This evening I want to spend a few minutes reflecting with you about peace. As we’ve officially entered the Christmas season which Thanksgiving kicks off each year, don’t we find ourselves longing for peace as we deal with lines at malls—and lines at grocery stores—and lines at gas stations—and lines along the many highways and byways of life? How can we find peace when we’re so busy waiting on lines and working and running around all of the time? And if perchance we’re able to find and experience peace on occasion, how do we keep it from leaving?

Well, since you can google anything, I decided to google “how to find peace” and found the following suggestions. According to one website,[1] you can find inner peace by:

Setting limitations;

Relaxing, perhaps with the aid of deep breathing;

Not making mountains out of molehills;

Slowing down;

Uncluttering your physical environment;

Living simply;

Being prompt—or even early;

Learning to accept and let go;

Not assuming but asking others what they’re thinking;

Escaping for a while;

Not procrastinating;

Not doing you work at home—which I imagine only works for those who don’t have to work at or from home!;

Doing one thing at a time;

Focusing on good memories;

Meditating—that is, focusing our minds, daily;

Only speaking truth, necessity, and kindness;

Not gossiping;

Saying what you mean and meaning what you say;

Not being so self-critical;

Becoming more attentive to and checking our thoughts.

Now whereas I think that many of these bits and pieces of advice are helpful in helping us cope with the busy-ness of our lives, I’m not so certain that implementing them will actually lead to a sense of peace. For coping and finding peace are not necessarily the same thing. What has been left out of these practical and even useful pieces of advice is a critical component without which I don’t think it’s possible to find peace—namely, a relationship with Christ Jesus, our Maker, Redeemer, and LORD. For at the end of the day, he is the primary means God has provided for enabling us to find peace.

Notice that Paul begins this portion of his letter to the Philippians by making this very point in verse 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Because you and I were made by God and for God, our sense of joy and peace must ultimately be found in him. Now we’re not told here to rejoice in our circumstances for though circumstances may be joyous, they may also be painful and cruel. No, we’re told to rejoice in the Lord. Always. To rejoice in the LORD is to delight in him. It’s to dwell upon his goodness—and kindness—and greatness—and compassion—and mercy—and justice—and love, to name but a few of the things he has disclosed about himself in the Old and New Testaments. To rejoice in the LORD is to remind ourselves, as we’ve seen over the past few weeks in turning to his Word, that he is good and his love endures forever; it’s to remind each other that he is good and his love endures forever; it’s to tell others who may not yet know him that he is good and his love endures forever. This is some of what it means to rejoice in the Lord. Always.

Further to rejoice in the LORD is to find our identity and meaning in this good God whose love endures forever. If we dwell upon him; if we meditate upon him; if we seek to be like him, he will grant us our desire of finding our identity in and becoming like him. Think about it. Even at a purely human level, don’t we try to become like those whom we admire? Don’t we emulate those we look up to? Don’t we start to speak as they do—and dress as they do—and think as they do—and pick up their mannerisms—and align our priorities with theirs? So if Jesus is the one whom we most admire; if Jesus is the one whom we most desire to find our identity in, we will begin to become like him—and emulate him—and speak as he did—and do what he did—and think as he does—and align our priorities with his. And the good news is that if we have given our lives to him and rejoice in who he is and what he has done and thereby seek to become like him, then again, by his very Holy Spirit who has sealed[2] and now indwells us,[3] he will help and enable and grant us our desire of becoming like him. So the first thing we can do to find peace is to turn to our Maker and LORD, rejoicing in him and finding our identity in him.

Next in verse 5 we see Paul state but one of Jesus’ many admirable traits, that of gentleness: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Jesus was and ever is gentle with those who know and love and serve and follow him. He says as much in one of my absolute favorite passages in Scripture. At the end of Matthew 11, listen to what he says: “28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus calls all who are weary and burdened to receive his rest? Isn’t it amazing to know that he wants to relieve us of our burden and, in its place, give us his yoke which is easy and his burden which is light? Isn’t it awesome that he wants to teach us? That he wants us to learn from him who is a teacher, a rabbi, who is gentle and humble in heart? And it is in learning gentleness from him that we’ll find rest for our souls. When our LORD is near, his gentleness should become our gentleness and thereby be evident to all. So the second thing we need to do to find peace is to turn to and learn from him.

Paul next exhorts in verse 6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” The God who inspired his Holy Scriptures knew that his image-bearers would struggle with anxiety; he knew we would experience worry, unease, and nervousness; he knew we would struggle to find peace in this fallen world for a fallen world is the antithesis of peace; a fallen world is the antithesis of God’s shalom; a fallen world is the antithesis of the way that things ought to be, of how God intended them to be.

But even if the Fall had never occurred, our kind LORD ever intended us to live in dependence upon him. In fact the Fall initially took place because Adam and Eve relied upon their own knowledge in choosing to follow the serpent’s advice to eat of the forbidden rather than following their LORD’s gracious offer to eat of anything but. But whether then or now, if we choose to live our lives without and apart from God, we will be anxious about everything and peace will elude us. For what do we, with our limited knowledge in the midst of this vast universe, know concerning how things ought to be? What do we know about how best to bring about God’s shalom, his peace? But if we turn to the LORD in every situation; if we, as Paul states,

talk with him—which is all that prayer is;

and ask him—which is all that a petition is;

and if we do so with thanksgiving, with a sense of gratitude that arises from knowing that he loves us and hears us and will answer us and do what is ultimately for our good,[4] then we will know his peace.

And what is truly astonishing and wonderful is that our LORD Jesus, at the time in which he was experiencing his most severe and heart-wrenching agony, actually modeled for us what Paul has disclosed here. At the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said to his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”[5] Our LORD was overwhelmed because he knew that he who had never sinned and therefore needn’t ever experience death would soon be carrying out his mission, in agreement with the Father and Holy Spirit, to take humanity’s sins upon himself and die in their stead that they might live in his resurrected life by the presence of the Holy Spirit who would be sent to all who believed in him once he ascended to heaven. In this most dire of situations we see how Jesus spoke with his heavenly Father and brought his petition before him saying, not once, not twice, but three times, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”[6] Doing the Father’s will was more important to Jesus than receiving the petition he had requested of him. And so it should be for us. We should ask anything we want of God—and then submit to whatever answer he provides. For in the end, the key to finding peace is found in learning to live in submission to God.

And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that just prior to Jesus taking his disciples to Gethsemane and praying this anguished prayer that he celebrated the Last Supper with them stating the words of institution that we repeat every communion Sunday. As recorded in Matthew 26:

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”[7]

As Jesus let his disciples know that he would be giving his body and shedding his blood so that any and all who believed in him would be able to receive forgiveness for their sins, he first gave thanks. He gave thanks to his heavenly Father knowing he would soon experience death. He gave thanks to his heavenly Father because he knew his death was the only way salvation could be given to those who believed in him. As Paul later stated in his letter to the Galatians, “13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’ 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”[8] Christ came to become a curse for us so that not only the Jewish descendants of Abraham might receive the promise of his Spirit but also the Gentile nations that are now blessed through him. Therefore days before he died, our kind LORD Jesus thanked God in anticipation of giving up his body and blood for us and for our salvation. If our precious LORD Jesus was able to thank God at such a moment, so should we be able to thank him at any and all moments. Indeed God in Christ calls us to follow his example as in every situation, we pray or talk with him; and ask or petition him; and make these requests with thanksgiving as we turn to and trust in him.

And if we present our requests to him in this manner, then, verse 7, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” To have our hearts and minds guarded by God’s peace, which transcends all understanding, is no small thing. But again this peace, his peace, is something we may only have “in Christ Jesus.” His peace is a possibility only for those who have come to a saving faith and knowledge of Christ and have thereby been given his Holy Spirit to indwell and pray for and comfort and care for us. For our heavenly Father who made us—and his Son, Christ Jesus, who redeems us—and his Holy Spirit who sustains us has provided himself as the only path of peace for us.

And so we see how, in these few verses from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we are shown how to find peace:

Again, to find peace we need to turn to our Maker and LORD and dwell upon him who is good and whose love endures forever, and find our identity in him;

To find peace we need to turn to his Son, our Redeemer, and learn from him for he is gentle and humble in heart and will give us his light yoke as he teaches us how to be like him;

To find peace we need to turn to our gracious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in every situation and talk to him and submit to him and offer our thanks to him for the gift of life he has given and the eternal life he has sacrificed to offer us in and through himself.

For lasting peace cannot be found apart from him;

Lasting peace cannot be found without him. Without him we may find ways to cope with our busy lives but it is only in and through Jesus that we are able to find that peace that transcends all understanding and will guard our hearts and minds in our gracious and kind Lord.

Let us pray.

[1] I’ve paraphrased/summarized points listed in How to find inner peace: 20 things you can start doing right now by Jude Paler, March 29 ,2019 <https://hackspirit.com/how-to-discover-your-inner-peace-in-4-simple-steps/>

[2] Ephesians 1:13–14: 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

[3] 2 Timothy 1:14: Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

[4] Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

[5] Matthew 26:38.

[6] Matthew 26:39 records the first instance. The second may be found in Matthew 26:42: “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” The third in Matthew 26:44: So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.” An abbreviated version may be found in Luke 22:39–44: 39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

[7] Matthew 26:26–28. Luke’s account also takes place prior to Gethsemane in Luke 22:17–20: 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

[8] Galatians 3:13–14. Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 21:23: 22 If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, 23 you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. [emphasis added]