PAUL’S PRESCRIPTION FOR PEACE
by Wayne S. Walker
We read in the newspaper about the wars going on all over the globe and we pray for peace in this world. We see on the television news about all the fighting that occurs between the political parties in Washington and we wish for peace in our society. When we experience squabbles and arguments among relatives, we would like for there to be peace in our families. And when there are fusses and feuds in a local congregation, we try to work for peace in the church.
All these things are good and necessary, but there is something that is more important, and that is having peace with God and consequently in our own hearts. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). In these verses, we have Paul’s prescription for peace.
First, there is a negative. "Be anxious for nothing." Medical experts tell us that stress produced by anxiety is one of the greatest mental health problems in our nation. People worry about losing their jobs, their investments, and their health. These are all legitimate concerns, but there is a difference between concern that produces the proper preparation and provision on the one hand, and anxiety or worry on the other. It often may be a fine line, but Christians need to stay on the side of not being anxious.
Jesus had a lot to say about anxiety. "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on….Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matt. 6:25-34). Certainly what Jesus says is not always easy to do, especially in times of crisis, but it is what He commands His disciples to do.The opposite of anxiety or worry is contentment. Paul learned how to be content (Phil. 4:11-13). He also encouraged others to be content (1 Tim. 6:6-8). But how can we learn to be content? We need to remember that God has promised, "…’I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’" (Heb. 13:5-6). Civilla Durfee Martin reminded us that we should "Be not dismayed, whate’er betide, God will take care of you."
Second, there is a positive. "But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Notice the contrast in this verse. "Be anxious IN NOTHING, but IN EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication…." Paul is saying that God’s antidote to worry is prayer. "Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer." While there are technical differences between prayer and supplication, the two are obviously related (1 Tim. 2:1).
But Paul adds the phrase, "With thanksgiving." It has been my experience that too many of our prayers (this seems true of our public prayers so I assume that it is likely true of our private prayers as well) begin with a cursory word of "thanks for all the blessings both physical and spiritual," and then launch in to "give us this; please do that; let us have something else." It is true that one purpose of prayer is to make our requests known, but we need to express more thanks. Remember the ten lepers (Lk. 17:11-19)? "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:18). At the same time, we certainly can let our requests be made known to God. "Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved" (Psa. 55:22). And the reason why we cast all our cares on Him is "for He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7). Thus, we need to cleanse our minds from all anxiety and put our trust completely in the Lord to take provide for us.
Third, then, there is the result. "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." The peace that comes from being in a right relationship with God so that we can be anxious for nothing but cast all our cares on Him is not a peace of this world. Rather, it comes only from God through Christ. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you…" (Jn. 14:27). This peace surpasses understanding. Like the love of Christ, it "passes knowledge" (Eph. 3:19). This does not mean that we cannot understand it period, that it is something better felt than told. In fact, Paul says that we may "know the love of Christ which passes knowledge."
Likewise, this peace surpasses mere human understanding and knowledge, and can be known only by those who have the understanding and knowledge of Christ. And this peace will guard or keep our minds. God wants to keep His people safe in His peace. "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You" (Isa. 26:3). Yet, a condition is stated. For God to keep us in perfect peace, our minds must be stayed on Him. The peace of God will keep our hearts only as we keep ourselves in His perfect peace by striving to maintain a right relationship with Him based on His word. Edward H. Bickersteth wrote, "Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin? The blood of Jesus whispers peace within." Indeed, one of the reasons that Jesus came was to make peace (Eph. 2:13-18).
Are you looking for peace in your soul? When we follow Paul’s prescription, "Be anxious in nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God," then, and only then, we can have the result–"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (—taken from Expository Files; July 2001; Vol. 8, No. 7)