4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 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. 9 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.
In the first three verses of chapter four Paul urged the believers to be of the same mind in the Lord. As Christians it is critical that we deal with conflict correctly. There should be peace between members of the Body of Christ, a team spirit that leads to team work. But this is not where Paul ends his letter, because a Christian’s life should not only be characterized by outward peace with others but also personal, inward peace. The Lord not only wants serenity between His followers but serenity within His followers. God not only wants tranquility within each congregation but tranquility within each Christian’s heart and mind. Unfortunately Church and conflict seem to go hand in hand, and it is a sad commentary that peace within many congregations seems to be the scarce. It is equally true and sad that peace within many Christians also seems to be a rarity. Here Paul preaches about how we can experience the inward peace that God wants us to have. As he gives us the keys to peace of mind we need to remember that these keys are not presented as suggestions but as commands. In verse six Paul begins by commanding us to not “Be anxious for anything.” This is a critical command when it comes to inner peace. We are not to have anxiety, we are not to be a bunch of worry warts. We are not to fret and fear or be nervous no matter what our situation or circumstance, why? First a Christian with a troubled and fearful mind dishonors God because to fear and fretful means that we do not trust God’s sovereignty, God’s wisdom, God’s faithfulness and God’s goodness. It is an indication that we have not yet completely turned our lives over to Him. Second what benefits come from worrying, fretting and being afraid? Absolutely nothing, anxiety does not improve our circumstances on the contrary, it can do great damage. Not only has it been proven that worry is destructive to our physical health, being a large contributor to heart disease, weakening of the immune system, gastro-intestinal diseases, migraines, ulcers, high blood pressure, the list goes on, it is very destructive spiritually. A mind that is occupied with worry and fear is a mind that is not focused on the Lord. When we worry and fret we lose sight of the Savior and His sovereignty. As we lose focus on the Lord and His revealed Will we are tempted to handle our circumstances with fleshly strength and wisdom instead of the Word. We end up trying to correct the external circumstances when, perhaps, our circumstances were meant by the Lord to correct our inner-self. Third when we lose focus we get distracted from carrying-out the Lord’s purpose and plan for our lives. We lose sight of His goodness and blessings and are tempted to become negative and ungrateful. We take our eyes off the One who is the only source of true and lasting peace. In verse seven Paul tells us that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Not only can God’s peace banish all anxiety and anguish from our hearts and minds, but it can keep it away. The peace of God acts like a soldier on duty protecting our heart and mind. Not only attacking anxiety but also standing guard and not allow anxiety to sneak back in. God’s peace is greater than the worry and fear of our flesh. We can experience perfect inward peace and tranquility in the midst of the most trying circumstances and severe tribulations. His peace may not seem possible as you look at the problems you face but Paul reminds us that it transcends all understanding. It may be hard to comprehend how our world can be collapsing around us and yet we can be perfectly calm and completely composed, but the peace of God can provide that kind of protection. The first key to experiencing peace is:
Paul tells us verse six that “in every situation, by prayer and petition….present your requests to God.” The word teaches that whatever is bothering us instead of turning to worry we should take it to the Lord in prayer. Whatever we face that causes us fear and anxiety needs to be brought to the Lord’s attention. We don’t need to panic we can pray, there is no need to be drained by distress and experience mental and emotional turmoil we can turn to the Lord. We don’t need to be bashful about bringing our problems to the Lord; if it brings concern to us then it is a matter of concern to Him. So don’t be shy about pouring your heart out to God, Peter reminds us in 1 Peter that “He cares for you.” God is interested in the big and the small things in our life, nothing is too trivial to take to Him. The Word of God tells us to “present your requests to God” so what do you need to talk to Him about? Be specific about your situation and believe that God can answer your prayer. We need to remember what James 1:6-7 says, “let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts…..let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.” As you take your requests to the Lord, remember the power of petition that Paul talks about in in Ephesians 3:20, where he says of God that He “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” Once we have made our requests known we need to wait patiently for God’s answer. He always answers prayer and His answer will be the product of His love, His compassion and His wisdom. He will answer by giving us whatever is best for us, remember Matthew 5:7-11, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened. Or what man is there among you, when his son asks him for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” The Lord will always answer by giving us, His children, what is good for us. That means that sometimes He will answer our prayers precisely as we requested, while other times He may answer in a way totally different than anything we might have envisioned. Our basis for peace of mind is that God not only hears us but He answers us by giving us what is best. We need to accept that God sees the big picture and He will give what is truly the best based on His infinite wisdom, love and power. But when we take a matter to the Lord, we must leave it with Him. 1 Peter 5:6-7, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him.” We cast our worries and fears upon Him like we throw a ball to someone. The ball is now in His court and we need to let Him make the next move resting in the knowledge that He will respond “at the proper time” by giving us that which is for our good. Pray is really a transfer of trust, where we stop holding on and hand it over to God. Do you believe that He is bigger than your battles, more powerful than your problems? This is not only trusting in God’s ability but also His timing. Do you want peace, then stop panicking over the problems and start praying? Today where do you need to transfer trust from self to the Savior?