Our text for today comes from Philippians 4:4-9 and can be found on page 982 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
The most amazing thing happens when your NYC cabbie gets rear-ended. Absolutely nothing. Down here when you rear-end someone it wrecks your day, if not your week, but for NYC cabbies, it’s normal. They expect to get rear-ended. A lot of Christians are walking around downcast because of misplaced expectations.
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Concluding the letter, Paul scatter-shots exhortations across a broad field of maladies, and the verses before us take aim at anxiety and peace. There isn’t one silver bullet, but rather several spiritual disciplines we must practice in order to practically experience the peace of God.
First, rejoice, then do it again. (v. 4) Next, serve others. (v. 5) Relieve your anxiety through multifaceted prayer. (v. 6) When we do these things we are told that the peace of God becomes like a battalion of soldiers surrounding us. (v. 7) But Paul isn’t finished with his list of disciplines. We must also fill our thoughts with truth, honor, justice, and excellence (v. 8) as we put all these into practice the God of peace will be with us. (v. 9)
The peace we need. The practices of peace. The promise of peace.
THE PEACE WE NEED
Why do we need peace? Anxiety is not the normal burden of love and concern. This word means to be torn to pieces by fear. Our bills, our children, or lack of children, our spouse, or loneliness because we don’t have a spouse, our health, our regrets, our future. Sometimes our own anxiety. I’m a Christian. It’s not supposed to be like this.
One of the social media mantras of the day is, “Guard your peace” or “Protect your peace.” And, while it is true that you need to “cut some people out of your life,” these phrases are often just code words for “I don’t listen to anyone who tells me hard truth.” When we come to the Scriptures we are not told to guard our peace, but rather that God’s peace guards us.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
And what is that peace? The Scriptures teach that before you trust in Christ you really have one big enemy. Yes, Satan is our enemy and so is sin and death. But our true enemy is God. Our refusal to love him and our desire to throw off his authority makes us his enemy. But the good news is that God is a great enemy to have because God loves to forgive his enemies. And when he forgives you, your great enemy becomes your Father, your Lord, and your friend.
This is the great heart-rest, the great anxiety reliever that we all need.
However, the very moment you make peace with God, all of the other enemies you have hate you more than before. Satan, your own sin, and this world which hates God, want nothing less than your destruction.
Therefore, the peace of God is a peace that makes enemies.
THE PRACTICES OF PEACE
One of the reasons our culture has an epidemic of anxiety is that we have forgotten what a human being is. We are not simply a mind full of thoughts, nor are we a simple body made up of electric signals and hormones. We are both body and soul. We have physical needs, emotional needs, and deep spiritual needs. In the passage before us, we see several practices or disciplines that weave together the physical, emotional, interrelational and spiritual.
Thinking – Don’t empty your mind. Fill it.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Thanking – Multifaceted prayer (Praise, Thanksgiving, Rejoicing, Confessing)
in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
THE PROMISE OF PEACE
We trust that God is the sovereign author of all our stories, and for some of us he has sovereignly chosen to write dark chapters. The good news of the gospel is that the Sovereign God wrote himself into the darkest chapter of all. And here’s why this is important: first, because in Jesus, you have a God who knows what it’s like to feel anxiety.
Albert Camus, who was an atheist novelist, wrote this:
The night on Golgotha is so important in the history of man only because, in its shadows, the divinity ostensibly abandoned its traditional privilege, and lived through to the end, despair included, the agony of death.
And, more importantly, Jesus doesn’t just sympathize with you—he substituted himself for you. At the cross, the peace of the Father was utterly removed from the Son, and in its place was divine wrath and judgment. Do you know what this means? It means that the peace of God did not guard Jesus—it abandoned him, though he deserved it so that the peace of God can surround and protect you forever even though you don’t.
You say, “What does the cross have to do with your fear and anxiety?” Everything.
When you lose your peace you say, “Maybe I’m being punished.” No, look at the cross. When you can’t control your anxiety you say, “Maybe God has forgotten me.” No! Your sin was nailed to the cross, and God cannot forget you.