God's Plan for Living a Peaceful Life - Pastoral Reflection
“Do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:6-9
Paul as we know wrote this letter from prison. It is not the kind of letter someone would expect to get from prison. This is a letter that is full of joy, hope, love and peace. Paul was so aware that his imprisonment was for the furtherance of the gospel, the good of the Philippian church, and of course in God’s great plan, for the good of the church down throughout the generations.
Paul begins by saying, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Now if any person had reason to worry it was the apostle. He was a prisoner of Rome and that was not a good situation for anyone to be in. He had planted many churches and had loads of responsibilities and was now unable to travel to see anybody. However Paul echoes the words of Jesus, who said on the Sermon on the Mount, not to be anxious. To be anxious is to be torn apart by worries. There are many things to trouble and worry us:- our families, homes, work, health, finances, studies, the state of the nation, our souls-loads of things. However-far too often we worry needlessly, or let our worries get all out of proportion. Of course there are things that will happen in our lives where it is inevitable but that we will be anxious.
So Paul is dealing with anxiety, by setting out from the Lord, that which will greatly help. We are to bring everything to the Lord in prayer. When Paul says everything he means just that. Everything. There is nothing too big, or indeed insignificant, but that we must bring to the Lord in prayer. Size and numbers do not come into the equation as far as the lord is concerned. The Lord who made the elephant and the rhino, also made the sparrow and the bee. He made us from the dust of the ground, but also originally in His own image. The complexity and wonder of the human anatomy and psychology is beyond compare—and God cares for His creation and above all cares for His people. So He wants us to come to Him with everything:- not now and again, but all the time. We can never tire Him out, or bother or bore Him.
We are to come with everything by prayer and supplication. Now as we pray, we are aware of His majestic greatness and are fully convinced that He is far greater than any problem we may have. In prayer we come to God, presenting our requests whether audible or silent. In prayer the soul is going out toward God, seeking His face and favour. Supplication however goes a little deeper. It is more specific prayer. Jesus in the garden, in agony, is an example of what supplication is. It is like Elijah on the top of the mountain praying and pleading for rain. In supplication there is an intensity and focus. Of course there is focus and faith and dependence in all prayer, but there is greater intensity and urgency in supplication.
Then Paul adds a vital ingredient-- Thanksgiving. Yes. Even in the dark of night when you do not feel like giving thanks. Remember how Jonah gave thanks to God from the depths of the sea, in the belly of the whale. There is so much to thank the Lord for.
(1) Thank Him for the privilege and opportunity to pray.
(2) Thank the Lord He will that not turn away from our cry for mercy.
(3) Thank the Lord for setting an open door before us through what Christ has done.
(4) Even although not always get what asked for, we must give thanks for all that the Lord has already answered in the past.
(5). If our faith is sharp we should thank the Lord for what He has not given us. Some of what we have asked for would not have been good for us.
As has been said, “Be careful for nothing….Be prayerful for everything…..Be thankful for anything.” The result of this lifestyle attitude, is experiencing the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. It is peace with God, with ourselves, with our life partner, our family, our friends and colleagues. Peace with our past, our present and our future. God’s peace acts like a guard round our heart and mind keeping us whatever the circumstances are.
In verse 8 Paul focuses on the importance of thinking both clearly and cleanly. It has been wisely said, “You are not what you think you are: but what you think—you are.” Paul gives a list of 6 things we should be thinking about.
(a) True. Think about what is genuine, real and true. We can fill our minds with so much rubbish, half- truths, and deceptions, it is imperative that truth takes priority over all else.
(b). Honourable. This is thinking about what is genuine and honest and right. Honesty is not the best policy for the Christian, it is the only policy.
(c) Just. That which is upright, positive and worthy of respect. We need to make sure that every day we are dealing justly and fairly with everyone
(d). Pure. A wholesome and healthy outlook. It is so easy to allow our minds to be soiled and filthy, so we must fight against the impurity and think on the pure. The rewards are great, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”
(e) Lovely. Think on the things that are beautiful and attractive. This word captures the idea of that which promotes peace rather than conflict.
(f) Commendable. That means thinking on all that is positive and constructive rather than that which is negative and destructive.
Paul is writing from prison and he knows very well, that while he may not be able to alter the circumstances, he can alter his attitude to the circumstances. That is a great lesson for us too. We are told if we live like this, that the God of peace will be with us, and the peace of God will keep us.
Pray that you all experience the peace of God in your lives.
Love and prayers, Kenny