A Christian Response to Difficult People - Radical

A Christian Response to Difficult People

In a world full of strife, hardship, and division, how does the believer respond in love to difficult people and circumstances? In this message on Philippians 4, Pastor Mike Kelsey instructs believers on what a Christian response looks like towards difficult people and situations. Pastor Mike Kelsey calls out our frequent mistrust of God, as we seek our own responses to these struggles. If we truly believe in the Sovereignty of God, why is it that we trust His ability to fight for us in our difficulties and our battles? As Pastor Mike Kelsey unpacks this passage, he gracefully guides Christians through a response to difficulties that is honoring to God.

  1. God is the Healer
  2. Prayers for Contentment
  3. The Holy Spirit Gives Us Peace
  4. How to Rejoice
  5. Pain is a Part of Life
  6. There is a Sovereign King
  7. Do Not Be Anxious

A Christian Response to Difficult People

Well good morning, everybody. I want to welcome those of you that are watching with us online. It’s a joy to be gathered around God’s word again this morning. My name is Mike Kelsey, one of the pastors here at our church and unlike previous Sundays for the last three or four months, we actually have some people in the room with us today as we slowly begin to phase back in and so they’re kind of all spread out and socially distanced. What’s up everybody? Yeah, it’s good to see y’all and listen, let me just say to those of you who are watching online, the people that are here, they’re useless to me because they have on masks. I can’t even see their face. I can’t see them smiling, can’t see anything.

But it is good to not be alone in the room and we are in a series that really just pins down something that we all sense, that we all feel in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of everything we’re going through and that’s just the reality that every single one of us really could use some good news and we’ve been highlighting just good news stories for the last several weeks as we’ve been spending time in Philippians 4 and so go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Philippians 4. But before we go there, I want to introduce you to two members of our church, Lindsey and Peter Moon.

They’ve been at our NBC Arlington location for a while now, actually from the very beginning of that location’s existence and one of our location pastors there, Nick Healer, shout out to Nick Healer, who’s a senior pastor now in Delaware. He poured into Peter.

Peter is a Marine in the military and his wife Lindsey was diagnosed with a pretty severe disease that you’ll hear more about and she’s been hospitalized so many times, didn’t think she was going to be able to make it. But her small group, and this is why one of the reasons we encourage you guys to get into community, get into a groove is because her group came alongside her and Peter and just cared for them in such an incredible way and helped take her to different appointments and just served her so well and so I want you to hear from Lindsey and Peter. Check out this video as they share a little bit about their story.

So pretty early into our marriage, we weren’t even into our first year anniversary and then all of a sudden she couldn’t get out of bed. Seeking out different doctors, trying to figure out what was going on, she was eventually diagnosed with neurological Lyme disease. I mean for years since then she’s had trouble swallowing, walking. She lost the ability to use her hands. She had seizures a lot. So there was constantly just monitoring. She needed assistance with daily life activity and poor Lindsey. She just kind of felt like a prisoner in her body. She couldn’t walk. It really forced me to come to grips with something that’s out of my control. I was starting to blame God for it, kind of going back to the way I was before I was believer in which I would take credit for everything good and blame him for everything bad.

The part of watching the women you love suffer and not be able to anything that I felt like I could do in my own power really bothered me and I guess I was just angry and disappointed and I was just in despair and I just started leaning and trusting on God.

I had been going to physical therapy for many years. Sometimes I’d take some steps forward and then I would slide back and so it constantly felt like this back and forth of doing okay and then really struggling again and sometimes it made it challenging for me to fully embrace those really good progress steps because there’d be this little nagging fear of it’s going to get taken away again. It’s not going to last. So I wrestled with that a lot over the last nine years of being sick. God brought great healing during these last three months. We were concerned because we knew that I fel; likely in a very high risk category for COVID, especially because hospitalized often. When we heard the stay at home orders, Pete was working from home all the sudden and he graciously gave up his lunch break time to walk with me and we started with short distances and I’d have weights in my backpack because I wear a backpack at all times with my feeding tube supplies.

God Is The Healer

I finally got to go back to physical therapy and so we began experimenting with all this different equipment and it was just really fun and God knew that He could bring strength in times where I just never expected that that’s how my life would look at this point and that He knew that Peter could be the one to motivate me to really step it up and feel encouraged during my workouts and accomplished. So it’s just been an incredible act of the Lord and it’s such proof for me of miracles happen and God still does really big things and we could see the greatest specialist in the world. But God is the healer.

For years, I always had to map things out and yeah, she still has the feeding tube and it still causes lots of problems. But man, it is good and it’s not just some natural progress. I think there’s nothing but to say the Lord is in this. Even the doctors are pretty amazed.

For us, we would not trade the trials that we’ve had because we feel like God used our circumstances for so much good and that that really showed us His grace and faithfulness.

I love it because even in the midst of us being apart during COVID-19, God has still been working and so I want us together, those of us who are here, those of you that are watching to pray for Lindsey and Peter and so I think we’re going to pull them up here on Skype and I want you guys to be able to meet them. Hey y’all. How you doing?

We’re good, Pastor Mike. Thanks.

Doing great.

It’s so good to see you guys. Thanks so much for being willing to share your story and I would love to pray for the two of you. It’s so funny because there’s been so many times in our church. I’m here in our auditorium. You guys are I guess at home. But so many times I’ve seen you guys right down here, down front for our prayer gatherings and all kinds of things and Lindsey, as people look at that story, it’s obviously a moving story and we praise God.

We celebrate what God has done. But some people can be tempted to kind of think it’s all kind of tied up in a nice bow and the reality of the matter is even though your Lyme’s is in remission, you still have some pretty significant complications even now as a result of the disease and so now, but also in the midst, I remember when we were talking earlier, you shared about having to fight for joy in the midst of everything that you’re going through and so how did you do that? What did that actually look like?

I think in my life really fighting for joy for me began with getting on my knees every day, spending time in the Word with the Lord and what I began to see is how many times the Lord calls us to remember. We hear this so many times with the Israelites and making an Ebenezer of marking different times in our life where we’ve really seen God’s faithfulness and so that’s something that we’ve been able to do is to have things that we can look back on and remember, but also look forward to the promises that we know will come to pass.


I know I won’t be stuck in this body forever and also just drawing near to Him every day has been incredibly crucial, serving the church and our community, when I focus on the lives of others and how I can make an impact on their lives and less focused on my own and I think too, something really important that I’m so thankful that you shared is just the support of our church family. We need our NBC family to continue to encourage us and draw close to us during the challenging times and the good times when we may forget how hard it really was and where God brought us from.

Yeah, that’s so good and the Lord has done a lot for you guys. What are your future hopes and just plans as you guys move forward?

Well, we have a lot of plans in our hearts. We are praying that God establishes our steps and really helps us discern what path to take. One thing that we’ve been thinking about as much how Peter’s mother-in-law was healed by Jesus and then she immediately got up to serve. There’s been a lot of things that we have not been able to do because of these physical medical limitations. So even things that we thought that maybe we can be parents. So we’re really grateful that all the counsel and the classes on fostering, adopting. So we’re actively researching that and asking for prayerful counsel. So that’s just one of the many things that we’re hoping that the Lord is establishing.

A Prayer for Contentment

I love it. I love it. We want to pray for you. How can we be praying for you?

I think a big way that you can be praying for us is that we would stay content in all of these different circumstances. Some of my doctors are more optimistic than others and we know we can’t set our hope on them, that it has to come from the Lord and it’s His timing and that He’s in control of that. So as much as we love when people do pray for healing because God obviously answers those prayers, we also need prayer that we will stay faithful to the Lord in any circumstance, that we will continue to find that contentment and peace in Him and to do big things with that and glorify Him with every day that we have left with breath in our lungs.

Yeah. Well, let me pray. Let me pray for you. Glad to be able to join with you guys. Lord, we thank You so much for Peter and Lindsey and we thank You God that You have promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Well, Father, as we are getting ready to look at in Philippians 4, You promise Lord God, that right in the midst of our pain and our difficulty, our circumstances, Lord, that You will be with us. Father, so many times I’ve seen Peter pushing Lindsey in the wheelchair and them being here and singing and lifting their hands and praise to You, Lord God, in the midst of their trials, Lord and so we thank You that You have strengthened them and You’ve given them grace to be content in the midst of this and we pray that You would continue to do that.

But Father, we also celebrate Your power and we praise You for Your work in Lindsey’s body, Lord God, that through physical therapy, Lord God, and through her doctors, Father and by Your grace, she’s been able to gain strength and to do things, Lord, that for these last several years she has not been able to do and so God, we pray that You will continue Your healing work in her body, Lord.

We pray for the desires of their hearts, Father, as Peter mentioned, Lord God, their desire to be parents, their desire to adopt or to foster, their desire to continue to serve people for Your glory. Would You grant them those desires? Would You strengthen them and give them wisdom to know how You want to continue to leverage their life, not just for their joy and the good of others, but ultimately for Your glory and God, as we turn to Your word in Philippians 4, Lord, we pray that You will speak to our hearts and that You will work in our hearts. We ask for this in Jesus’ name, amen. Amen. Hey, thanks Lindsey and Peter. Good to see you guys.

You too. Thank you. God bless you.

God bless y’all. I love that story for so many reasons and the reality of the matter is that every single one of us here, watching, we’ve been through difficult circumstances. Let me ask you. Have you ever been through a situation or difficult circumstance that completely caught you off guard, that took the wind out of you? Every one of us has been in a situation like that before and so all of us are doing different things during COVID-19, especially in those first couple weeks and months. None of us had really nothing to do and so actually, I thought it was going to be like a vacation. I thought it was going to be like a two-week-long vacation. Turned out to be four months and been working like crazy. But I’ve picked up a couple of things with a little bit of extra time and one of the things I did, some friends convinced me, my father-in-law was pushing me to get a bike and not a motorcycle. You know what I’m saying?

But just a bicycle and so I get a bike and I’m super excited about it and I just want to ride this thing all the time. I haven’t ridden a bike regularly since I was a kid and so the first day I had this bike, y’all, I decide, you know what? I’m going to ride this bike to the office. I need to go to the office real quick to pick something up and so I ride my bike and a friend of mine is like, “Hey, you should take this trail and go around this way and da, da, da, all that.”

I’m like, “Cool.” It’s a whole bunch of things he told me and I just disregarded it because I’m like, I’m good,” and so I’m on the bike and, y’all, I’m going. Everything started coming back to me. I’m riding, no hands. Everything is good. I’m coasting down hills. It is amazing. I got a little bell on the bike. You know what I’m saying? I’m on a trail, I’m ringing the bell just indiscriminately for no reason and I’m just having a blast and then in the distance I see an incline.

But I’m good because in my mind I’m still in my 22-year-old body and so I just take the hill and, y’all, I don’t really know how to describe what happened in that moment. All I can say is not even midway up the hill, right at the beginning, my body started violently shaking. My legs, y’all, I forgot about quads. I literally forgot about that whole muscle group.

I forgot they were there. They were burning like crazy and in that moment it just completely caught me off guard and I’m looking up the rest of that incline and all I’m thinking is there is no way. I might as well just stop pedaling and just allow myself to coast right back down and just go back home because there’s no way I’m making it up the rest of this hill and all of us have been in those kinds of situations before, not just when it comes to athletics, but when it comes to life and here’s the fact of the matter.

The fact of the matter is that our expectations often set us up for despair because even though Jesus promised that in this world we will have trouble, sometimes we believe the lie and sometimes our mountaintop experiences deceive us into thinking that we’re not going to experience difficulty and so the pain of the difficulty is not the only pain we go through.

The shock of the difficulty actually makes the pain worse and sometimes we can be in a difficult circumstance that is so difficult or so surprising or has been going on for so long that that circumstance begins to feel like prison like our whole life is confined to this one problem. There’s some challenges and some circumstances that come into our life that completely consume us where it feels like our entire life is being lived within the four walls of this cell block of a difficult circumstance like we cannot get beyond it. We can’t feel beyond it.

Reading Philippians Four

We can barely see beyond it and the promise that God gives us in Philippians 4, in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of Lyme disease, in the midst of whatever relational or financial or physical situation you might be going through, the promise in Philippians 4 is that the Holy Spirit wants to free us not just from the circumstance, but free us even in the middle of the circumstance and so we’re going to be in Philippians 4:4–7.

Last week we looked at verse 5 about how God helps us. He prepares us to be able to respond to difficult people and that response is gentleness that comes from the Spirit. Today we want to look at how the Lord prepares us to respond in difficult circumstances and we’ve been memorizing the fourth chapter of Philippians together and so I know all the people that RSVP and came here today came because they want to recite this chapter by memory along with me and so we’re going to have the verses up on the screen because I know. All right. Watch the verses on the screen. You can recite it with us.

If you got it by memory, look away from the screen and let’s say this together. Philippians 4, we’re going to recite verses 1 through 7. “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodio and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also true companion help these women who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” And I skipped verse 5. Did I skip verse 5? “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” I didn’t say I was going to say it in order. You know what I’m saying? I just let the Spirit lead me as I recite.

I just messed up for the second week in a row. David, don’t fire me, dog. Don’t fire me. All right. I’m one of the lead pastors now though. So here’s the first thing I want you to notice in Philippians 4 and you got to get this. I want you to notice how ridiculous the things Paul says are. Okay, maybe not ridiculous because it’s scripture that’s inspired by the Holy Spirit. But let’s just say extreme. Did you catch that as we were going through these verses? He says, “Rejoice in the Lord,” verse 4, “always.” Verse 5, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. Do not be anxious,” Verse 6, about what? About anything, and he says pray when? In everything.

Here’s the point. Paul is not just talking about sporadic moments here when you’re on your A game. He’s talking about a way of life, a Christian way of approaching life and the kind of attitude we should have when life gets difficult and you see these qualities mentioned in the fruit of the spirit list in Galatians 5. You see joy. You see gentleness or translated here in Philippians reasonableness.

The Holy Spirit Gives Us Peace

You see peace and so the backdrop of what Paul is calling for here is the fact that it’s the Holy Spirit that produces this in us as we surrender ourselves to him. It’s the Holy Spirit that does this in us. So what I want us to look at here is three ways that the Holy Spirit helps us to respond in difficult circumstances. It doesn’t matter what your circumstance is. Like we’ve looked at, it could be a physical diagnosis. It could be a financial situation. Maybe you’ve been furloughed and you’re not sure when your paycheck is going to come in, when you’re going to be able to go back to work. Maybe you’re anxious right now about going away to college because now you’re having to do all that in the midst of a pandemic and starting online and maybe you’re nervous about something coming up this summer that you have going on. Whatever it is, difficult circumstances coming into our life. But the Holy Spirit wants to help us respond in difficult circumstances. So here’s the first way. When difficult circumstances come, the Holy Spirit will help you rejoice in the Lord.

Paul says it right here in verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice,” and Paul is saying that joy should always characterize the life of a Christian and here’s what I want you to get. Joy here is not a personality type. This is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. In fact, this, in Philippians 4, is a command. The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul is saying to believers, “Rejoice, rejoice always,” and this is all over the Bible.

You see it all over the Psalms. You see it in the life of the early church when it says that as the Spirit filled them that they were full of joy. But what does this mean? Well, first of all, it’s clear here that joy is not just something we feel. You see that clearly because it’s a verbal command. Paul is commanding them to do something, to rejoice. You see and this is so important to understand. Joy doesn’t always feel like happiness and this is where Paul gives us one of the greatest secrets to thriving and to rejoicing in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Listen to what Paul says in one of his other letters, 2 Corinthians 6. You got to see this. 2 Corinthians 6, Paul is describing his own suffering as an apostle and he says this, 2 Corinthians 6:4. He says about him and his ministry team, he says, “But as servants of God, we commend ourselves in every way by great endurance in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger,” and then drop down to verse 8. He says, “We are treated as imposters and yet we are true.”

In other words, the people are slandering him, right? False accusations against him. He says, “We’re treated as unknown and yet well known, unknown by people, but we are well known by God as dying and behold, we live as punished and yet not killed,” and listen, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing everything.” Look at what he says. Sorrowful yet always rejoicing and this is one of the reasons why I love God’s word because it’s so real. It’s not naive or simplistic. It meets us right where we are in real life.

Sorrowful, that’s the reality that we’re in sometimes and listen, sometimes we just got to give each other the space to be sorrowful. Sometimes even when we gather in church, we can fall into this trap of acting like everybody has to be super giddy and celebratory all the time. But there are some times like a time we’re in right now where situations and circumstance have been weighing on your heart.

You’ve lost a loved one and you’re grieving. You’re so anxious that it keeps you awake at night and you’ve dragged yourself to church or you’ve made yourself get up to watch online and to be honest with you, even as you’re listening to this message, your mind is racing and your heart is pumping because of the things you’re anxious about and so often we can just step in and not allow people the room that God, the Holy Spirit actually gives people to be sorrowful. Sorrowful is the reality that we’re in sometimes and yet Paul says, “In the midst of feeling sorrowful, I’m always rejoicing.

Rejoice In Suffering

It’s because rejoicing doesn’t always feel like happiness and this is one of the greatest secrets to living a joyful life. There is a way to rejoice even when we’re sad. We have a reason to rejoice even when our feelings tell us otherwise. Joy is not just something we feel and I think that’s why Paul repeats himself. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. In case you didn’t get it, again, I will say it. Rejoice.” I think he repeats himself because just like us, there were people there in Philippi who thought that rejoicing in a time of suffering was inappropriate or just downright impossible. But I love how one writer I read put it and listen. Some of you will understand this.

He says, “A time of suffering is a time when rejoicing in the Lord is the only way to survive.” As a Christian, there are some times in your life where if it had not been for the joy of the Lord, which is your strength, you would not have been able to make it. You had to rejoice in the Lord even though your feelings were so weighed down by difficulty.

You see, oftentimes joy begins with your focus, not a feeling. We’ll come back to that. Joy is not just a feeling. But here’s the second thing. As we’re trying to figure out what does this mean to rejoice, secondly, we know that this joy that Paul is talking about is not dependent on circumstances because Paul says rejoice when? Y’all are here in the room with me. Help me out. Rejoice when? Always.

He says, “Rejoice always.” In other words, this is something that we should do. This is something that should characterize our lives at all times, in all circumstances, in all seasons of life, when things are good and when things are bad and all of this begins to make sense when you realize what Paul is telling them to rejoice in. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord.” Now, I don’t think he’s saying that our joy has to always be super spiritual like it’s bad to rejoice in good food or a fun vacation or your relationship with your spouse. No, these are all things that we should rejoice in. But we rejoice in those things as good and perfect gifts from who?

We Rejoice In Jesus

From the Lord. We rejoice in the Giver and not just the gifts because listen. Listen to me. For every single one of us, but especially if you are not a follower of Jesus, listen to me. Everything we have, everything we enjoy in this falling world, everything has an expiration date. It is like sand slipping through our fingers, your car. Come on. Some of y’all are like, “Oh, I already know. I’ve been stuck on the beltway before.” Your car, your career, your wealth, your physique, amen? It all has an expiration date, even the things we love the most, even the things that matter the most have an expiration date, your parents, your spouse, your kids, your health. I’ve spent time over the phone and over Zoom this week with people in every single one of those categories who lost a parent because of COVID-19, who have miscarried for the 6th time, who found out that their health is failing them out of nowhere. You see, even the things that bring us joy in this world, all of those things have an expiration date.

Every single one of those things is a faltering foundation for us to ultimately build our joy on and listen. This is why God says to every single one of us, those gifts, even those good and perfect gifts that come from God, they were never designed to be the ultimate source of your joy and this is why some of us constantly feel so unstable.

It’s because we’ve been trying to anchor our joy in the water instead of the bedrock and so what does it mean then to rejoice in the Lord because some of y’all are like me, to be honest. You hear rejoice in the Lord and that just sounds so abstract. Okay, I know that my joy should not rest on the things of this world. My joy shall ultimately rest in the Lord. But what does that actually mean? How do I do it? Well, here’s kind of my definition of rejoicing in the Lord. Rejoicing in the Lord means making a decision to focus on and celebrate everything you have in Christ.

Rejoicing in the Lord means, and this is so important, making a decision to focus on and celebrate everything you have in Christ. This is true even when things are amazing in your life, when you go, “Finally we’re able to go sit in a restaurant in Virginia, socially distanced, in Maryland right now like sitting outside. But we can sit in a restaurant,” and you sit and you eat this good meal. Rejoicing in the Lord is taking a moment to allow your heart to be filled with gratitude at God’s grace that this is something that He has given you in Christ, meaning that this food is just a sample. It is a commercial of the goodness of God that you will enjoy for the rest of your life.

When you are with your family and you feel the warmth of their love and there’s no conflict and everybody’s at peace and everybody’s laughing and everything is good, to rejoice in the Lord in that moment is to say, “I’m not going to just let my joy rest on this moment. I’m going to use that to point me to the Giver of every good and perfect gift and I’m going to take a moment whether it’s just quietly in my heart as I sit back and look at my family or gather the family for a moment and just say, ‘God, we thank You, God, we rejoice in You.'”

So even in the good times, we rejoice in the Lord. We take those good moments, those good gifts, and we use them as opportunities to focus on and celebrate what we have in Christ. But also in the painful moments, in the difficult circumstances, when we feel like the prophets said, that there’s no fruit growing on the vine, that we’re in this desert wilderness and we can’t easily or obviously see or feel anything around us to rejoice in, then we focus ourselves.

We, Colossians 3, set our minds on things above and we celebrate everything that we have in Christ and listen. I’ll be honest, y’all, this is not something that always comes naturally. You have to train yourself to live this way. Listen, listen, rejoicing in the Lord is a muscle. It’s a muscle. It’s something you have to keep making the decision to rejoice in the Lord. You got to keep making decision to focus on and celebrate everything you have in Christ and in the beginning, sometimes it’s hard.

That’s why some of you struggle with it right now because this situation has knocked the wind out of you. You’re at the beginning of a steep uphill climb in this particular situation and you feel the burn in your legs and you feel the ache in your heart and it’s difficult and hear me. That is okay. It’s okay. It’s a muscle. The worst thing you could do is just give up and let that muscle atrophy because there’s too much at stake. You keep making a decision to rejoice in the Lord. You keep on focusing.

You keep on celebrating everything that you have in Christ because those things are true. Listen, sometimes, sometimes the only thing that’s hindering us from joy is a decision. A decision and joy and the Lord is not always as easy as just making a decision. But that’s always where it starts. It starts with you making a decision that you are going to focus on and celebrate everything you have in Christ. You’re going to open up your word and you are going to look at Ephesians 1 and you’re going to look at Colossians 3 and you’re going to read through the Gospels and you’re going to memorize and meditate on everything you have in Christ.

You are going to put one foot in front of the other and you are going to gather in Christian community so that you can be reminded through our songs and through our encouragement and through the priest’s word of everything that you have in Christ. You are going to put your favorite worship music on, if that’s gospel, if that’s CCM, if that’s some type of Christian country music. I don’t know why you would do that.

But whatever it is for you, you’re going to do whatever you have to do to help you focus on and celebrate everything you have in Christ because it starts with a decision. Listen, so you ever been headed to a restaurant? All my analogies are food. I don’t know what that says about me. But you ever been headed to a restaurant and your heart is set on a particular meal? That’s some of y’all right now watching this. Some of y’all sitting here right now. You already know exactly what you about to eat.

You’ve been in that situation before. You’ve been waiting all day long. Not only can you visualize the meal, but you can taste it. I don’t even understand the science behind that. The brain is a powerful thing. Somehow, it’s like your taste buds are actually experiencing food that you’re not even eating yet. You finally get there and the waiter comes up to your table and says, “Would you like to hear the specials that we have today?” You feel kind of guilty because they memorized everything. But you’re like, “Nope, I’m good, dog.” You know what I’m saying?

You’re like, “I’m actually good.” You know exactly what you want. You don’t need to hear the specials. You don’t even need to see the menu and so you tell them exactly what you want and then they say, “I’m so sorry”, And you’re like, “So sorry for what?” And it’s like everything in the restaurant comes to a screeching halt and everything in that moment is hanging on the words of that waiter and they say, “We ran out of lemon pepper chicken wings.” I don’t know why lemon pepper chicken wings came to my mind.

Actually, I think Eric Saunders, I blame you, the Arlington location pastor. He posted an Instagram post about lemon pepper chicken wings. I have not been able to shake it all day. I’ve been trying to focus on the Lord. I’ve only been able to focus on these lemon pepper chicken wings. But you’ve been in that situation before, y’all, where you’ve wanted something so bad and then you get to the restaurant and you’re excited that you’re about to experience it and they say, “Sorry, we don’t have it.”

They don’t have what you want and so listen, you have a choice to make in that moment. In fact, it’s a choice that you’re going to have to keep on making throughout the rest of that meal and here’s the choice. Will I allow this one thing to keep me from enjoying all of these other things? Appetizers, entrees, beverages, desserts. Lemon pepper chicken wings. It’s steak on the menu, y’all. If you at Cheesecake Factory, it’s lasagna, tacos. It’s every genre of food you can imagine on the menu and you have to make a decision.

Will I allow myself to enjoy all these blessings or will I just focus on some lemon pepper chicken wings and listen. Isn’t that the situation we often find ourselves in where sometimes we’re so hurt or so angry about something that we refuse to rejoice in the Lord and all that He has done for us? We can be so disappointed and so dejected. We can be so angry that we won’t allow ourselves to rejoice in the Lord and the buffet of His grace because everything is confined to this one particular problem and listen.

Pain is a Part of Life

I’m not saying that what you’re going through is as trivial as a meal. What I’m saying is that deep pain and disappointment is a part of life. We can’t avoid it. I was talking to one of our older members earlier this week. I love her. She’s a spunky little lady. She is. Carol, she knows what I’m talking about. She’s almost 74 years old out of our Montgomery County campus. But all of a sudden she has sickness attacking her body. She hasn’t been able to swallow properly. If she eats too much, she is painful.

She gets unbearable heartburn in her chest. She’s lost over 70 pounds and most nights, she can’t sleep because of the hunger and the chest pain and I remember I was talking to her this week and as I prayed for her, I could just hear her worshiping and praising God and I remember her telling me that. She’s married to her husband and she’s thanking God. She’s like, “I have the most wonderful husband in the world.” But she’s like, “But I’m good.” She’s like, “I’m ready to be with my Lord.”

She’s already rejoicing in the Lord and she’s like, “And it’ll just continue no matter what happens in this situation,” and listen. This is life in a fallen world. Jesus tells us in this world you will have trouble. You know what that means? It means that in this world some things are going to happen that you don’t want to happen and listen, it means that there are going to be some things that you desperately want to happen that are not going to happen and certainly may not happen exactly when you want them to happen. But here’s what you can cling to. God is in the kitchen. God has already prepared everything necessary for your soul to be satisfied. This is what it means to rejoice in the Lord. It doesn’t mean to be naive. It doesn’t mean to not be sad or sorrowful about the pain in one particular area of your life or in your body.

There Is a Sovereign King

But what it does mean is that you recognize that there is a sovereign King who just so happens by His grace to be your Heavenly Father and He has already prepared everything that’s necessary for your soul to be satisfied, not just on the other side of eternity, but right now in the midst of everything that you’re going through and so yes, we suffer pains and disappointments. Yes, we walk through wilderness. But like King David said when he was in the wilderness, Psalm 63:5, he says, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.” Yes, we may be feeling the pain of watching so many other people have and experience what we desire to have and experience. But you can experience what David says in Psalm 4:7. He says, “God, you have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and their wine abound.” The economy of God’s joy is not in trouble. He’s not lacking supply. He can give you joy in the midst of what you’re going through.

His Grace Is Sufficient

Yes, your body right now may be riddled with disease and with pain. But you can rejoice in the Lord because not only is His grace sufficient for you in your weakness. But He promises that one day this body that is torn and tattered by disease will be raised again and glorified. This is not the end of your life. You will receive a glorified body with no pain, no sickness, and you will be with your Heavenly Father for all of eternity. Yes, your finances might be a little shaky right now. Yes, we might be right on the brink potentially of a recession and maybe that recession has already hit your bank account. But you can rejoice in the Lord because you know not only will He supply all of your needs according to His glorious riches, not only will He make all grace abound to you so that in everything you might have all that you need in order to continue to be generous.

But you can rejoice in the Lord because He has given you the Holy Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing your inheritance and that inheritance is imperishable. It cannot be defiled.

It cannot be stolen. It is being secured for you right now in Heaven. We have so much to rejoice in the Lord for and it starts with us making a decision. Brothers and sisters, let’s rejoice in the Lord. Let’s think about the goodness of God. Let’s talk about the goodness of God. Let’s sing about the goodness of God.

Let’s rejoice in the Lord always. Secondly, listen, when difficult circumstances come, the Holy Spirit will help you to fight against anxiety and you think about joy in the Lord as the fountain for all of this. The Holy Spirit as you rejoice in the Lord will help you fight against anxiety. In verse 6, Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything,” and again, we begin to feel a little annoyed with Paul like, “Come on Paul. You know what I mean? Anything?” As soon as we read it, it sounds just unrealistic. How is it possible to live life without ever being anxious about anything? Well, first of all, don’t read into this passage the way we tend to think about anxiety.

Clinical Anxiety and Faith

Paul is not talking about clinical anxiety, those feelings that get produced by chemicals in our body because of just physiological issues, right? Clinical anxiety is a very real thing and sometimes we need medicine to help regulate all of that. That’s not what Paul is talking about here. See, Paul is talking about something different and here’s what you got to understand first of all. If this sounds to you just unrealistic, understand this. When you hear God’s saying to you through this text, “Do not be anxious,” listen to me.

God’s commands are always invitations to experience something better. Every single one of God’s commands in Scripture, all of His commands are actually invitations for you and I to experience something better. So if you struggle with feeling anxious like we all do, don’t hear this as a condemning rebuke. Hear this as a loving invitation from your Heavenly Father. God is saying, “I want you to experience freedom from anxiety.” So first of all, “Do not be anxious,” literally means do not continue to be anxious or stop being anxious. In other words, He’s not saying don’t ever feel anxious.

He’s saying, don’t allow yourself to get stuck in it and he is not saying we should never be concerned about difficult situations because this is not the only place where Paul uses this word that’s translated anxiety. He uses it all over the place. He uses it in further up in Philippians 2. Paul uses the same Greek word just translated into a different English word. Look at Philippians 2:19. Paul says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you so that I too may be cheered.” Listen. “May be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” That word concerned is the same word translated anxious in Philippians 4. 1 Corinthians 11, Paul goes through this long list of all the difficult circumstances that he faced as a Christian leader.

It’s a super intense list like we read before, beatings and imprisonment and all of this stuff and you got to remember Paul is writing this letter from prison as he’s experiencing persecution to Christians who are also experiencing persecution from the Roman Empire and after Paul goes through all that list of difficulties, he says this in 1 Corinthians 11:28. He says, “And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety,” same word, “for all the churches.” So Paul says he’s experiencing a sort of anxiety as he thinks about the churches that he helps to oversee and then listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:25. He says, “God designed the church to work in such a way.” Listen, verse 25, “That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care,” same word, “the same care for one another. If one member suffers all suffer together.” So we should be concerned about each other. So listen, it’s not wrong to be concerned about someone or something. In fact, we should be concerned about certain things.

So how do we know when it’s worry, when it’s anxiety versus concern? Well, Jesus gives us the same command in Matthew 6. He says, “Do not be anxious,” and that passage about anxiety in Matthew 6 gives us some clues to help us know when normal concern is turning into the kind of anxiety that God does not want us to get stuck in it.

We won’t read through that whole passage. But let me just summarize some of these little diagnostic kind of indicators for you. Listen, you know it’s anxiety when it causes you to focus, when it causes you to become preoccupied with things that you can’t even control, like stuff that you can’t even control just constantly preoccupies your mind rather than focusing on the One who is in control. Jesus tells His disciples, “Don’t be anxious.” Matthew 6, “Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. You can’t control anything about tomorrow.” Listen, you know it’s anxiety when it causes you to doubt or just completely forget about God’s power. See, the kind of anxiety Paul is talking about is a practical atheism. It’s to profess that Jesus is Lord.

But in the midst of a difficult circumstance, it’s like God isn’t even in the equation in your thinking. You doubt or you even completely just forget about God’s power. That’s why Jesus in Matthew 6 has to remind his disciples, “Have you forgotten that your Father in heaven takes care of the birds and the lilies of the field?” They had completely forgot about God’s sovereignty and His providential care.

Anxiety Can Keep Us from Seeking God

Listen, you know it’s anxiety when it keeps you from seeking God. It keeps you from seeking God. Jesus tells His disciples, Matthew 6, to stop being anxious and instead to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and you see such a perfect example of this in Luke 10:38–41 and this might describe many of us, especially here in the DC area. It says, “Now, as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house and she had a sister called Mary who sat.” Listen, Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching. That makes sense, right?

If Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, their Rabbi comes to your house, I’m trying to sit at Jesus’ feet, I want to spend time with Him. I want to learn from Him. But verse 40, “Martha was distracted with much serving and she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her.'” See, one of the things anxiety does is it causes you to focus on everything else at the expense of actually spending time seeking God. I deal with this even in writing a sermon, y’all. It’s embarrassing to me that I could be working on a sermon, I could be anxious about writing a sermon on prayer and be so anxious that it keeps me from spending time in prayer. See, that’s what anxiety does.
Not this normal concern, but it’s an anxiety that keeps you away from the Lord and so what does it mean then to be anxious?

Do Not Be Anxious

When Jesus says, when Paul says, “Do not be anxious,” what does that actually mean? It basically is having these concerns, but carrying those concerns in a way that completely takes God out of the equation and listen, we have to resist those anxious thoughts that bombard our minds and sabotage our emotions. Many of us have gotten so used to those anxious thoughts that we’ve stopped fighting against them. They just become normal to us. We are in a prison of our anxious thoughts and we think that’s it. But listen, God says and I think he’s saying to us today we have to fight against anxiety by the help of the Holy Spirit and we fight it at its root. See, there’s so different methods to try to fight against our anxiety.

Some of us medicate. I’m not talking about real medication. I’m talking about some of us medicate ourselves. It’s why you cannot end your day without having a glass of wine or it’s not just because you enjoy wine.

It’s because you need it. It’s why some of you are so busy and distracted chronically by social media and by entertainment.

It’s a way for you to try to medicate and silence the anxiety that you feel in your heart. There’s so many different ways from a worldly perspective that we can try to fight against anxiety. The problem is it doesn’t deal with it at the root and listen, our problem is that anxiety is really just a symptom. Our strongest fears reveal our deepest desires and when we feel anxiety, it’s because there’s desires that are happening down in our hearts and we’re so afraid that those desires will not be fulfilled and so we begin to freak out and so you have to learn how to identify what’s really going on underneath your anxiety. Let me give you two practical questions. Ask yourself this. What things are you anxious about right now? What are you anxious about? But then you have to ask this next question in order to get down to the root. What are you anxious about? But then here’s the second and probably most important question.

What about those things make you anxious? What about those things make you anxious and that question helps you get to the root because for example, losing your job, that’s not really what makes you anxious. How do I know that? I know that because if you were a billionaire, you would not be anxious about losing your job. No, losing your job makes you anxious because you are afraid that your material needs might not be met. See, now you’re getting deeper down into your desires and when you begin to understand, this is what I’m at at a deep level actually anxious about not just the circumstance, but what about that am I anxious about? Listen, and here’s a way for you to formulate it and I would encourage you to even write this down as you’re thinking through your anxiety.

Think about this. If this doesn’t happen, whatever it is, my healing, this job, whatever, if this doesn’t happen, I’m afraid that, fill in the blank. If this doesn’t happen, I’m afraid that fill in the blank.

The Holy Spirit Helps Us Listen

That fill in the blank is what is really going on down in your heart and that’s when you can begin to come to God and present these things to God and that’s our last point. When difficult circumstances come, the Holy Spirit will give you peace as you listen, as you devote yourself to prayer. Paul says, “Don’t be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God,” and remember, it’s those deeper requests. It’s those deeper requests in your heart that are producing the anxiety that you feel and He says, “Do it in everything by prayer and supplication.” This is not just prayer in general. This is dependent prayer. This is putting all of your weight on God and saying, “God, I need You because I’m afraid that if this doesn’t happen, then,” fill in the blank.

“God, I need you because this thing right here is out of my control and God, I’m coming to You because Yu are the only One that can meet those deeper needs,” and He says, “I want you to pray like that about everything,” and listen, sometimes we don’t pray about everything like that because we think we should have matured beyond those requests by now. Surely God is tired of hearing me ask for the same thing again. Sometimes we don’t pray that way because we’re afraid that God will disappoint us again. What does it say about God, about prayer, about Christianity if I keep asking in faith and nothing happens?

Sometimes we don’t pray like this because we’re angry at God and we struggle to even want to talk to Him. But listen, here’s what God is saying to us. You bring all of that to God in prayer. You don’t let that push you away from prayer. You lean in and you devote yourself to prayer and this kind of praying takes time, y’all. This is not just a quick 911 kind of prayer.

Yes, we should pray those 911 prayers because, because God hears those and He responds. But I think Paul hears talking about a different kind of praying, a kind of praying that takes time where you become aware that you are in the presence of the sovereign King who is your Heavenly Father and why do I say that? Because He says, “Make your request known to God in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.” This is a praise driven, worship filled prayer because when you come into the presence of God and you make yourself consciously aware of who God is and the power and promises of God, what God has done and what God is able to do, then what happens in that moment instead of now being confined to the prison of your circumstances, it reminds you that your suffering is not the whole story because Satan would have you believe that your suffering is the whole story. But when you come with a praise driven, worship filled thanksgiving kind of praying in the presence of God, it reminds you that you have so much to rejoice in.

You Are Praying to a Good God

It reminds you that you are praying to a God who is truly good and He is all powerful and He is wise and He is sovereignly taking care of you and when you pray this way, God promises that the peace of God, literally God’s peace, the peace that characterizes God Himself, this peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. This is peace that is complete confidence in God’s control over your life and so what does it mean for God’s peace to guard your heart and mind as we close?

Instead of me explaining it, I think it’ll be better to show you. These are two friends of mine, members in our church, and this is Julian and Dee and Dee had to have major abdominal surgery because of stomach issues that she was having and while the surgeons were working, they realized that she had ovarian cancer. Now they’re super young. This is right in the beginning of their marriage and she came home a week later after that surgery, after receiving this surprise cancer diagnosis and this is how her husband Julian greeted her. Check out this video.


You say, “What does it mean that the peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus?” That’s what it looks like. There is a supernatural peace of God that stabilizes and guards and reinforces your wobbling heart when the waves of this life come crashing down on your soul. This is a supernatural peace that you can’t explain or achieve in your own human effort. It only comes in the presence of God as you rejoice, as you fight anxiety, as you begin to bear your heart to God in prayer, fully aware of His presence.

There is a supernatural peace that sustains you and my question is, do you know that peace because it’s only found as Paul says, in Christ Jesus. You see, that peace God only comes when we have peace with God, when we know that even though we are sinners who deserves God’s judgment, even though we know that we don’t deserve anything good from God, even though we know that God is a judge who should punish us, that He has given us peace.

Christ Reconciles Us

He has reconciled us not because of anything we have done, because of what Christ did in dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the grave to secure eternal life for us. Listen to me. You need that kind of peace when difficult circumstances come raging into your life and it begins by opening your heart and admitting to God that you are a sinner and you desperately need to be saved and God promises that He will save you and He will sustain you in and through difficult circumstances. So I’m going to pray as we close and I want to invite you.

If you’re watching or if you’re even here with us, I want to invite you to just as I’m praying to take a moment. If you have never trusted Jesus for salvation, I want to encourage you to pray directly to God and just confess to Him that you’re a sinner, that you want to be forgiven and that you’re putting all of your trust and hope on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

That’s the only way for you to be forgiven and ask God to lead your life and for those of you that are in difficult circumstances right now, I want to pray that the Lord will help you rejoice and that He would give you peace as you pray, even in the midst of your anxiety. Father, we thank You so much that You do not leave us alone in our difficult circumstances.

Father, we praise You and we thank You, God, that You promise to supply everything that we need for life and for godliness and that You will guard our hearts and our minds through Your peace and so I pray for brothers and sisters in Christ right now who are wavering and wobbling and are weak and are struggling, Lord God. I pray that You will remind them to keep pressing in Your strength, God. Would You encourage their hearts? Would You remind them and enable them to rejoice in You and I pray, God, for anyone who has not been born again through faith in Jesus, God, would You be merciful to hear the cry of their heart right now?

God, You know their sincerity, Lord God, those who are right now crying out to You, asking, God, for Your salvation, Lord. I pray, Lord God, that You would grant them that, Father, and that peace that surpasses understanding would flood their hearts and would characterize their lives and I pray all this in Jesus’ name. Amen. Amen.

Mike Kelsey is Lead Pastor of Preaching and Culture at McLean Bible Church in metro Washington, D.C., where ​he has been a pastor for over 13 years. In his role, Mike leads MBC to engage in current cultural issues in order to reach new and emerging generations as well as people disconnected from and disenfranchised by the church. Mike and his wife Ashley live in the D.C. metro area with their three children.


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