God’s peace alone can solve the problems the people of this world experience. I realize that is a bold statement but it is true nonetheless. All other kinds of peace are dependent on circumstance and the limited understanding of man but God’s peace is beyond understanding.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
In this verse, Paul is reminding the believers in Philippi that the peace of God is beyond anything we could imagine up for ourselves. It is a peace that will speak to both heart and mind. It is also a peace that, at times, doesn’t make sense. There are times in life, in the midst of tragedy and loss, that it would seem impossible to have anything resembling peace and yet, for God’s followers, it is something we can grasp. It is often a silent witness to the unbelievers in our circle that we can be calm and in control while the storm rages all around us. This is precisely because it does not depend on our strength or on our wisdom but on God’s which is without measure.
God’s peace also promises to “guard your heart and your mind” not allowing the anxious thoughts to have their way and also not allowing anything into the heart and mind that would trouble it. God’s peace sets up a guard at the door, blocking passage to thoughts and feelings that would cause panic, confusion and worry.
In the preceding verses, Paul speaks to the solution to the state of anxiety and what may be the cause of it.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4: 4-6
Being thankful is key. And so is joy. Paul says to rejoice always! Neither of these are easy especially when one is consumed by worry but worry is not the natural state of the believer. It may be the natural state of the unbeliever because they have no hope but we do. Therefore, we can rejoice in every situation. The key to not being anxious, found in verse 6, is to pray about everything and to ask God for what you need with a heart of gratitude, not gratitude for the thing you want, but for who He is, knowing full well that God knows what we really need.
The end of verse 5 is also comforting. “The Lord is near.” As people, we can feel sometimes that God is so very far removed from our present circumstances but that it not true. He is near. He is here with us. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit as comforter to remain with us until He comes again. God knew we would feel alone but with the Spirit in us we need not to.
As the chapter continues, we learn what to focus on instead.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4: 8 & 9
Our brains are amazing. They do not seem to distinguish between an actual event and our reliving of it. Therefore, when we go over and over things, the brain is taking in the information as if we are actually experiencing it again. One episode of offense can become a hundred as we go over and over what was actually said. A very wise woman once told me, “What you feed, grows.” And she was right. If we feed bitterness, anger, rage, or worry, it will grow. If, on the other hand, we do as the Bible says in 2 Corinthians and take every thought captive, we can decide to stop those thoughts and grow something better.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
Although, the context of this verse is speaking to the believers at Corinth about their behavior, I believe it has something to say about the thoughts we allow our brains to dwell on. If, instead of thinking about how wronged we were, we make a conscious effort to think about how God has provided for us in the past, we are shifting our focus. As we meditate on God’s faithfulness instead of man’s failings, we will grow in gratitude and peace.
Earlier, in chapter 1, Paul speaks about the peace of God no matter what the circumstances are that we find ourselves in.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3 & 4
Here Paul is saying that since we experience God’s comfort, we can act as comforters ourselves. Instead of inflaming situations with anger and malice, we can act as peace makers. We all have opportunities to listen to the troubles of others and to speak into those situations. Far better to speak life and truth than to gossip and cause even more trouble but I will leave that topic for the next blogpost. Until then, let’s train our minds to think on those things that will actually lead us toward a place of peace instead of away from it.