“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:4-7].
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all…” [2Timothy 2:24a].
We live in a world of tension and aggression and if we buy into this world, this way of living, we will exhibit tension, anxiety, and aggression in our relationships and communications with others. Anxiety is the power that energizes the world, including the business world. From executives to employees, high-tension lines transmit fear, pressure, aggression, and anxiety throughout organizations. It’s not limited to business, we see it in government and politics, in entertainment, in sports, in education, in churches. It’s all about making things happen the way we want them to happen and making them happen yesterday. While we would not consider placing our hands on a high-tension line belonging to a utility company, knowing that the shock would kill us, we are accustomed to living with high-tension lines connected to our minds and hearts virtually 24/7 – and we seldom realize that they are killing us – killing our souls, our bodies, our families, our relationships…killing those around us. If we get zapped by someone or something we are conditioned to respond by transmitting a stronger and more violent zap back down the line. No wonder relational meltdowns occur with increasing frequency.
As we consider Paul’s words to the Christians in Philippi and to Timothy, lest we think that Paul is writing from an ivory tower, in both instances he is writing from prison, and in both instances the possibility of execution is present. Paul is not a motivational speaker picking the pockets of the gullible by giving them a shot of positive thinking, he is a man facing death sharing with others how to live life with one another in Jesus Christ.
Our passage in Philippians begins with, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” We are called to worship and love God with all that we have and all that we are. Worship begins with praise and thanksgiving; the psalmist exhorts us to “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4). When we walk through the gates of each day that our Lord has made do we do so with thanksgiving and praise to Him? Does worship set the tone for each day? Do we approach our heavenly Father and Lord Jesus with praise each morning…before we check our email, before we watch the news, before we check sporting results, before we begin our work?
Paul is not writing about what to do in an emergency, he is writing about how we ought to live life. Of course when things get tough we can remind ourselves of Philippians 4:4 – 7, but this passage should not be in a box with the words, “In case of emergency break glass,” this passage should be woven into the fabric of our lives. A life in which the peace of God guards a heart and mind is a life that rejoices in the Lord. Paul writes to rejoice in the Lord always, and then again he says rejoice! A man or woman who learns to rejoice in the Lord always is a man or woman who will experience the peace of God guarding the heart and mind.
This isn’t a rote exercise or “name it and claim it”, rather it is the cultivation of a life of thanksgiving and worship, focusing on God and not on ourselves.
Then we’re told, “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” There are two biospheres on this planet, the Kingdom of God and the world in rebellion against God. Followers of Jesus Christ are citizens of the Kingdom (Philippians 3:20) and as such we are subject to the King, our Lord Jesus. As Jesus says in John 17, we are in the world but we are not of the world. Since we are not of the world our lives, in obedience to Jesus Christ, are by their nature (which is His nature) countercultural. In a world of harshness and anger we have the opportunity to demonstrate the peace and gentleness of Jesus. This is a great calling, a calling to surrender control of our lives to the Lord Jesus; a calling to be identified with Him in our attitudes, words, and actions; a calling to introduce others to the Prince of Peace.
The fact that “The Lord is at hand” (Matthew 28:20) gives us assurance of His presence and also reminds us that our lives are not our own but that they belong to Jesus and that we are accountable to Him. At work I am mindful of my boss throughout the day; his office is down the hall from mine and we talk from time-to-time. When I send him an email or copy him on an email I am even more mindful of him. When I am with him in a meeting with others or working with him directly on a problem I am even more mindful of him. Should I not then be mindful throughout my life of Jesus Christ, who is not only with me but who lives within me? Whatever I say, whatever I think, whatever I do…the Lord Jesus is at hand.
We’ll pick this passage up on Page 5.
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”