“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
Our epistle lesson today comes from the close of St. Paul’s letter to the believers at Philippi, in the province of Macedonia (northern Greece today).
After urging the believers to “stand fast in the Lord” (4:1) and asking Euodias and Syntyche “that they be of the same mind in the Lord” (4:2-3), the apostle calls upon all the believers to “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (4:4). The Greek word behind “rejoice” indicates that believers are to rejoice in the grace of God shown them in Christ Jesus — to rejoice in His grace. And, if any people have reason to be happy and joyful all the time, it is believers, for God has graciously pardoned their sins and granted them the everlasting joys of heaven through faith in Jesus!
And, since the coming of the Lord Jesus is drawing ever closer, the Philippian believers were to let their kind and loving spirit be known to all people — an exhortation for us to consider, as well.
As those who trust in Christ and His cross for pardon and forgiveness, they were not to be weighed down with the cares and concerns of this life. Rather, they were to take all their needs and concerns to God in prayer, trusting in Him to provide according to His perfect will and also giving thanks to Him in all things.
Have you ever noticed in the Bible how often being thankful is urged upon us as believers? Thankfulness flows from faith in God to meet our every need. In many ways, it is the opposite of covetousness, which is a lack of faith and idolatry. If we trust in God to provide us with all that we need, we will also be satisfied and content in all that God provides and not desire what He has not given us because we trust in Him to know best what is good and needful for us.
And, when we trust in the Lord God for our salvation and also to meet all our needs — when we take our cares and concerns to Him in prayer and trust Him and give thanks to Him for His answer to our requests — then the truth of verse 7 is appropriated by us: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Through faith in Christ, we have peace with God — the peace of sins forgiven and God’s acceptance of us as His own dear children. Romans 5:1-2 tells us: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
In Ephesians 2:13-18, St. Paul writes: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”
And, in Colossians 1:19-23, the apostle writes: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven …”
Christ, by His atoning sacrifice for our sins, satisfied God’s wrath against us and won for us pardon and peace. And, when we trust in Christ and His cross, that peace with God becomes ours and we live and rest in the assurance that God indeed forgives and accepts us as His own dear children for Jesus’ sake.
But, when we trust in God’s mercy, His acceptance of us, and His many promises to be with us and care for us, we have another kind of peace. Though certainly connected, it’s not only the peace with God established by Christ’s atoning sacrifice and appropriated by faith in Christ and His cross; it’s peace in God when we trust in Him to watch over us and care for our every need. It’s the confidence that our God indeed loves us, cares for us, hears our prayers and petitions for Jesus’ sake, and is a loving heavenly Father who knows and does what is good and best for us. This peace is a peace of mind that our God will never fail us or let us down. It is a confidence that, no matter what happens, God is working for our good, as St. Paul says in Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Think of Jesus’ words to His disciples, spoken to them on the evening of His betrayal and arrest, just hours before He would be nailed to the cross and forsaken of God the Father that He might atone for our sins and the sins of the world: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
The peace which Jesus gave to His disciples and which He gives to you and to me is not a peace like the world gives. It’s not a temporary and fleeting peace from wars or troubles or even death. It’s not a lie, a promise of peace and blessing and happiness when there is no peace and lasting happiness, and the judgment of God is about to fall. It’s not a false promise of the joys of heaven when one is on the precipice of the eternal fires of hell. Rather, it is a peace in the midst of troubles and heartaches because we have a God who is working all for our good and answering our prayers according to His good and gracious will.
Jesus had peace when He was about to be crucified and condemned for the sins of the world. Why? because He trusted His heavenly Father with the outcome.
In Hebrews 12:2, we read of Jesus that He, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” What joy was set before Him? The joy of knowing that God would accomplish your salvation and my salvation and win us for His eternal kingdom by Christ’s death for us on the cross. In the midst of what He would endure, Jesus had peace, and He gives us that peace.
A long time ago, I read a devotion that has stuck with me for years and years. It said that two artists were asked to take a canvas and paint their own rendition of peace. One painted a beautiful scene in which everything was calm and peaceful, but the second painted a thundering waterfall and a sapling growing out of the rock and over the fall, with the mist rising and the air currents making it sway back and forth. And in the forked branch of that tree was a bird’s nest with a bird resting calmly on her eggs inside it. The first, the devotion said, is stagnation and only a temporary calm. The second is true peace, a calmness even though the world around it is violent and boisterous.
In Isaiah 26:3, God gives us these inspired words: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” These words teach us about peace in God — the kind of peace Jesus gives to us in addition to peace with God. God gives us this peace when our minds are stayed upon Him — when we come to know Him and His love for us and to trust in Him not only to forgive and accept us for Jesus’ sake but also to care for us, provide us with all our needs, watch over us and preserve us from harm and danger and to keep us in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting.
It doesn’t matter if the world is coming apart around us. It doesn’t matter if we are facing pandemics or wars or political upheavals. God is in control! He has redeemed us and made us His own dear children through faith in Christ Jesus. He will never leave us or forsake us; He’s with us always, “even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). Jesus is preparing a place for us in the mansions of His Father’s house, and He’s coming again to take us to be with Him there (cf. John 14:1-6). Even in death, we need not be afraid because to die is gain for us — we go to be with the Lord (Phil. 1:21,23). And, even if our bodies and laid in the grave and decay, our Redeemer lives and will raise us up on the last day (cf. Job 19:25-27). We face God’s judgment at peace with God because our sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. We face the troubles of this life with the peace of knowing that our God has us in His hand and will bring us safely through this life to Himself in heaven (cf. 2 Tim. 4:18; John 10:27-30).
Think about it: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isa. 26:3).
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
When we know God and trust in Him, we have peace beyond all human understanding. We have peace and confidence in the midst of the chaos of this world.
When we make use of the privilege won for us by Christ Jesus and His death on the cross (cf. 1 John 5:14-15) and take our troubles and concerns to our God in prayer and give Him thanks for His answer no matter how He answers our requests, we have peace no matter what the outcome for we know and trust the one who is in control and is working for our good.
And, it is fitting that we use the words of Philippians 4:7 after the sermon each Sunday, for the sermons should give to us such peace and confidence in our God that our hearts and minds are kept in the true and saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and all He has done for us, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Through the reading and hearing of God’s Word, we come to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He] hast sent” (John 17:3). And when, through the Holy Spirit’s teaching in the Word, we come to truly know Him and the salvation He has provided for us in Christ Jesus, we will be moved to love Him and trust in Him for all things and so have peace in Him no matter what is going on around us in the world!
And now, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:7).
God give you peace with Him and peace in Him! Shalom! Amen.
[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]
“What A Friend We Have in Jesus” music used with permission from GospelRiver.com. The music performer(s) may not agree with the theological positions of this site.