Archive for Devotionals on Peace

Jul
03

Peace from the God of Peace

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As I came to the end of Philippians, I noticed Paul spoke about peace twice.  He started his letter wishing them God’s peace, too.  With all the previous talk of joy, wouldn’t you think joy could buoy you through anything?   But no, and even in my own quiet time I found a verse where joy and peace in particular are working together:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace – Isaiah 55:12a

Paul is giving his final instructions and he tells the Philippians that they don’t have to be anxious about the things that concern them:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

God is ready to hear.   But look at the promised result.  It’s not, “Your prayer will be answered in the order in which it was received,” although sometimes we might like to hear that!  The promise that comes in response to our requests is something very different:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7

We are promised God’s peace.  It’s not the peace we understand here, the absence of war, a quiet night, a unity between us and others.  The peace of God is a deeper assurance than anything else we know of that God sees all, and all is at the right place at the right time.  This is as best as I can do to explain it.

Not long ago I realized I didn’t have peace inside me, and I realized I’d never asked, either.  When I asked God for peace I can only tell you what I received in my own human terms, which is ridiculous because God’s peace is not like the human version at all.  For me, it felt as if He were showing me that He knew all my problems, all the discouraging details, and He had His hand on it all, so I could completely relax.

The last part of the sentence promises what this peace will do:  guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Peace will guard us from the anxiety that so wants to return.  When Jesus explains the parable of the sower, He tells us that some hear the gospel with joy and then wither in the face of trouble or persecution.  Others believe but don’t see the fruits of the Spirit show up in their lives because of the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth (see Matthew 13:20 – 23).  We can refocus on past worries, or become worried about something new.  But we have a guard to protect us:  the peace of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul goes on to remind us how to keep our minds focused on Jesus and not the former, or potential future, problems.

Finally, brothers, 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 4:8

And then Paul gives himself as an example of one who has focused on Jesus.  It sounds nervy.  He’s not giving one example where his faith in Christ prevails.  He says,

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:9

He offers the Philippians to look at his whole record, in person and in the letter.  I think only someone who has really put his whole life in God’s hands and experienced His peace in an ongoing way could dare to do that.  Notice that the promise for focusing on Jesus has changed:  not God’s peace, but the God of peace will be with you.  Focusing on Jesus brings us to see and know:  God is present with us.

I shared this verse with a friend of mine this week.  In Philippians, Paul explained how to give our problems and focus our minds on God.  It’s a principle that Paul would have been familiar with from this wonderful verse in Isaiah:

God will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee:  because He trusts in Thee. – Isaiah 26:3, KJV