Have you ever wondered why we are promised peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 NKJV)? Why aren’t we just promised peace? Wouldn’t that be enough?
I was driving home from Atlanta yesterday and was really raging on the inside over some issues. As I was driving, I received an email note on my BlackBerry from a friend that said that for some reason the Holy Spirit had laid me on his heart and he was praying for me right then. (Side note – isn’t technology wonderful! I can be on the interstate in Georgia and instantly receive an encouraging word from a friend! I love it!). My friend was praying for peace. He didn’t know if I was even going through anything, but God told him to pray for peace for me and he obeyed.
I got off the interstate, sent a response, and after a short break I got going again. You know what? The rest of my drive was, yep, peaceful. The great thing was that I didn’t even realize it until I was almost home. I hadn’t thought about my situation much, and I certainly wasn’t raging anymore. God had answered his prayer.
So, how does that relate to Philippians 4:7? We love to quote that verse and tell people that are going through tough times that God is there and will grant us peace. But what about that second part. Let’s look into it…
First, we have to go back to verse 6. Simply put, in order to receive the peace we have to be praying. Even more we have to pray thankfully (see previous post). Once we are doing that, then we are promised peace. But not just any peace. It is 1) the peace of God, and 2) this peace will surpass all understanding.
So what is the “peace of God”? The Greek word peace here is eirene. The verb form of that word means “to join”. The peace part is certainly the traditional form of peace – no war, tranquility, etc. However, there is a deeper meaning to this word. To quote Strong it means “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” Wow. Read that again. Whatsoever sort of your earthly lot. That pretty much covers all the bases, and we are quick to point out how this relates to our physical well-being, but don’t gloss over that first part! You must first be assured of your salvation. That’s where the joining part comes in. You can never have the peace of God if you aren’t first joined with God through Christ. When you are joined with God, through Christ, you have nothing to fear because Christ already paid the price for you. So why would you be worried about stuff here on earth? You can only have peace if your eyes are fixed on God!
And what about the “surpasses all understanding” part? This Greek word nous refers to the ability to sense spiritual and divine things. It’s a “sixth sense” perception that allows one to recognize good and hate evil, and have the discernment to avoid the evil. We obtain the peace of God, first, by having a relationship with Him thorough Christ, and, second, by being in tune with everything that is good and right in this world and not focused on the bad.
So, if we are to focus on good things, what does that look like? Continue on to verse 8. We tend to separate these groups of verses, but they are all related. Paul gives us the formula by telling us how to hone this “sixth sense” by thinking on things that are noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. We won’t break those down here, but you get the idea. Paul goes on to tell the Philippians that if they think on these things, and model themselves after him, inferring that he thinks on these things, then he once again promises the peace of God.
What does that mean for us? My situation above is a perfect example. My peaceful rest of the ride home wasn’t necessarily divine intervention in the sense that God reached down into my brain and re-wired my thoughts (not that I’m limiting God!). What really happened was that I, with God’s help for sure, changed the focus of my thoughts. I no longer dwelled on what was bothering me, but I thought about other things, good things, and that brought me peace. What we have to do is make that a natural habit. We have to be so joined with God that we are only in tune to the good in our lives and not the bad. It has to become second nature, involuntary. Referring back to Strong, it has to be a function of our soul.
One final note. Nowhere in this passage does God say that He will supernaturally remove you from your circumstances, or will remove the circumstance from you. He doesn’t promise a solution, He promises peace. Why? How will we ever learn to rely on Him if we know that He will simply bail us out of our predicament? You see, we tend to run to these verses when things go wrong. What we forget is that this isn’t a balm, this is lifestyle! If we don’t allow this type of behavior to control us, we will always be a victim of our circumstances and we will never have relief from our misery. Paul even tells us in verse 7 that what happens when this becomes a lifestyle is that this peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. In other words, we will never have to fear discouragement again! This deep spiritual perception about things will take over and we will always think on the good things. My peaceful drive didn’t come because my situation changed. I still don’t have hope in that sense. But what I do have is the ability to remember what God has done for me, what good there is my life, and simply focus all of my attention on those things. Then, and only then, will I have the “peace of God which surpasses all understanding”.
P.S. – Thank you to Wayne Kinde for listening to the Holy Spirit and acting on it. You were the inspiration for this post, my friend.