Date: 10/17/04
Text: Philippians 4:4-9
Title: A Happy Heart
Theme: The key to a joyous heart is to have the peace of God and the God of peace within us.
What do these have in common? The war in Iraq, economy, travel safety, outcome of the November election, waiting for the doctor’s report, health of a loved one, pending grant proposal, stress from work, an uncertain future, unresolved conflict with our spouses or someone dear to us, job security, lack of progress in the project, a dreaded meeting, new addition to the family or the upcoming wedding plans. These situations and events are the source of our worry.
Some worry can be good. If I worry about my test or next week’s sermon, it will motivate me to study instead of waiting till the last minute. However, when we habitually worry over events beyond our control will cause us to feel sad and depressed.
In such moments, we can become undisciplined in our eating and other habits leading to physical and emotional health problems. Our blood pressure will go up, some will develop ulcers. Our minds are like a racing car, running non-stop. Our tears flow inward and we can’t sleep or wake up in the middle of the night. We feel like Proverbs 18:14, “A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?人的心靈能忍受疾病,心靈憂鬱,誰能承受呢?” Proverbs 14:10, “10The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.人的苦楚,只有自己心裡知道;心中的喜樂,外人也不能分享.” When we let our worry continues, our mind will not be at peace, joy will be snapped out of our life. This can be miserable and we begin to search for ways that can give us the peace of mind, a happy heart. Some have tried Yoga or Zen. Some have come here to find that peace of mind.
In our study of Philippians, we learn about the pursuit of maturity. To the believers, to mature is to know Christ and have Christ. This maturity is expressed in treating each other as our joy, love and crown; learning to think like Christ, that is, to be humble and be considerate of others; so that we may have harmony in this community. This morning, Paul calls our attention to another characteristic of Christian maturity: A happy heart; a mind that is at peace.
I. God's word teaches us that life can be joyous.
On several occasions I have heard individuals telling me this, “I cannot remember a time in my life when I was happy.” This may be a little extreme, but if I ask you, “Are you happy now?” I wonder how many of us can say yes. Some of us do not like our working environment. It is cheap labor or intellectual sweat shop. We are not happy and yet we do not see a way out. We tell ourselves and others that when my job situation changes, then I’ll be happy. When I move into that dream house or meet the right partner, then I’ll be happy. When everything is under control, then I’ll be happy. Then my mind will be at peace. No, I am not happy now. We begin to accept what is as what should be, and constantly living under the shadow of anxiety and depression.
What did Paul say in vs.4? “4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 你們要靠著主常常喜樂,我再說,你們要喜樂.” Not only did he tell the Philippian believers to be happy, to rejoice in the Lord, he was joyous too. 1:4, “4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy..每次為你們大家祈求的時候,總是歡歡喜喜地祈求.” 1:18b, “….Yes, and I will rejoice.並且我還要歡喜,..” 2:17b-18, “I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.並且和你們大家一同喜樂。 照樣,你們也要喜樂,並且要和我一同喜樂。” Do you know that Paul wrote this letter while in prison? It was not the best place to be happy. Yet, from that Roman prison, he wrote this letter which is known as the letter of Joy. Again, the church at Philippi had its share of problems, but in the midst of their troubles, Paul encouraged them to be happy, to be joyous.
Yes, to many of us, life seems to be rather unfair. We left our homeland to come here searching for a dream. What we found instead, was disappointments. We then tell ourselves it is all for our children. Yes, we are miserable, but we want to make sure our children are happy.
However, the scripture, God's word tells us that this is not so. No matter where we are, we can be happy, we can be joyous. We don’t have to wait till the future to rejoice. No, here and now, we can be joyous. It is a choice we have to make. Cynthia and I often tell the singles that you can be happy now. If you are not happy as single person, most probably you won’t be happy in married life. We can chose to live in a state of misery, constantly worry over things that we cannot control. Or we can make a choice to rejoice.
Now, how?
II. God's word teaches us that we can have a joyous heart by taking care of our thinking.

Beginning in vs.6, Paul gives us several guidelines regarding how we can rejoice. When we see people and circumstances beyond our control, we begin to have negative thoughts; followed by worry and anxiety. It also starts with our mind.
1. Stop the downward spiral of anxiety.
Vs.6, “ not be anxious about anything,….應當毫無憂慮,..” Yes, you are anxious, and worry now. But stop it. Worry is like a downward spiral, it will only get worse. If worry is left unchecked, it can paralyze us. So stop the worrying. And you know what? When God tells us do not worry, and we continue to do so, it is a sin, right?
2. Know what you are anxious about.
Vs.6, “6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.應當毫無憂慮,只要凡事藉著禱告祈求,帶著感恩的心,把你們所要的告訴神。” “About anything, but in everything…” Sometimes when I ask individuals to share with me what they are worrying about. Very often they say, I don’t know. (I used to be like that). If we find ourselves in such a situation, we need to take a deep breath and calm down. Think, what is bothering me that I feel anxious and worry. It will help if we can write it down. Try this; write on a piece of paper: I am anxious about……..
3. Tell the Lord about your anxiety.
What do we do after we identify the source of anxiety? Vs.6, “6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.應當毫無憂慮,只要凡事藉著禱告祈求,帶著感恩的心,把你們所要的告訴神.” Tell God about the people, events and circumstances that are causing you anxiety.
I tell God that I worry about tonight’s meeting. I tell God that I am afraid that in this meeting, they may not like or agree with what I am to say. I tell God that I am concern about my children.
We don’t tell God what to do or what to give you. Neither do we tell him how to do it. Why are we anxious over people, events and situation? You see, we all want to be the captain of our ship. When we realized our own limitation and finiteness, that we cannot control either people or situations, we panic and we become anxious and worrisome. When I tell God about my concerns and what causes me to worry, I am really letting go of my control and hand it over to the creator of the universe. When I tell God what is bothering me, I am asking God to be God in my life and take control of those people and situations that I have no control over. This is what Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:7, “7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.你們要把一切憂慮卸給 神,因為他顧念你們.” To cast is like bowling. We roll our worries, anxieties into God's hand as if we roll the bowling ball down the aisle.
4. Control our Mind.
What do we do after we tell God of the things that worry us? vs. 8, “8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.最後,弟兄們,凡是真實的、莊重的、公正的、純潔的、可愛的、聲譽好的,無論是甚麼美德,甚麼稱讚,這些事你們都應當思念。” It’s about mind control. Instead of the negative thoughts, the worse scenarios, we’re to learn to think of things that are good, praiseworthy, excellent and lovely. We’re to replace the negative thoughts with the positive ones.
How does this work? After I tell God about my concern of meeting someone, I learn to think of the positive and good about this person and the meeting. I think of this person as someone who loves God and his church. This is an opportunity for me to hear and affirm him. Having told God my concern about my children, I remind myself that they are God's children; God loves them just as much as I do, even more. Having told God about my concern over my present situation, my supervisor and colleagues, then I am to believe that my God knows the best. Even when I am in such terrible situations, yet I believe he is working in these situations to change and make me a better and stronger person. Even though I would not ask to be put into a place like this, but I still believe that God is good, faithful, kind, loving and merciful. Isn’t it also true that many of us have come to know Christ because of our discontent in our family and work place? In such circumstances, it forced us to realize that in each of us is a vacuum that only God can satisfy. Isn’t is also true that because God has put you in those undesirable places, many have come to know God because of you? I sure don’t like the conflict, but I learn to think that conflicts and crisis are a turning point, a new opportunity for a possible and positive direction change. An opportunity for individuals to come to the Lord and change. These are the good things I am to think of.
5. Control our Behavior
Then Paul goes on to say, vs.9, “9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things,….你們在我身上所學習、所領受、所聽見、所看見的,這些事你們都應當實行;那麼,賜平安的  神就必與你們同在.” Besides thinking the right thoughts, there must also be proper and right behavior. This go back to Paul’s exhortation in 3:17, “Brothers, join in imitating me…..弟兄們,你們要一同效法我,” What can we learn from Paul? His single minded pursuit to knowing Christ, to have Christ and to be like Christ. Paul reminds us that Jesus did not insist on his equality with God, but gave up the glory and came into the world, become one of us, and died on the cross. If I am to practice what I learn, then I also need to learn to give up my former glorious days and be contend at where God has put me. Paul teaches us to be humble and see others better than ourselves. He instructs us to be considerate of others; don’t just think of my own needs, think of others.
III. God's word teaches us that a joyous heart results from the presence of God.
What happened when I tell God about my concerns and worries? What happens when I learn to control my thoughts and behavior? Two things will happen.
1. God's peace will be with me. Vs.7, “7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.這樣,  神所賜超過人能了解的平安,必在基督耶穌裡,保守你們的心思意念。” There is no promise that after I tell God about my concerns, he’ll change the other person or the circumstance. Instead, there is the promise that the peace of God will be with me. This peace will guard my mind. What kind of peace? The peace that surpasses human understanding. The peace of God is not a promise of no adversities or problems. Instead, in the midst of problems and difficulties, there is peace within me.
2. God of peace will be with me.
Besides the presence of God's peace, vs. 9, “9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 你們在我身上所學習、所領受、所聽見、所看見的,這些事你們都應當實行;那麼,賜平安的 神就必與你們同在。” You see what is happening here? When I tell him my concerns and worries, not only God's peace will be with me, but the God of peace is also with me. Think of this. The reason I worry is because I recognize my finiteness as a creature; not everything is under my control. Yes, I want to control, but I can’t, so I worry. When I tell God about my concerns; when I roll/cast my concerns into God's hands; I am recognizing and affirming his power and sovereignty in my life. Instead of me trying to be God, I am letting God to be God in my life. When God is in control, what is there to worry about? When the God of peace is with me, then the peace of God is also here.
Life can be joyous. Don’t believe in the lie that when my situation improves, when that person changes, then I can be happy. Now, you can make a choice to be happy. When Cynthia heard that I am preaching a sermon on this passage, she said, “You know this topic well.” Yes, I used to be known for my tendency to worry. Often I was not the most pleasant person to live with.
However, almost 20 years ago, God convicted me that my worry is wrong, is a sin. I wanted to stop the habitual worry. I started to read books and attend workshops on overcoming worry/anxiety. I still worry, but Cynthia can testify that I have come a long way. I know I still need to work on this. What do I do when I find myself worrying again? Sometimes the anxiety attack comes during day time, but very often it comes at 2 or 3 in the morning. When I find myself in that situation, this is what I do:
1. Tell myself to stop worry. This is not pleasing to God. It is a sin. I confess and ask for forgiveness.
2. I try to mentally verbalize what causes me to worry. Sometimes I write it on a piece of paper.
3. Then I tell the Lord my concerns. That I am afraid to meet with this person. I am concern about a situation in the church or in the family. There was a time that after writing my concern on a piece of paper, as I pray, I put it in this cage, to symbolize that I have handed it over to the Lord. As I pray, I also recognize that God is in control, he is my lord and this is His church. In prayer, I learn to let God be God which is so much better than when I try to play God in my personal life and in this and other church.
4. I will also begin to think of what is good, excellent and praiseworthy. I thank God that he is the one who is in control of all situations. I thank God that he wants to use these people and situations to mold and shape me into more Christ like.
So, how about you? Are you worry about someone, some situation now? You have a choice a make. You can continue to try to control situations that are beyond your control. You can continue to live a live without joy. But you can also choose to tell God about your concerns; and experience the joy resulting from the presence of the peace of God and the God of peace in your life.