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.

Philippians 4:4-7

10 May 2009

Take Hold and Rejoice!

Recently I did a Bible study on prayer with some friends and the text for the study was dear Philippians 4:4-7. Now, I thought I had pondered and thought over every letter of these verses but something new and wonderful came to light as we studied this passage together.

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 everything,

by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving,

present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding...

All good up to there.

But I realised that I think I've never taken in what happens after that. Sure I have read it. Probably hundreds of times. But I think my eyes have just run over the top of the next words, happily distracted (the word "reverie" comes to mind) by the prospect of experiencing the peace of God which transcends all understanding. After all, that sounds wonderful.
So if I rejoice in the Lord - because no matter what else is happening in my life I have cause to rejoice in the hope of eternal life with God through Jesus - and then be gentle, living in expectation of the Lord being near and rather than being anxious about the circumstances of my life, pray about them with thanksgiving - thankful that God is sovereign and He hears my prayers - then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding...

What?

What of that peace of God which transcends all understanding?

Well, it isn't given to me to make me feel all warm and comfortable and cosy. Strangely I think this has been my distracted thought while my eyes have read over the next bit with my brain disengaged. But the next bit actually says, when you stop to read it...

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The peace of God actually guards my heart and my mind - that is, my feelings and my thoughts. The peace of God reminds me that I am safe in Jesus, no matter what else may be happening. And if my feelings and my thoughts are under control and even more so, focussed on Jesus, then that should guard my actions - which will hopefully mean responding to any given situation in a way that honours and glorifies God. No wonder God wants us to pray always.

It is important to note in this particular passage that God doesn't take away the circumstance that would otherwise be causing us anxiety. He blesses us with a cool head and a steady heart to persevere. This is echoed beautifully in the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians when Paul prays for the Thessalonians who are clearly being persecuted and are in all sorts of bother. Paul prays not that they would be delivered from their circumstances but that they would be faithful and honour God through them.

Which is not to say that we shouldn't ask God to deliver us from difficult circumstances. Often He will. But at other times God won't because He knows what is best for us. And this is where we need to be observant to His answers to our prayers. Maybe God's answer is to give us a clear head and a steady heart to press on and ultimately to grow in our trust, dependence, knowledge and love of Him.

So, be encouraged. Rejoice in the Lord always.

2 comments:

mattnbec said...

Hi Meredith,

Great passage, isn't it?! It's strange how we miss bits of very familiar passages like that. I never cease to be amazed at how it happens.

Another thing I just noticed right then that I think I (we?) miss seems to link in with the verses/idea you mention is only a few verses later in 11-12. Paul says:

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

I can't help but think the 'contentment whatever the circumstances' is linked to the 'not being anxious but praying' and 'God's peace'. Also to the 'thinking about whatever is true...' in verses 8-9. Kinda obvious, I know, but I wonder if we're so busy loving the purple patch in verses 4-7 that we miss the riches of the next bit.

Ah...context!

Bec

Meredith said...

Ah yes.

I definitely agree that it is all linked. I have been thinking about this all week and I marvel at how God is training/sanctifying us through this process. Yes, He GIVES us His peace. But He also gives us the means and the capacity to access that peace. And the more we come to Him in earnest and sincere prayer, deeply seeking His will (which after all, is to become more like Christ and less like me)the stronger in Him we grow and the more we experience that peace.

I truly praise God - our sovereign, loving, majestic Creator.

Have a contented week Bec.

Mxx