¡°QUAKING HEARTS¡± By Pastor Yau
Text: Philippians 4:4-7 November 11, 2012
1) Observation on trees: When Bill Crowder visited the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a couple of trees among many caught his attention. While the leaves of other trees surrounding were not moving, the leaves of these trees were fluttering with just the slightest hint of breeze. He pointed that to his wife and she told him they were called quaking aspens. He was struck by the visual effect of those quaking leaves. While all other trees appeared calm and steady, the quaking aspen leaves shook even with only the faintest breeze.
2) Observation on hearts: Bill observed his own heart: ¡°Some-times I feel like a quaking aspen. People around me seem to be moving through life without issues or concerns apparently secure and steady, while even with the slightest issue can unsettle my heart. I see others and marvel at their calm and wonder why my own life can be filled with turbulence.¡± But thankfully, the Bible reminds us that genuine, steady peace can be found in the presence of God. Paul wrote, ¡°Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.¡± (2 Thess. 3:16) Not only does the Lord give peace, He is the peace.
WHY ARE OUR HEARTS QUAKING?
1) We live in a troubling world: ¡°I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.¡± (John 16:33) If you think the world we face now is full of troubles, the one at Jesus¡¯ time wasn¡¯t any better. Since the Great Fall, the world has never been in peace, much less a paradise. Sin has infested the hearts of men, destroyed the system God created in the first place; turned things upside down from what God intended it to be. This is true in history, in politics, in human relationship and in personal experience. Don¡¯t expect peace in a troubling world.
2) Evil in hearts is everywhere: ¡°The Lord saw how great man¡¯s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.¡± (Genesis 6:5) How many more words than these in this verse you need to see the terrible condition of human hearts: wickedness, every inclination, only evil, all the time? How could anyone live in this world not to have a quaking heart? Just read newspapers, watch TV news, listen to radio on the terrible things happen around us each and everyday. Look at how a US ambassador and 3 officials were murdered in Libya on Sept 11, after we helped the Libyans overturned their dictator Gaddafi. Everyone can see clearly evil rules in human hearts.
3) It happened to powerful people: ¡°All day long they twisted my words; they are always plotting to harm me. They conspire, they lurk and they watch my steps eager to take my life.¡± (Ps. 56:5-6) If a king with all the power in his disposal in ancient time could feel fear that quake his heart, how much worse to us, the humble, vulnerable and defenseless?
4) It happened to God¡¯s most faithful: ¡°Alexander, the metal-worker did me a great deal of harm....You too should be on your guard against him. At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.¡± (2 Timothy 4:14-16) No one is more faithful in his service for the Lord, but Paul had first hand experience on evil of enemy and failure of friends. How much more do we need to have quaking hearts?
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF A QUAKING HEART:
1) It is a sign of little faith: ¡°You, men of little faith, why are you so afraid? Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves and it was completely calm.¡± (Matt 8:26) We all can understand and sympathize with the disciples who were facing a great storm. Their hearts were so weak and quaking that they called the Lord for saving their life. Before Jesus calmed the winds and waves, he pointed out the core problem of their quaking heart: men of little faith, faith in the Lord and Creator of the universe. We have no problems of recognizing Jesus as Lord of all in good days, but when facing great danger and our hearts begin to quake, we know we have very little faith in what we claim to believe. At the moment of fear, faith is being tested.
2) It paralyzes normal judgment: ¡°Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him: They have credited David with tens of thousands, but me with only thousands. He thought: What more can he get but the kingdom? And from that time on, Saul kept a jealous eye on David.¡± (1 Samuel 18:8-9) David had just saved the kingdom of Saul by risking his life. All he got was jealousy of a king with a quaking heart, fear of losing his kingdom. In normal condition, Saul wasn¡¯t that kind of man. But in fear of losing something important to him, his ability to make sound judgment was impaired.
3) It propels foolish choice: ¡°Then Saul said to Samuel: I have sinned. I violated the Lord¡¯s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people so I gave in to them.¡± (1 Sam 15:24) In weighing the pros and cons of obeying the command of God or the pressure of the people, Saul chose to stay with the people instead of staying with God for political gain. But his choice with a quaking heart cost him more than losing a battle but his whole kingdom. (15:23)
4) It shuts out the source of peace: ¡°On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together with the door locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus cam and stood among them and said: Peace be with you!¡± (John 20:19) We all can share the feeling of fear among the disciples in that situation and understand the fact that they locked the door as they gathered inside the house. If it were not the super nature of Jesus, they could have shut him out, the source of peace they need the most. We know that fear and peace can¡¯t coexist at the same time. When our hearts are controlled by fear, there can¡¯t be peace in them at the same time. So, next time when your heart is quaking without peace, find out what is the cause of fear that drives out the peace you long for. The good thing is Jesus cannot be shut out by our fear. When he comes into our hearts, he will give us peace no one can take away.
STEPS TO STOP QUAKING: (Philippians 4:4-7)
1) Real peace is in the Lord: ¡°Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice!¡± (4:4) ¡°Rejoice¡±, chairete, is present, plural, imperative. It is not a suggestion but a command; it is not for a few elite but available to all believers of the Lord: Christians must rejoice ¡°in the Lord.¡± Joy or rejoice, is not about emotion, how we feel, but is about our confidence in the Lord, what he can do. Too many things in our life can¡¯t bring our emotion to feel peace or joyful. But our faith ¡°in the Lord¡± can bring us the joy others can¡¯t understand. If you want real and lasting peace and joy, don¡¯t look in things of the world, look up to the Lord. Jesus can give us lasting peace you never know before. ¡°Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.¡± Jesus said, ¡°I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.¡± (John 14:27)
2) Real peace in graciousness: ¡°Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.¡± (4:5) The above is about how we obtain peace and joy from the Lord, this is about having peace and joy with others. Oftentimes, we lose peace and joy on the inside because our relationship with others is not as good as we hope and wish on the outside. Epieikes in Greek may mean so many Christian virtues: gentleness, reasonable, generous, goodwill, friendly, charitable, merciful, lenient in forgiving, etc. The best translation of epieikes may be gracious humility: gracious on the outside to others that comes from humility on our inside. Since the Lord is coming soon, there is nothing we need to be hash, mean, unforgiving.
3) Real peace about daily needs: ¡°Do not be anxious about any-thing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanks-giving, present your requests to God.¡± (4:6)This is the third cause of quaking hearts: we worry about our daily needs. The early Christians faced real danger about their daily needs because they were under severe persecution and shortage of daily needs. To be anxious, merimnate, was part of life. The Greek word means to overly worry, to care too much, and to put all your heart to concern, Paul said, for meden, nothing. There is a guarantee of our daily needs because God is the source of our ponti everything. Ponti is from ponta all things. There is nothing God cannot provide. No need to be anxious.
4) Real peace transcends all: ¡°And the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ.¡± (4:7)How do we understand peace and can we have peace in distress situation? The answer is the peace of God works in all circumstances and is way above human understanding. This supernatural peace serves as safeguards for human hearts and minds under any and all circumstances. Things in life change all the time. If you depend on anything for our peace, we will quake in smallest changes. But if we depend on God and his safeguard, we will have peace no matter what our life situation may be.
1) Let¡¯s face the truth: Some say there is a good reason why the first thing a newborn baby does is crying, because he/she knows life is tough and the real thing is yet to come. This is true regardless of background, education, money, or social-economic class. We live in a world that is unpredictable, mostly evil and runs wild in its course. So, to have quaking-hearts is not anything abnormal at all.
2) Let¡¯s find a solution: God has issued an invitation to all who are weary and quaking to come to him and find rest. He promised a safeguard solace we all can run to when life is hard and cold. Don¡¯t miss the boat while it is still here.