Recently, I met a man who was selling nearly everything he owned. It was time for him to sell up and move away from his longstanding family home. When I talked with him about his reasons for moving on, you could see the sadness in his face as he talked about the things he owned coming and going. Another time, as we were renovating our house, I was asked whether we had finally moved to our forever home. It’s a challenging question, isn’t it?
I’m reminded from Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven, but the tension we face is that much bothers us this side of eternity. We are not yet in our forever home and in the grit of the Christian life, we are heavily exposed to the fallen nature of this world. We are part of it and the frustration of it runs through our very core. Philippians 4:1-9 reminds us that, this side of eternity, we will face troubled relationships with Christians, grapple with our troubled minds as well as face various troubles day by day. Despite all that, there is peace to be had, peace that comes as a result of our praying and not just any kind of peace but one that guards our hearts and minds.
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 (Philippians 4:6-7).
You see, when we stop and assess what we experience in our Christian lives, we have to confess that we are not in control of much at all. If it were not for the grace of God, it could be much worse, couldn’t it? Yet in our situation, God does guard us and also offers us a promise that in the midst of trouble, there is peace to be had. Let’s be frank, sooner or later another Christian will let you down. Sooner or later, we will face another crisis. It’s the world and the church in which we live. But somehow in the uncertainty and potential chaos of life, God reminds us of his promise to bring us peace. Remember, Numbers 23:19 tells us that God doesn’t lie.
Peace with one another (v2-3)
If you’re having issues with your Christian brother or sister, then I’m not here to give you advice on how to resolve that, but remember that God says your names are written in the book of life. Ponder who your real battle is with and that it’s not against flesh and blood. Be reminded that Christ shed his blood to bring peace with you and God and that he also died that you might have peace in your relationships with one another.
If the cross can somehow appease a holy God and his eternal righteous anger, then it can also kill and put to death any animosity and irritation between fellow believers. Sometimes, we need to get over ourselves for the day is drawing near. There is peace to be had in our relationships with one another. If you’re not convinced, why not pray to the great arbiter of peace himself who has in history consistently turned hearts of stone to flesh? If that’s not enough then perhaps, like Euodia and Syntyche, there’s a need for more rejoicing in the gospel that brings sinners together.
Peace in our minds (v4-9)
There is also peace to be had in our minds. Much is being said in society about mental health now, but the Bible tells us about the twisted mindset that all of us deal with, what Romans 1 calls ‘the darkened mind.’ Praise God then, that he can bring us out of that darkness and offer us a way to know him and speak to him and see life for what it really is. As the reality of a world where moth and rust destroy dawns on us, and we realise the trouble we can bring on ourselves by setting our hearts on things that do not last, we are given the option of the joy of the promises in verses 7 and 9.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (v7).
…And the God of peace will be with you (v9).
The promise is not that our prayers will be answered but that the peace of God and the God of peace can be ours and be with us, guarding us through this fallen world. How would you prefer your prayer to be answered? Sure, we should ask God, for he has the power to answer our prayers, but we should also be asking him for the even better thing – the shield of peace, the fruit of the Spirit that protects us through the very probable disappointments of a fallen world.
Focus our thoughts (v8)
Perhaps we all need to do more of what the apostle Paul asks us to do in verse 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.
Let’s focus more on what is pure and lovely and maybe, with the God of peace with us, we can say along with Paul, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Phil. 4:13). Do we need to turn off Netflix or its equivalent and fill our minds with someone far better, who can do exceedingly more than whatever we can think or imagine, and infinitely so compared with the things of this world?
Examining our prayers
I know sometimes we listen to preaching and we are told to do this and do that but maybe it’s worth taking time to reflect on what we are not doing. The last time you prayed, did you consider those with whom you don’t see eye to eye? Did you thank God for the ways he’s answering many of your prayers or did you just bring your complaints to him? Maybe you will find that when you feel least at peace in your soul, there may be something or someone you are out of kilter with, for surely none of us do what is right all of the time. Is it possible that if we find ourselves not enjoying the peace that is promised to be ours, there may be something that we need God’s grace to deal with?
The promise of peace
As we live now, knowing that the grass is here today and gone tomorrow, should we not ask God for more of his peace? For the peace he gives is not as the world gives. If we don’t have peace the first time, keep asking. Has God ever broken any of his promises? It’s madness, therefore, not to trust our heavenly Father more. He has always been the God of peace, he is the God of peace and will always be the God of peace. And one day we will not live in a house anymore but we will eternally rest at our forever home with him.