What’s the biggest mess you’ve ever been in? I’ll bet it wasn’t big enough that you almost caused World War III though, right?
Before I tell you about one of my colleagues (who DID almost single handedly cause World War III, let me welcome you to “Mornings with Bishop Robert”
Well let’s get to World War III, shall we? In Nov 1989 one of my colleagues was assigned to a military unit in Germany, stationed at one of the Berlin Wall crossings. When the entire Soviet guard force simply drove away one evening they were shocked. Though the US commanders had issued strict orders that “no one was to cross into East Berlin,” their unit was not one of the typical units. In what was not one of the brightest choices of his military career, he and his A-team immediately took two well-armed and well-armored vehicles into East Berlin.
While the trip into forbidden territory went well, the return trip almost triggered an international incident. As they were returning they were met by two Soviet staff cars leaving the border region. The Soviet cars passed the US military vehicles and stopped; so both US vehicles immediately stopped and trained the guns in their mounted turrets on the vehicles. A very tense couple of moments passed in what soldiers call a “high-pucker-factor” situation. Eventually the Soviet cars continued on, and not a trigger was pulled by either side.
Well, I’ll confess to having entered a country or two without either official notice or paperwork (I won’t say which ones), but I’ve never triggered a war.
Today’s verse says IN NOTHING BE ANXIOUS
That command, like many that God gives us, is simple to understand and much more difficult to obey.
Let’s face it, you and I can end up in some pretty anxious situations. The first word out of my mouth after I hear an instruction like IN NOTHING BE ANXIOUS is the word “BUT” as I begin to explain things to God. (Like He wasn’t aware of them, or something!!)
I’ll begin to whine, “But Lord, I have no idea where the money will come from.” Or “But Lord, the doctor said the diagnosis was clear and the prognosis was not good.” But, but, but … Telling God all the reasons I think it’s too hard to obey His word. Explaining the fears, doubts, trepidations and odds to the God of the universe. For the record, let me state that when you read about a “wine offering” in the Old Testament, there’s no “h” in it. Whining to God about our fears and doubts isn’t part of biblical sacrifice.
Interestingly enough, not only is “BUT” the first word out of MY mouth after I hear an instruction like IN NOTHING BE ANXIOUS ;” it’s the first word out of GOD’S MOUTH after He gives the instruction IN NOTHING BE ANXIOUS. It’s true!! The full verse says, “IN NOTHING BE ANXIOUS, BUT IN EVERY SITUATION, BY PRAYER AND PETITION, WITH THANKSGIVING, PRESENT YOUR REQUESTS TO GOD.” So you and I have to choose what kind of a “but” we want to be. “BUT” I want to whine and doubt; or “BUT” I will pray and give thanks.
When we choose God’s approach to challenging situations, and say “BUT in everything I’ll be thankfully prayerfully presenting my requests to God,” something amazing happens. The first part is a pretty good deal, we get to bring our concerns about the situation – the things that are making us anxious – directly to the Lord God Almighty. We ask Him to take care of the issue, to give us wisdom — whatever is on our heart. We don’t need any special language or posture. We come to Him thankful that He hears us.
The second part is nothing short of amazing. Because after the “BUT” God tosses in an “AND” for good measure. The next verse says, “AND the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” What a promise!! He gives us His peace and proceeds to guard our hearts so we don’t lose His peace. This process allows us to walk in total peace. In other words, IN NOTHING BE ANXIOUS will actually work for us.
We can choose to recognize the challenges, BUT be thankful that God walks through every circumstance with us, take every concern we have and give them to Him in prayer with gratitude and faith, AND get His peace within so that we are not anxious or distressed. That’s the path that leads to greater strength, deeper faith and ultimate victory. Or we can choose to look at the promises and faithfulness of God, BUT focus on our fear and doubt.
We cannot always change the outcome of a test or a challenging situation in our lives. What we can absolutely control is the way we choose to face it. I may not be able to control whether I win or lose any given battle, but I can always control whether or not I quit.
I’ll take the BUT along with the AND every time. Who wants to be just a BUT?