God's prescription for God's Peace:
Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!
Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be anxious 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. (Phil. 4: 6,7)
I call this passage my “emotional health” passage, because “mental health” IS emotional health. We see a stunning promise, preceded by some gentle conditions. If you’ll indulge me, I have a few thoughts about these verses – nothing cerebral, mind you. I have been living these words lately, not merely memorizing them or pondering them. I am experiencing these realities in fresh ways.
We’re told that the peace of God, a peace that surpasses our human capacity to obtain , has ultimate and final power to guard our heart and mind through Jesus. That word “guard” means both to protect from hostile invasion – to keep evil outside the walls - and to keep what is inside the walls from “taking flight”.
Enemies kept out; mind and heart kept safely inside.
This tells me two things right away – my thoughts and emotions are under threat of hostile invasion. So are yours. If the danger were not real, I would need no guard. No one is immune to lurking invaders, ever seeking to rob us of our sense of wholeness, and to vandalize our relationships with others, marring whatever beauty that formerly existed.
Secondly, I also need supernatural help to keep my thoughts inside the guarding walls of God. Without Him, I could, quite literally, “lose” my mind. Without the ever watchful vigilance of a Peace outside myself, a peace surpassing my human ability to obtain, my mind could “take flight” on me.
Just a few prerequisites exist – gentle admonitions. Do you really want supernatural peace? How badly do you need it? Are you willing to take a few simple steps towards it?
The first step is to “rejoice in the Lord always”. No one can rejoice in the Lord “always” without always gazing at His character and nature, and His character and nature were summed up and fully expressed in Christ. Jesus’ life, His finished work on the cross, followed by His powerful resurrection reveal realities so profound, I could meditate on these things “always”, every day, for the rest of my life, and not exhaust the possibilities for celebration and transformation.
If you are sitting under preaching that exalts Christ, that paints consistent pictures of the beauty of His grace, and repeatedly brings you THE good news (not just “any” good news) – you are among the blessed minority. Rejoicing in the Lord “always” will come considerably easier to you, when you are always confronted with the gospel.
The next condition to receiving this promise of a guarding peace is a no brainer. If there is no peace in our relationships, there is no peace in our minds. This next step has everything to do with relationships. I can’t resist how Eugene Peterson worded this verse in his paraphrase, “The Message”:
“Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”
This is such common sense! If the saints of God would follow this one admonition, there would be far fewer offenses. There would be much less tension, and no difference of opinion would be insurmountable. Friendships would flourish, and the peace of God would guard them – keeping the vandals firmly outside our walls. We could relax with one another….trust the Jesus in one another. There would be no need to resort to convoluted manipulation, no room for affection to grow cold. Our love of the brethren would be bursting with sincerity.
Many can quote Philippians 4:5 – few endeavor to live in it. And we wonder why we don’t experience peace.
The final steps are simple – but don’t confuse simple with “easy”. We’re told not to be anxious about anything, but rather to use every reason to worry as an excuse to ask God for help. At this point in my life, if I were to take every anxious thought, and turn it into supplication, I would truly fulfill the call to “pray without ceasing”.
But it isn’t just prayer that brings supernatural, guarding peace. Somehow, thanksgiving is transformational. A grateful heart has power to put every anxious thought into perspective. Gratitude alone will change your life, and mine. It will scoop us out of our depression, it will get us up out of our beds, it will inspire us to kiss our spouse and mean it, it will make us aware that to have one friend is a gift beyond all measure – a gift to be held close to the heart.
I’m thinking that God’s prescription for God’s peace is somehow a small reflection of how the Godhead lives. God is saying, “Do what I do. I rejoice in the Son. The Spirit rejoices in the Son. The Son rejoices in the Father. I am on the side of the saint, always. If I am for you, who can be against you? Why not imitate me, and be on someone’s side for a change? It might be more fun to be “for” someone, instead of “against” something. I, the Lord, am angry with the sinner – I will never be angry with a saint. I am at peace with you, so be at peace amongst yourselves. I am near you, so draw one another near in your hearts. I, the Lord, never experience lack or need or emptiness – thus I do not know anxiety in any form. Come to Me with your empty cup, and I will become to you both your portion AND your cup."
Such Shalom! Such freedom!
I need the peace of God. The peace in which the mysterious Trinity eternally dwells is unruffled, unthreatened, relaxed, relating, healthy and whole and happy. That’s God. It stuns me past expression to realize that I can dwell in that same peace.
It. Is. Available.