Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of trust, and how we exhibit the ultimate trust in God when we sincerely pray for his will to be done in our lives according to the needs of his Kingdom. This alone provides a peace that passes understanding. In our study today, we will be reviewing how the teachings of both Yeshua and Paul can provide detailed actions that can help us to pattern our lives after the faithful lives of the early believers.
Let’s begin with understanding how Yeshua taught about priorities in the believer’s life. In the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua taught two ways that anxiety in life, caused by focusing on worldly needs, can be overcome.
The first way is to recognize spiritual priorities.
Matthew 6:31-33 – “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the nations seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Here we see that Yeshua is explaining how anxiety is the result of over-focus on self and selfish needs. By contrast, when becoming engaged with the things of God, personal problems and concerns tend to fade into the background. A commitment to the Kingdom of God helps to keep the correct perspective that allows balance in daily living. Recognizing that the needs of the Kingdom outweigh self-directed problems helps believers to remain productive and fruitful in walking with God. Looked at from the opposite perspective, when believers focus on their own problems to the exclusion of all other things, they are likely being unproductive and unfruitful in their spiritual walk. In this condition, they have allowed themselves to become self-absorbed and overly consumed with personal worry.
It’s been said that the smallest of pebbles when held at arm’s length is of no consequence, but when brought to within inches of the eye can block all of our vision. If we view our personal problems as that pebble, then it is in our best interest to keep them at arm’s length by focusing on the Kingdom first, rather than keeping our problems close to the eye to the exclusion of everything else around us. The perspective Yeshua provides us can free us from self-absorption with our own issues.
The second way Yeshua teaches about overcoming anxiety, in addition to his teaching for us to stay focused on the Kingdom, is to focus on one day at a time. Each day has its own challenges, so just take the challenges you face one day at a time.
Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
By maintaining a focus on the Kingdom, and taking one day at a time, Yeshua provides a practical two-step plan for overcoming anxieties that the rest of the world may be experiencing.
Further, Yeshua provides a demonstration of the outworking of this teaching from his experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. In his prayer to God regarding the trial and crucifixion he was about to undergo, he simply prays, “Not my will, but yours be done.” This is the prayer that demonstrates ultimate trust in God. When believers can fully consign themselves to God’s will, then their personal needs or situations become of little or no consequence. This is the outworking of his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about seeking first the Kingdom of God. Here, Yeshua is putting the needs of God’s Kingdom above his own.
People always say they want to know what God’s will is for their lives. Well, God’s will and the activities surrounding his Kingdom are one and the same. His will is that his Kingdom becomes visible through the faithful actions of his people living out his standards in their lives. When believers start praying in this way for God’s will to be done, they must remain open to seeking and recognizing what the needs are of his Kingdom in any given situation. This comes through consistently being in his word, receptive to his Torah, or instruction, in all things.
This is a solemn teaching for the mature believer. This is no surface admonition, but a commitment that can only come from the deepest recesses of spiritual insight and understanding. This teaching separates God’s true children from those who are only loosely affiliated with him. Only a true child of God can put aside all personal connections to remain devoted primarily to God and to his Messiah as Lord. Yeshua stated it this way:
Matthew 10:37-39 – Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 16:24-25 – Then Yeshua told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Mark 10:29-30 – Yeshua said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
This is what is required to walk in the way of God, and to follow the Messiah. This is putting God’s Kingdom first. In this state, there is no opportunity for selfish worry or anxiety. Worry is selfish; seeking the Kingdom and following Messiah is selfless.
In a moment, we will examine a famous teaching of the apostle Paul, and how he expands on this theme of selflessness with specific actions that he encouraged believers to follow in order to remain steadfast and experience the peace that comes from trusting in God.
Philippians 4:6-7 – Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Messiah Yeshua.
Before we dive in to an application of these words for believers today, we must always remember to keep the words we read in the original context as much as possible for us to receive the full benefit and understanding of what is being discussed. So, let’s look at the overall point of what Paul is trying to convey and who he his audience is.
First of all, this was a letter intended for a specific group of believers for a specific purpose.
Philippians 1:1, 9-11 …To all the saints in Messiah Yeshua who are at Philippi…it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Messiah, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Yeshua Messiah, to the glory and praise of God.
Paul is writing to encourage these believers who were residing in Philippi in the first century to excel in love, knowledge and discernment, that they would be pure and blameless for the day of Messiah, to God’s glory. The rest of his epistle is primarily focused on this encouragement toward fruitful actions of righteousness so they would be counted worthy of attaining the Kingdom of God at the appearing of the Messiah.
Continuing throughout the epistle, we can see there is this constant theme of holding fast, standing firm, not allowing themselves to fall from the faith that they had received.
3:16 – Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
4:1 – Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
This standing firm was to be based upon the hope of the immanent return of Messiah who would transform them into the heavenly Kingdom. If they could hold true to what they had already attained, then they would be able to remain steadfast in the faith until the day of Messiah. He then reiterates the immanence of this day of the Messiah, and how their focus on heavenly things (the Kingdom of God) would allow them to patiently await the Messiah when he was to come and transform them.
Philippians 3:20-21; 4:1 – But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Yeshua Messiah, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
So, against this backdrop of hope and standing firm comes the famous passage about the peace of God which passes all understanding. How we all would love to experience such peace! Here is where we find the source of that peace that Paul was teaching those Philippian believers about.
Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua.
Paul says to remove anxiety by prayer and thanksgiving in everything. This is the pattern of behaviors that instills peace that only God can provide. Paul’s instruction to the Philippian congregation is to pray and be grateful for everything. When we express ourselves and our thanks to God, we are recognizing him as the one who is ultimately in control of all things. This recognition is the basic foundation of our trust and faith in God to begin with. We are deferring to him as the ultimate authority in all aspects of life. We are allowing God to be God.
However, where we sometimes err is in thinking that if we pray about a situation, God will control the outcome to make us happy and content, fulfilling all of our desires. When we think this way, we are lapsing back into a selfish focus on worldly challenges we may be facing. But in this recognition of God’s ultimate authority in all things, we should ensure that our desires always fall under the category of trusting in his judgment for the outcome that is best for him and his Kingdom, not necessarily what we think we desire. Remember, Yeshua taught about seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, not selfish needs or ambitions. Our practical focus should remain on others. Paul reiterates this to the Philippian believers as well:
Philippians 2:2-5 – …complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was also in Messiah Yeshua…
And this is the crux of the issue that can plague us: separating our selfish desires from those things that fall in line with accomplishing God’s purpose for the continued growth of his Kingdom. As our spiritual maturity level grows, we can learn to focus on this “mind of Messiah” by thinking, praying, and acting more on the needs of others, or at least as much as our own needs.
And when we can learn to sincerely pray, as Yeshua did, “Not my will but yours be done” in everything we pray about, we then move into a place of faith and trust that God knows what’s best for us, regardless of what we may want for ourselves. Paul says that our hearts and minds can have peace “in Messiah Yeshua.” To be “in” the Messiah is to follow his ways, his teachings, and his example. When we do so by seeking first the Kingdom of God and his will, our lives will bear the fruit of righteous actions that he desires for his people.
Yeshua taught the two most important things are to love God with heart, soul, and strength, and to love others as yourself. When our concerns for others become as natural as the care that we have for our own needs, then we are moving into a place of truly following the example of the Messiah, and the incomprehensible peace of God will stand guard over our hearts and minds.
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