Peace is something long hoped for and much desired by many. The classic Miss America answers “world peace” when asked about her wishes and dreams. The common Jewish greeting “Shalom” is translated “peace.” We hear people say they have come to peace with an idea, a fact, a reality they cannot change. Those who practice meditation often do so to attain inner peace. Peace is indeed highly prized and much sought after. In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul tells us how to gain peace.
Throughout the book of Philippians, Paul has been instructing these brethren on like-mindedness and explaining the one mind we are to have. He has offered himself as an example of putting the cause of Christ above oneself (1:12-26). He held up Christ as an example of humility (2:5-11). Timothy was cited as an example of one who was genuinely concerned for others (2:19-24). Epaphroditus shines as a worker spent for the Lord and yet seeking others’ good above his own (2:25-30). Again the Holy Spirit (through Paul) shows the writer to be an example worthy of following in his disregard of fleshly accolades and possessions that he may know Christ (3:3-17). In chapter four, Paul brings his lesson home to the people there in Philippi with some specific instructions. This is where we pick up our passage. From the foregoing text, we see that this passage will help us not only to gain peace, but to gain like-mindedness with one another as Christians. Perhaps the peace promised is a by-product of being of one mind.
Paul tells us to “be anxious for nothing.” We know what it is to be anxious. A mental picture comes to mind of someone pacing back and forth, wringing their hands, waiting for news of some sort or another. They are fretting, worrying, concerned. Paul and Jesus agree, though, that this is not the picture of one who trusts in God. Jesus uses this word for “anxious” six times in Matthew 6:25-34. Yet today, we almost think of worry as part of what we do, especially as mothers. “I worry about you. I’m your mom. It’s my job.” Jesus points out that worry and anxiety produce nothing good. Modern science tells us that stress does plenty of harm, contributing to everything from the common cold to heart disease. Oh that we had the cure! Ahh… but we do.
Paul says the cure is prayer. He uses three words to describe this panacea for stress: prayer, supplication, requests. “Prayer” here is a simple, general word for addressing deity. Though it would have been a common word, we must take note because it does convey something important: we are addressing DEITY. We are not talking to Joe Schmoe down the street. We’re not even talking about some of the silly so-called gods of Greek or Roman legend. We’re talking about THE God, Creator of the universe, Lover of our souls, the One to be feared above all else (Matthew 10:28). Our prayers must be delivered with due respect and awe and with the proper attitude. “Supplication” is a word that means entreaty or urgent request for a need to be met. “Request” is stronger yet. In Luke 23:24, it is translated “demand.” Does this strike you as odd? It sounds like Paul is saying we are to demand of God! Recall the parable Jesus gives of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. There Christ tells us, “Will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?” He encourages us to be persistent, not shy and hesitant in our prayers.
Paul reminds us to temper our prayers with thankfulness. This word speaks to that proper attitude we discussed earlier. Even in great need when we are most tempted to be anxious, we must not forget the goodness of God and the gifts He daily showers on us. This verse is packed, isn’t it?! We are told not to worry, but to pray to God, to make entreaties of Him, even to demand of Him yet with a humble and bold heart, remembering that He loves us and wants to take our worries on Himself.
Paul goes on to speak of the reward which awaits the one who lays their cares at the feet of our Creator: peace. In John 16:33, Jesus says “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” He contrasts what we have in the world with what we have in Him. This peace promised by Jesus and by Paul is the opposite of what the world gives. In the world, there is worry over whether or not we drive the right car, wear fashionable clothes, have the latest thingamajig, went to the right school, got the right degree, got a degree at all… and on and on. But that is the world and we are not of the world (John 15:19, 17:16). God offers peace that is beyond understanding. Paul says it “surpasses all comprehension.” Literally, it is above the mind. This peace that God freely gives to those who are bold enough to give Him their cares is something we cannot fathom. It’s not like the flimsy peace we find in the world where mere tolerance leads to an absence of conflict. No, this is Christ’s kind of peace found in His teachings given by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26-27). This is a peace with the power to guard. “Guard” here is found in 2 Corinthians 11:32 where Paul speaks of the persecution he suffered in Damascus and says the city was under guard to the extent that he had to escape in a basket lowered through a window. This is the same guard that is set on our heart and on our mind by the peace God gives. This peace is protection for our heart, that is, our whole inner self. It is a sentinel for our mind, that is, our thoughts and intentions. When we are released from anxiety, we are free to think on what we ought to be thinking on… which is what Paul covers in verses eight and nine… and what we will cover in my next article. ;o)
By Erynn Sprouse
Erynn and her husband, Jeremy, have been serving with the West Side church of Christ in Muskogee, OK since 2007. Her husband is the pulpit minister and evangelist. Erynn is a stay-at-home-mom to their four boys (Jaden, 5; Isaiah, 2; Isaac, 2; Ean, 1 month). They are 2003 graduates of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver.