3 Ways to Turn March Madness into March Gladness
When I hear the word March, I think of March Madness. And I don’t just mean basketballs and brackets. I also mean never-ending to-do lists, stress at work, illness and death, difficult relationships, and all of the other constant reminders that the world is tragically broken. But all it not lost because we have our hope secure in something bigger than all of those things — God. Using Philippians 4:4-8, I’m going to give three practical tips for how you can turn your March Madness into March Gladness.
Rejoice in God.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;" (Philippians 4:4-5)
As I stated above, the world is a broken place full of trials and tragedy, but we can count on the fact that God is perfectly, unchangingly holy (Exodus 15:11, 1 Samuel 2:2), saved us by sacrificially loving us (Romans 5:8, John 3:16), and has a plan for the redemption of the entire universe (Revelation 21-22).
Because of this amazing fact, we always have something to rejoice in that is of eternal significance. Does that mean that we live as if none of the effects of sin in the world sadden us? Of course not! It just means that we mourn with hope for the future/eternity in our hearts (Jeremiah 29:11), seek God's comfort in affliction (Matthew 5:4, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4), and see every trial as a chance to become holier (Romans 5:3-5).
Pray like crazy.
"[D]o 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 Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)
No matter what your troubles are or how busy you are, make praying to God a priority in your life. The renowned reformer Martin Luther is often quoted as saying "I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer." That statement may seem ludicrous if you're like me and have six hours of meetings a day at work, work that still needs to be done outside of meetings, serving obligations, hobbies/personal goals, and friendships to maintain, but the sentiment that prayer should be a priority in times of need is absolutely relevant. The greater the pressure you're under, the more you need to cast your anxieties on God and trust that He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
As I stated above, God comforts those who seek Him, and He also provides peace that seems impossible in the midst of life's greatest storms. So humbly, regularly tell God what you're feeling, ask for what you want and need, and follow Jesus' example in the Garden of Gethsemane (where I took the picture at the top of this blog) of submitting to God's will by saying "nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:40) God knows infinitely more about your struggles and how they will turn out than you do, so He should always be your first call and never your last resort.
Shift your mindset.
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)
This verse may have more "whatevers" than the classic 90's film Clueless, but it also has some practical advice for us. While we shouldn't ignorantly, blissfully ignore the troubles around us, we should focus on God and use the good in the world to propel ourselves to seek and praise Him. Here are a few examples of this.
Truth: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and the Bible is the source of truth for us, but when you encounter worldly things such as songs. movies/TV shows, or books that hint at or blatantly speak God's truth, take a moment to reflect on the eternal truth that the worldly medium points to. And thank God for bringing it to your attention instead of just letting the moment pass you by.
Just: Every day, there seems to be a breaking news story about government investigations resulting in guilty verdicts, sex traffickers being arrested, and other acts of justice. When we watch these events unfold — whether they're executed well or not — we should reflect on the fact that God is a perfect judge, who will pass judgment on all of humanity before He redeems creation itself for His children to dwell in (Revelation 20:11-21:4). And because of His grace through Jesus Christ, we will be judged based on Jesus' perfect record of righteousness instead of our lifetime of sinful actions.
Lovely: Nature is a beautiful thing, and so are art, musical compositions, architecture, and even people. Appreciating that beauty should never stop at a wistful smile and an Instagram post. Instead, let those moments remind you that God created a beautiful world and will make all things new again (Genesis 1-2, Revelation 21:5). Yes, every aspect of creation is marred by sin, but we still have beautiful sights, sounds, and sensations because of His "common grace." The rain falls and sun shines on the just and unjust, so we all experience moments of happiness and beauty even in a fallen world (Matthew 5:45).
Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge verse nine of this passage, in which Paul exhorts the church in Philippi to follow his example. Having a godly example to follow means that they knew Paul. Being recipients of this letter also meant that they were part of an early church. The takeaway? Being surrounded by a trusted group of Christians is essential for dealing with the tribulations in the world.
While the men and women you fellowship with don't have any more control over their circumstances than you do, they can provide comfort, point you to truth, and help you find joy even in the midst of your darkest days. If you don't have a church home and you live in Dallas, I suggest visiting my church, Watermark Community Church. If you're outside of Dallas or was looking for something a little different, check out the Acts 29 network of churches.
We aren't meant to go through this life alone, so take advantage of the wonderful blessing that the church can be so you can experience God's loving kindness and learn His truth by locking arms with His people.