Hi, this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…New Kid In Town
In December 1974, I was 8 years old and in the 3rd grade. Even at that young age I was experienced at what I was doing that cold morning, and didn’t like it…not one bit. That day I was starting at yet another new school. This would be the fifth different one I had attended, my third in the space of just two years. I am and have always been, an introvert, consequently being the new kid in school was always a nerve-wracking experience for me.
The setting for that particular ‘first day of school’ was in a small town nestled in the eastern Pennsylvania coal-mined mountains. Our home, the church parsonage, was at the bottom of the hill the town had been built on. The school was on the upper end of town about ten blocks from our newest address. Dad decided to walk my brother and I up to the school that morning to get us registered and into our new classrooms. I hated everything about that morning. My stomach was in turmoil, my mind imagining a yet unseen classroom filled with students who didn’t know me and probably wouldn’t want to. Then my thoughts turned to my new teacher. Would she be kind, or find a new student to be bothersome? Those concerns and others held me captive in a considerable state of worry.
Undoubtedly, dad could see the worry on my face, and probably noticed the resistance in my step as well. He began to sing. Immediately I hoped we were walking through a deaf neighborhood, and that no one would pay any attention to us…but I doubted seriously that anyone didn’t notice that weird man singing as he walked his boys up the hill. He lifted his voice, “Don’t worry when you can pray…Trust Jesus, He’ll be your stay. Don’t be a doubting Thomas…Just lean upon His promise. Why worry, worry, worry, worry…when you can pray?” Now I was nervous and mortified! Thanks dad, that helped a lot!
That day turned out to have its share of troubles, most do, but in the end I slept in my own bed even if in an unfamiliar room. We would go on to live in that town for four more years, I would make lots of friends, enjoy not one, but two years learning from the best school teacher I ever had before or since, and I would come to hate leaving that town more than I had disliked moving into it. The point of this story isn’t being the new kid in town as much as it is about that goofy song dad sang that morning.
That experience and especially the final line of the song dad seemingly was belting out that morning, “Why worry, worry, worry, worry…when you can pray?” has overtaken my memory countless times in the nearly fifty years since. Dad has offered a good bit of advice and counsel over those five decades, some I remember, much I have forgotten. So why has that memory never been too far away when I have been susceptible to worry? Perhaps it is because I found it so embarrassing. Probably not, I am sure my dad embarrassed me on other occasions I have since let go the memories of. I think…it is because of its biblical truth.
Philippians 4:6,7 (NLT) says, Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
That boyhood experience of mine occurred as it did because I was the new kid in town, headed for yet another new school, and I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in. As Christians we are not living in our hometown either. This world is not our home, and it isn’t always comfortable to reside here. Christ followers inhabit the same flawed bodies as everyone else. We traverse the same ground, we even encounter many of the same troubles and adversities that those who do not know Him do. And when we live just like everyone else does, and worry about what’s around the corner, we rob ourselves of the peace that ought to be ours. And we cheat others out of a real-time testimony as to what living in Christ could be doing for them.
Why did Paul write from a Roman jail cell to the Philippians and instruct them not to worry about anything, but rather to pray about everything? Because he understood what it meant to reside in prison, but live in Christ. Living in Christ means that we look to Him for our value, our standing, our provision, our comfort, our joy, our very state of mind. Living in Christ means that we believe that we are upheld by a power and authority greater than any here on earth. Therefore, no matter what people may do to us, no matter the circumstances they try to manipulate, no matter what conditions might be imposed on us, we are Christ’s. He takes care of us. He bolsters our spirit and sustains our minds and hearts. He is always above our trouble and wants us to know that if we live in Him, we can rise above it too. Paul wrote to the Philippians (and us) that we should not worry because when we do, we become distracted by something the world focuses on, the problem at hand, and that is not the faithful viewpoint of someone who lives in Christ.
Paul wrote that as those who live in Christ, when we are tempted to worry about some problem in our life, we should pray instead. Because we know Christ is greater than any difficulty we face and has the power to minister to us as we go through it. So when trouble comes…and it does, just ask any new kid in town, do what Paul suggests…ask the One you live in…to give you what you need…to rise above whatever you are experiencing…as the two of you walk through it together.
Paul went on to remind us to thank God for what He has already done. Why? Because when we are purposefully grateful for what God has done in the past, it reinforces our faith for the future. When we ponder the fact that He is the Beginning and the End, we can pray expectantly knowing that whatever is on our hearts and minds He has already considered and made provision for. In that sense, we can thank Him for what he has already done about the things we still must go through. Prayer and thanksgiving offered in advance of the move of God is evidence of our faith, and the catalyst for experiencing His power.
What is the result? An amazing peace that God is going meet the needs we bring to Him. It’s a peace so great that it often exceeds our own understanding and according to Paul, it guards our hearts and minds against worry as we live in Christ Jesus.
So the next time you find yourself worrying about a situation you’re faced with, put Paul’s instruction into practice. Pray about it expectantly, trusting that God can and will see you through. Thank Him for all of the other times He has provided in the past, and then enjoy some awesome peace.
So now, forget your worries, be grateful for things God has done, pray about your present condition and then experience His perfect peace…and go be awesome!