A couple of airlines this past week had problems with anxious flight attendants. The one that caught my attention was the flight attendant on American Airlines. That was the airlines 23 of us flew on out of Dallas/FortWorth to Alaska. Last Friday and a flight attendant on American Airlines flying out of Dallas /FortWorth said over the aircraft intercom system that the plane was going to crash. Two other flight attendants were injured trying to seize the out of control attendant who by this time was screaming, “Captain, I’m responsible for crashing this plane,” “I have to kill passengers before takeoff.” Eventually she was handcuffed by police and escorted off the plane.
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reported from a study that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health illness in the USA with 40 million people. That is 18 percent of adults suffer from incapacitating anxiety. That is almost 20 out of 100.
What does anxiety have to do with the Fourth of July, Patriotism, God and Country? Paul in Philippians is going to say that the most patriotic thing you can you for your country is stop worrying.
1. As Americans we have two citizenships.
We are citizens of the USA because of the declaration of independence in 1776, the birthday of our nation. This freedom cost 25,000 lives in the Revolutionary War. We are also citizens of Heaven. This freedom cost God His only Son. Paul declares this truth in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven.”
Paul uses the Greek word from which we get our English word “politics” in 3:20. Philippi was a Roman colony thousands of miles away from Rome. The Philippians were good Roman citizens in another country. They were loyal to the Roman government and Emperor. In 1:27, Paul challenged them to be good citizens of Heaven, “Conduct yourselves as good citizens of heaven.”
The verb Paul uses is related to our word politics. He is saying, “Behave the way citizens are supposed to behave.”
Wiersbe and his wife were visiting in London and one day decided to go to the zoo. They boarded the bus and sat back to enjoy the ride; but it was impossible to enjoy it because of the loud, coarse conversation of the passengers at the front of the bus. Unfortunately, they were Americans; Wiersbe said he and his wife could see the Britishers around them raising their eyebrows and shaking their heads, as though to say, “Oh, yes, they’re from America!” Wiersbe and his wife were embarrassed, because they knew that these people did not really represent the best of American citizens. Paul is suggesting that we Christians are the citizens of heaven, and while we are on earth we ought to behave like heaven’s citizens.
2. Believers can be model citizens of both countries
A. We can be model citizens of the USA. Paul was a citizen of Tarsus, Rome, and Israel. He spoke of these citizenships (Acts 21:39; 22:28; Phil 3:5). Daniel Webster, the senator, statesmen, and orator once said, “Whatever makes good Christians, makes good citizens.” Paul did not spend much time on the subject of politics. In Phil 3:20, Paul said,
“Our politics is in Heaven.” He did write Romans13:1-7 and instruct believer to obey their governmental leaders. Paul also wrote 1 Timothy 2:1-2 and instruct us to pray for their leaders.
B. We can be model citizens of Heaven. This was by far Paul’s greater burden. Paul was a citizen of Tarsus because he was born in the Greek city Tarsus. Paul was a citizen of Rome because he was born to a family of Roman citizens. He did not purchase his Roman citizenship, he inherited it. Paul was a citizen of Israel because he was born into a Jewish family. Paul was a citizen of Heaven because he was born again. Are you a citizen of heaven this morning? Or are you an illegal alien who has snuck across the bounder into this assembly of believers?
While we are citizens of the USA, we “are strangers and pilgrams” in our earthly country. This causes a tension. It is possible to be patriotic and not Christian. It is possible to be Conservatives but not Christians. I believe Christians should be both. The solution to our spiritual problems as a nation is not political. While Paul used the word “politics” he did not discuss politics.
How can we be good citizens of heaven? In 4:1, Paul uses the conjunction, “Therefore.” He is connecting two thoughts. Because we are citizens of Heaven, here is the way we should act. We can be good citizens of heaven
a) By Standing Together in Unity (4:1-5)
b) By Praying Instead of Worrying (4:6-7)
1. Stop Worrying about everything (4:6a). This is an imperative in the Greek or command. So when we worry we disobey God. When we worry we are not trusting God. Worry is a lack of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. We think this is an impossible command because we confuse worry with genuine concern. Genuine concern is concern for others while worry is self-concern.
a. Worry is not the same as concern. We should be concerned for others as Paul described Timothy in Philippians 2:19-20. Paul said concern for others should characterize the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:25: “the members should have the same care one for another.” Worry is selfish which hinders us from ministering to others.
b. Worry in self-concern. This is what Paul is condemning. This is what Jesus forbad in Matthew 6:25-33. Stop worrying about your life, what you eat, what you wear. But seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” Worry is selfish which hinders us from laboring for the kingdom of God.
You might say, “Well I just a worry wart. My mother or my day was a worry wart.” Does that give us the right to disobey God’s Word? What if your mother or day had been an alcoholic?
2. Start Praying about everything. If it is big enough to worry about it is big enough to pray about. This is also a command.
J. Vernon McGee wrote about a rich widow in Philadelphia who came to the British pastor, G. Campbell Morgan, who was visiting in America and asked him, “Dr. Morgan, do you think we should pray about the little things in our lives?” To which Morgan replied, “Madam, can you mention anything in your life that is big to God?” (J. Vernon McGee, Philippians and Colossians, page 90). If it is big enough to worry about it is big enough to pray about.
At the time of the building of the Panama Canal, after two or three failures, when the successful project was under way they wanted to finish it as quickly as possible and so the crew had no vacations. To compensate for it, the workers’ families were sent down to be with them. So a certain young engineer, his wife and little son were sent down. Because of the danger of malaria, they were put out on a houseboat. Every afternoon the young engineer could be seen rowing himself out to the houseboat. One evening he had those long blueprints all spread out while his little son with his toy wagon was playing at his feet. Suddenly the child began to cry. A wheel had come off his wagon. The little fellow had worked with it and tried his best put it back, but it was a hopeless project for him. Now would you think that the dad would shush him and put him out of the room—maybe tell the mother to come and get him because he was disturbing his? No. He just laid aside the blueprints of that great canal, picked up his little boy and asked him what was the matter. The youngster held up his wagon in one hand and the wheel in the other. The father took the wheel and put it on the wagon with just one twist of the wrist. He kissed away the little fellow’s tears and put him back on the floor where he played happily. He was a good father (McGee, page 94).
Just as easily as that good father fixed what was a big problem for his son, God can fix your big problem which to Him is so small.
Jesus said, “If a child asks his father for a piece of bread will he give him a stone?….How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him? (Luke 11:11-13).
Next, Paul tells us how to pray and not worry.
a. Worship in your prayer. All the model prayers in Scripture start with worship and adoration: Nehemiah 1:5; 9:6; Daniel 9:4-5; Matthew 6:9.
When Nehemiah heard about the “great affliction and reproach” of the wall being down around Jerusalem, he wept and prayed, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps promises and mercy for them that love him.”
b. Plead in your prayer or “supplication.” This is desperation praying. This is Jesus in the garden praying with strong crying and tears (Hebrews 5:7). This is not as frequent as “prayer” or worship but is not effective without it. If the only time we pray is when we are in danger then God is just a spare tire in our lives. The only problem is that when you have a flat, you may not have a spare tire.
We had just moved into our house where Mom and Dad live now. It was brand new. My younger brother, John, accidently knocked a hole in the sheet rock wall and Dad spanked him on the rear. John lost his breath. Dad started CPR. Dad finally raised up and said, “I have done all I can.” I ran to my bedroom, fell on my knees and started begging God to let my brother live.
c. Give thanks in your prayers. Paul did not say, “After God has answered your prayer give thanks.” Paul said, “As you are making your requests give thanks.” Before God answers your prayer, by faith give thanks for his answer. When Paul was at Philippi in prison for preaching, Luke records that Paul and Silas at midnight, “prayed and sang praises unto God.” This was before God freed them from jail. Hebrews 11:6 says,
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
d. The result of this kind of praying is “the peace of God” (Phil 4:7) Daniel gives us a wonderful illustration of peace through prayer. When the king announced that none of his subjects was to pray to anyone except the king, Daniel went to his room, opened his windows, and prayed as before (Daniel 6:1–10). Note how Daniel prayed. He “prayed, and gave thanks before his God” (Dan. 6:10) and he made supplication (Dan. 6:11). Prayer—supplication—thanksgiving! And the result was perfect peace in the midst of difficulty! Daniel was able to spend the night with the lions in perfect peace, while the king in his palace could not sleep (Dan. 6:18).
Conclusion: Have the wheels come off your little wagon? Give it to God. Or as Peter put it in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your cares or anxieties on Him, for He cares for you.”