DON’T READ Philippians 4:4-7. . . yet.
We will. Promise. But it’s likely you’ve read it before. So, before familiarity sets in and we read it in a predictable way, let’s reset with some context so we can read it with fresh eyes.
First, Paul wrote this while he was in prison. Consider that as you read.
Second, the Philippian church lived in a city whose culture was not particularly friendly to Christians. This was the city where Paul and Silas exorcised a demon out of a fortune teller girl, and as a result, city leaders ginned up the town by accusing them of threatening the Roman customs and it got them thrown in jail.
Two things were clear at the writing of this letter:
- The writer’s circumstances weren’t great.
- The readers’ culture wasn’t hospitable to their faith and worldview. At any moment, it might turn on them if their faith upset the status quo.
Ever felt like one of those (or both?). Okay, NOW let’s read what Paul said:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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.”
Paul says we can have peace! Peace when…
- We face challenges at work
- Our family is in the throes of crisis
- We’re afraid of getting canceled or criticized
- We receive a diagnosis that permanently changes our future.
Can Paul really expect us to have peace when life can get this out of control? Apparently he can. Paul had gone to the school of hard knocks. The Philippians understood what a hostile culture feels like. Oh, and side note: they were also dirt poor. These people didn’t naturally have peace and serenity.
So how did they get peace? Paul’s instruction was clear: “Present your requests to God.” The promise was that peace that transcended understanding would guard your heart and mind. This isn’t senseless peace, impossible to understand, but it IS peace that is beyond our ability to understand or explain.
Therefore, it must be experienced.
Are you experiencing anxiety today? I invite you to present your requests to God. Allow me to illustrate in 3 steps:
- Find a quiet place.
- Share with God what you’re feeling (as best as you can) and what’s causing the anxiety: “Father, here I am again, feeling overwhelmed because…”
- Ask God for His perspective: “But what is your truth for me?” Wait and allow Him to bring to mind what the Bible says about His promises, love and faithful presence.
Our circumstances won’t likely be fixed in that moment (after all, Paul was still in prison after he finished the letter), but what you will experience is the presence of Jesus with you. With Him, you can be confident that He will not waste what you’re going through. So, take hold of His hand today.
He is absolutely trustworthy.