Chapter 20 Joy and Peace

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus, (vv. 4-7)

In the opening verse of chapter 3 we have already had the exhortation, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” Undoubtedly, the apostle was, so far as his own mind was concerned, just ready to bring his letter to a close. But, as we have already seen, this was not the mind of the Spirit, and, like his brother-apostle, Jude, on another occasion, he was “borne along” to exhort the saints to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered.” Now he again refers to that which was so much upon his heart. He would have the saints always rejoicing in the Lord. Joy and holiness are inseparable. A holy Christian is able to rejoice even when passing through deepest afflictions. But a believer who, through unwatchfulness, has permitted himself to fall into unholy ways loses immediately the joy of the Lord, which is the strength of those who walk in communion with Himself.

The second exhortation is one to which we may well give earnest heed. In the King James Version we read, “Let your moderation be known unto all men.” Undoubtedly, moderation is a most commendable Christian virtue, but there is more to the original word than this. It has been rendered by some “yieldingness.” This, too, is an excellent translation, so far as it goes, and suggests that resilience of character which many of us sadly lack. Rotherham gives “considerateness,” which adds to the thought, and helps us to a better understanding of the mind of the Spirit in this connection. The Revised Version has “forbearance,” and in the margin “gentleness.” But if we take all these various terms we shall, I think, find them summed up in the very suggestive rendering given years ago by Matthew Arnold, the English critic, who translated the passage, “Let your sweet reasonableness be manifested to all men.”

He pointed out the interesting fact that the word here used is unknown in classical Greek, and it was his impression that Paul coined it for the occasion. What a lovely trait is this sweet reasonableness in a Christian! It is the very opposite to that unyielding, harshly dogmatic, self-determined spirit that so often dominates in place of the meekness and gentleness of Christ. “I beseech you, my brethren,” wrote Cromwell to the warring theologians of his day, “remember that it is possible you may be wrong.” How apt we are to forget this when engaged in discussions as to either doctrines, methods of service, or church principles!

This does not mean that one need be lacking in intensity of conviction or assurance as to the correctness of doctrines, principles, or practices which one believes he has learned from the Word of God. But it does imply a kindly consideration for the judgment of others, who may be equally sincere and equally devoted—and, possibly, even more enlightened. Nothing is ever lost by recognizing this and remembering that we all know in part.

How aptly the brief sentence, “The Lord is at hand,” comes in, in connection with the preceding exhortation! I take it that the thought is not exactly “The Lord is coming”; it is rather, “The Lord is standing by.” He is looking on; He hears every word spoken; He takes note of every action.

Closer is He than breathing,
Nearer than hands or feet.

With the realization that He is thus, in the fullest sense, “at hand,” though unseen, how quickly would strife and dissension cease, and the forbearance and grace ever manifested in Himself be seen in His followers!

And now we have a wonderful promise based on a third exhortation, this time in connection with prayer. Our Lord Himself has warned against anxious thought, and the Holy Spirit expands His teaching by saying, “In nothing be anxious.” But how am I to obey an exhortation like this when troubles are surging around me, and my poor, restless mind will not be at peace? I feel I must tell somebody. My exercises are like those of the psalmist perhaps, who wrote on one occasion, “I am so agitated that I cannot speak” (Ps. 77:4, F. W. Grant’s trans.). What, then, shall I do? To whom shall I turn? It is so natural to worry and fret under circumstances such as these; though I tell myself over and over again that nothing is gained thereby, and my trouble only seems to become exaggerated as I try to carry my own burdens.

But the Spirit of God points the way out. He would have me bring everything, the great things and the little things, perplexing conditions and trying circumstances of every character, into the presence of God and leave them there. By prayer and supplication, not forgetting thanksgiving for past and present mercies, He would have me pour out my requests unto God. I may feel that I do not know the mind of the Lord in regard to them, but that need not hinder. I am to make known my “requests,” counting on His wisdom to do for me that which is best both for time and eternity. Thus, casting my care upon Him and leaving all in His own blessed hands, the peace of God (that peace which He, Himself, ever enjoys, though storms and darkness may be round about), a peace passing all understanding, shall guard, as with a military garrison, my heart and (blessed truth, if I but enter into it) my thoughts, or “mind,” as it is here translated, through Christ Jesus.

But this I cannot do for myself. I may tell myself over and over that I will not worry, will not fret, but my thoughts, like untamed horses with the bit in their teeth, if I may use such an illustration, seem to run away with me. Or, like an attacking army, they crowd into the citadel of my mind and threaten to overwhelm me. But God, Himself, by the Holy Spirit, has engaged to so garrison my mind and so protect my restless heart, that my thoughts shall neither run away with me nor yet overwhelm me. Every thought will be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Thus I shall enjoy the peace of God, a peace beyond all human comprehension, as I leave my burdens where faith delights to cast every care at the feet of Him who, having not withheld His own Son, has now declared that through Him He will freely give me all things. In this I can rest, for He cannot deny Himself.