The sermon this week focused on Philippians 4:1-9. At the beginning of the final chapter, Paul begins to unpack the practical implications of his teaching. The result is a dense passage packed with admonitions.
“Be of the same mind in the Lord.” “Rejoice in the Lord always.” “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” “Don’t be anxious.” “Present your requests to God.” “Think about such things.” “Put it into practice.”
That’s a lot to wrap your mind around in just nine verses. It’s also a lot to try to fit into one sermon. Each one of those commands could rightfully be unpacked in a message of its own. Taken as a whole, however, these commands give us a glimpse into what a life grounded in joy, humility, unity, and obedience looks like.
This section is not only filled with commands, however. There is a promise lurking in their midst. The promise is that if we give everything to the Lord in prayer, than we will receive the “peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). I believe prayer is the glue that holds all of these commands together. It is what allows unity, humility, and joy to take hold of a believer’s life. What is the natural result of prayer? Paul says it is the peace of God.
What does he mean by peace? That is an important question to ask. By the world’s standard, peace is the absence of conflict. This, however, is an insufficient definition for our purposes. This is not the kind of peace that Paul is talking about. We know this because Paul himself faced significant conflict in his own life. In fact, he wrote Philippians from a jail cell with the possibility of his execution looming.
Peace is more than just the absence of conflict. Peace is an inner sense of contentment that God supplies even in the midst of conflict. That is why it transcends our understanding. It doesn’t make sense from our human perspective to find peace in the midst of chaos. But that is exactly what God supplies to the person who puts their trust in Him. Peace comes from the knowledge that God is in control, and that no matter what we may face in this life, Jesus has already overcome the world (John 16:33).
The Old Testament uses the world shalom to describe this kind of peace. It wasn’t just the absence of conflict, although that is part of it. Shalom also describes a sense of well-being, wholeness, and harmony. This is the kind of inner peace that God grants to those who trust him. God is working toward a day when his shalom will be a external reality. When Christ returns, there will be no more conflict or pain. But in the meantime, he sustains his people with an inner sense of peace that is beyond all comprehension. It is an inner sense of contentment that comes only from knowing the Lord.
May the God of Peace grant you this kind of peace as you seek him through prayer!