Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
….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. Philippians 4:6-8
I don’t know if you ever have anxiety or not. I don’t know if you worry. I don’t know if you ever get restless and struggle with feelings of discontentment. Sometimes I do.
With our world spinning out of control, seemingly we may need to ground ourselves in some of the ancient wisdom of Saint Paul where he taught about a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Do you need some peace? Then implement these three disciplines in your life this frenetic season.
Thinking about what? He’s not talking about reading Hallmark Cards or watching Joel Osteen. He’s talking about Kingdom thinking.
Modern day self-help books will never ask you hard and transcendent questions. None of these books will ever say, “So you’re stressed. You’re unhappy. You’re anxious. Let’s start by asking the big questions.
- What is the meaning of life?
- What are you really here for?
- What’s your life all about?
- Where have you come from, and where are you going?
- What should human beings spend their time doing?”
They never ask you to think, but they have a ton of techniques to alleviate symptoms of restlessness, stress and anxiety.
They want to discuss your work/life balance. They want you to minimize your external stressors. They want you to think “happy thoughts.”
Did you know there is a stupid peace, and there’s a smart peace? Stupid peace says, “Distract yourself with the trivialities of this world. Put all of your effort on increasing the external tranquility of your life. The challenge is that we can’t control one single bit or our externals.
Smart Peace says, “Think big, big picture. Think and ponder the epic Kingdom narrative arc. Everything is going to be okay.
If my grandgingers lost their puppy they would be devastated. They might even believe life was not really worth living. But from an adult perspective is that remotely true? No. In fact there might even come a day when they will struggle to remember the name of that puppy. We know that in the larger narrative-arc of their life’s story they will be fine.
Isn’t it safe to assume that something infinitely more true than that is what God might think in regards to our current trials?
Think Kingdom thoughts. Large, Biblical thoughts.
It’s a little counter-intuitive, isn’t it? What we would say is you make your requests to God, and if you get your requests, you thank. That’s not what it says. It says you thank him as you make the request.
God did not make the world to be a world filled with sorrow and death and violence and suffering, but he has a plan. He has a plan to restore it. He has a plan to get it back.
On the day Jesus Christ was crucified, all of his friends might have looked up at him and said, “I can’t believe God could bring anything good out of this.” And yet had you actually been there, you were looking straight at the greatest thing God has ever done toward the redemption of the world.
God is saying, “That is the prime example of what I’m doing in everybody’s life. Even the terrible things that are happening to you, I’m working out for good.”
When I was in my early twenties, I asked God to let me marry a girl named Lisa. I begged Him. We got engaged and I just knew God had answered my prayers. Then I went on a Wilderness Leadership Training trip in Colorado for eleven days—when I returned I got all of her letters and arranged them by post mark in chronological order, smelled them, and opened them one by one. The last one said that she was breaking up with me. I was devastated. She had betrayed me and, it felt like God had betrayed me by not answer my prayer the way I wanted. I yelled at God and He was silent, until He wasn’t.
Today, some three sons and four grandgingers later I am more than a little thankful He answered my prayers differently.
I look back at it, and God in His deafening silence was saying, “My son, when a child of mine makes a request, I always give that person what he or she would have asked for if they knew everything I know.”
Do you believe that? To the degree you believe that, you’re going to have peace. If you don’t believe it, you don’t have peace. Whose fault is that? Is it God’s? Make your requests known with thanksgiving.
“… whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, [whatever is] excellent …” Vs. 8
He says it’s not enough just to think on the right things. It’s also important to love the right thing.
Children grow up. They change from darling little babies to difficult teens and independent adults. Jobs come and go. So do money, fame, looks, health, and every other facet of our reality. But God can be depended upon to be the same loving savior today, tomorrow and into eternity. We can let go of the rest, because we will always have him. Augustine famously said of God, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” As one writer paraphrased it, “only love of the immutable can yield tranquility.”
Now, find a nice quiet place, sit down, and try to love the immutable. You’ll say, “I’m not feeling anything yet.” God is just an abstraction. But Paul reminds us of a very powerful truth.
The Lord is near…. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Vs.5, 7
Paul says, “I want you to find Jesus Christ lovely. That’s the only way you’re ever going to love the immutable and find that tranquility.”
On the cross, Jesus lost all of his peace so that we could have His presence. And when we have His presence, we have His peace. Remember? It was on the cross that Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Jesus died with a cry. He died screaming.
Jesus lost all of his peace so you could have eternal peace. Looking at that is what will get you through. That’s what will make him lovely.
Listen to this clip and find some peace…
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
What does that have to do with his four little girls who died? Everything.
When things go wrong, one of the ways we lose our peace is we say, “Maybe I’m being punished.” But no! Look at the cross. All the punishment fell on him.
Another thing we say is, “Maybe God doesn’t care.” No! Look what he did for us! Look what he bore for us! The Bible gives you a God who says, “I’ve lost a child too, but not involuntarily. Voluntarily, for your sake.”
You sing that hymn, and you watch a man thinking, thanking, and loving himself into the peace of God. It worked for him under those circumstances. It worked for Paul under his circumstances. It will work for you.