Though I’m a Christian, why don’t I feel that “peace that surpasses understanding”?

(Answered on 10/10/2015 Program)

This believer in Christ who asks this question is referring to this passage:

Philippians 4:6-7 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NASB)

With stresses and real hardships in life, all people have a natural desire for peace. The hope of the Christian is that there is a peace they may have that is much greater than any if they did not believe in Christ. Let’s consider the context of this passage about the peace of God  to help understand what is associated with this peace. After Paul urges two Christians to work out a personal conflict they have in verses 2-3, he gives these instructions:

Philippians 4:4-9  4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

There is much to gain by thoroughly studying this passage, though we’ll just consider a few things that may answer the question at hand. First of all, the broader context of this passage is that Paul says a lot about rejoicing and peace in this letter even when he wrote it while in prison. This is key to his message that this peace and joy is not dependent on our circumstances. Consider some keywords in this passage:

Definitions:

  • Peace: from the Greek word eirēnē, meaning “A sense of security, safety, harmony;  tranquility associated with a soul who is assured of their salvation through Christ” (See Strong’s number G1515)
  • Comprehension: from the Greek word nous, meaning “The mind’s ability to fully perceive and understand” (See Strong’s number 3563)

The peace described as beyond our ability to understand is to distinguish it from any other sense of security or tranquility we can find in life. Many people in our world understand peace as merely the absence of trouble. But the peace that Jesus offers is not based on the absence of problems, but rather the presence of Christ in our life brings a peace that prevails in the face of adversity.

This peace of God (originating from Him as the source) will not just be transient but goes so deep it “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus“. The preposition “in Christ Jesus” links one’s relationship to Christ (God’s anointed One) with this protection of our heart and mind. From these observations we can know:

  1. God is the one providing this special peace, and
  2. It is when I am in Christ Jesus that I may experience this peace. Other translations use through Christ Jesus indicating it is only through His agency that those having a confident faith in Jesus may receive the security God offers

We see even more good things we are to have when we look at the preceding verses that give commands to “rejoice” and “be anxious for nothing” showing God expects a cheerful outlook and freedom from worry (See Matthew 6:25-34 about worrying). So what in this passage tells how we are to obtain these things?

My Part In Obtaining God’s Peace

In the Philippians passage we notice the exhortation to be constantly aware of the Lord.

  • Rejoice in the Lord always – In any circumstance the Christian has something eternally valuable to rejoice about: salvation in the Lord
  • The Lord is near – Knowing Jesus’ is near or anticipating His coming helps keep in mind the conduct the Lord might expect
  • The God of peace will be with you – God who gives peace is present with those who follow a walk of life Paul exemplified

So the assurance of this peace is associated with my constantly rejoicing about the salvation Jesus brought, being mindful of the Lord who I will give an account, and knowing the God who provides this peace will be with me. I see my part here is keeping the Lord in my thoughts which gives perspective on the daily toils of my life.

In the verse immediately precedes the obtainable peace, God requires an alternative activity and attitude to being anxious:

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Regarding everything, we are to pray to God and give supplication which is the call to God that arises out of deep need (See Strong’s number G1162). The instructions for us is to let God know about all our concerns if not simply to get it off our mind but so He may do something about our needs. I also see how I am to pray is to be done with an attitude of thankfulness. The discontent in the world often can be found to be ungrateful for what they have, whereas those who have a view of thankfulness will be outwardly more pleasant and inwardly experiencing contentment no matter what they have or don’t have.

Based On What We Dwell And Practice

These verses show that this peace from God will be ours if we follow His instructions. These are not complicated, but are challenging for us.

Definitions:

  • Dwell: from the Greek word logizomai, meaning “To reckon inward, to consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on” (See Strong’s number G3049)
  • Practice: from the Greek word prassō, meaning “To do, exercise, practice, undertake, accomplish, perform, commit, perpetrate” (See Strong’s number G4238)

The instructions in verves 8 and 9 are to meditate on virtuous things and practice the godly ways they had learned. This meditation is not just wishful or positive thinking, but careful study to understand these things enough to put them in practice. Each of the terms listed are worthy of deep study since they encompass all aspects of life and are qualities God values. Beyond simply the activity of our mind, we are to perpetuate these as a way of life; just as Paul had in his life. A commitment to making these qualities part of who we are will result in bringing us close to the God of peace.

Connecting Peace With Faith

Central to all of the gospel is that God’s blessings come to those who embrace Jesus as the One who gave His life for all of mankind. Peace is a blessing, but the greatest blessing is salvation from the punishment due everyone who has broken God’s laws. The Old Testament foretold of Jesus suffering for us that results in a peace we have:

Isaiah 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. (NKJV)

We may have a temporal form of peace when we feel good, have health, have wealth, and happiness. But true peace is when man is at peace with God. We learn in the New Testament this peace comes from faith in Jesus through whom our relationship with God is made right:

Romans 5:1-2  1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (NKJV)

Apparently, it takes faith to be justified in God’s eyes which is necessary to be at peace in our relationship with Him. By our breaking God’s laws (sin), we have been separated from God but can be viewed as innocent (justified) and brought into a peaceful relations by Jesus giving His life.

Ephesians 2:13-14 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, (NKJV)

When one comprehends the consequence of life knowing we will be held accountable to God, we can understand a more genuine peace comes from knowing our damaged relationship with God has been reconciled.

Colossians 1:19-22 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister
(NASB)

The hope of the gospel is that we can have peace with God. God has graciously provided a way for this to be possible, but we must respond in faith in order to have this genuine peace that comes in knowing we are no longer alienated with God.

Obtainable Peace

For those seeking this special gift of peace, remember God is the source. He is called “the God of peace” (Romans 15:33; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20) so is the fountainhead and the bringer of peace. Follow His command to rejoice and give thankful prayer to God who is the protector of your heart and mind. We can understand always keeping our mind aware of matters greater than our circumstance; such as our salvation from our sin, can bring peace and perspective.

The Philippians 4 passage gave action items for those wanting to obtain this peace that include dwelling on virtuous things and put them into practice. When we seek peace, talk to God about it, meditate on godly qualities and make them part of your walk. With this, God has assured us His peace will guard our hearts.