FIRST-PERSON: Peace that passes understanding
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- Reading the headlines of any newspaper today can produce anxiety and uncertainty; there's no end to what we can worry about in our world. But in Philippians 4:9, the Bible gives us a 24-word solution to 24-hour anxiety: "The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you."
Note the progress of the verbs. The apostle Paul had come to the city of Philippi teaching the truths of the Gospel, and the Philippians had learned the message, received it into their lives, heard it proclaimed and explained, and saw it demonstrated. Now, Paul said, "Put it into practice. Do it." The promised result was that the God of peace would be with them.
Here's the process Paul set forth to counter any terror that strikes our hearts:
Learn the message
First, we must learn the message. Without Christ, our world is a culture of fear. Without His forgiveness, we're in danger of guilt. Without His pardon, we're in danger of judgment. Without His life, we're in danger of death. Without His promises, we're in danger of chaos. Without His presence, we're in danger of loneliness. Without His Gospel, we're in danger of despair.
"But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
The truth of this message is the greatest weapon against inner fear ever devised.
Receive it into your life
Hearing this message, however, is useless unless it is received into our lives. Evangelist John Carrara grew up in an Italian-American home in New York amid the rituals of the church but without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. One day a friend shared the Gospel and his need to be born again. John decided to attend services at a nearby church where his eyes were drawn to a verse over the baptistry: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
The words "should not perish" struck at John like bolts out of the blue. He called on Christ to be His personal Savior. It's not a matter of just hearing the message; once we receive the message, we are recipients of the peace of God.
Hear it proclaimed
Though our new birth gives a spiritual foundation for peace, it's wonderful to grow in the peace of God that passes understanding. That happens as we hear the Word of God preached, as we listen to it read, and as we study it ourselves.
Did you know that the word "peace" occurs 401 times in the Bible? Here are four of my favorite passages:
"I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety" (Psalm 4:8).
"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You" (Isaiah 26:3)
"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27)
"Be anxious for nothing, 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, shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7)
See it demonstrated
We also learn about God's peace by seeing it demonstrated in the lives of others. Paul told the Philippians to observe his life and put into practice the patterns they observed in him, and the God of peace would be with them. Through the years, I've learned a lot about God's peace by watching others who knew Him.
How wonderful when we ourselves become a strength to others. Does your calmness, joy and inner peace overflow to others?
The last step is sheer obedience. Choose to trust God during difficult times, and learn to cast all your cares on Him. Paul told the Philippians, "The things which you learned ... these do, and the God of peace will be with you."
We have that assurance, rest in it!