Interacting with the Sermon
Synopsis of the Sermon
This weekend, Pastor Rich Nathan began the series, Advent: Questions Jesus Asks. As Rich explained, Advent consists of the four Sundays that precede Christmas. It’s a time where Christians anticipate the coming of Jesus, where we reflect on our present situations, and where Jesus asks us questions. The question focused on this weekend was from Matthew 6 when Jesus asks, “why do you worry?”
The word “worry” or “be anxious,” Rich explained, is from a compound Greek word that literally means to have a divided mind, something that separates or distracts us. Worry is like constant background noise that inhibits us from focusing on what’s in front of us, a common experience in today’s culture. The World Health Organization has found the United States to be the most anxious country in the world, and by far. But what we find in Matthew 6 is Jesus’ words, “don’t worry!” As Helmut Thielicke put it, “these words “don’t worry” were spoken to us by a person who looked into the future and could see the darkness coming. The person who said “don’t worry” was someone whose life on earth was anything like bird-like and lily-like.” We see in scripture that worry does not come from our external circumstances, but it is internal; worry is from inside of us.
How can you stop worrying? Matthew 6.25-29 teaches us what to do: when you are worried, Jesus says, take your emotions in hand and begin to think deeply about God. We must ask deeper, more fundamental questions. Is there a God? If you believe there is a God, what is he like? Is God in control? Rich taught us that God being in control does not mean that circumstances will be absent that might trigger worry in you. Yet, Jesus says you can live a life free of worry in the midst of very troublesome events. Jesus modeled this way of living, as did others in scripture, like Joseph. We see in scripture that God was in control of Joseph’s life; God used the evil against him for his good. As child of God, all the circumstances of your life are under God’s control.
Jesus tells us how to rid our lives of worry: by seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. This is very different from what our culture teaches us. Rich taught that to seek first the kingdom of God is “to desire Jesus to rule over your emotions, over your relationships, over your speech, over your money, over your entertainment choices, over your sexual life, over your dating, over your work.” If seeking God’s kingdom and God’s justice is your single ambition, then Jesus says, “Friend, you have nothing to worry about.”
In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.
Getting the Conversation Started
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
- What are one or two things from this weekend’s sermon that really stood out to you?
- Is anxiety something you struggle with? What did you find was helpful from the sermon?
- Was there a worry-filled circumstance of the past that you have seen God use for good in your life?
Study Goal: Anxiety and worry are common in the life of any person; some in greater degrees than others. The Christian faith is full of stories of people who have gone through impossibly difficult times, yet were not debilitated by worry. Jesus teaches us that children of God can literally live lives that are free of worry, and gives us practical steps to replace worry in our lives with peace; by gaining His kingdom-perspective.
Context: In this letter to Philippian church, Paul discloses that he was imprisoned (vv. 1.7, 13, 17), and realizes that the outcome may very likely be death (vv. 1.20, 2.17). One reason that Paul wrote this letter was to give the Philippians news about his imprisonment, and to express how his imprisonment was already being used for the furtherance of the gospel. The Philippian church seems to be a flourishing community, but Paul addresses some challenges the people are facing.
Read Philippinas 4.4-9
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. 9 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.
- (v. 4) What does Paul say should be the Philippian’s posture? (a. To always rejoice) Given the context of the letter, why is this striking? (a. Paul tells the readers that he is currently in prison because of the gospel) How does this change Paul’s command to continuously rejoice? What sort of authority does this give Paul, in your opinion?
- (v. 5) What does Paul say should be “evident to all” (a. Your gentleness, or gentle spirit.) In a passage that deals with anxiety and worry, why do you think he adds this? What else does Paul say in this verse? (a. “The Lord is near”) What does this add to the passage? (a. It reminds the readers of the Kingdom of God; that Jesus’ return is imminent. This puts our anxiety in a kingdom-perspective from the start of the passage)
- (v. 6) What does Paul say to do instead of being anxious? (a. but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.) The Greek word that “petition” is translated from means, “seeking, asking, entreating, or an entreaty to God.” What, then, does it look like to “present your requests to God by prayer and petition?” Where else in scripture do we see examples of people who petitioned God with their requests? If God already knows what we are going through, why does Paul say to “present” or “let your requests be made known” to God?
- (v. 7) What is the result of following what Paul says to do with anxiety in verse 6? (a. The peace of God comes) Is the peace of God an inactive or active part of the process? (a. Active; it says that the peace will guard our hearts and our minds, not just make us feel good.) The word used here for peace means, “the state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” What does it mean that this type of peace is what results in us? (a. Again, we’re given a kingdom-perspective. We have peace because we remember our soul’s salvation in Jesus, rather than being distracted and overcome by the circumstance that is before us. We are given God’s perspective.)
- (vv. 6-7) Read v. 6-7 from the Message version:
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Did you notice something you hadn’t noticed in the initial reading of the verse? Did God communicate something in a new way? Have you ever noticed praise “shape your worries into prayers?”
- (v. 8) Paul tells us another action we should take instead of worrying. What does he say to do? What does he say to think about? (a. 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.) What does this imply? (a. That we do not have to think and believe whatever thoughts we have. We can choose to think about other things). How is this different from simply thinking positively about a situation? (a. Thinking positive thoughts can be just a way to distract ourselves from the present situation. Here, God takes our anxious thoughts, and gives us His perspective on the situation, which results in true and honest peace and praise, not distraction from a problem.)
Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.
- Do you struggle with anxiety regularly? Have you settled it within yourself that, “I’m just an anxious person; it’s not possible for me to live a worry-free life?” Jesus tells us, “Do not worry.” Ask God for some practical actions you can make in your life from these verses to move toward a life free of anxiety and worry. Pray with someone in the group, and confess the areas of your life that you know you’ll never be free from worry about. Invite God into those areas.
- What is in your tomorrow that you’re worried about today? Sit and let the words of Jesus speak to you all the way to your core. Let Jesus’ words be real and true: Do not worry. Picture him saying these words to you. Ask God for his perspective on the situation at hand.
- Perhaps you need to use this time to “rejoice in the Lord always.” Ask God to help you remember times that he has used bad circumstances for your good, and to thank God for his faithfulness.
- Perhaps you do not struggle with a great deal of anxiety, but someone you are really close to (a good friend, a relative, your spouse) does. If you are unsure how to help, ask for God to speak to you about it. If you feel angry, impatient, or tired of this person’s battle with anxiety, ask God to soften your heart so that you can love them the way that God loves them. Pray for breakthrough on behalf of this loved one.