When we start a new day we all realize deep down inside that there is always uncertainty. We don’t really control the events of the day … not really. So much of life is beyond our control. But to be honest, we don’t think too much about that on a normal day. Normal routines and set schedules not only help us get through life in a productive way, but they also settle our souls. There is comfort in knowing what to expect.
But when circumstances change and a fog settles in on the future our lives tend to get unsettled. No one, not even the strongest among us, likes the feeling of being unsettled.
Having a soul that is not at peace because things around us are out of our control is hard to shake. Especially when news anchors, politicians, and world leaders are saying things like “we have no clear answers”, “things will get worse before they get better” and “we are not sure how the next few months will play out.” And it’s even harder to shake when new expressions like “social distancing,” “self-isolation,” and “self-quarantine” are repeated incessantly on the news and social media.
We all are living with all of these things right now. I don’t believe in my lifetime the entire world has ever battled the same enemy at the same time. But we are now.
We think that the only remedy for an unsettled soul in these days is for someone to remove the uncertainty. In other words, find the cure for the virus and all is well again. That is what we should be praying for as Christians. And it is my prayer that God will be gracious to us all and provide us with a remedy for this devastating virus.
But I think God reveals in his Word that there is another way to have settled soul, even in the middle of uncertainty.
I’ve been reading and listening to Philippians for the last few months. To be honest, I’ve invested hours upon hours to listening and reading these four chapters for the encouragement of my own heart and in preparation for a series of messages to our church. This week as I read I listened with a different set of ears. I began to noticed something in Paul’s life – the settledness of Paul’s soul as he wrote.
Paul was writing this letter while under house arrest in Rome. He did not know how his arrest would end. In Chapter 1 he shares with us the uncertainty of what awaited him … life or death. He wasn’t exaggerating when he talked about the possibility of his death, the uncertainty was real. While he was confident that God would see him through this most challenging time, in reality his future was just as unsettled as our is today.
As I read Philippians what captivated my attention was the way Paul wrote – the resolve and peace that had taken up residence in his heart and breathed hope into every word of this short letter. It is truly remarkable. He found certainty in the middle of earth-shattering uncertainty.
As I read this letter again another thing becomes obvious, Paul wasn’t strong enough to possess this kind of resolve and peace on his own. Paul was indeed a strong man, but the confession of his own soul lets us know his settled soul was a gift.
Listen to Paul’s words about how he dealt with the circumstances of life.
It’s a secret!
… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:11–13 (ESV)
Paul said he was content “in whatever situation” that surrounded him. That word means “self-sufficient” in the best way. Paul had a secret that gave him the ability to be content and satisfied in any situation.
What’s the secret? I have good news – Paul’s secret is really no secret at all! It is available to every believer. Paul found certainty in uncertainty through a relationship with Jesus Christ. After talking to Christians throughout the state I’m convinced that we all need to be reminded that we have everything Paul had in a relationship with Jesus.
So, how does Paul’s “secret” become our own? Early in chapter 4 Paul reveals how Jesus brings us certainty in uncertainty!
The love of God gives us joy! v.4
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Philippians 4:4 (ESV)
The unshakeable, unbreakable, eternal love of God gives us reason to rejoice in the Lord even in unsettling times. Listen …
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35, 37-39 (ESV)
The presence of God gives us comfort! v. 5
5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
Philippians 4:5 (ESV)
Even in prison Paul knew Jesus was with him … he is with us as well. Remember David’s confession in the 23rd Psalm?
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:1–4 (ESV)
The sovereignty of God gives us security. v. 6
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Philippians 4:6 (ESV)
Worry and anxiety always show up when we feel like things are out of control. We don’t have to be in control or certain of the how things will turn out in the future when we remember that God is always in control.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 (ESV)
God is our rock, our anchor. Sometimes we don’t understand how great God’s strength is until we really need it. Corrie ten Boom said, “In order to realize the worth of the anchor we need to feel the stress of the storm.”
Corrie ten Boom worked with her family as a Dutch watchmaker. She, along with family members, provided help to Jews who were trying to escape the Nazis persecution during the Holocaust of World War II. While hiding Jews in their home they were arrested and placed in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Later Corrie wrote “The Hiding Place,” which details how God provided hope and help in the middle of horrific persecution.
The promises of God give us peace. v. 6-7
… 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.
Philippians 4:6–7 (ESV)
Prayer is a gift, especially in times of uncertainty. To know God hears us when we pray and to know that he is able to see us through is settling to our souls. But when we pray God promises to give us peace, just saying the word peace is calming. This isn’t peace in the future when our struggles are over, it is a present peace to watch over our hearts and minds.
So, we should pray – honest prayers – knowing the Prince of Peace is our greatest help in uncertain days.
The truth of God gives us certainty. v. 8
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)
The mind is the greatest battle ground in times of stress and uncertainty. It seems the more uncertainty there is the more we think about everything that could happen. Our minds have a default that naturally takes us to the worse case scenarios, which add to our stress.
Paul reminds us to feed our thoughts with things that are true, honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. Just reading the list makes me feel better.
Paul’s encouragement to discipline our mind isn’t simply positive thinking, rather it is thinking that is rooted in and focused on God’s Word. God’s Word meeting every detail of Paul’s list.
Remember Psalm 19?
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
Psalm 19:7–11 (ESV)
So, let’s review.
We can have certainty in uncertainty through our relationship with Jesus Christ.
- The love of God gives us joy! v.4
- The presence of God gives us comfort! v. 5
- The sovereignty of God gives us security. v. 6
- The promises of God give us peace. v. 6-7
- The truth of God gives us certainty. v. 8
But there is one more amazing thought that Paul provides later in this chapter that is the greatest encouragement of all – Jesus is always enough to meet our needs.
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 (ESV)
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Corrie ten Boom