Daily Devotional: Philippians 4:4-7

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Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:4-7

There is so much to consider in these amazing verses from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi that it would take pages and pages to cover it all, so I won’t try. But I would like to point out five very specific words from this passage. That’s right, five words. But they’re striking words, extreme words—the kind of words I’ve been taught are usually mistakes to use in conversation and counsel. Yet here they are in God’s Word, jumping off the page at me.

“Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS….”
My nature is to rejoice in good circumstance: I got a raise—Rejoice! My daughter is getting married—Rejoice! I’m strong and healthy—Rejoice! But when I get laid off? When my son-in-law hurts my daughter? When I get sick? Really sick? How do we rejoice in the Lord in times of trouble? Feelings of sadness and fear can be overwhelming, but the gospel of Jesus Christ is a bedrock beyond the circumstances of our lives. Read Ephesians 1:3-10. The joy of being chosen by God, eternally adopted as his children through Christ, means that beyond this broken world and its fears and sorrows, we can be sure God will right all wrongs, heal all wounds, and restore life that’s been lost. Just knowing that brings a deeper joy than the happiness of circumstance; instead, we have the joy of hope through trials and a promise of belonging we can rejoice in always.

“Let your reasonableness be known to EVERYONE….”
It’s easy for me to be reasonable and gentle with reasonable and gentle people. But when faced with unreasonable and ungentle people (which tends to happen more in anxious times), my nature is to either give them some of their own medicine, or dismiss and ignore them. Although it may be true that not everyone deserves my respect, the gospel of Jesus Christ makes it possible to love the undeserving. Read Matthew 5:43-48. Regardless of how we are treated, and regardless of whether someone deserves our respect or not, Jesus has given us the highest of standards to follow. He’s shown us how we can love the undeserving because he loves us when we are undeserving. Gospel love gives us the power to let our reasonableness be known to everyone.

“Do not be anxious about ANYTHING….”
When I think about the bad things that could happen to me in this broken world, I’m pretty good at setting those fears aside; I do what I can to stay safe, and my faith in God makes the things out of my control tolerable. But when something threatens someone I dearly love—like my family, especially my children—anxiety starts eating away at my composure. Caring about those we love is certainly God’s way, but forgetting that he loves them far more than we ever could—and knows what’s best for them far more than we ever can—cripples our faith. Read Matthew 6:25-33. Everything is in God’s loving and all-powerful hands. He knows exactly what we need. That’s why he sent his Son in the first place; because only he could do what needed doing. And he will continue to do what needs doing for both us and our loved ones because he is God, our creator and Father. He deserves our complete trust in every circumstance, and when we give it, we don’t need to be anxious about anything.

“But in EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God….”
I often ask God for things that I will be thankful for when he’s answered my prayers correctly. And I have to admit that I’ve never felt thankful for continuing problems. But is that what we should be thankful for, what God can do for us? Or is there an underlying, mind-blowing reality to consider? Read 1 John 5:11-15, Romans 8:26-27 and Matthew 7:7-11. God hears our prayers and his Spirit helps us pray and then he gives us good gifts. Imagine if we had to say the exact right words at the exact right time to be heard and answered by God. But that is not the God of the Bible—he is a loving Father who listens to his children, and we can come to him confidently and thankfully in everything.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses ALL understanding….”
I’m pretty sure that deep down inside, more than anything else, I want a life of peace. I make plans and work hard to create order, stability and a place of security and comfort for me and my family. But I tend to do it using my own understanding, with the tools at hand: money and insurance and property and vehicles and weapons and technology…. But deep down I know that the best I can provide for myself or anyone is a hollow and temporary peace, because true peace is not found in this world. As we’ve seen, a single virus can bring our world to its knees. Read Matthew 6:19-21 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. True peace cannot come from our own understanding; it’s a supernatural thing, not of this world, which has been broken by sin. Only a relationship with God, restored through the gospel of Jesus Christ, can bring peace into our hearts and minds, and therefore our lives. True peace is an eternal peace—all other understandings of peace fall short.

Even though by human standards these five words are words of impossibility, through our faith in the good news of Jesus Christ we can rejoice always, love everyone, not fear anything, be thankful in everything and have peace beyond all understanding.