Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
As I’ve thought about the best way to approach another new year, this verse from Philippians rang true to me. Rather than develop a long list of resolutions for my life and self-enhancement that would probably become a source of frustration, I’ve been contemplating focusing on one overall theme: Getting closer to God.
Maybe you think that’s fairly self-evident for a preacher. How can we be spiritual leaders if we’re not spiritually led? Sometimes the most obvious are truths are the easiest to overlook. Like everyone else, there are so many things I want to do and so many things I have to do that I get pulled away from the source that supplies the strength I need to do all those other things.
Paul reminds us that looking to God for guidance will yield much more that our own efforts can. Do not be anxious about anything...It’s pretty hard to imagine never being anxious about anything---there’s plenty out there to worry us. Paul is simply saying, though, not to waste our energy expecting the worst. Believe in the best. God wants what is good and right for us. God yearns for relationship with us. The future looks a lot less scary with God at our side.
But in everything by prayer and petition...present your requests to God. We can carry every concern we have to the Lord in prayer. God wants to hear it all. There is nothing too great or too small. And what we take to God, we can trust with God, for, as Paul says in another place, all things work together for good in God’s hands. God is ready to listen when we are willing to speak.
And do it all with thanksgiving. For me, the single most important quality of a happy, contented life, is gratitude. As we identify our blessings, a well of thankfulness grows inside us, feelings of deprivation and a desire for more begin to fade, and satisfaction with life sets in. The more blessings we see, the brighter our life becomes.
C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and many books on the Christian life, once said, “Put first things first and we get the second things thrown in. Put second things first and we lose both first and second things.” A life of prayer lived in communion with God helps us to focus on what matters most in life, those First Things, around which the rest of our lives should be shaped. Perhaps you know your First Things already: family, faith, loving others as God loves you. Maybe you need some time with God in prayer to locate—or re-locate—them.
Whatever they may be, I hope that you will find and focus on what matters most, and allow the secondary to flow from them. Let your worries be turned into prayers, find your peace in God’s goodness and mercy, and discover joy in centering yourself on the truly important. And do have a blessed New Year.
Grace and Peace be yours,
P.S. Click the picture or link below to read the full January 2023 edition of The Beacon.