Thursday, April 30, 2009

Faith in Uncertainty

Not knowing what comes next, and the uncertainty that goes along with that, seems to be one of our collective worst fears. In my line of work, I’ve come to notice that often, the greatest fear occurs between the time we know something’s not right but before the time we figure out what that something is. In this in-between time, fear often runs amuck and we’re tempted to lose our heads. On the other hand, when faced head on with some known challenge, humans have a remarkable ability to rise to the occasion. I’ve been amazed and encouraged again and again by fellow believers who face daunting obstacles with grace and perseverance.

This morning we find ourselves in a corporate time of not knowing what comes next. The headline in this morning’s San Angelo Times sums it up well, “Uncertainty Surrounds Swine Flue.” It’s no doubt the uncertainty that has so many people worried. We simply don’t have enough information to know what’s coming next with this virus. Will it fizzle out proving to be just another strain of the flu we have to contend with or will it become the full blown pandemic so many are fearing? We just don’t know. And the not knowing terrifies us. It allows our imaginations to run wild.

Paul once spoke to a church that was struggling with some unknowns, some “what ifs”. The Philippians were beginning to face some minor persecutions for their faith. They likely began asking themselves, “What if this gets out of hand? What if there’s a larger crackdown on our faith? What if . . .” Paul’s response in Philippians 4:6-9 gives them three practical ways to battle the fear of uncertainty.
  • First he tells them in to funnel their nervous energy into prayer. Rather than be anxious about stuff you can’t do anything about, be fervent in taking those worries to God in prayer. He says that as we do so, God’s peace, “which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
  • Next, after you’ve laid everything at Jesus’ feet, think about good things – offer thanksgiving to God for all you have and all he’s done for you. Focus on those things that are true, noble, lovely, admirable, etc. Essentially, don’t give worry a foothold in your heart. Stay filled up and encouraged by focusing upon the good things God has placed in your life.
  • And finally, keep doing what is right. Don’t use worry as an excuse to do evil. Don’t stop putting into practice the ways of Christ. Keeping loving one another, keep caring for the least of these, keep living like you know you are supposed to. In doing so, you are keeping close company to the God of peace.

Will doing these things keep bad things from happening to us? Of course not. Christians are not immune from the tragedies of this life. But following Paul’s advice will help us keep from losing our heads due to fear. It will also help assure that no matter what comes next, we will stay firmly in the presence of the One who can see us safely home no matter what evils come our way. It’s my prayer today that whatever burdens of fear you’re carrying around with you may be laid at our Savior’s feet and replaced with his peace that passes all understanding.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you – Philippians 4:6-9

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