Weekly Devotional – Week of Monday, September 28, 2020

Opening Prayer (from the Book of Common Prayer, Occasional Prayers)

O Lord our God, accept the fervent prayers of your people; in the multitude of your mercies, look with compassion upon us and all who turn to you for help; for you are gracious, O lover of souls, and to you we give glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen

Bible Reading – Philippians 4:4-7 (English Standard Version)

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Devotional – Finding Peace in the Midst of Uncertainty

Like in most families, my family members do not always agree.  I am the youngest of three and periodically throughout the year we all get together.  Usually, our gatherings involve a shared meal.  Inevitably during our meal together diverse topics of the world will come up for discussion.  Unfortunately, and more often than not, what began as a civil discussion breaks down into strong disagreement.  Most of the time something will happen to defuse the heated debate, but there are times when it escalates to a point of no return.  In those cases, all that was accomplished were hurt feelings and division.  No one was persuaded by anyone else’s point of view and it sometimes takes weeks or even months for the wounds to heal.

Have you ever had that experience?  My guess is that you have, whether it be with a friend, a spouse, a child, or fellow co-workers.  The sinful nature in all of us longs to always be vindicated.  So, we argue and fight until we get to the point that we think we have won the argument.  Whether we win the argument or not, the damage done in the process to these important relationships is long-lasting.

In many ways, the church in Philippi was in the midst of one of these family quarrels when Paul wrote this letter to them.  They were deeply divided by the persecution and suffering they were facing from the outside world.  They could not agree on how to handle the difficult circumstances they were facing.  Instead of coming together in humble submission to the Lord and one another, they fiercely stood their ground and, in the process, damaged their unity in Christ.  Not only was this damaging to fellowship within the church, but it was also detrimental to their witness of the Gospel to the world around them.  Who would want to be part of such a fellowship?  Who would want to follow a God whose people fight and quarrel among themselves?  There is enough of that in the world as it is.

I think that we can relate to what the Philippians were experiencing on many levels.  Today we are living in a society that is deeply divided by the response to this pandemic, the proper steps to take in response to social unrest, and the anxiety-filled political Presidential election that is before us.  To make matters worse this division is creeping its way into the church.  We too are facing all the disagreements and anxieties that these issues are creating in this world.  If we are not careful, the same bitterness, division and anxiety that is plaguing our society will also infect the body of Christ.  The threat is real.  I have no doubt Satan will stop at nothing to encourage it; fanning the flames until they burn us all up.  We are facing the threat of division within the fellowship and the devasting blow it brings to our witness of the Gospel in this world.

So, what is the answer?  How should we be on guard against this evil threat in our lives?  In verse 5 Paul said, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand.”  The word Paul uses here means to be gentle, mild, fair, and equitable with one another.  This can be difficult when the sinful nature in all of us wants to be “right” and “victorious” all the time.  But be assured the Lord is not absent from our discussions and disagreements.  He is present with us and ultimately, He is in control.  We do not have to be “right” and “victorious” and the truth is we never are.  We have the freedom in Christ to be reasonable with one another, even disagreeing at times, and in the end to give the argument or situation fully over to His control.

One reason we argue so fiercely is that deep down in our hearts there is the burning anxiousness that the fate of the world is dependent upon our victories.  But Paul instructed the Philippians, “do not be anxious about anything.”  Our anxieties stem from the false idea that we are the ones who are in control.  The world is controlled by so much anxiety because we think we are the only ones who can save ourselves.  If we do not get it right then doom awaits us all.  Alas we are not the ones who are in control, the Lord is at hand.  He is at work in all things.  Our God is not absent from human affairs.

For this reason, Paul urged the Philippians, “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.”  It is in prayer that we humbly submit our lives and our wills to the Lord.  It is in prayer that we lay down our requests and our needs and offer Him the thanksgiving that He alone deserves for the work He is doing in the world and in our lives.  Prayer is the vehicle through which we recognize that we are not the ones who are in control of the ultimate fate of the world.  That honor and glory belong to God alone.  This pandemic will not ultimately determine our futures.  How we address the social issues of our society will not ultimately determine the fate of the world.  Who gets elected will not ultimately determine the destiny of our country.  God alone will determine our ultimate well-being and it will always be for His honor and glory.

When we release our lust for control in prayer there is a wonderful and abiding reward.  The reward is peace.  Paul said, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Friends, what we need right now in our lives is the protection of God’s peace.  God is firmly in control of the fate of our country, our world, and our everyday lives.  We are free to let go and allow Him to be God.  We know how it all ends.  Jesus has won the victory over sin and death and the devil.  He will return to judge the living and the dead and when He does, He will make all things new.  Let peace be the hallmark and witness of the church to a world that so desperately needs it.

Closing Prayer (from the Book of Common Prayer, Occasional Prayer)

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace to take to heart the grave dangers we are in through our many divisions. Deliver your Church from all enmity and prejudice, and everything that hinders us from godly union. As there is one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so make us all to be of one heart and of one mind, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and love, that with one voice we may give you praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God in everlasting glory.  Amen.