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. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9
The Peace of God
Paul begins this section of chapter 4, by repeating a major theme of the letter. He enjoins the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. The same instruction is found in in Philippians 1:4, 1:18, 1:25, 2:2, 2:16, 2:17, 2:18, 2:28, 3:1, 3:3, and 4:1. Whereas Paul was chained with two Roman soldiers while under house arrest in Rome, he was yet able to exhort the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord because he was confident that God was in control. In verse 5, Paul encourages the Philippians to show a gentle disposition to everyone as followers of Jesus Christ. Paul uses an interesting ancient Greek word that is translated gentleness here. That same Greek word (epieikeia) is also translated as patience, softness, the patient mind, modesty, forbearance, the forbearing spirit, or magnanimity in different versions of the Bible. That same word is used in John 8:1-11, where Jesus showed gentleness with the woman caught in adultery.
Epieikeia “describes the heart of a person who will let the Lord fight his battles. The person knows that vengeance is Mine, says the Lord (Romans 12:19). It describes a person who is really free to let go of His anxieties and all the things that cause him stress because he or she knows that the Lord will take up his cause.” In verse 6, Paul makes the astute theological observation about how Christians should handle the vicissitudes of life. He commands the Philippians not to be anxious about anything. The Philippians were faced with many hardships because of their faith in Jesus Christ. The command is intended to encourage and empower the brothers and sisters in the Philippian church to continue to rejoice in the Lord.
Paul gives them the secret for transcending their existential hardships—prayer. He reminds them that they can take every need, or concern, or worry, or situation to the Lord in prayer. Paul lays it down that "thanksgiving must be the universal accompaniment of prayer." Notwithstanding our circumstance, we are to cultivate a spirit of gratitude for the goodness of the Lord. We should be thankful because God keeps us in His perfect peace, according to John 14:27. Paul uses the Greek military word phrourein to indicate the way that God’s peace guards the heart of those who believe in God. The Revised Standard Version has that peace passes all understanding. “This does not mean that the peace of God is such a mystery that man's mind cannot understand it, although that also is true. It means that the peace of God is so precious that man's mind, with all its skill and knowledge, can never produce it.”
In verse 8, Paul provides a list of spiritual thoughts upon which the believer should meditate. The peace of God guards a mind that cultivates these thoughts. The human mind will always set itself on something, and Paul wished to be quite sure that the Philippians would set their minds on the right things. This is something of the utmost importance because, as a person thinks, so is he or she. Paul understands the correlation between a godly mind and godly living. Paul closes this passage by presenting himself as one who models his own teaching and cultivating that godly mind he is encouraging the Philippians to develop. “If the Philippians did as Paul had instructed, not only would they have had the peace of God, but the God of peace would have also been with them. This was Paul’s favorite title for God (Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 14:33; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). It was also a benedictory blessing that further highlights his love and affection for the Philippians.
The power of prayer is paramount for proclaiming the mighty name of Jesus. It is also a remedy for the things that ail the believing soul. Prayer takes away our anxiety and ushers us into the presence of Almighty God to delight in his peace. Through prayer, we discover our purpose and activate our power as kingdom laborers. Without prayer, it is not possible to rejoice in the Lord. It is only through a relationship of loving union with God through prayer that our hearts can rejoice.
Almighty God guards the heart of those who are fervent and effectual in prayer. It does not matter the type of petitions we present before the Lord. He longs to hear our heart’s cry and fellowship with us through prayer. The peace that Paul mentions is the result of that mystical connection we make with the Lord through prayer. It cannot be fabricated or manufactured. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
That gift, however, must be sustained and cultivated in a mind that is centered on Christ and is Spirit-led. Such a mind thinks about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— it thinks about such things. The person who practices such thoughts makes their gentleness evident for all to see as they abound in God's favor and secretes the aroma of holiness.
Then, we can present our bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to the Lord. We will be able to rejoice in adversity, praise in hardship, worship in trials, and serve with gentleness. One cannot get to that point without going through some stuff. Paul can write such sound theological teachings to the Philippians because of all the pain and suffering he endured. After all, it is though the pruning of Almighty God that we can become the transforming agent he purposed us to become.
Blessed Lord, may your peace continue to guard our hearts in Christ Jesus!