I talked to a dear friend of mine the other day. Her life is currently full of trials and illnesses but her heart and mind are at peace because of her faith in God’s presence and power. She described that even while she is waiting on God to answer her prayers, she is overcome by an unexplainable peace that can only come from God. Isn't that how all of us want to face our trials?
Wednesday in the Word
Come with me as I walk through a passage of Scripture phrase by phrase, reviewing its context, interpreting, and offering an application. Some of us - including me - learn best by watching somebody else. That’s what I am inviting you to do today as I study through Philippians 4:4-9:
“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. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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.”
Have you ever experienced God’s peace? It really surpasses understanding. Everything in your life is upside down. Nobody would blame you for feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, yet you have this peace. You know it’s from God. You don’t fully understand how it got there, and how it exists in the first place, but you are overcome by it. His peace surrounds you. In the midst of chaos, you can’t help but feel thankful and joyous because your heart is calm and at peace.
This passage is the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. He wrote to his friends about living a life worthy of the gospel with prayer, thanksgiving, humility, and contentment. Then he adds…
“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.”
Paul encourages us to…
Rejoice: Isn’t it interesting that we have to be reminded to rejoice? Paul repeats his exhortation. “Rejoice! No seriously: Rejoice!” Do you get the picture that he means it? We are to rejoice always - that means even when we feel overwhelmed. Side note: Please, don’t use this passage on your depressed friend to prove to her that her depression is a sin. Remember that Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) God sees our anxiety and sadness and invites us with open arms.
Be known for our gentle spirit: The ESV translates this word “reasonableness” while the NASB and NLT use the phrase “gentle spirit.” Commentators describe this type of person as considerate and selfless. Certainly, God doesn’t want us to be self-consumed complainers. Yet sometimes when I feel overwhelmed that’s exactly what I become. Anyone else?
Do not be anxious but rather…: The world may give us reason to be anxious, but in light of God being on our side, all worry should fade. God is sovereign - that means He is in control. Yes, that’s right. The Almighty God who loves us is in charge. He is neither surprised nor overwhelmed by your situation. So instead of succumbing to anxiety, remember to pray!
- With thanksgiving: Don’t forget to count your blessings even in the midst of trials. Likely God is using this time to teach you something and to strengthen your faith. No, I am not saying that somehow makes your feelings of sadness and being overwhelmed insignificant. Rather, in the midst of those feelings, God is teaching you - and that’s a reason to give thanks. Believer, don’t forget that God has saved you out of darkness and restored you to a close relationship with Him which enables you to…
- Bring your requests to God: Let God know what’s on your mind and ask Him for help. It’s amazing that the God of the universe cares for us enough to invite us to bring our requests before Him. He wants to listen to our heartache. He cares. He is openly inviting you to ask Him for things. So take Him up on it. Ask for peace, for healing, for direction… whatever is troubling your heart.
What happens when, in the midst of our trials, we rejoice, retain composure and character, and pray with thanksgiving and petition?
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
When we refuse to get sucked in that black hole of negativity but instead keep our faith in the Lord, we are overcome by that unexplainable peace I’ve been talking about. That peace will in return guard your heart and mind. From what? In context, we can assume it will guard us from negativity, sinful outbursts, and anxiety.
Oh boy, do I understand the importance of that! Too often my poor family is on the receiving end of my frustration - whether they caused it or not. It’s at those times that I wish for God’s peace the most. I think, “If I fully relied on God and unloaded my burden on Him in the midst of this, I would trade my anxiety for His perfect peace. I would keep my cool and save my loved ones from a lot of heartache.”
This passage reminds me that this peace of God, that transcends our understanding and guards our hearts and minds, is available to me. Praise God!
“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.”
What’s one way to turn our backs on negativity? Think positively!
Name one thing that is….
… excellent/ praiseworthy:
Dwell on those things! When grumpiness threatens to overtake your mood, write out that list, read it over a few times and decide to think about those wonderful heavenly blessings instead of your earthly mess. Request a FREE "Philippians 4:8" worksheet below. Print it and fill it out when you are feeling down. Allow it to let you dwell on things from above.
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”
In the context of this letter, this statement encompasses all that Paul has taught and shown the Philippians in person or in written communication. Live biblically, Christian. It’s not just what’s in our minds but what shows in our actions. Trust God. Flood your mind with reminders of His blessings and character and live out your faith.
“And the God of peace will be with you.”
You won’t be alone. This is the life lived in close relationship with God. And because we serve a God of peace, that’s exactly what you’ll have in your life: peace.
My prayer for all of us: “Almighty God, grow our trust and reliance on you. Allow our minds to dwell on your blessings and character in the midst of turmoil. Let your incredible peace rest on us when our own minds haunt us with anxiety and discouragement. May we find hope in You alone. May we rejoice in You always. Don’t allow trials and growing to-do lists to pull us away from You, but rather let them strengthen our faith in You. Amen.”
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