I attended the fourth through sixth grades at St Eugene’s Parochial School back in the mid 1960’s. One of the highlights of those years was my participation on the school’s Crosswalk Traffic Patrol Team. Now a days this is a paid position performed by adults (at least it is in our home town). But back then, it was a big deal to be able to wear the bright colored safety vest and carry the safety standard complete with the large eight sided red STOP sign attached to it. And if you got to be the Captain or Lieutenant (depending on which of the two locations we were stationed at) and blow the whistle… well, you were in seventh heaven!
The job definitely held a sense of authority and power because when you stepped out into traffic bearing that big sign, those cars had to obey and stop! (unless you stepped out a little too late and almost get run over by a semi like I once did.. I got an ear or two of some of the most non-Christian words I’d ever heard before that day!) That big red sign caught the driver’s attention and forced them to yield to its directions.
I had that same reaction this morning as I happened to catch a big red sign at the beginning of each of the verses in Philippians 4:4-7. Beginning in verse four the signs commanded me to: “Always”, “Everybody”, “Never”, and “Every” with the result of such actions being: “Then.”
Philippians 4:4 commands us to “ALWAYS be joyful in the Lord!” and to emphasize his point the writer repeats himself saying “I’ll say it again: Be joyful!” (God’s Word ©) He continues by instructing us to “Let EVERYONE see that you are gentle and kind…” (Easy To Read Version) From there we are frankly told to “NEVER worry about anything. But in EVERY situation let God know what you need…” (God’s Word ©) The rewards of our obedience to those four commands is summed up with the definite promise of “THEN God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.” (God’s Word ©)
I am not too sure if Paul could have been any clearer in his commands from the Lord to us! It is pretty black and white to me. They simply and specifically state God’s way for us to follow. There is no other way… and there is no time or situation when another option is available or approved for use! Yet these directions are probably some of the most abused commands known to mankind! Why do you think that is when they are so clearly stated? I would imagine it is because that they, many times, go completely opposite to what our human nature wants us to do!
It is a natural reaction for us to want to get angry with someone who says or does something that is not complementary to us. It is a natural reaction for us to want to vent our hurt with others and let them know who did what to us. It is a natural reaction to be stern, authoritative or to look and sound tough and confident when others are not gentle and kind with us. I think it is a form of what we consider to be self-preservation or saving face! And to be joyful or glad at ALL times… come on, you’ve got to be kidding… right? Well, not according to the Apostle Paul.
And to make matters worse, I have had people… mature Christian family members, think and actually tell me and my kids about me, that they thought that I was naïve, being uncaring, not doing anything about the situation or just being plain stupid because I refused to worry about my wife’s situation while I put my trust into the loving, faithful and supernaturally powerful hands of Papa God!
But Paul’s instructions seem to say “Who cares what they think? What matters is what God says and that we obey Him!” As I thought on this earlier this morning, I heard the Lord say that we “are not to let other people and their thoughts about us define us, but we are to let the Word of God define who we are.”
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense, for the rewards of listening to others who react in ways that are contrary to what God’s Word says are judgment, criticism, self-incrimination and a definite lack of faith and a void to the experience of Papa God’s love. While Philippians 4:7 declares that the rewards of ALWAYS, to EVERYONE, NEVER and in EVERY situation are a guarantee of His PEACE, which we are told goes far beyond ANYTHING we (or they) can understand and that this supernatural peace will guard our thoughts and emotions because of and through our union with Christ Jesus and these, His Words.
What do you think? Are you ready to simplify your life by only following and obeying Papa God’s big red safety standards? A funny thing… When we do this, it actually puts us in the driver’s seat of our lives, and takes it out of the hands of those who are trying to confuse things by following their own human understanding. So grab the brightly colored safety vest of God’s Word and go forth to carry and live Papa God’s standards of life today. In the long run… God’s way is the most rewarding and enjoyable way to go! - I remember one time when we got to go out in a pouring rainstorm and got absolutely soaked… boy, was that ever fun! - Have a great day. Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s way am I expecting to OBEY today?”