“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
Last evening our Tuesday Bible study turned into a time of prayer and reflection. One of the things that happened was our friend Bob reminded us of the above text and I’m glad that he did. As I’ve been thinking about the layers of grace that envelop this text I am encouraged about how many blessings God really gives us.
When you are hit over the head with adversity I’m not sure this text is telling you to rejoice in the Lord. It seems the text is addressing the way we look at life. When we walk with Jesus we have assurance of salvation and it is in that reality that we should always rejoice. Notice the text says we should “rejoice in the Lord always”. It is in His goodness and love that we are to rejoice. A friend recently lost a person who was very close to her and though she couldn’t rejoice in the loss of her loved one she could rejoice that she will one day be reunited with him.
Paul goes on to say, “let your gentleness be evident to all”. Again this is not always easy because we often interact with difficult people. But God is calling on us not to be the problem. There is little we can do against the person who is obnoxious and overbearing but we don’t have to answer in-kind. As my mother so often told me, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” and we disarm more potential arguments and incidents with a little love rather than harsh words.
I absolutely love the assurance of Paul’s four-word sentence, “The Lord is near.” What hope radiates out of this short sentence. When sickness and pain come our way we remember, “the Lord is near”. When facing loneliness and separation from loved ones we can remember, “the Lord is near.” David understood it when he wrote, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23) God is close to each of us. We may not always feel it but that doesn’t change the reality of God’s presence.
To not be anxious about so much that affects our lives seems like a fairytale that is too good to be true. But the reason that we need not be anxious is because God is near and we enter into a relationship with Him through prayer and petition bringing our requests before Him with a sincere heart. I love the thought that we can come to God with thanksgiving. You can only do that when you believe God has you covered and your best interests at heart.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 4:7) Just think about this sentence for a few moments to get the gist of what Paul has been telling us. The result of rejoicing in God, being thankful, having a dynamic prayer life and a gentle heart is that we will have peace. And it is a peace that transcends the normal view of what it means to have peace. It is a deep indwelling of assurance that gives us the power to stay connected to God through every storm in our life. How that is possible I don’t know, but I know that it does happen. This peace guards your heart and your mind against discouragement because it keeps you focused on God. The problems we face may seem gigantic but God is bigger.
I know for many of you the words of this post are just more “mumbo jumbo” and you can’t see God because of the tears and fears in your life. But, remember Paul didn’t write these words while sitting in some ivory tower surrounded by flowers and dancing girls. Paul wrote these words from prison, chained between two guards while he waited for his execution day. He had been beaten, stoned, whipped, imprisoned, shipwrecked, deserted by friends and had his gospel teachings distorted and perverted by unscrupulous legalists. He saw some of his closest friends drift away from the Gospel. He saw his church plants attacked and good people deceived by false teachers. He knew what real discouragement could do to a follower of Christ and yet he could write these amazing words “rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”
God loves you beyond your wildest dreams. Let the joy, mercy and compassion of God flood over you, hold you and uplift you throughout your day. Let prayer be your companion and peace reign in your heart through the wonder of God’s love. You and I can’t make life better by fretting and stewing over the hand life has dealt us but, we can take our needs to God and walk in peace.