first ever, First Baptist of Ogden broadcast. Yes, we are trying something new today, posting a Sunday message on the internet, due to the challenges we are facing trying to worship together during this Covid-19 pandemic. Today’s message is intended for Sunday 3 May 2020. So, let me start out this experiment with a story.

There was a man who had everything—a devoted wife, instead of children he had toys beyond count, a comfortable home in the nice part of town, two cars and a pickup, they both worked, and he had a job that paid a great salary. But he was an emotional wreck. He needed a pill to go to sleep, a pill to wake up, a pill before meals, and a pill to stop his hands from shaking.

He was subject to panic attacks that made his legs go numb and his chest tight and gave the feeling that the whole room was spinning around. He justified all the pills by saying, well at least I don’t drink, or smoke. Soon he could not bring himself to go to work or meet friends or even leave the house. After suffering what seemed to be a nervous breakdown, a psychiatrist prescribed him more drugs of course, but he only felt worse as a result.

On his doctor’s advice to mellow out and try to relax, he went to visit some good friends in another part of the country. While visiting with those friends of his, he felt an attack coming on as he tried to leave the house. Blocked by some of his friends, he sat down and blurted out the whole story. He ended desperately by saying that no one could help him.

Then one of his friends said that someone could: Jesus. He told him his own story of how Christ had delivered him from emotional agony and despair. They read some Scripture, had a prayer, and then went to dinner.

The man grew in his newfound Christian faith and never had another panic attack. (And he lived happily ever after.) OK maybe he did, and maybe, he was like you and I and after discovering the peace and security in our Lord, went on to learn that there is no one quick fix to the pain, hardships, and challenges in our live. What we have is a Lord that will walk the walk with us, when we commit to walk in Him, as we build or rebuild our lives.

Perhaps what our friend found after hitting his rock bottom, is that there were people out there that cared and a God who loves him in spite of him. What he found was peace by believing in the words from our “Call to Worship” for our message today in Philippians 4:4-7, a promise passed on to us by the apostle Paul for peace in troubled times. In fact, Paul presents us with a Blueprint on the lifecycle for a distinctive crisis, a typical problem, or the routine challenges that pervade our lives.

Things start out with…

  1. The problem: anxiety, worry, and fear.

Then hopefully we turn to…

  1. The answer to our anxiety, worries, and fears: “Prayer”.

And in time, we begin to see…

  1. The result: Peace of mind, and a way ahead.
  2. The problem: anxiety. (For the term anxiety, I am referring to the NIV Translation of Philippians which along with the NKJV uses the word anxious instead of worry, and I believe it is more accurate in this passage)

Specifically, from verse 6, Paul says; “Do not be anxious about anything.” This is where we need to look at the difference between anxiety and other things. Anxiety is not quite the same thing as worry or fear. Worry or fear often have a basis for existence, but similar to, anxiety often begins from within.

There is the biblical example in Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus. When Jesus visited with them, she was anxious and troubled about the serving of the meal. She was so anxiety ridden that she could not enjoy the company of Jesus while he was in her home. Her anxiety, let to her worrying about the wrong things and afraid of things outside her control. Sound familiar?

Anxiety often marks people’s lives. Personally, I can cook up a case of anxiety from within me on a whim, not because I enjoy it, but because it is one of those bad habits, one of those things that is easy to do. As easy as auto pilot or sleepwalking. Anxiety is usually self-manufactured deep inside ourselves, and many times leads us into other challenges, of angst, worry and fear, which are close siblings. We know what the Lord has to say about such things. From the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6: 25-34, Jesus instructs the following:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

There are so many times, follow this teaching would make our live so much better! I read the Lord’s words and I know immediately He is right. I can identify with what He is saying which is why He is such a great teacher. But…What about the stuff we are going through now?

Granted, we have been scared to death about this pandemic that has ravaged our Country, not knowing how or who it was going to affect. Our loved ones? In the scheme of things, a contagion is much greater in the fear factor than what you are going to wear, or what you are going to eat. Unless you are cold or starving. But, I believe through His instruction, our Lord is leading us into a relationship where we learn to lean on Him more, worry about stuff less.

 

As a side note, this doesn’t mean that all problems go away like magic. It means that we begin to learn how to address our anxiety, worries, and fears in a healthier way.

It is essential to keep this in mind today as you absorb this message and decide for your selves what to keep. What to remember, and try out for your selves. Beginning with we are not the first followers of the Lord to face the uncertainties of what seems to be a scary uncaring world. We have brothers and sisters who today have lived with this kind of uncertainty all of their lives, all across the planet. Additionally, we stand on the shoulders of Christians who have come before us who face life and death consequences throughout the history of the church. In any case uncertainty, the unknown, is a very scary thing when one first comes in contact with it for the first time.

And yet, I am reminded again of Solomon who instructed in so many words from Ecclesiastes 3:9-10, Everything has been done before in this world, there’s nothing new under the sun.

This is the good news for us to reflect on. Indeed, our Christian forefathers in scripture have been through hard times as well, which is why Paul could instruct “not have anxiety about anything” to the Philippian church. Which is accomplished by trusting in and having faith in our Lord.

Peter backs up this assertion from our scripture reading today, Peter teaches in 1 Peter 1:3

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us a new birth and a living hope. This hope is living because Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

As a side note; both Peter and Paul are throughout scripture, going in the same direction. Towards our Lord and Savour Jesus Christs, both relentlessly affirming His majesty time after time their letters and teachings. Both always taking their concerns to the Lord in Prayer. The most powerful thing that you have access to in the universe, is communicating to your Lord! Paul goes on to say in our Call to Worship that it is prayer and petition with thankfulness that we should reach out to our Lord.

In fact, that leads us to the next phase of the life of a problem; a trial, hardship, or challenge; must be addressed by communicating with our Lord.

  1. The answer to our anxiety, worries, and fears: prayer.

Paul gives us an answer to anxiety: prayer that recognizes God, opens our hearts to God, and gives thanks to God. Notice the specific things said about prayer in the face of anxiety:

A prayer of praise. Our supplications, or our prayer request are made with praise and thanksgiving. Prayer begins with praise to God.

Case in point: The Lord teaches how to form a prayer in Mathew 6 starting at verse 9-10

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven

Beginning with hollowed is God name, followed with a statement of fact about our Lord’s will be done!

We begin this way because when we understand who God is and what we are not, everything begins to come into place. This is the same God who answered one of our ministers over the Food Pantry, when he asked God for some life in the church’s food pantry, and on our next food delivery from the Food Bank, the Lord delivered a pallet of case after case of Life Cereal.

Your God is alive and well in the 21st century!

This is an inclusive prayer. To be used, and used; “In every situation” is the way Paul expressed it NIV.

Please let me stress this important point: Nothing that concerns any of us, Christians or otherwise, is too inconsequential to take to God in prayer.

I have a friend that I care about very much who asked me just this last Tuesday if it was OK to pray to God about things, we are worried about or need. (Yes, I was listening to you in the midst of serving our friends in the neighbourhood the other day) He is dealing with some potential medical issues and is worried. And that is perfectly normal!

By the way, there are some people that believe that they have already sinned if they are worried about something, or have real fear about a situation. Here is my thought, and that’s all it is. You need to pray about this as with all other things with the Lord. My thought is that these feeling are real, and after we have identified that we have them, we are now ready to take them to the Lord in prayer, and commit them to God with the expectation of an answer, regardless of if we like the answer or not, is forthcoming.

Yes, anxiety, worry, and fear are real feelings within us all, and admitting it is step one! It is my hope that todays message will remind you that you always have access to a God that loves you. A Lord that knows everything about you. A Holy Spirit that is ready to walk every challenge with you!

It doesn’t matter that you are not worthy. Because you are not! None of us are. And yet, our God loves you and I even after all we have done or not done, thinking of doing, scheming, plotting, and or deceiving. Your God awaits you to call on Him, express your sorrow for missing the mark (sin), learn from the mistake and move on in relationship in Him.

I would go so far as to say, when we come to the Lord with all of our concerns, God is overjoyed with happiness. Yes. You can bring joy to your creator by placing all of your trust in Him!

After expressing those concerns of yours, the next stage in the prayer phase would be to listen to what your Lord has to say. How do you know if God is speaking to you? Again, here is my thought; practice. In any relationship, the more real communication that takes place, the better each person understands the other. This is exactly what I believe the Lord desires in each and every one of us; an intimate one on one relationship that is like no other relationship in the world.

This leads us almost automatically to our prayer resulting in a serenity that grows with practice, a hope, that builds with experience, a trust that forms a foundation of future successes in our Lord, with our Lord.

III. The third phase or result: peace.

  1. The kind of peace that; transcends all understanding, a peace that has to be experienced before it can be understood, and for many of us, it takes practice to mature to the point of understanding the Lord’s message. This is the kind of peace I feel when I pray with you. It is a unique kind of feeling, but I seem to feel it more in my church family’s company than other times. That’s my story, I think everyone experiences this differently, because the Lord is reaching out to each of us in a way that works best for each of us.
  2. The extent of the peace. This peace will stand guard over the believer’s heart and mind, as Paul instructed to the Philippians. Again, I believe this is unique to each of us, and unique to every Congregation, based on relationships in the Lord.
  3. The source of the peace. This peace is thankfully; “through Christ Jesus.” It is not a manmade phenomenon that wilts on the vine once the excitement ends. Each time we make contact in the Lord, its like the first time all over again, yet it is as if we are reinforcing that bridge between us and a God that wants to be in relationship with you. A bridge that gets stronger with use not weaker, and our Lord is able to carry the load over and over again.

Challenging times, times like right now for many of us are always around the corner. They will come right at us, but we have a promise of peace, from the Prince of Peace. It is my hope that in this time of challenge, that you search out someone to share with, someone to love deeply, and at the same time, share your challenges with the one who will remain steadfast through all anxieties, worries, and fears. Your Lord!

God bless you.

You are not alone.

In fact, you are deeply loved! By God, and the members of this church family, where you will always find refuge.

Benediction; Based on the 23rd Psalm

May the Lord be your shepherd, and you not want.
    May He make me you down in green pastures,
may He lead you beside the still waters,
    May He restore your soul.
May He guide you along paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though you may walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
May you never fear evil,
for He will be with you;
His rod and your staff,
may they comfort you.

May He prepare a table before you
in the presence of your enemies.
May He anoint your head with oil;
your cup overflows.
Surely goodness and kindness will follow you
all the days of your life,
and may you will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. Amen!