In a world where things go wrong, where evil is present, and where we don’t have full control, is it possible to have peace in every situation?
I would say it is. But it depends on our choices, especially in response to what we can’t control. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he gave a simple formula for finding peace, and it includes three choices:
Rejoice always + Don’t worry about anything + Pray about everything =
Mind-blowing peace that protects our hearts and minds in Jesus
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
Conventional wisdom tells us to not use absolute terms like “always,” “anything,“ “everything,” and “all,” because they make the writer sound judgmental and sensational. But neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit who inspired him heeded such “wisdom.” His advice is pretty bold. But so is the peace he says will result. It’s not fickle and fleeting like the momentary serenity we might experience following advice like “close your eyes and go to your happy place” and “breath deeply.”
The peace God promises via Paul is a peace that not only “surpasses all understanding,” but “guards our hearts and our minds” (Philippians 4:7). The Greek word translated “guards” means “to be a watcher in advance, i.e. to mount guard as a sentinel” and “figuratively, to hem in, protect.” That’s not a peace we can manufacture. It comes from Someone greater than ourselves and isn’t just a state of calm tranquility. It’s peace that comes to stay and protects our hearts and minds from further emotional, mental, and spiritual assault.
But first we must make some choices — choices to rejoice, to not worry, and to pray. These aren’t one-time choices. They are on-going deliberate decisions that become second nature to us as we practice making them over and over and over again in every situation.
Soon after my mother died, my father read somewhere that joy is a choice. Despite missing his sweetheart of fifty plus years, he made a deliberate decision to choose joy no matter his feelings and no matter his circumstances. That choice has brought him tremendous peace and contentment and has inspired others to make the same choice.
Paul also advised his readers to choose joy, but he didn’t stop there. In his letters to the Philippians and the Thessalonians, he gave four additional choices to make to have peace. Again, note the absolutes he used.
Choices We Make to Have Peace:
1. I choose to be joyful always.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
“Rejoice always.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
2. I choose to not worry about anything.
“Don’t worry about anything.” (Philippians 4:6a)
3. I choose to pray about everything.
“In everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6b)
“Pray constantly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
4. I choose to give thanks in every situation.
“Give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
5. I choose to dwell only on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, has moral excellence, and is praiseworthy.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Simple choices, right? Yes, but not always easy. Our enemy Satan plants doubts in our minds about ourselves, our circumstances, and especially about our God. It is only when we trust God completely that we can make the choices above and have peace no matter what. If we don’t know God or His trustworthiness, Satan can easily take away our peace.
The Basis for Making These Choices
Let’s look at these choices and the reasons for making them. It’s not because “the Universe” has some great plan for us and is showing us the enlightened path to take. They are choices we make based on our trust in the God who rules over the universe (Revelation 4:11), otherwise known as our Heavenly Father who loves us deeply, calls us by name (John 10:3), and knows us so well He knows the exact number of hairs on our head in any given moment (Luke 12:7). He wants to have a personal relationship with us — a relationship that becomes more intimate as we make the choices above.
Paul just scratched the surface in Philippians 4 of reasons to trust God and derive our peace from Him:
1. He is with us. (Philippians 4:5b)
2. He gives us the strength to do anything. (Philippians 4:13)
3. He provides all we need. (Philippians 4:19)
In my years of learning to trust God and have peace no matter what, I’ve come up with a more comprehensive list based on a broader scope of Scripture. The writers of Scripture use even more absolutes as they describe who God is and who He is to us.
Reasons to Trust God Completely:
1. Because God is our Father who loves us deeply and wants us to call to Him.
“See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are!” (1 John 3)
“You received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:15-17)
“And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6)
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
2. Because God has a purpose and a plan for us and for all that happens to us.
“’For I know the plans I have for you’—this is the Lord’s declaration—’plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ (Jeremiah 29:11)
“I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will.” (Isaiah 46:10)
“I know that you can do anything and no plan of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
“We were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11b)
3. Because God is redemptive and promises to bring good out of everything.
“All things work together for the good of those who love God.” (Romans 8:28)
“You planned evil against me; God planned it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)
4. Because God promises to provide everything we need — we are His heirs, and all He has is ours.
“My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
“He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything?” (Romans 8:32)
“And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
5. Because God is sovereign and all-powerful and able to do anything.
“With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
“Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
6. Because Jesus’ grace is all-sufficient, empowering and strengthening us.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
“I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
“Be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit.” (Ephesians 3:16)
“The Spirit also helps us in our weakness.” (Romans 8:26)
7. Because the Holy Spirit is our ever-present Helper, Teacher, and Counselor.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” (John 14:26)
“You are God’s temple and the Spirit of God lives in you.” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
“The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you.” (Romans 8:11)
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you.” Acts 1:8
“For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said.” (Luke 12:12)
8. Because God is always with us.
“The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
“And remember, I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)
As these truths become part of our experience and belief system, we may often make the choices above without thinking. But first, we practice making them consciously over and over again, even when our natural responses would be just the opposite.
I’ve been sick with the flu and a bad cold for over a week. One day I realized I was at peace, not fretting, not anxious, just resting in my Abba Father’s care and trusting His timing for my healing. I wasn’t always like this. It’s taken years of learning to believe and to trust that God has a plan and purpose in all things and will work it all together for good. I realize my temporary illness is small potatoes to what many are going through. Still, it’s in learning to trust God in the “small” stuff that we know how to trust Him when all hell breaks loose.
I also realize our enemy never rests, and even now is plotting a new angle to attack my faith and trust in my Heavenly Father. I need to continue to consciously make the choices above in any and every situation and not assume I’ll do them “naturally.”
And so, to recap —
We Choose to:
- Be joyful always.
- Not worry about anything.
- Pray about everything.
- Give thanks in every situation.
- Dwell only on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, has moral excellence, and is praiseworthy.
Because We Know:
- God is our Father who loves us deeply and wants us to call to Him.
- God has a purpose and a plan for us and for all that happens to us.
- God is redemptive and promises to bring good out of everything.
- God promises to provide everything we need — we are His heirs, and all He has is ours.
- God is sovereign and all-powerful and able to do anything.
- Jesus’ grace is all-sufficient, empowering and strengthening us.
- The Holy Spirit is our ever-present Helper, Teacher, and Counselor.
- God is always with us.
God’s amazing peace — so great we can’t fully comprehend it — protecting our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.