“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9 NLT)
I love to read this passage during troubling times because it promises what nothing else in this world can… peace. True peace. God’s Peace.
Another reason why I find this passage as a whole both meaningful and believable is because the person who wrote it, The Apostle Paul, was in prison at the time and yet he experienced firsthand the joy of the Lord in spite of his current circumstances. He was on death row and still he was able to experience the peace that can only come from God—the peace that passes understanding. And so, when we are struggling ourselves and find ourselves fixating on our storms, we need to heed Paul’s advice so that we too can receive this promised peace.
In a nutshell Paul shared a two step approach to experiencing God’s peace and both steps entail mastery over our mindset.
The first thing he says to do is to pray about our problems instead of just worrying about them. The reality is that worrying about something does nothing to change the situation but praying can because the One whom we pray to is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent… all powerful, all knowing, and all around us. There is nothing that we can throw at Him that he can’t handle and, whether he chooses to change our circumstances or to change our mindset, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
(Romans 8:28 NIV)
So, the first thing we do is choose how to spend our time and then the second thing we do is to determine what will fill our minds. If you are anxious about everything bad happening in our world right now then I’ve got news for you, turning on the news or going on social media isn’t going to help. You will only feed your fears and allow your anxiety to control your thinking. Instead Paul urges us to fix our minds on things that are constructive and not destructive. Things that are true, and admiral and right. Things are that excellent and praiseworthy. Things that will help us focus on The Problem Solver instead of just the problem itself.
Years ago, when I was still fairly new to the ministry, I found myself laying awake most nights worrying about things that someone had said to me or about me, things that I could not change or control. I had effectively allowed my anxiety over others opinions of me to affect my thinking and rob me of some much needed sleep. Then one time, after suffering a few restless nights in a row replaying an argument with a board member that had taken place, I broke down and opened my Bible up to this passage. As I read it I asked God to help me to do what was written so that I could experience His Peace.
I started by praying to God and simply asking Him to reboot my mind and then I laid there literally coming up with things that were lovely, that were true, that were right, that were admirable, etc. I began to shift my focus from dwelling on what had been done to me to what God had done for me.
After a while I noticed that I wasn’t feeling as restless, I wasn’t feeling anxious or upset, and when I tried to think what it was that had seemed so overwhelming the past few nights I literally could not remember. I was experiencing God’s Peace in such a real way that I drifted off to sleep and woke up the next morning feeling renewed, restored, and ready to reconcile with the person regardless of whether they regretted their actions or not.
Friends, this is just one example but there are many more I could give. Like Paul, I would urge you to retrain your brain by making prayer your default during difficult times and finding those things to think on which are helpful versus hurtful.
I pray you all have a great day today followed by a peaceful, and peace-filled, rest tonight.