Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry 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).
In these days of uncharted waters, it is difficult to have a sense of peace and calm because of what is happening around us. It is perfectly understandable that we feel this way. The Bible passage above reminds us of one very important thing, “The Lord is near.”
God the Holy Spirit inhabits the whole cosmos; there is nowhere where the Spirit is not. We are to be encouraged, but it can be hard to trust in this idea during a time like this.
In Philippians 4: 4 – 7 Paul gives us a route into a place of peace. I do not mean to point to this as a platitude. It will be difficult to arrive here as we are concerned about our current situation, but it is my hope this will be helpful.
To rejoice comes from a Jesus-centred confidence that he is who he says he is, “God with us,” and that we are who he says we are, the beloved of God. It is through understanding these two things that we are able to cultivate joy in our lives.
Paul then moves us on to the idea of gentleness. As with joy, this is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22 – 23), and through it he takes us beyond ourselves.
When we are all stirred up by a situation, it is easy to shoot from the hip — to say and do things we will later regret. If we are able to find that place of peace which Jesus gives, then gentleness is possible.
This gentleness is to be known to everyone. As we are able and as long as it is safe for us to do so, we can find places to help in our communities. There will be people to contact, help with obtaining groceries and medical supplies and being encouragers to those who are struggling. Paul says we are to do these things gently.
In this passage we are told not to worry, which I have to say for me is easier said than done. With my parents being so far away and little chance of my getting to see them should they become infected, I have to say I am very concerned.
Paul says to all of us that we are to bring our prayers and requests to God. To be in prayer is to be in the presence of God. I need to do that. I have to remember to adore God, confess my sins, bring thanksgivings and to make my requests (supplications) to God. I think this applies to many of us.
It is through doing these things that we discover that we are entering into the peace of God which passes understanding.
Paul then takes us further: the peace which we receive will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. It is Jesus who is at the centre of things, and as we move into peace, we will discover him there, but the apostle reminds us that it is our hearts and minds that need guarding.
Many of the fears we face come from these two sources: the heart, that is, our emotions, and our minds, that place where we work things out. They feed each other, and it is the intervention of peace from God which can break that cycle.
During these uncertain days, be assured of my prayers for you. I ask for your prayers for me as we seek the peace of God which passes all understanding.