Peninsula Community Church
July 28, 2019
Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 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 Christ Jesus.
One of the deeper questions of life is the question of how one can achieve a life of peace? How does one reach the place where they can live in peace? That is the cry of most hearts. In this passage, Paul defines peace by saying that God’s peace passes all understanding. This is a peace that is there when everything around you is falling apart and the world is filled with torment and difficulty. It is a peace that is achieved not by what we do, but whose we are and who we trust.
It is noteworthy that the dictionary defines peace as follows. Peace is the freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility. It is a mental calm; serenity. It is a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended. It is the freedom from dispute or dissension between individuals or groups.
It is noteworthy that Scripture suggests there will be no peace in this life. There will always be something that will cause upheaval and turmoil in our life. The kind of peace most people want is just an illusion. It is a fantasy. In Matthew 10:34 and Luke 12:51 we find that Jesus stated that he had not come to bring peace but a sword and division. You see the Jews of Jesus’ day wanted the war and struggle with the Roman government to end. They wanted the factions within their own community to be united, but Jesus reminded them that He did not come to bring peace. Instead of peace, Jesus’ ministry would in fact create more division and more fighting. I believe that today we are in a battle that is not democratic or republican, but it is a battle for the standard that Christ has set for us individually and as a nation. It is a moral battle.
While Scripture gives us the bad news about tribulation in this world and the lack of peace here, Scripture also allows us to see where real peace comes from. Jesus in John 14:27 made this statement. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. The world considers peace as the cessation of war and disputes but this peace is much more than the cessation of war or dispute. It is the internal peace that comes from deep within one’s soul and within one’s spirit. It is a peace that comes from a deep relationship with the living Christ.
In John 16:33 we are reminded of Jesus’ words. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. The world focused on the outward cessation of tribulation but Jesus focused on the internal cessation of tribulation, so that inwardly we are at peace. That is why in Romans 8:6 Paul without hesitation states For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. That is why Isaiah proclaimed. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (Isaiah 26:3).
It is from this perspective and understanding of peace that Paul writes the words of Philippians. He begins this passage with the command that we are to rejoice in the Lord always. Wow, what a statement because there are a lot of things in my life that I do not want to rejoice over. In fact, more often than not I have an opposite response but if I am dependent on Christ for all things and if my mind, my soul, and my spirit is at rest in Him, then I can be comforted with the peace Paul defines. He says it is a peace that passes all understanding. It is a peace that baffles the mind. It is a peace that passes all human capacity to understand. Out of this rejoicing everything flows and is ignited by faith.
As he continues in this passage we find that Paul states that we are not to be anxious about anything because anxiousness takes our peace away. It is anxiousness that deprives us of our ability to rest in Christ. Anxiousness is a deterrent to our peace and to our ability to be all that He desires of us. When we are anxious, our peace is robbed and our hearts are filled with concern about the future and what is to come. The wording here tells us to stop worrying. Give it up.
The cure for worry is prayer and a spiritual focus on Christ. We are all prone to worry, but the principle applied here is that prayer and worry are mutually exclusive. Prayer and worry do not go hand in hand. To cure anxiousness we pray. The truth is worry will destroy prayer, and prayer will destroy anxiety. In other words, worship and prayer is a divine deliverance from the power of worry. One result of coming to the living God in prayer is that worry shrinks and dies at the feet of Jesus. That is why Paul reaffirms that in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
In this Paul gives us an antidote to worry. First, Paul states that we are to pray. Pray! Now that is an amazing idea. Let me ask you, do you take your problems to the Lord immediately or is it a last resort or last ditch effort to secure God’s blessing? How often do we take things to Him after they have become problems? How many times do we take things to God after we have already become overwhelmed or controlled by anxiousness? That is why Jesus commands us to make prayer a priority in our life by seeking the Kingdom of God first. In so doing, all of the things we need will be added to our lives.
Second, we are go to the Lord with our supplications, e. g. our needs and our concerns. The word “supplication” means to ask humbly and earnestly of the Lord. It means to request of God answers to prayer. It means that we carry to the Lord what He alone can handle and take care of. This is an echo of Paul’s writings in Ephesus 6:18. We catch Paul mid breath when he says that we should be praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
This is also a reminder of Peter’s words. We are to release everything to Him because He cares for us and He knows us intimately. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7). Listen to the Psalmists. Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved (Psalm 55:22).
Thirdly, we are to do so with thanksgiving in our heart. Thanksgiving and gratefulness must be the corner stone and bed rock of all we do. A thankful heart is a grateful heart. A thankful heart is one that recognizes that God is the only one that can provide and care for us. A thankful heart is a humble heart. When you think about it, it is amazing that Peter, of all people, would write these words. The tempestuous and quick tongued disciple is writing about humility but the reality is that he more than anyone else understood this dynamic. He had learned the lesson of humility big time. He did so through the multiple mistakes he made and problems he faced.
It is here that we come to the conclusion of this passage. As we pray, as we bring our needs to God, and as we begin to express our thankfulness, we find that God’s peace comes sweeping into our hearts and minds because we have the heart of God. That is why Paul could say And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The result of praying, of bringing our concerns to Him, and living with a grateful heart is that we will obtain a peace that passes all understanding. The opposite of worry is peace and the opposite of peace is worry. The peace that Paul presents here surpasses or exceeds our ability to understand peace. That is why the world around us can be falling apart and we can still be at peace in God. We can rest in who He is.
And finally, the result of praying is that God will guard our hearts and our minds. The word guard is a word that means to put up a garrison. The literal translation of the word is that He will keep our minds and hearts as a well-garrisoned stronghold. What does that mean? Our thoughts are protected. When we are focused on God, our minds will be like a well garrisoned stronghold that will not allow any thought that is not of God to enter and find residence. It also means that the heart, the seat of the emotions, will be protected.
This is not a magic pill or a magic formula. The idea is that we continue to press into God through prayer. We continue until we are at peace. We continue until worry is dispelled. We become like the man who had unexpected company and did not have bread to feed his visitors which was a huge necessity of that day. To not give his guest bread would have been a great travesty and a social disgrace. He knew his neighbor had bread and he began to knock on the door until he answered and the man gave him what he needed.
Listen to the story out of Luke 11. And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:5-13)!
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom