I’ve been asked a few times what my favorite book in the Bible is. After thinking about some very helpful scriptures over my life, my answer is whatever book I’m studying at the moment I’m asked.
The book I’ve been studying lately is Philippians because I know that we all are in desperate need of the peace of God. In the 4th chapter the Apostle Paul lists 3 significant things to do to have excellent peace. I realize that some people may read this newsletter, shrug and say “that was okay.” Some people may really receive some needed help and encouragement from this, and others may not read this at all.
Reading from the New American Standard Bible, vv. 6-7 instructs us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” When we’re in a desperate situation, often we forget the thanksgiving part because of the urgency, or we might add a “thank you” as a sign-off to our prayer. The Word is telling us here to abound in thanksgiving, letting our thanks become a vital part of our conversation. I asked a stranger recently how his day was going and he said, “oh, it’s Tuesday.” Tuesday is a great day to give thanks! Our thankfulness puts within us an attitude that our Heavenly Father is more than a Sugar Daddy to His “favored kids.” Our gratitude sets the stage for faith when we do ask Him for anything. It brings us into expectation! It sets us apart from the rest of the world. His peace comes upon us and blows our mind as if it makes no sense for us to be at peace while the world watches it collapse around them.
Paul was on a roll when he added in vv.8-9, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Paul was so confident in his ability to follow the Lord that he had no hesitation to tell people “do what you see me doing.” So, another key to having peace is thinking on and doing the right things. We can’t do that very effectively if we’re not careful about what we let come into our eyes and ears. We’re greatly affected by what we gather into our senses, and we cannot help but meditate on that. Some people believe they don’t have the power to regulate what they think about, but we actually do. At times we may need to speak out loud to turn our thoughts to something else that’s more “lovely” and “commendable.” And at times there may be a harassing spirit that wants you to be focused on the devil’s suggestion. We definitely need to speak up when that happens! Paul promised that the God of peace will be with us if we’ll do these things.
For the last key to having the peace of God, I’m switching to the NKJV because the NASB lets their preferred hermeneutics show through (methodology of interpretation), and I’ll explain. Paul addressed the Philippians’ desire to help him financially when they were unable in vv.11-13. “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The NASB makes it sound that Paul was only talking about those moments of hunger in comparison to those moments of plenty. That’s only partly true. But in the NKJV the scripture keeps to the original Greek (not always the case in other scriptures) and it presents the argument that Paul has learned how to also be full and hungry both at the same time. Instead of making it sound solely as if “there is a time to be hungry and a time to be full,” Paul taught us that the key to peace is knowing how to be full while you’re hungry and how to be hungry while you’re full! Otherwise, you have to ask the question, how can I be content while I’m hungry with no other remedy in sight?
Paul’s remedy was how he learned from the Lord to look for contentment while he was suffering need and to look for how God wants him to know that he needs something more than what satisfies a pressing need at the moment. It’s like Jesus in the wilderness in Luke 4 when the devil tempted Him to change stones into bread. His response was “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” That’s being full and hungry at the same time! That’s why Paul made his declaration that he could do all things through Christ who strengthens him. So, being contented is the same as being in peace. Peace is not focusing on your needs only.
To recap, we experience peace by 1) bringing our requests to the Lord with thankfulness, 2) thinking on and doing all the right things, and 3) learning how to be full and hungry at the same time. You may think this is a simplified look at peace, but that’s how Paul simply lived in the peace of God! He said he learned truths about contentment instead of receiving revelation about it all at once. I would have to think that Paul was without peace for a time until he learned it, and all this took place after his conversion. Even the sons of Korah in Psalms asked the question 3 times, “Why are you cast down, o my soul? Why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him….” Although we believers go through things just like anyone else, it’s not necessary for us to go through it all without peace. I know we can do more than survive – we will flourish in peace!