Philippians 4:4-7“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I love how Paul starts this passage. Not once, but twice, he tells us to rejoice in the Lord. He isn’t repeating himself because he’s run out of something to say. Listen to those words, and you will hear the urgency in his voice. There are so many distractions in this world that thrill and excite us; but Paul says that our source of joy is in God. So go ahead and celebrate! Cheer, be glad, take great delight, and find genuine satisfaction in the things of God.
Now if you are having a bad day, you might ask: Why should I rejoice? What is there to rejoice in today? Your answer is at the end of the passage, and it has everything to do with finding real peace in your life. Peace that settles into the deepest part of your soul can only come from God. God created you with a desire and a need for peace, and God will provide that peace within the context of his relationship with you; but Paul tells us that we must do something first. This is an “if – then” verse. If you do this, then God will do that. What is the “if” that God is waiting for in your life? He wants to demonstrate what it is to have real peace. Why is He waiting?
As you study this passage and meditate on this question, consider Paul’s circumstances as he penned these words. He’s a prisoner of Nero in Rome. This is the last in a long line of prison cells Paul has been forced to endure. He’s no stranger to suffering. He’s been beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, robbed, hungry, thirsty, cold, and naked (II Corinthians 11:24-27). Yet Paul tells us to rejoice, to be gracious, to not worry about anything, and to give thanks for the very things that trouble us. How could he possibly have learned to give thanks for the things that were bothering him?
If anyone can speak from the voice of experience, it’s Paul. Imagine the benefit to our Christian walk today if we begin to realize and apply the truth of which he speaks. Imagine the benefit if that truth sets us free from the anger and fear that so easily besets us. Imagine the peace of God which surpasses every scattered thought settling over your heart and into your mind. Imagine Jesus Christ himself standing guard as that peace takes up a permanent residence in your soul.
Praise God, you can stop imagining! This isn’t a fairy tale or a self-help skill. This is what happens in the context of a vibrant relationship with God. This is what happens as you seek God in prayer and He faithfully answers. This is what happens when you turn to Him with your worries and your fears, and He calms them. This is what happens when you praise Him in spite of your circumstances, and He is glorified. The peace of God which surpasses all understanding is evidence of a fulfilling relationship with the Living God.
If you are searching for real peace, then follow Paul’s advice. “Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus”(I Thessalonians 5: 16-18).