Hi this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Really Enjoying The Meal
As some of you are aware, My wife Lynn and I traveled to Albania a few months ago to present a marriage conference for a church in the city of Tirana. While we were there, the Pastor of the church and His wife took us and several other people to a wonderful restaurant. The destination was a farm-to-table restaurant up in the mountainous countryside about an hour and a half outside of the city. It was a beautiful setting for a wonderful meal. Literally, for several hours the waiters kept bringing course after course of pure deliciousness to our table. In my memory, I still enjoy all of it. If I wanted to share it with you, I might try to recreate some of the dishes we had there. Although I might be able to lay my hands on the ingredients here in Delaware, they might be those specific ingredients by name, but they wouldn’t be the same. First of all, the conditions in which they were grown would be different. The climate and soil in Delaware would produce a different tasting Basil for example than the same plant growing in the mountains of Albania. Even the beef would taste different depending on the local grasses it was grazed on. Here we use tomatoes, there they have tomatoes.
My point is that though the ingredients used to cook the meal might be identified by the same names, the fullness of the flavor wouldn’t always translate. If I made the dishes I wanted you to enjoy here, you would come away with an idea of how good that meal in Albania was. But…if I wanted to you understand the total experience I had in Albania at that restaurant I would have to take you there.
This can sometimes be the case when we read the word of God. It was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. The bible you and I read was translated from the original text by teams of theologians using prescribed rules of interpretation. Their task was to put into the English language as close as possible the original meaning found in the Hebrew and Greek. Sometimes however, a little bit gets lost in the translation. There are times you have to eat at the original restaurant to get the entire culinary experience.
The problem is most of us don’t read Hebrew and Greek. Thankfully though, there are tools that can help us get a better understanding. Using some of those tools I want to take a really well known scripture and explore some of the deeper meanings so we can have a fuller experience with that scripture. I won’t be using the Greek words, but I will do my best to explain the meaning of them in comparison to the English ones we find on the page.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but 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 minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Let’s enjoy this meal one bite at a time, shall we?
Be anxious for nothing…When we think of the word anxious we might imagine someone who worries a lot, is a nail biter, or someone who is always considering the down-side of the future. I would have called some of my children anxious when they were teenagers. They concerned themselves with all kinds of things…one even fretted all the way to school each day, anxious about being late. However, the original text that we have translated to the word “anxious” actually means to be divided into parts, or drawn into opposite directions. This is very interesting because it means that the warning is against allowing anything to keep us from considering everything. In other words Paul is writing that we should never allow any circumstance no matter how disturbing to cause us to only consider the down-side.
Paul continued…but in everything by prayer and supplication…here he says; instead of being divided or letting all of our thinking move toward the negative…take everything (every concern) to prayer and supplication. Supplication is another word I want to look at the deeper meaning of. We sometimes think of supplication as prayer, but it can’t only mean that because Paul wouldn’t say “but in everything by prayer and prayer”. No, supplication means more. It means praying or even pleading with the Lord for a heart felt need that is personal and urgent. So basically what Paul is doing here is covering all of the bases. He is saying don’t be divided so that worry is near and faith is too far away, instead take it all to God, take the general things that cause you concern, and take him the things that are personal and urgent, those things that are too close for comfort.
Let’s continue…with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…Here Paul tells us what kind of a headspace we need to be in as we bring our requests and deep concerns to God. We like to say “Just give it to God” but that’s not actually correct. Yes, He wants us to give Him our concerns it’s true. His word tells us to Cast our cares upon Him because He cares about us (1 Peter 5:7) but here and other places we are told there is a correct way to do that. Here we are instructed to do it with thanksgiving. You might say “but Pastor Ken, I am not thankful to be dealing with the things that are making me anxious right now. I don’t know how I am supposed to be thankful for these things.” Don’t worry, Paul isn’t saying we have to be thankful for the things that are bringing us trouble. This is another word where things get lost in the translation. The original text infers what we are to be thankful for…and it isn’t the trouble we are experiencing…we are being told here to be thankful for God’s Grace as we navigate through the trouble. In other words Paul is writing that as we go to God with our concerns we need to do so with a thankful heart knowing that His grace is going to be sufficient to see us through. Having this mindset is what prevents us from being anxious or allowing all of our considerations to fall on the side of our difficulty.
And the peace of God…Ah the peace of God…here is another one that deserves a little attention. The Greek here means wholeness or complete wellness . What Paul is explaining to us is that if we take our concerns to God with a heart of thanksgiving for His grace which we know will sustain us even as we endure the trouble then we won’t be anxious or divided, we will experience peace…emotional and spiritual wholeness from God
Which surpasses all understanding…This phrase actually infers that it takes an ability to reason that is far superior to human understanding in order to even begin to comprehend the peace or wholeness God is able to administer to us through His amazing grace.
Will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus…This is one also worth noting the intricacies in the meaning of the original text. This word we have translated to guard means more than simply watch over, it means to consistently stand ready to step in. In this context it means that God’s grace is consistently ready, willing and able to step in and use whatever offensive or defensive means necessary to protect our hearts and minds through the power of Christ Jesus. Did you catch that? Because of our relationship with Christ we can count on the working of His grace in our lives to be so strong and powerful that it will use whatever means are necessary to keep us steadied and held upright in faith, no matter what the trouble is. When you understand that, approaching God in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving for that all sufficient grace seems to be the only thing that makes any sense. Right?
So now that we know that our anxiousness has a remedy. Now that we are aware that we should take our concerns big and small to God, but only in the confidence that peace is forthcoming as we approach Him with gratefulness for His unending grace. More than that, we know we can count on Him to use His grace to steady us and hold us upright in the midst of any trouble. Now that we know all of that, His final instruction on the subject becomes much more than a pop-culture idea of “Positive thinking”
Paul closes with this…Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
What Paul is telling us with in His closing remarks is that God’s unending grace is true. God’s delivering grace is just. God’s matchless grace is pure. God’s undeserved grace is lovely. God’s wondrous grace is worthy of a good report. God’s perfectly complete grace is the epitome of virtue. God’s amazing grace is deserving of all of our praise! When life’s circumstances cause you concern, meditate on God’s grace until it has your complete and total attention…and then…meditate on His grace some more.
So now, Thankful for God’s power that enables you to be free from divisive anxiety no matter what you may be going through…taking in His awesome grace…go be awesome!