The Peace of God Will Guard Your Hearts
Topic: Default Scripture: Philippians 4:2–4:9
After taking a topical turn last week, we are back to walking through Philippians. Lord willing, we will finish this series next Sunday then take two Sundays to focus on thanksgiving and prayer before starting our Advent series in Matthew.
To get our minds back in Philippians, let me say that Paul has this habit of going from
orthodoxy to orthopraxy. That is, he always talks about right doctrine before he talks
about right practice. Paul tends to talk for chapters about what we should believe before he ever talks about what we should do in our lives. In his letter to the Roman church, he actually writes for 11 chapters before delivering a single ‘to do’ to the church.
And you are going to feel this transition in our text. Paul has been mining the depths of
our doctrine and the climbing the peaks of Christian truths and now he begins this fire
hydrant of things we need to do. In these 8 verses, we have six commands. And it begin to get a bit harder to preach these passages because it’s harder to find a main coherent points among the different commands. But that doesn't mean there isn’t one. It’s just harder to see. Paul is writing to a church that is under such pressure both externally and internally, that it is beginning to fracture. They don’t seem to be breaking apart, but cracks are beginning to show up in the walls of their relationships. We can see this right off the bat in his request I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. We don’t know what the disagreement was, but it was significant enough for Paul to call them out in front of everyone.
Ultimately, what Paul wants for this church is peace. And I have struggled for two weeks to put my finger on this word. I wanted to call it unity, but as one of our pastoral interns pointed out to me, Nazi Germany had unity, but what Paul is calling this church to is deeper than unity. You can force unity, but peace, or gospel peace, as I will call it, has to be voluntary. We have to desire it. That’s why Paul uses this word ‘peace’ twice in our passage.
Now, I have to say that I feel a bit out of my depth preaching about peace to a church
pastored for 15 years by Curt Hefflefinger who, now, literally wrote the book on peace.
But I think now is a really important season to remind ourselves of this core value in our church. For those of you who came to the family night last week, you heard me talk
about this season of change and how all of us, due to our different paths and wiring, are going to interpret this season differently.
I appreciate all the feedback many of you have given me in this early part of my tenure
as teaching pastor here. It’s interesting to see that some of you feel like, Jim, there has
been a lot of change in the past three months. I just need time to get used to the
changes that have been made. But, on the other hand, there are some of you who have
not noticed a single change and are wondering when and if they will come.
And both reactions are good and godly. Neither is wrong, they are just different because we are all wired differently. But, we have to recognize that seasons of change are opportunities for the enemy to divide us. I was reminded of this this week, I got to have lunch with an older, more seasoned pastor in the Orlando area whom I have admired for some time. I was asking him about ministry in Orlando and he said, “Jim, the people of Orlando are no different than other cities, the pastors and churches are no different, but for some reason, churches don’t thrive here the way they do in other cities. Pastors fall, they get sick, churches split and the only way I can explain this is that we have an enemy who is able to work in a more significant way here than other cities.” If this is true, and I tend to believe it is, if there is a season for us to be working even harder for gospel peace among ourselves it is in a season of change. Eudia and
Syntyche were letting their own pride and personal preferences become more important than the gospel of Jesus Christ. And Paul is telling them and us that peace is what we need. So, this morning I want to talk about how we find this peace, how we nurture this peace and how we are affected by this peace.
I. How we find this peace
We find this peace in prayer. Remember that I said there were six commands in this
passage. Four of them are in verses 4-7. Paul says 4 Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
First two commands.
Rejoice and be reasonable or gentle. That is what Paul wants for this church, joy and reasonableness, but there is something that stands in the way of that joy and
reasonableness and that thing is anxiety. That’s why the next verse says 6 do not be
anxious about anything. Third command. I want you to have joy and treat each other
in a reasonable way, but your anxiety is standing in between you and that goal. So what is the path to that joy? Peace in your heart.
Don’t be anxious. Anxiety is the opposite of peace. If peace is a deep sense that God is
in control and that everything is going to be ok, then anxiety is a deep sense that thingsare out of our control and we are not sure that they are going to work out the way we want them too.
Anxiety isn’t something we can just turn off. I’m sure I’m the only husband dumb enough to tell my wife in a season of high anxiety and stress, “To just chill out. Stop being so anxious.” And I can tell you it didn’t go well. It didn’t go well because you can’t just turn off anxiety. Then you add to that, in some cases, very real chemical issues and anxiety can soon incapacitate us.
And I want to be clear here about what anxiety is. We can sometimes confuse our
general concerns in life with anxiety. It’s ok to be concerned with how your children turn out, to be concerned about making ends meet financially or to be concerned about your continued health. I wouldn’t classify those things as anxiety as much as normal concern. Anxiety is when those things began to hijack us. When they debilitate us. And I don’t hear Paul saying that simply being anxious is sin either. Jesus was so anxious before he went to the cross that he sweated blood. Was He in sin for being anxious? No. He wasn’t in sin because in that moment, He did exactly what the apostle Paul is telling the Philippians and us to do in our anxiety. He prayed. "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." - Luke 22:42
Let your requests be made known to the Lord. do not be anxious about anything, but
in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be
made known to God. - Philippians 4:6
Anxiety is not sin when we bring it to the Lord in prayer. And that prayer brings peace
when we acknowledge the things that are out of our controls and we go to the One who
controls all things. Paul sees all the anxieties in the Philippian church and he knows
those anxieties will drive them apart, unless peace takes hold in their hearts and pulls
them together. And we can know that this peace isn’t just possible, but guaranteed
because The Lord is at hand.
Now, this phrase could be mean two things. It could mean that the Lord is about to
return or it could mean that the Lord is imminently near. Someone we can turn to in any situation. I think you could make a fine argument for both because both would combat anxiety in our lives. But I think because of the context, we are talking about the Lord being, in some way, near to us. Someone we can immediately turn to in prayer. If we’re anxious about how our children are going to turn out. If we are anxious about having enough money. If we are anxious about our health. We need to know that the Lord is at hand. He is near and we can ask Him for anything.
If we come to the Lord in prayer about the things that are out of our control, He will give us peace in our hearts. It’s easy to read the Bible and just think Paul was unique in his ability to have peace in the midst of great trials, but as we will see next week in verse 11, Paul says this is something that he has learned. He has learned to take the things out of his control to the Lord and from the Lord he has received a peace in his heart. You know, if you go to Walmart or the self-help section of Barnes and Noble, you will see book after book that tells you you need to do something different. One pastor said that the world will tell us that to find peace in our anxiety, we need to expel certain
thoughts. That isn’t the peace that Paul is talking about. Paul isn’t saying we need to
lose something, he’s saying that we need gain something we don’t have. Pauls says
that when we go to God in prayer we receive something. Verse 7. And the peace of
God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds
in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:7
We receive the peace of God. A peace that can’t be logically explained and Pauls says
that it ‘guards our hearts.’ All the commentaries point out that this term guard has
military origins. We sleep well when we know that there is an army guarding us. In the
same way, God’s supernatural peace guards our hearts and our anxieties diminish.
Anxiety comes when we are deeply experiencing the reality that we are not in control.
There is probably no greater feeling of helplessness than when a loved one is taken
from us. I have twice had to deliver the news to a family that their loved ones are gone. It’s probably the hardest thing I have had to do in ministry. And you can see in those moments where our helplessness is most clearly on display whose hearts are guarded by the peace of God and whose are not.
A pastor friend once told me about a woman in his church who got a knock on the door
late at night by a police officer to tell her that her husband had been killed in a car
accident. She looked at him with tears streaming down her face and said, “Only my God can help me in this moment and I need to go be with Him.” She was grieving deeply, but at the same time, experiencing the peace that surpassed all understanding.
We find the peace that surpasses all understanding when we bring our anxieties to God.
But, again, Paul says he has learned to do this. This isn’t something that we learn and one moment, “Oh, all my anxiety is gone!” Paul has gotten better and better at acquiring this peace from God because he has learned how to nurture it. Second point.
II. How we nurture this peace.
We nurture this peace by thankfulness and thinking. First, thankfulness. Paul doesn’t
just say pray, he says pray with a thankful heart. Now, it’s easy to think, “Well, I’ll be
thankful after I get the answer I want.” Right? The problem with this kind of thinking is
that it shows that we still think we are in control. As if prayer is our way of letting God
know how to run the universe. It shows that we don’t think God is much more than a
genie in a bottle at best or an errand boy at worst.
One pastor said, “When we go to God with a thankful heart, we are going to God
knowing that He will give us the answer to the prayer we would have prayed if we had
all the information He does.” If we know this, if we really believe this, we will be thankful even as the words are coming out of our mouth.
But the thankfulness we feel isn’t just for what God will do, it’s rooted in what God has
already done for us. What we need is peace, right? Jesus came to this earth ultimately
to lose the peace of God that we might gain it. Jesus left the fullness of the peace of
God when He came to this earth. He experienced sadness and concern and even
anxiety, but he always turned to His Father in prayer and was given the peace He asked
That is, until He went to the cross. I have already talked about His anxiety being so
significant that He sweated blood. This is a known medical condition called
hematidrosis. But we read stories of martyrs of the Christian faith who at their certain
death show absolute resolve to die for God. Martyrs like Polycarp who stood in a
Roman amphitheater and had to choose between denying the Christian God and death.
To which he replied, “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no
wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked.”
Why was Jesus full of anxiety and Polycarp full of courage? Because for Polycarp,
death was a door to the perfect peace of God and for Jesus death was a door to the
total loss of the peace of God. They were walking into very different ends. On the cross
Jesus lost all the peace God offers and took on all the wrath our sin deserves. That is
why Jesus yells out “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?”.
Jesus lost the peace of God that we might gain the peace of God. And for that, we bring
all our requests to Him with a deeply thankful heart.
Second, we nurture the peace of God with thinking. Paul says, “Finally, brothers,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is
anything worthy of praise, think about these things. - Philippians 4:8
Paul is saying some very specific things and some very general things here. In telling us to think about things that are true, honorable, just and pure, he’s talking about our
doctrine. The full counsel and character of God. And if that weren’t enough, Paul adds
to that all things that are lovely and commendable and then the true catch it all
categories, anything that is excellent and praiseworthy. These are thing things we
should keep in our minds. And, in one sense, you would have to listen to five years of sermons to begin to unpack these eight categories. For this reason, we need to be studying the Bible and listening to sermons and in relationships that are helping us to think on these things.
But this morning, I want to unpack one thing about how we think from the text. As Paul
is entreating someone in the Philippian church (and there is a lot of debate as to
whether this is one actual person or the church at large) to help Euodia and Syntache,
he says Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored
side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow
workers, whose names are in the book of life. - Philippians 4:3
Notice how Paul views our role in the ministry of the gospel. We who have labored side
by side as workers. Workers. And I have JD Shaw to thank for seeing this clearly in a
sermon he preached on this passage.
Probably about a dozen times the New Testament, Paul uses this phrase ‘fellow
workers.’ Christians are fellow workers. So, who is our employer? God! Now, why is that
significant? Because employees are not nearly as concerned about about the business
as a whole as the owner. Some of you may own a business and your name is on the
door, it’s on the letterhead, maybe even on the side of the building. And because of that, you are more motivated to ensure the success of that business. You have a deeper concern for the reputation and the financial state of the business that those you employ.
As the owner, you never stop worrying. You are always responsible. You may well be
the first one there and the last one out. Two of my brothers in law own their own
companies and I can tell you from being around them and other owners that they are
always on the clock. That’s part of being an owner. Crises don’t schedule themselves
around their vacation or sleep schedule. If something goes wrong, the owner needs to
take care of it.
And do their employees lose sleep when something goes wrong or take a day off the
beach to work in a coffee shop? No. They clock in, they clock out and they go home.
Owners care about the success of a business in a way that employees, no matter how
great they are, just don’t.
So, let’s apply this to what Paul is saying. We are the workers in God’s field. Paul
actually goes so far as to say that we are God’s field. If that’s true, that means that
everything about us is owned by God. We work in God’s field. We do what we are told
and we don’t have to worry about the success of the entire venture. We simply do what
we know we are to do. We play our part. God is the one with the most vested interest.
God is the one at work every second of every day to make sure that His employees
have everything they need to do their job well. God’s name is on the side of the building and it is for the glory of His name that this venture will succeed.
We are workers in a venture that will never fail or lay us off. Our employer will I do
whatever He needs to ensure our success and His resources and skills know no limits.
What should that do to our anxiety? If we think about this fact, if we keep this in our
minds, we will think like workers and nourish the peace we experience in this life.
Thankfulness and thinking. Those are two things that will nourish the peace of God in
our lives. And when this peace takes hold in a Christian, something significant happens.
III. The effect of this peace.
The effect of this peace is more conversions. And I’m not talking about other people, I’m talking about us. We will experience a second and third conversion. And before you
begin to second guess hiring me, let me explain. Many people over the course of church
history have said similar things including Martin Luther and Abraham Kuyper, but I
actually think Steve Childers over at RTS said it the best. He said, “Every fruitful
Christian must experience three conversions. First, you are converted to Christ.
Second, you are converted to the church. Third, you are converted to the world.”
What he means by this is that we first trust in Jesus and are converted to Him as the
peace takes hold in our hearts. But as we know more about who He is and who we are
as His bride, the church, we are converted to the value of the local church as missions
outposts until He comes back. But a truly fruitful Christian begins to desire to see these
outposts all over the world and he is converted a third time, to the world.
And this holds true to what Paul is saying in our passage. He is saying that Euodia and
Syntache, they used to be that. They used to be laborers, but now anxiety has replaced
peace and they are no longer laboring for the world and they are fracturing the church.
They only embody the first conversion and the church and the mission is suffering
because of it.
So,we need to ask ourselves, how many conversions have we experienced? Are we
Christians who have only had one conversion? Who believe in and trust in Jesus, but
have no deep regard for His church and His mission? That was me for a number of
years. I was devoted to Jesus and motivated to follow Him, but church was just
something I did if I could fit it in. Much of the early years of our ministry in Italy was
detached from any local church and our ministry suffered because of that.
Or, are we Christians who have only had two conversions? Who believe in Jesus and
His church, but our concern is only for our church. Our time, prayers and money doesn’t extend beyond the walls of this church. Years ago, someone in John Piper’s church asked him why they spend so much time investing in college students who are here today and gone tomorrow. Piper responded saying, “Because they are here today and gone tomorrow.” Piper had experienced all three conversions and was thinking
differently because of it.
If we want to be a fruitful church we need to have experienced all three of these
conversions. Having a conversion to Christ, to His church and to the world
fundamentally changes the way we think about our purpose here. And this only
happens as the peace of God invades our hearts and minds more deeply every day.
So, we need to be a church marked by peace. We can’t be like Euodia and Syntache
and allow our pride and anxieties to disrupt the mission of this church. We need to pray
that God would protect us in this season of transition. We need to pray that we would
have the wisdom to nurture this peace as we live out very busy and complicated lives.