2020-3-15 The Cure for Anxious Times and Souls

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          March 15, 2020

“The Cure for Anxious Times and Souls”
Philippians 4:4-7

The coronavirus issue is the issue in America and in our world this week.  I had no idea last week, as we considered Ephesians 6:10-20, that the virus—and issues related thereunto—would multiply as it did.  This situation has led to outright panic in some quarters, and it has led to serious, justifiable concern from nearly all.

We have noted widespread adjustments in our culture to the actual or potential spread of the coronavirus.  We note the cancellation of sporting events (e. g., the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments) and suspension of seasons (e. g., the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League).  We note the temporary travel bans in place—in particular we note this week’s ban on all travel from Europe, save the United Kingdom, for everyone save American citizens returning to the United States.  We also note the temporary bans, in some locations, on large assemblies; for example, all assemblies in California of more than two hundred fifty persons—via executive order from Governor Gavin Newsom, are banned for now.  We also see the temporary closing of schools (such as Southwestern Community College here) and churches (on a voluntary basis in Kentucky)—with alternate delivery of content and events.  We also continue to endure volatile financial markets—and that for a host of reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic.  In short, we continue to have the external upheaval, producing inner turmoil, that we noted last week in our sermon from Ephesians 6:10-20.

Truly, we need to hear from God again this week—and, boy, does He have a welcome word for us today.  Let us give our attention to the reading and preaching of God’s inspired, in-Scripturated, infallible, and inerrant Word.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

It comes as no surprise to us that the Holy Spirit, leading the Apostle Paul, commands us to rejoice—for that command occurs often in Philippians—the epistle of Christian joy.  Paul conditions that rejoicing somewhat.  We are to rejoice always, no matter our set of circumstances, but we are to rejoice in the Lord—in His Person and works.  Who God is, and what He does, provides ample cause for rejoicing, but, should we forget or grow timid in our circumstance, the Lord through Paul repeats the command—both for emphasis and for aid to memory.  Let us, no matter our circumstance, no matter our anxiety level, rejoice in the Lord by the Spirit’s help.

Let us also, as the English Standard Version says, show our reasonableness (Greek epieikes [epieikhV]) to all.  This fluid Greek noun can mean, in varying contexts, gentleness, graciousness, or forbearance.[1]  Let this—or these, if you will—be known to all men.  They will testify favorably of our Lord when we display them—especially as we display them in apparently adverse circumstances.  After all, the Lord is near—and if He be near, then what can trouble us?

Yet, alas, things do trouble us.  Therefore, give what’s troubling you to God.  Paul, led by the Spirit, commands us to be anxious about nothing.  This anxious concern that we often feel is based upon apprehension about possible danger or misfortune.[2]  Resist, by God’s grace, giving yourself over to such anxious concern.  Jesus Himself taught us not to worry about our food or our clothing (cf. Matthew vi.25-34).  In place of these, we shall seek the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and these needful things over which we worry shall be ours as well.

In place of worry, commit everything—or all—to the Lord.  Omit nothing that concerns you.  Think not that your concern is either too big for God to handle or too small for Him to notice.  Also resist the temptation to think that God will not act on your behalf because He is ill-disposed toward you, for if you be in Christ, He is inexpressibly kindly disposed toward you.  Commit everything, then, to the Lord by prayer and by plea.  We pray, of course, to God, in Jesus’ Name, in the power and presence of the Spirit.  We also plead with him—with special urgency and fervor based upon the depth and acuteness of our need.  Thus, let your requests be made known to God.  Granted, He does not need us to inform Him of our need—yet He would hear it from us.  Go to Him, then, with what troubles you, and go boldly—for He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

After praying thus about what troubles you, receive the Lord’s peace.  It is a peace not as the world gives (John 14:27), and, because it comes from Him Who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), it is infinitely to be preferred to this world’s substitutes.  The peace of God surpasses all human capacity for understanding; you cannot explain or even understand it fully, but you know beyond all doubt when it pervades your soul.  Moreover, this peace will guard your hearts and minds against anxiety in Christ Jesus.  By this peace we are protected from this fiery arrow from the evil one.  Hence, by this same peace we are delivered from inner turmoil to tranquility.

Does coronavirus, and its associated ills, worry you?  Most of us, if we be honest, confess to temptation along this line.  What else worries you?  Do you have other health issues that worry you?  Do you worry over financial and material concerns?  Do you have worries about a relationship in your life, or do you worry on behalf of loved ones—especially if they won’t take the trouble to worry about themselves?  Do you harbor worries over some other dreaded possible outcome to a set of events in your life?

Don’t forget our helps from God’s Word today—helps which form the cure for our anxious souls in these anxious times.  Rejoice, no matter what—again, the Lord says, rejoice.  Let your gentle, gracious forbearance of adversity be known to all.  Give what worries you to God—and, by His grace, leave it there.  Finally, receive His precious peace—a peace which none can explain, which none can receive save His redeemed in Christ Jesus, and which none can shake once it settles deeply within the believing soul.  May the Lord bless you and guard you in these days with His precious peace.

AMEN.

[1] See Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).

[2] From the definition of merimnao (merimnaw), ibid.