REJOICE AND HAVE NO ANXIETIES-
by Ernest O'Neill
A World Gone Mad
Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
It does seem as if the world is getting to be a heavier place. It's as if society is beginning to come apart at more than the edges. Probably more and more of us are wondering whether we'll see the turn of the century or not. Then of course there's the other side of you that thinks, "Oh, of course, we'll see two or three more centuries without any trouble." Then, that kind of thing happens on TV that some of us saw where the state official in Pennsylvania called a press conference and stood behind the podium. He had been indicted for fraud and was convicted. He said, "If this offends anybody, will you please leave." Then he pulled a gun out of an orange paper bag, put it into his mouth and killed himself, right there in front of the television cameras.
It makes you wonder what kind of a world we are living in. Something inside you says, "Well, it was always pretty bad, it's not any worse. There are just more of us." Then another incident happens and you hear of a friend that commits suicide. Then you hear of another family that is broken up and it presses in upon you that this is a different kind of world that we're living in from certainly the one that we lived in before 1960.
Bent Under Oppression
I don't know how you all are individually, but I honestly do think that more of us seem to be bending under burdens than bent under burdens before. It seemed even in the depression days, there wasn't the oppression that there seems to be in these days. There are many of us here probably who have even contemplated suicide and that's unthinkable in a group like ourselves. We are the kind of people that shouldn't for a moment dream of that. Yet, probably a number of you have thought of it at sometime or another. There are more and more of us who waken up in the morning with an incomprehensible sense of oppression or darkness or doom and we really don't know where it comes from but it's there. It does seem that there is a heaviness in society that was not there before.
So, you try to explain it in all kinds of ways. I've thought well, it's Minneapolis, it's the top of the pops place after San Francisco and so all the homosexuals are crowding into Minneapolis and there's an oppression. But loved ones it isn't that. There seems in many of our large cities now, to be an increasing sense of heaviness. There certainly isn't the lightness in life that there was. I remember when we first came to the United States; it seemed a wonderfully happy place.
We couldn't believe that everybody seemed to be happy. Everybody seemed to be smiling compared with Britain and Europe. It does seem to have changed over this past quarter of the century and there does seem to be more and more of us experiencing a heaviness and an anxiety. Now, in the midst of all this, God's word is dead straight and clear. "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I will say rejoice."
A Command From God
Now that is a command from God. I don't know of any other way to cut through that thick cloud of darkness that comes upon you. I don't know of any other way to do it that is as powerful and effective as looking to that Word of God and seeing that that is a direct command to you. God has told us, "Rejoice!" In the middle of whatever difficulty you are, His word to you is, "Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say rejoice." It would be important for you to see, it's not a recommendation from God. It's not a suggestion that he makes for improving your mental health. It's not an idea he has that will enable you to live a fuller or more complete or more satisfying life. It's not.
It's a command to you and to me in the same way that the command is "Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness." God commands us to rejoice, to rejoice in the Lord. If you say to me, "Rejoice in my circumstances?" No. He doesn't mention your circumstances. In fact, in other parts of His word, He tells you not to look on the outward appearance of things.
So, when you go to sleep at night and there begins to crowd in upon you, all the images of what has happened during the day and all the images of what you think will happen tomorrow, what God is saying is, you'll never rejoice in those things, don't look on the outward things. Those are things that are passing. They'll be dead and gone in a week's time. But rejoice in Me. Look up and see I am your God. I am your Father.
The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever
I am going to be here when your job has long passed away, when your company has long disappeared, when your body has been eaten by the worms. I will be here and I will be the same to you as I am today. I love you with all my heart. You're MY dear child. I am your Father. Look at the lilies of the field, they toil not neither do they reap, yet Solomon and all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now you're the same. I am going to give you what I have given the lilies of the field, except I am going to give you more of it because you're a living image of Myself.
That's your Father. That's the kind of person who has made you. And He says to you, "I want you to rejoice in Me. I am in charge of your life. It's not your boss, it's not your mom, it's not your dad, and it's not your professor. I am in charge of your life and I work all things according to the counsel of My will. I will only do good for you. I have prepared for you a beautiful life, to give you a future and to give you success and I want you to rejoice in Me. I am not Gorbachev. I am not Khrushchev. I am not Stalin. I am not like those men. I am like My Son. If you've seen My Son, you've seen His Father. You've seen My Son Jesus. You've seen His love for you; you've seen His kindliness and His tenderness towards you. That's what I am. I want you to rejoice in Me."
Rejoice All the Time and Every Time
Now loved ones, that's what God tells us to do in every situation because He says, "Rejoice in the Lord always", all the time, every time. Now here's what happens. We're driving along in our wagon and we're rejoicing because we just heard the sermon. We rejoice as we're driving along in the wagon. Then some miserable creature with horns at the back has a big axe, and he chops off one of the wheels and the wagon goes down.
So we stop rejoicing because the wagon has tipped and what's going to happen? We're going to lose everything. What's happening? How will I get the wheel back up? And what God wants us to do is to rejoice always and not be caught out by that kind of thing - like the pipes freezing. We can rejoice all right, as long as the pipes don't freeze. Or, you discover you're in overdraft. You say, "I'm going to rejoice all right as long as I don't get an overdraft. I can't stand money worries. I can rejoice about everything else. Even if I am sick I can rejoice but don't give me money worries."
The Devil - God's Servant Under His Control
God has arranged that wheel in that way. If you look back, you'll see that the guy with the horns has a chain around his neck and the chain goes right back several miles and God is at the other end of the chain. God can pull that devil back at any moment and He can let him chop the wheel off at any moment, but the thing is under God's control. The devil is God's unwitting, unknowing servant and God has allowed him to chop the wheel of your wagon to get you to rejoice always in all situations.
So the things that occur in your life to destroy your joy are allowed by God to get you finally to rejoice in God Himself and not in the outward appearance of things. Now if you say, "Well, it's all right for you to tell me to rejoice but if you only knew my situation. If you knew my situation at work, you'd know there's nothing to rejoice in. If you knew my family situation or my domestic situation, if you knew my emotional life or my romance life, you would know you can't possibly rejoice always in my situation."
Be Happy All The Time -- Everything is OK
Well, loved ones you're right. I don't know your situation but the Lord God does know your situation and He is still saying to you, "Rejoice! Rejoice always. Rejoice in Me all the time. It's always right to rejoice". Now I know that sounds dumb. It sounds like an Irishman telling you to always get drunk on Irish whiskey and whatever happens, just be happy. No, God says, "Rejoice, be happy all the time. It's the right thing." And if you say, "Oh no. He doesn't know what He's talking about." "Well, He does!" And if you say, "Oh, listen if He had my troubles, if He had my problems..... He only has a world to run, and a whole universe to take care of. He only has the whole business of age to deal with. He only has people murdering each other. If He had my troubles He'd know I am..." Well, it's not so.
The Lord God has more troubles than all of us put together. The only reason He tells you to rejoice is because everything is okay. He has things settled. He has everything arranged in His Son for your life so that you won't be destroyed. The only reason God tells you to rejoice is He knows things are A-OK and you don't need to worry. Our God doesn't tell you to rejoice when He knows you're going to hit a major tragedy that is going to destroy you. He loves us too much to do that. He only tells us to rejoice when He knows that everything is organized and right.
Aren't There Some Things We Should Worry About?
Some of us say, "Well, yes but you know there are troubles that I have and I can rejoice okay, until I think of some of those troubles. But there are some things that you just have to worry about." God is so good the way He wrote these verses because the next verse says, "Have no anxiety about anything." That's the way it runs. Have no anxiety about anything. Have no anxiety at all. Don't be anxious about anything.
Now loved ones, as you sit there this morning, you know there goes through your mind certain things that you have got used to being anxious about. There are certain people that you have got used to worrying about. There are certain situations and circumstances in your life that you just regard as a constant worry center. God says to you, "Have no anxiety about anything."
Do you see it's the same as "Thou shalt not murder." It is loved ones, it is. I know how you feel. You say, "No, no pastor, it isn't like murder. Murder is a really bad thing. Killing is really bad. It's one of the Ten Commandments. Bearing false witness, that's really bad. Stealing, coveting, those things are bad. But no, being anxious is something I inherited from my dad and mom. I'm built that way."
No, loved ones it's not so. It's a command in God's word, "Have no anxiety about anything." It's a command from Him. Don't be anxious about anything. Don't worry about anything, not anything. Now if you say to me, "Well, what's the big deal? What's wrong with worrying?" Do you see it's like a dear Father looking down upon you? He has foreseen everything that is going to take place in your life. He has gone along the road of your life and where He has seen a brier that is too big or a nettle that is going to sting you too badly or He has seen a hole in the ground that would kill you if you fell into it, He has filled all those things in. He has made the hole just shallow enough, so that you can get out of it. He has cut down the brier, so that there's just a little brier that will poke into you a little and will drive you a little closer to Himself.
He's gone along the road of your life and He has prepared it all so that you can bear everything by His grace. Then when He sees you looking down that road and worrying about this and that, He says, "You don't trust Me. You don't trust Me. Do you think that I would let that happen to you? Do you think that I would let that thing destroy you when I love you as I do?" It's an offense against God loved ones you see. It's an offense against God.
The reason people murder is they don't trust God to circumvent the difficulty. The only way they can see is to get rid of this human being off the earth. It's a lack of trust in God. The only reason we covet is because we don't trust the Father to provide for us all that we need. Now, it's the same with worry. You worry because you don't trust the Father that He has prepared your way ahead and made things right for you. It's the same sin you see.
Worry is Sin -- an Insult to God
So worry is just as much sin as killing. It is. This morning if you say, "Oh, you're driving me in a corner. No, no I do have the right to worry and it's not that bad." Well, you can see yourself it IS that bad. Worrying is an insult to our God. It's an insult to our heavenly Father. When you were a little boy or girl, five years of age, what would happen if your mom ever came across you sitting in your bedroom crying away? She says, "Why are you crying?" You say, "I don't know where my lunch is coming from. I don't know how I am going to get lunch today?"
Your mom would say, "I am going to provide you lunch. I have always provided your lunch. I am going to provide it today. And you say, "No, no, I am afraid you won't." It's just ridiculous. Then if you do that day after day, eventually your mom begins to be deeply hurt. And you know with your dear dad, if you were trying to learn how to swim, your dad was holding your chin for you. If you were trying to learn the bike, you had absolute confidence that he would hold you up. And if you ever showed that you didn't have that confidence, he would say, "Do you think I'd let you fall -- the apple of my eye? Do you think I'd let you fall? I won't let you fall, trust me, just rest in me."
Everything is Planned
Now, that's why the Lord, tells us not to worry about anything because He has everything planned for us. Loved ones, there's a great verse in scripture. I won't even ask you to look it up. I can quote it to you. "We are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which He has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
Now, to some of us, it just confuses us and we say, "Is this predestination?" We may not walk in the good works if we don't want to. You're still free to reject them. But God has prepared your life for you. It is organized. It is set for you. You can refuse to walk in it if you want, but if you are willing to walk in it, it is all laid out before you. It is set before you. And that's why He says, "Don't worry. Don't be anxious. I am not trying to play emergency operations here trying to think what am I going to do: John has got into this trouble; Jean has got into this trouble. What am I going to do?"
God says, "I have foreseen it. I know where you are going. I know what's going to happen. I have already provided in My Son Jesus for the deliverance for you, believe Me. You can trust Me. Do not worry about anything. Let your forbearance be known to all men." So at times everybody around you, will be worrying like mad and they'll wonder why are you so forbearing? Why are you not worrying? Why are you not getting anxious? Why are you not doing something about this situation?
Well, you're forbearing because the Lord is at hand. You know the Lord is there and He has already worked it out for you and there's no need for you to worry or be anxious about it. So God's will for you and me is to rejoice, to rejoice in the Lord always.
I have a letter, (I haven't kept too many letters), but I have one letter that my dad wrote. You know the way, a letter from your dad or mom are always dear to you as the years go by. I have this one letter in the back of my files somewhere. He wrote it when he was at the end of his life with high blood pressure and hypertension in the hospital. He wrote it from the hospital. It's dear to me because he says, "Be happy. Be happy." And that's what God says to us, "Be happy." God wants you to be happy. God doesn't want to look down on a group of miserable, worried, fretting old children. He wants to look down and see children who love Him and trust Him and are happy in Him and rejoice in Him.
Loved ones, it's a terrible offence to our Creator to worry and be anxious. That's why He says, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say rejoice. Have no anxiety about anything. Let your forbearance be known to all men because the Lord is at hand." If you say, "Well, these things are here. This person that I work with, they're impossible to deal with. I just hate to go into work. This person that I live with, they're hard to get on with. I just can't do it. My job situation -- I don't know where it's going to be next year."
What do you do with the things that aren't right? Well, if you look at the verse, you will see it in Philippians 4:6. "Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." That's it. "In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God." That's what you have to do.
You are not to worry about it. You've to simply with prayer and supplication and thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. You've to ask God for those things. You've to ask Him day after day, with thanksgiving and you have to leave those things with Him in His hands. You've just to leave them there.
"Lord, will You influence this person that I live with? Will You begin to change their hearts and change their ways? In the meanwhile, will you give me grace to bear with them and to rejoice before them everyday? Lord, will You take care of this financial situation and begin to sort it out as you give me guidance in what I have to do. Lord, I will rejoice before you about it."
No Rejoicing - No Trust
But loved ones, just leave the things with God and then go on your way rejoicing. Now, if you don't go on your way rejoicing, the Lord knows you aren't trusting Him and the Father cannot answer lack of trust or faith. If you say to me, "I've not heard this before. I kind of believe it but I haven't found it working." That's because you're not rejoicing. You're not rejoicing in God. You're still lying under these clouds and lying under these burdens.
Now, one of the effects that has is, you're so preoccupied with yourself that you aren't available to God when He wants you to do something. You know that so well. Your head is just full of all the worries and anxieties that you have and you haven't even time to look out on somebody else's life and see what they need. But most of all, you can't hear God speaking to you and telling you what He wants you to do.
So, loved ones, worry and anxiety paralyze you. That's why God says, "Rejoice. I want you to be happy." If you say to me, "Well, I wouldn't say I'm unhappy and I wouldn't say I'm happy. I am somewhere in the middle. I'm usually pretty neutral. In fact you might say almost half dead. That's just the way I go along."
Loved ones rejoicing is a positive thing. Rejoicing is rejoicing. Rejoicing is thinking of the wonderful breakers on the Hawaiian beaches and thinking "that's my God." The freshness in those waves is stale compared with the freshness in His heart. He is fresh compared with those things. Think of going down those beautiful ski slopes, the openness and exhilaration and you say to yourself, "My God is far more exhilarating than those slopes. They are just the things He has made, but you should see HIM!"
Rejoice in Our Great God -- Not the Troubles
You rejoice in the great God and the dear Father who has made even the beautiful things that we see around us in our world. That's what the Father wants us to do. He does not want a lot of fretting, old, anxious ridden people. He wants children who trust Him. You dads and moms, you know it. You would be just devastated if your children trusted you as little as many of us trust our dear Father. If your children fretted and worried as much as you and I fret and worry, you know you would be devastated by it.
After it's all said and done I'll go by your tombstone (because I am going for 95 or 96 years). After I go by your tombstone, look at the name, and look back on your life, suddenly it comes to me as it comes to you, "Was it worth it?" It wasn't worth it at all. The thing turned out right anyway. Despite my worry or anxiety the thing turned out okay. I didn't achieve anything by what I did.
Loved ones, that's it. There's a dear verse in Ecclesiastes and some scholars would say, "Oh it's a little bit Greek in it's philosophy." But it really is just a blessing. It's Ecclesiastes 3:12. "I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; also that it is God's gift to man that every one should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil." That's it.
Become Preoccupied With Rejoicing
The Lord has put us here to rejoice in Him, to be happy and not to be sad or burdened with anxiety. I share this with you because the society lives without God and it will become increasingly ridden with anxiety. It will become increasingly oppressed with worry and anxiety. So it's very important that you and I who know our God and Father become increasingly preoccupied with rejoicing. It's vital that you do not live in the oppression and the heaviness of our society.
So, you read as much of Time Magazine as you can bear to read without losing your joy. You read as much of the New York Times as you can to bear to read without losing your rejoicing attitude. You do not live in the midst of the oppression of our present society. God's will is for us to rejoice and to rejoice always.
Now as we pray, I'd ask you to ask God to show you the areas that are stopping you from rejoicing. Then I'd ask you to do what He says to stop being anxious about those things. Then, by prayer and supplication, let your request be made known to Him about those things. Let your request be made known and then go on your way rejoicing. Remember, rejoicing is faith and faith is what enables God to work. Let us pray.
Dear Father, we know how our dads and moms looked after us. Lord, we know that it would be foolish for us to worry about things that they had already provided for. Father, we know it is our responsibility to hear Your voice this morning and not to refuse to listen. We are to listen and hear what You say to us because You are our Father and our Creator. Lord, we hear You. We hear You telling us to rejoice always. Father, we commit ourselves now to obeying that command.// Lord we know it doesn't come from somebody who doesn't know our troubles. It doesn't come from somebody who doesn't know what our lives are going to be like. It comes from somebody who knows all things. So Lord, we know that it is reality to obey that command. We know also our Father, that we are obliged to You to obey You. If we do not obey the God of the universe, whom will we obey?
Lord we know that this is not an option for us. You are telling us this morning, "Rejoice always, and again I say Rejoice." Father, we commit ourselves to obeying this command. Then Lord, we don't want it to be just happy happiness. We don't want it to be just the power of positive thinking. Lord we want to rejoice deeply in You. Father, we commit ourselves, especially when we find ourselves with some anxiety, to turning our eyes away immediately from the cause and to turning our eyes to You. We'll begin to think of the great God who has made us and of what a wonderful person You must be if You've made flowers and babies and little dogs. Father, we commit ourselves to rejoicing in You. We'll rejoice in You in our hearts, not just with our lips, but in our deepest hearts.
Then Father, with the things that are troubles in our lives, we would detach ourselves from them now, as we would commit a case into the hands of a lawyer. We would commit these things to You by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. We would let our request be made known to You and we would ask You to fix the wheels on the wagon. We would ask You to begin to deal with these situations that aren't right in our lives and the lives of our friends. Then Father, to show You that we trust You, we intend to rejoice and be happy. We intend to live in joy for that is Your will for us in Jesus. Amen.