“a state of national tranquility”
“exemption from the rage and havoc of war”
“peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord”
“security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous)”
“In the Greek language eirḗnē, (Pronounced i-ray’-nay). The same word is used to reference a state of national tranquility, peace between individuals, security/safety, or the way that leads to peace, namely salvation.
In terms of the Christian life, peace is the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is”
Many times in my years of vocational ministry I have had the opportunity to pray with those who were facing a difficult time in life, going through a storm of some sort. I can vividly recall praying for the Lord to give them a peace that the Bible refers to as passing our ability to understand. Perhaps it was during a time of great loss. The loss of a mother, father, spouse, or child. It may have been a sudden loss of employment or a child who had brought great sorrow as a result of poor decisions in their own lives.
As I ponder this thought of a peace of God that surpasses human understanding, this question comes to mind. Is this “peace of God” that Paul references in Philippians 4 something that comes and goes as we need it or is it a place in which we can live? Is is transient or can it be permanent?
Considering that question, I was inclined to look closely at the passage referenced above. After reading through the first 6 verse I began to realize that the peace he speaks of, while certainly extended to us in our hour of need, is actually a place that we can reside.
Here’s the passage. Read it and then allow me to make a few observations for you.
4 Rejoice in the LORD always: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The LORD is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
(Philippians 4:4-6, KJV)
“You Want Me To Just Be Happy?”
The keys to living in the peace of God start right here. Be HAPPY! That’s what the Apostle Paul tells us. Didn’t you see it? It’s right there in verse 4. “Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say Rejoice”.
Rejoice means to be glad, be joyful, to be calmly happy. Don’t miss this……ALWAYS. Wait, what? Yep, you read that correctly. Paul is saying that in all circumstances, each situation, at all times in our lives we should be happy.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Things like, “Yeah right! If you only knew what I was going through, you……..” Or, “I can tell you’ve never had to face………” Well before you stop reading, allow me to tell you what Paul isn’t telling us.
Paul is not saying that we should be happy about what’s going on around you in life. He is not saying to be joyful about your circumstances. The fact is there are many things in life that are anything but happy. Paul knew this all to well. I am quite certain that he found no joy in being beaten or imprisoned for his faith! So, there is no mandate here for a believer to rejoice (be happy) about the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. You shouldn’t be happy about that unexpected medical diagnosis.
Then what is Paul saying? So glad you asked. Look at it again. “Rejoice in the Lord always”. Did you see the directive. We are to rejoice, be calmly happy, IN THE LORD. Not in a bad situation but in the Lord. This is one of the beauties of the Christian life! We have the very God of creation living within us! He’s promised to never leave us, nor forsake us. Promised that He would stay closer than a brother. Promised that He would take everything in our lives and work it for our good!
Rejoice in the Lord!
How’s Your Behavior?
I recall my father-in-law asking the question, “How’s your conduct?” He was really asking how are you behaving? How are you acting? I’m not sure if this still exists but when I was in school the very first grade on our report cards was for CONDUCT. It was a grade on behavior.
In verse 5 Paul speaks concerning our moderation. He is speaking of our mildness, gentleness, our patience. Patience is defined as bearing pains or trials calmly, without complaint, manifesting forbearance under provocation. (Merriam-Webster) Paul continues by saying that this moderation should be known by all men. In other words, our reaction to the issues of life should be founded upon the Lord that lives in us. Therefore, they should be vastly different from those who don’t know Christ. Our responses to the difficulties, the injustices, the trails of life are to be opposite of the unsaved. Our attitudes are to reflect Jesus. Our actions, the things we say ought to be vastly different from those who are lost.
These are interesting days we live in. The world is in a state of panic over the Coronavirus. We are being asked to stay at home and to practice social distancing. Business are closing, some of which may not reopen. Churches are being asked not to meet. We are seeing shortages of supplies and long lines at stores. Another financial crisis is at our doorstep. People face the reality of those thy love dying.
Yet, the question for believers is, “How’s your conduct?” How are you and I behaving as we navigate this storm?
Let your moderation be known.
How Big Is My Faith?
Francis Chan said, “Worry implies that we don’t quite trust God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives”. When you and I face a problem or storm in life we have to deal with the matter of our faith. Is our faith such that we see the problem as bigger than our God, or God as bigger than our problem? Do we believe that He loves us enough to care for us, or is He distant and maybe not really concerned with little ole me?
The Bible says we are to “be careful for nothing”. Literally, we should not be anxious about anything life may bring our way. Anxious means to experience worry. So, as a child of the Most High, we should not worry. And when we do, are we not saying that the Lord is not sufficient to deal with, to handle, and see me through my problem? Additionally, it is medically proven that worry is physically unhealthy. Worry is linked to weight gain/loss, depression, sleep issues, headaches, short term memory loss, hair loss, blood sugar levels, digestion, blood pressure, colds, and aging.
Sadly, worry has never done anything positive and is always unproductive. I read of a physician who studied patients he categorized as “worriers”. His findings were telling. Look at this.
>40% worried about things that NEVER happened
>30% worried about things that were beyond their control
>12% worried about health problems that they didn’t even have
I have heard that 40 million Americans are taking medication for anxiety. Am I saying stop? Absolutely not. I am saying perhaps some simply need to begin to view their God as bigger than the issues of life. We need to remember that with God, all things are possible. We need to trust that NOTHING is too big for our God and “be anxious for nothing”.
While I have no idea if there was any spiritual intent behind his song, Bobby McFerrin wasn’t too far off the point when he wrote,
Here’s a little song I wrote, You might want to sing it note for note, Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble, But when you worry you make it double,
Don’t worry, be happy Don’t worry, be happy now
Be anxious for nothing
So, You’re Saying I Need To Pray Thankfully?
Right on the heals of the instruction to not worry about things, Paul tell us how that is possible. Let’s face it. There are times in life when we must face issues for which there are more questions than answer. You know, those times like when a young life is suddenly taken, or out of the blue comes the worst possible news. Those situations that suck the life out of us! It’s then that the believer is driven to their knees in prayer.
With regard to prayer, the Bible says we are to be a people of prayer. We are instructed to “pray without ceasing”. Yet here, that prayer and supplication is to be accompanied by thanksgiving. Too often our first response to a storm in our lives sounds more like a complaint. Lord, why me? Why did this happen to me, my child, my spouse? But the Bible says to pray with thanksgiving. Meaning gratitude. As we have alluded to already, not a gratitude for the circumstance around you but for the Lord within you. A thankfulness for all He has done for us.
At the end of the day if you are a Christian there is nothing this world can throw at you that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Paul understood this and this truth was why he was able to say that while he had things to do, he also had a desire to be with the Lord. He knew that in the event of his death he would be in the presence of His Lord. To live is Christ and to die was gain to Paul! No matter what we have much to be thankful for.
In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.
And If I Do These Things?
The Bible is full of “if” and “then” principles. This is one of them. If we are happily calm in the Lord, if we practice patience, if we refuse to worry and trust Him, if our prayers are seasoned with thanksgiving, then we will find a place of peace. Then we can experience a state of tranquility, a calmness of heart that will surpass our ability to comprehend. A peace that will guard (protect,garrison) our hearts and minds.
Our hearts. This is speaking of our emotions such as fear, anger, hopelessness, anxiety, shame, guilt, regret, jealousy, etc. All these emotions will be kept in check. They will be guarded!
Our minds.The place of perception where we understand things, make determinations concerning things. In other words, with our minds guarded we won’t have unfounded thoughts about things. Our minds will be protected from “the sky is falling” mentality.
Well, there you have it. How to live in the peace of God.
4 Rejoice in the LORD always: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The LORD is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:4-6, KJV)
By the way, in case you didn’t know, Paul was in prison when he wrote these words!