The Promise of God’s Peace
We’re in a series looking at Paul’s counsel for anxious people in Philippians 4:6-9. Paul prescribes two antidotes for anxiety in this passage: prayer and deep meditation on Christ-exalting things. What’s more, Paul declares two promises of God for those who take the medicine: the experience of God’s peace and the experience of God’s presence. We’ve already looked at Paul's motivation to obey the commands, the first antidote of prayer, and now we’ll look at God’s promise to those who cast their anxieties into His loving arms.
6…let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
God, through Paul, graciously calls anxious people to put off anxiety and put on prayer, and then He promises us that as we pray (v7) “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The promise of God’s peace is experienced by those who turn away from anxiety and turn to God by faith in prayer.
God’s Peace Surpasses & Guards
What better news could there be for anxious conspiracy theorists like us than to hear that the very peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard (it’s a promise) our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.
In the midst of our anxiety, aren’t we desperately trying to figure things out on our own? “What if this wasn’t…?”, “Maybe they didn’t mean…?, “What if they will…”, and “If this didn’t happen…but if this does happen now…?” The sad reality is, as we go deeper into our anxieties and conspiracy theories, hopelessness sets in; and what we thought was our “perceived” understanding, devolves into murmurings of confusion. So, how kind of God to let us know that His peace surpasses all understanding. God’s peace is an otherworldly peace that transcends our flawed and limited understanding. None of our attempts to understand things can resolve our inner torment. Only the healing power of God’s peace can transform and quiet our hearts, because it surpasses all understanding.
What’s more, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. The “heart” and “mind” are often synonymous terms in the New Testament. The “heart” is the center of our intellect and will; it’s the causal core of our being. But here, when Paul separates out a function of the heart (our intellect) and places it in the mind, he’s trying to emphasize the struggle of the mind—of the intellect—in anxiety. You see, like a soldier actively guarding the city gates, the peace of God actively stands ready—armed to the hilt—to protect our hearts and our minds from the enemy of unbelief, which is at the core of anxiety.[i] The promise of active fortification stands assured through our union with Jesus. Jesus is the one who said to his anxious disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. [So] Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.” The peace of God doesn’t guard our hearts and minds from the havoc of anxiety in some sort of abstract theoretical way. Nor does it necessarily change our circumstances or give us some sort of special revelation into the mysteries of our anxious confusion. No-no, it does so by remind us of, and comforting us with, the safety and security of our relationship with Jesus Himself, the invincible Prince of Peace.
Prayer is the Means to Experience God’s Peace
The promise of God’s peace is experienced by those who turn away from anxiety and turn to God in prayer. Prayer is not the end, but rather prayer is the means, or “antidote”, to experience the peace of God.
Anxiety is foreign to no one, and friends, no peace will be found in fearfully straining to figure things out on our own. We won’t find peace in turning to distractions like food, entertainment, relationships, or work either. We’re our own worst enemies as anxiety comes from within our own hearts. Only the peace of God will still the raging storm within us. Friends, the promise of God’s peace is experienced by those who turn away from anxiety and by faith turn to God in prayer. You are loved by a good and gracious God. He has not, and will not, leave you or forsake you. He’s very near to you. Reach out to Him! He knows what’s going on, and He so wants you to trust Him, to run to Him, and to fall into His arms. You are not alone! God in Christ loves you dearly, and He’s promised that through prayer He will gift you the peace that has eluded you. And it’s not just any peace, but God’s peace. The peace of God that eclipses all human understanding. It is the peace of God that actively stands as a garrison always ready to protect you from…you. Come and turn away from faithless anxiety and turn to God by faith in prayer and experience the promise of His peace.
Blog adapted from Replacing Anxiety with God's Peace & His Presence
[i] In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells his disciples, that at its core, anxiety is unbelief. In verse 30 he describes them as, “O you of little faith”. But what’s more, in verse 32 Jesus tells his disciples that the Gentiles—the “unbelievers”—anxious seek after the things and that they should not be anxious like an unbeliever (a functional atheist) but rather trust that their heavenly Father knows that they need these things and will supply it to them.