AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH – October 9, 2005
THE PRAYER OF FAITH,
THE PEACE OF PRAYER AND THE GOVERNANCE OF GOD
First in overview, let us consider the context of Philippians. One finds 1:6, “being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you, will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ,” its sweep of certified Christian assurance; and 1:20-21, declaring Paul’s confidence that in nothing will he be ashamed, but his ardent desire that with all boldness, now as ever, ‘Christ shall be magnified in my body’; 1:28, advising the Philippians to be “in nothing terrified by your adversaries,” but rather to provide in confidence a token to those who fight against the truth, of their own excluded lostness! We move through 2:15, where they are to be “blameless and harmless, children of God, without rebuke shining like lights” in the dark, in this world. Then we proceed to 3:8, where all the flesh, the life in this world without God could possibly provide, Paul counts as dung for the sake of Christ, the objective and the grace, to “be found in Him” (3:9) being what matters inordinately. The “mark of the high calling in Christ” is what like an arrow, he seeks to hit squarely (3:14). So by the time we come to Philippians 4:4-7, we have a sound background for the specific issues of prayer in faith.
Again, ponder the nature of faith and prayer in its terms from all of scripture. First, one realises that there are many things that one KNOWS. You have a car – you know it, so that unlocking it (like unlocking the promises of God – II Peter 1), sitting in it (like sitting in heavenly places in Christ – Eph. 2:6), and so forth, all of this would be as ludicrous to doubt, as to omit! Likewise, there are many things you do if you KNOW you have a heavenly Lord: and don’t do! You find His grace and presence available, and work accordingly, as in driving. Omitting it means you don’t believe you have a car, have a LORD!
Secondly, the things you DO with your car, and it does for you are SELF-VERIFYING: you turn the key and the engine roars to life. Faith expects it, and gets it, because the car, in this case, the LORD is there. The car reveals itself as you go: so is it with Christ! (cf. Acts 5:30-31). Thirdly, the RESULTS you expect over time are assessable, as you move on your journey, with some wrong turnings maybe, but with the map in hand, the power provided and tenacity of purpose, to find aright HIS end for you.
Fourthly, if you have faith in Him, as He requires, then because of His power, you have progress, whether in character (cf. II Corinthians 3:18), in products (souls won, help given, life afire with His flame, cf. Psalm 104:4). Results may be delayed, as with the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple after the exile in Babylon, with many foes and subtleties challenging, and a time when the work stopped; but in the end, the Temple was built. Thus tenacity of purpose in the truth is quite unmoved by difficulties: the work He requires is found, done and completed by His power. In the interim, we are developed as seeing Him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27). You have to forsake things, to awaken things; but this, it is a matter of the faith which works in its own milieu. Driving a car is not driving a pram!
Fifthly, and here we grow near to the specific nature of our text, on prayer by faith, the result is PEACE. Another ? you gain a GUARD over this your peace. All results sought may not without exception be given, for there is a filter – for example, whether you prayed in wrath from the flesh, selfishly, or in a way which mistook just what the faith IS (as did the disciples in seeking FIRE on a village which did not respond – Luke 9:55). Romanism DID what the disciples there proposed, and Christ forbad, telling them that “you do not know what manner of spirit you are of”! Al-Qaeda follows the same line of folly: if GOD were interested in using force in faith arenas, He would never have made freedom, which makes its abuse, childishly irrelevant! Any religion which tries like the militant and murderous Islam, to combine them, simply insults God! and their product is pollution, of which this final Age is to be the inordinate recipient – as if rubbish were not collected YET! (cf. Mat. 24:24, 24:11-12).
Faith is patient: look at the patience of Daniel – Daniel. 9:1ff!, and at the results, that long-range prediction of the death-date of Christ, from centuries before He came! Quality is not a rush job! Look too at the patience required in the lives of Joseph (in prison, sold, falsely accused), Joshua (40 years to wait, having been right in his own willingness, until his time to lead Israel in, arrived) and John - for so long confined on the island of Patmos, for his faithfulness. Yet look at the Gospel God gave by him!
We have seen the scriptural background: now to the foreground. We signalise four features.
I THE ATTITUDE OF PRAYER IN FAITH – Philippians 4:4-5.
You exhibit GENTLENESS, which might as well be translated graciousness, or forbearance. This goes hand in hand with REJOICING, which you remember from Isaiah 64:5, is part of the Christian life, a prelude to meeting with the Lord as you remember His ways and WAIT for Him.
II THE REALM OF NOTHING – Philippians 4:6.
In NOTHING be anxious, worry about nothing! This does not mean that the topic of nothing should trouble you, but that your troubled anxiety should have NOTHING to latch on to, joined by the hands of fear and uncertainty. FAITH simply does not operate that way. Remember, you are not depressed – if you are – because of chemicals, any more than you are angry because of chemicals, or seduced because of them, or lie because of them.
You CHOOSE to be weak, angry, depressed – not perhaps consciously, but what you are then choosing is NOT to seek, rely on, wait for and find in Christ the power and the insight you need, which is too great an enemy of depression for it to survive in that strong sunlight of spiritual triumph to be found in the Lord! (cf. Mal. 4:2). We all KNOW from our own histories what we resist, or slowly, quickly, over time or at once succumb to, both the shame of such error, the grace to overcome and the vigorous fighting which may be involved, as we bring ourselves into subjection to truth and righteousness, in practice! (II Corinthians 4:15-18, I Cor. 9:26-27). One rendering of this: “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly: so I combat, not as beating the air, but I buffet my body and bring it into servitude… “
This victory is for the mind, spirit and body as well (I Thessalonians 5:23, II Corinthians 7:1). Thus in NOTHING are you anxious: you do not fight with worry but with the sword of the Spirit, the power of the Lord and the glory of His kingdom in view, giving NO scope to ANYTHING which would subdue you.
III THE SETTING OF REST Philippians 4:6-7
You not merely avoid nothings, and fight somethings, but you PRESENT your PETITIONS by FAITH, knowing that GOD HEARS and answers. HOW OFTEN in the last few days, in little things, any one of which could become bigger, has God answered our prayer. Just on Friday, set to be in Mt Barker for 6 hours with pouring rain and 9º C and no heat, while the car was being fixed, I foresaw trouble physically and asked the Lord to give GRACE TO HELP in time of need (Heb. 4:16). Amazingly, without a word from me, they had the car ready in 2 hours instead of 6! We praise God in all things, for He IS good! And then: remember to THANK Him, when He acts, for this is like the connective tissue between organs in your body! It keeps things in perspective! Thus acting in FAITH, you have peace and rest. He KNOWS and will ACT as in His sight the case requires, as in His love, His child needs, His work demands. And this peace ? it PASSES UNDERSTANDING.
It fills the skies of your soul with a quiet confidence which issues from Him and finds in our spirits a nest for its rest, one which is radiant with the sunshine of His presence (4:7), and so past all understanding.
IV THE INVISIBLE GUARD 4:7
Further, HE SETS UP A GUARD, a garrison to protect this peace, like an Army against spiritual terrorism (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15), foreseeing its lairs and lurking shame, overcoming its vile rockets and providing understanding that we might walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh (Galatians 5), which is part of our eternal inheritance, in contemporary and preliminary repose. Even when you fight, it is with this repose, this rest, this relish, this reinforcement, this garrison in your heart, life and soul. Therefore in ALL things turn and burn brightly in prayer, believe, wait on Him, rejoice in Him, and don’t at all leave your spiritual car in the garage.