Prayer’s Surpassing Peace (Pt.2)

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 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.

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.

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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:1-9, ESV

1. The Plea of Peace

2. The Provision of Peace

3. The Promise of Peace from the God of Peace

Let’s go to Lord in prayer before we hear from his word, let’s pray one more time.

The Lord we come again before you and we bask in knowing the privilege of your presence as we worship you together now. Thank you that you are holy and perfect and pure, and that you purge out from us all that is unclean and unholy. Thank you for you are gracious and able to deal with us in our sin, and in our filth and we ask, Lord, even as we come, we thank you that you’re merciful, and able to lift us up in our weakness and our frailty, that you’re strong and good and true and gracious. And we pray, heavenly Father as we turn to you again, and we turn again to your word and as we listen to every word that comes forth from your mouth, that you would place that word in our hearts that there we may begin to love you in new ways. Place that word in our minds that we may understand your ways better. Heavenly Father, we pray, touch our wills, by that word that we may submit our wills gladly to your perfect wisdom, and your sovereign will that all of our days, and all of our life and we learn how to glorify you, and enjoy you forevermore. And so we come again, Heavenly Father, and we ask, speak, your servants are listening. We ask all of this in Christ’s name. All of God’s people said, Amen.

Philippians chapter four beginning verses one to nine, for context, the focus of the sermon will be verses four to seven but please give your attention now Philippians, four, verses one to nine.

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 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. 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. 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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me— practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our Lord endures forever.

This is indeed a wonderful text, wonderful text, a wonderfully rich and full text. It’s a text that deserves deep and prolonged reflection and prayer and pondering. It will pay great dividends as we do so. And at some point, we will look at the book of Philippians on the whole in more detail, perhaps through a preaching series or through teaching, when things get back to whatever normal is going to be, and we hold studies in Sunday School classes and things like that. But this morning we’re going to look again at this passage from chapter four, chapter four verses four to seven.

Troubles, worry, anxiety, fear— These things are ever-present realities in this life. And they have been ever since the fall. Many of you, many of us are currently challenged by new fears, new anxieties, things that are going on in our world. And that’s understandable to some extent. But sadly, the world has successfully infiltrated the minds and worldviews of any followers of Christ, and defined the terms of reality and distracted us from the main things that we should be focusing on. And perhaps most discouragingly, the world, through these current tactics, has successfully pitted believers one against another and sown discord in the body of Christ.

But we are called again by God’s word. We are called by His Word to be corrected and to be protected, once again, to not despair, not to surrender not to hopelessness. We were reminded in this passage this morning, dear Christian, about fear and anxiety, yes, but also about rejoicing and protection and delight in peace, peace of God from the God of Peace. We look at this passage we see that the Lord indeed has given us direction regarding the anxieties that we have. We see first in verses four to six, Paul gives this plea, right? And then he gives the provision at the end of verse six. And then finally he gives the promise, right, this glorious promise, in verse seven.

We began to look at this last week, right, the plea starting in verse six. Notice that these things that Paul gives that he tells us here, they are imperatives, right? They’re directives or commands. He’s telling us, he’s telling the Philippines to do things. Rejoice. Be reasonable. Be gentle. Don’t worry, don’t be anxious. Pray, think good thoughts, practice good deeds, do good things. And as I mentioned last week, it’s common for Paul in his letters to end with directives and advice before he closes with a benediction. We see that these imperatives, they are directly related to the problems and solutions that the Philippians needed. The fact is that anxiety discourages. It disorients, it disrupts joy, the joy of the believer. Anxiety deprives us of peace. God’s Word is calling us to way of dealing with the stresses and anxieties of life that is, indeed not from man, but is supernatural. It’s a way of calling us to a way of dealing with these things that only come from a new heart and a new outlook that comes from God, God’s gracious work in the hearts of his people. And that must be the way, right, that must be the way that it happens. The solution to our problems and our anxieties comes not from within ourselves, it comes from outside of ourselves. Because far too often, we are a dominant contributor to our anxieties.

So Paul says, Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say again, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be made known to everyone. The Lord is at hand, do not be anxious about anything. There are a handful of things going on here. Again, it’s a full, rich, very pregnant text. Things that he’s talking about gentleness and joy, prayer and pondering, and even practicing later in the text at the end of the passage, the end of the paragraph. Look again here at this passage. And notice as we do how prevalent the presence of God in the lives of those who trust in Christ is, the presence of God.

Notice how repeatedly in this passage, Paul mentions the God who has loved and rescued us through Christ. Right? Look at verse four. Rejoice in the Lord, all always. Verse five, the Lord is at hand, verse six, let your requests be made known to God. For seven, the peace of God is that which will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. And then in verse nine, this is what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. What’s that? What’s the gospel, right? In verse one he mentions, it’s the preaching Christ. And then finally, in verse nine, we look at the full paragraph it says, the God of peace will be with you. The Lord must be central in our lives. He must be our chief love, he must be our constant affection and goal for His glory.

And these matters of anxiety and the human mind and heart and spirit. They’re complex matters to be sure. But we can never reduce anxiety to bad methods of dealing with those problems. As we’ve seen in our text and in other texts in the last number of weeks, anxiety is a symptom of misplaced trust. Right anxiety is a symptom of misplaced trust that reveals that our hearts are set on something that we are fearful of losing and desperate to hold on to. There’s some center of gravity in our hearts. What is that center of gravity for you, brothers and sisters? What is that thing that causes you to fear and to fret upon the thought of losing it?

Well, this misplaced focus and weight, it can and often is, even on good things. I mentioned a number of times to you, in the past number of years, one of my professors used to say, Good goods make bad gods. We can have misplaced, inordinate, inappropriate weight and trust, even idolatry on good things. Love, family, success, knowledge, theology. These are not bad things, they’re good things. But again, even good things make bad gods. Idols are still idols. And those things cannot be at the heart, center of gravity, because they cannot withstand the assaults from the world. Why is that? Well, they cannot because they are finite, they are temporal, they are creaturely. Our hearts are not to be grounded in the things of the world, even good things.

Our focus of course, as you know, must return to our faithful Lord. We must treasure him above all, we must treasure our Lord above all else. We must be grounded in who he is and what he has accomplished in our behalf. Treasuring Jesus and His grace as your life’s foundation brings joy. And it brings gentleness as we’ll see as we go on. And so it also enables us, right, to battle worry and anxiety, praying with gratitude, reflecting on Christ’s character, and also gospel-shaped living.

So let’s look more closely at what Paul is telling us here. As we return to verse, I’m sorry to chapter, chapter four, verse four. And we see that in that verse, verse four gives the imperative the command, that we must rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice in the Lord always. Fairly straightforward, right? It’s pretty- it makes sense. It makes sense that, because our joy is rooted in the Lord who promises never to leave us, we are told to do so at all times and in all circumstances: rejoice in the Lord, many believe, if you’re familiar with this, that Paul, when he writes these lines, has in mind that song that closes the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. Remember Habakkuk, the Old Testament prophet. He was bothered by Judah, that Judah had acted so wickedly and seemingly escaped justice. And then he’s further upset as the Lord tells him, that he will use Babylon to punish Judah. But Habakkuk is given good news. Good news and that good news said this in Habakkuk 2:4.

The righteous shall live by his faith, the righteous shall live by his faith.

And then later on in chapter three of Habakkuk, there’s this beautiful song of joy that comes. The song of joy, even in hard circumstances. Habakkuk 3:17-18. It says, though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vine, the produce of the olive fail, the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

A glorious song of joy. It is good to be reminded of this, brothers and sisters, when things are all well and good and peaceful and prosperous, it’s easy and natural for us to tether our joy to those things and to those times. But the problem is those things are fleeting. And Habakkuk knows that the thing that lasts through those times, right, whether flower or recession, success or ruin, the thing that lasts is God’s commitment to God’s people. His commitment to his people is the thing that lasts.

And Paul is telling us this thing as well. We need to know this, dear Christian, we need to know this we need to be reminded of it, we need to believe it, we need to trust it. We are told to rejoice. To rejoice is to treasure a thing, to assess its value to you, to reflect on its beauty and significance to the point that your heart rests and tastes it sweetness! One of my professors used to describe it like this, he said, rejoicing is a way of praising God until the heart is sweetened and rested and loosens its grip that it has on anything else that thinks it needs. I think it’s very well-put. Rejoicing is a way of praising God until the heart is sweetened and rested and then loses the grip it has on anything else it thinks it needs.

We have a reflex, right? We reflexively focus on physical, visible things, pleasures and promises physical things that we can see and touch. Rejoicing in the Lord is resisting that reflex. Rejoicing in the Lord concentrates the mind, purposely, on treasuring Jesus on treasuring our Savior, focusing on his mercy and his power and his purity and his beauty and his tenderness and his love. And when we do so, we grow to realize and believe more and more and more the truth that Jesus truly is all that we need for every moment and every situation. So focusing and rejoicing in the Lord, that’s the first antidote, if you will, that Paul gives.

And then in verse five, he goes on and he says, Let your reasonableness be made known to everyone. Notice what the Bible is doing and what the word is doing. The direction that the apostle goes, he moves our attention from the source of our joy, the Lord, to other people in verse five, do you notice that? It’s interesting because other people are very often the source of our anxiety and our troubles and our stresses. And just a quick word about the term there that the ESV, which is what I was reading, translates that word reasonableness, let your reasonableness may be made known to all. We find this term five times in the New Testament. And while reasonableness can be a valid translation, all the other modern translations, modern English Bibles, as well as the old Authorized King James version and the New American Standard, they really do a better job translating this word. They render that word, the original word as gentle. Let your gentleness be made known to all, gentle spirit forebearing spirit. And that’s a better translation, that’s really gets better at what the word really means in context, gentleness graciousness, even clemency can be given, translated as that word. The word is were referring to what it’s referring to a kind of calm and kind disposition that allows a person to give a non-violent, generous response to someone else’s aggression and hostility. Gentleness, gracious response to aggression and hostility.

And this matches of course, what Paul has been doing matches the context, what he’s already said remember in chapter two about how Christians should treat one another. Remember Paul said, Let your but each of you look not to his own interest but also to the interest of others.

Or in the discussion in the New Testament that we find of elders and the character required of elders, Paul uses the same word, 1 Timothy 3, elders are to be not quarrelsome, but gentle. Gentle.

And in Titus 3, we see that all believers should be gentle and not quarrelsome. Paul uses the same word when speaking about Christ’s meekness, his meekness. In 2 Corinthians 10:1, Paul says, I Paul myself entreat you by the meekness and gentleness (that’s the word) of Christ. I, who am humble when face to face… See how Paul couples these two together, meekness and gentleness.

Then in Philippians 4, Paul is moving. Notice what he does he’s he’s moving the admonition to gentleness outside of the church. He says to everyone. Let your gentleness be made known to everyone. That’s what we’re to show to everyone. That’s our disposition we’re to have to all: forbearance, gentleness, graciousness, kindness. We’re to do so even to those who are making our lives miserable. That’s the hard part. That’s the hard part.

But oh, how important that is right now, dear Christian. How important this call to gentleness, to charitability, and kindness is right now. Because as justified as we think we might be, we don’t get to abandon love in our interaction with others. That’s not an option for us. We are to be gentle and loving and kind.

Of course, you don’t have to spend very much time online to see what a blight on the church, failure to do this, is. It is a blight, indeed. We see it all the time on social media Christians– this has been going on since social media has been around– We see believers are abandon that love and gentleness and kindness that’s required of all of us who’ve been shown love and gentleness and kindness by our Savior, by Jesus himself. And they attack and accuse and malign and degrade others, even other believers. It’s truly heartbreaking. It’s heart-crushing.

And so for all of us brothers and sisters, let us take care interactions, in person but online for sure. Let us take care. We belong to Jesus, we are followers of Christ, we name the name of Jesus. Let us let our gentleness be made known to everyone.

And then notice how the verse ends, it says the Lord has a hand. The Lord is at hand. What’s that referring to? Some say its a reference to the consummate, ultimate nearness of Christ and his second coming. Ultimate nearness, he’s close, his coming is close, his coming in culminating of all things and at his coming is close, it is hand. And certainly that’s true. To be sure that is true. No one knows the hour of His coming, we read in Scripture. In James 5 it says, He will come soon. His coming is at hand, and the certainty of his coming gives us inexpressible joy. Because of that, we can currently be what? Gentle, gracious kind, in hope, in waiting, in anticipation, and endurance. But there’s another aspect of what this means, this the Lord is at hand. Another aspect to this reality. Yes, he’s coming. He is at hand, in nearness in a second coming. But he is also at hand in his nearness, right now, through his indwelling Holy Spirit in the lives of his people. He is near.

Remember the psalmist, The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and he saves the crushed in spirit.

He is near, dear Christian, through the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit working in you, dwelling in you who belong to Him. And so the Lord is at hand. It motivates our gentleness through all of our stresses and anxieties. Even as we go through injustices in hardships, we’re not alone. The Lord is at hand, he is near. He is near. Praise God. Isn’t that encouraging? Isn’t that encouraging, isn’t that wonderful, isn’t that helpful in your lives of anxiety and stress? He brings help in our sufferings. And soon, he is coming to bring our sufferings to an end. He brings help in our sufferings. He’s coming soon to bring our sufferings to an end.

Well, we look back at verse six. We’re told there to replace anxiety with prayer, replace anxiety with prayer. This is the provision that we are given. The provision, that glorious provision, pray. Pray! Rather than be anxious and fearful and worrisome, pray, dear Christian. Let those things drive you to the cross, to drive you to the throne, drive you to pray, to pray to the Lord. And the promise is joy, rejoicing. It will come, it will come, and it does come.

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 minds in Christ Jesus.

There is so much here in these two verses, brothers and sisters, so much here. But just notice this for this morning: one of the ways that the peace of God comes to the people of God is through prayer. Through prayer, when we pray, we turn our hearts and our minds back where the focus needs to be: on the Lord. We were told in what way we are to pray, in everything with thanksgiving, in everything with thanksgiving. And see the words there that he uses this– to emphasize this, prayer, supplication, requests. We have free access to bring all of our concerns to the Father. Dave, we are commanded to do so.

How can you be confident? How can you be assured? How can you be certain that our Heavenly Father hears us? How can we be sure that he cares for you? Well, you know God’s Word so wonderfully explains our problem, man’s basic problem, in the patterns that it lays down again and again, even from the beginning. And God’s word wonderfully and graciously lays it down, our need and God’s provision for that need. We must grasp what is behind that provision to fully appreciate and understand and lay hold to an appropriate it for ourselves. What is our problem? What is behind the provision for that problem?

We can look at places in the Old Testament places like Psalm 130, Psalm 130. And I’ll just read the verse. The first part of this Psalm, Psalm 130 will make reference to a little bit too Show this what is behind this provision? It says,

out of the depths I cry to you, oh Lord. Oh Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy. If you Lord should mark iniquities, Lord who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

With you, there’s forgiveness that you may be feared. There we find references to these things. Recall that God’s people, remember we spent a whole series on this would go on pilgrim to Jerusalem. And one of the reasons they would go would be to celebrate the Day of Atonement. And you have to wonder, these pilgrims as they went, the writer of Psalm 130, did it strike him at some point what was happening? I mean, every day they would bring sacrifices for the sins of the people. And I wonder how long it would take maybe not much to think that after a while and realize and think if these sacrifices are being made day after day after day, they can’t actually be taking away my sins. If they were actually taking away my sins, wouldn’t need to repeat them day after day after day, after day.

And maybe he thought about the fact that there was a great day, once every year when that sacrificial blood is taken into the Holy of Holies, that holiest place by the high priests and after has been he’s made sacrifice for his own sins. And remember, they, they would tie a rope around the ankle of that high priest Why? Just in case His sacrifice wasn’t acceptable to God, and he was struck dead. And the rope was so they could pull his body out of that holy of holies.

And think of the joy when he came out and he declared that Great benediction, The Lord bless you. Lord, keep you. Lord make his face shine upon you. And he pronounces upon them. Peace, shalom. This is fairly familiar to us all.

But do you remember that there was something else that was needed, something else needed to happen? What was needed? What was this? For the sacrifice, remember that there were two goats, two goats. In one of the goats was slain in their priests would take that blood and he would pour it on the Ark of the Covenant, it would ask God to pardon the sins of the people. But that wasn’t all. Something else happened. The priests would place his hands on the other goat that had been chosen and places hands on that goat. He would confess the sins of the people on that goat. And then someone will take the goat out on a leash. And it will be walked out from the temple and led out of Jerusalem into the wilderness. And then it will be released from that leash. And with the sins of the people confessed over to carrying those sins, the goat would carry them away. Away to some dark wilderness place where they will be removed, forevermore. Gone, gone.

Imagine that sight. Imagine seeing this take place, the goat gone. Watching that representation, the carrier of your sins, as it is led away, far and gone, never to be seen again. This is the language of the Old Testament, of the psalmist, when it says that there is a taking away of sins, a baring away of sins.

Verse four of 130, forgiveness that you may be feared. Brothers and sisters, listen to this question. Do you know how your sins can be carried away, just like this? And you see that even in Psalm 130, it’s pointing us, even then, to the end of all those sacrifices that were offered all throughout the Old Testament. It’s pictured, it’s pointed, it’s– even then it’s pointing us to the end. All those sacrifices, every Lamb that was slain, every bull and goat that was offered, which could never take away sin.

Until one day, the man in strange clothes with a really weird diet. He pointed to another man. And he said, Behold, there is the Lamb of God who will carry away the sins of the world. And you get it, right? You get it that what Jesus did on the cross was that he became the first goat that was slain for the sins of the people. But he also became the second goat. And when he was hanging on the cross in the wilderness, between man who had rejected Him, who had rebelled against him, who have forsaken him, he looked up to heaven. From the depths of the dark world on Sunday, from the depths I cry to you will Lord, hear my voice. My God, my God, why am I forsaken?

And the answer that would come, that he didn’t hear in that moment, but it would come was this: because my son, you’re not only the first goat but you’re also the scapegoat to carry away the sins of those who come to trust in you.

And as we look at the cross, and Christ dying for us on the cross, Christ entering that no man’s land where he bore the judgment of God upon our sins. And then we think about the way God raised Him from the dead to be a living, glorious Savior and friend. And you begin to understand how the psalmist was able to say, again, with you there is forgiveness that you may be feared.

Well, that’s the provision, dear Christian. That’s how we can know the peace of God. That’s why our Heavenly Father is our father. And that hears us and He blesses us and he protects us. He promises to do so. Forever.

Jesus has done all that needed to be done. We can’t lose sight of the main thing. We can’t lose sight of that main thing. Are there problems in the world? Are the problems with the world? Yes. Should they concern us? Yes, they should. Should the message and the focus of the church be driven by them? No. Because the message of the church is the gospel. And it is the only answer the only solution to every problem. And it is perfect. The perfect answer.

And so what? So now, believe it! Pour yourself into that purpose. It will never disappoint you, you’ll never be ashamed, you’ll never look back and think, what a waste of time. No! Pour yourself into it, and share it. Share it. The Gospel must be our greatest passion. Everything else is secondary. All for Christ’s name’s sake.

So very briefly, let’s look at that final point, the promise of peace from the God of peace, in verse seven. the promise of peace, from the God of peace. Verse Seven,

and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Again, we need to wrap up for this morning. But let’s remember this: the peace of God comes alone from the God of peace. Not from issues, not from any other thing, the peace of God comes alone from the God of peace. And I know that in my sin and my weakness and my inappropriate fear and my misguided struggles and focus in all those things, I’m a disaster. So are you. In our lives, and the messes we make of them, we are anxious, and we struggle to have hope and peace. And to compound things, if we think honestly and assess ourselves, in ourselves, one of the things that makes things worse is that our inner Pharisee knows precisely how and what everyone else is doing wrong. And we’re bent to correct those things.

But the truth is, brothers and sisters, the truth is we don’t have enough attention to spend on our own sins, let alone to be spending them on other people’s sins. An honest assessment of things shows just how foolish and feeble we are. But there’s hope. Praise God, there’s hope. Indeed, even in our weakness, even in our worry, even in our lack of peace, our instability, even in it all, Jesus is strong. He is strong. Our God is powerful to keep us, powerful to guard us, to defend us, to watch over us in all things. He is the peace provider. The Prince of Peace is the provider of peace. And that surpassing peace of God guards our hearts and guards our minds in Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, as we go again, let us believe these very things, for our hearts, for our protection, for our focus, for our worry, for our peace. Let us believe and trust and have faith in our King who loves us, and who died for us. Who removed the enmity between us and the Father and also gave us his perfect righteousness so that we are forever seen by the Father has perfect, his own spotless sons and daughters, you sons and daughters of the king, in all Christ’s perfection. Let us rejoice in our Savior, brothers and sisters and his love for us. Let us give thanks to all things. Let us live lives for our Savior, flowing out of hearts made new, and let us be ever emboldened in our walk in this world. Oh, it is a dead and dying world, in such need the truth of the gospel, where alone there is life. You know this, you have the greatest news in all of history. It is not a secret. Proclaim it! There is hope and forgiveness in life for those who trust themselves upon Christ, who offers life and forgiveness in cleansing and renewal and peace forevermore. Dear Christian, go out and tell someone that truth. May God be praised glorified in all of his work amongst men. Amen. Let’s pray.

Our heavenly Father, we love you, we delight to give you praise. Lord we do pray that you would help us to believe what you say about us in your word. Those of us who entrusted ourselves upon Jesus that we are dead to sin. We’ve been raised to walk in newness of life, who are united to Jesus, new creations. Lord, to help us to live accordingly, help us to live that ethic, that character of our true homeland, Heaven glory itself, even now in this pilgrim land. Even to those with whom we disagree, even to those with whom we have conflict, Lord, help us to show love, to show gentleness, to show charity and compassion. Father, we pray that you would help us to speak boldly in our witness with our lives, yes, but even with our mouths. Lord, we pray that the outside world would look and see the peculiarity of your people. They would indeed, be intrigued as you would prick their hearts. And then we would tell them the truth. Lord, we do pray that we would that you would draw people to yourself, that you draw people to church, that we would be bold to invite and the people would come and hear the truth be confronted with the gospel. Lord, we commit the rest of this worship service indeed, all of our lives once again and anew and afresh to you, Christ our Lord. We praise you and we thank you, and we ask all of this in Jesus name, amen.