Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Struggle and hostility—that’s what the Apostle Paul faced in his life time. We read about it in the New Testament. And yet he was the man that said, “Don’t worry, trust God”. For example, he wrote in 2 Corinthians:
Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.
Paul wasn’t some popular singer, humming a catchy little tune and telling people, Don’t worry, be happy, while he waited for his money. Paul actually had plenty to worry about! And yet he is able to say to the Philippians, “Don’t worry about anything”. How could he say that?
Because it’s one thing to know you are not supposed to worry, but another thing altogether to stop worrying. Do you wake up in the middle of the night, worried about something? Am I the only one? I didn’t think so. So, what are we supposed to do when the worries wake us up? How do we get back to sleep again?
Paul says this: Don’t worry: pray. Actually, he says, “with thankful hearts, offer up your prayers and requests to God” but that’s just another way of saying ‘pray’, and when you do, do it with a grateful heart, remembering all those other times God has helped you. If you do this, Paul says, “because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no-one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.” (Philippians 4:7 – CEV). And that’s great news!
When You Wake Up in the Middle of the Night
And so you can pray, Dear God, you know all the things and all the ones I’m worried about. I’m handing them over to you tonight. I will try to deal with them in the morning, but for tonight, let me sleep. And Paul says that’s when the peace of God begins to soothe your troubled thoughts, your troubled feelings. “Peace that passes understanding” he says, which is another way of saying you can be at peace even when it doesn’t make sense to be at peace.
I’m guessing that Paul is speaking from experience here; that there were plenty of nights he tossed and turned in a wet, wool blanket by the side of the road, plenty of nights that he handed his worries over to God and waited for the peace of God to settle upon him.
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But I’m also guessing there were some nights when that didn’t work, when he still couldn’t sleep, and that’s why he wrote what he wrote next: “Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).
Paul was qualified to say to his church people: “…you know what you heard me say and saw me do. So follow my example. And God, who gives peace, will be with you” (verse 9). Don’t miss that last part. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. You won’t only have the peace of God, you’ll have the God of peace, right there with you, helping you get back to sleep in the middle of the night and waking you up to rejoice in a brand new day.
So, don’t worry about anything. It’s not a popular song, and it’s not a pious platitude. It’s a way of living the life of the Kingdom. And it’s a very good and healthy thing to do—every day. You will have a better day.