Yesterday we noted that although Paul uses the stylistic conventions of non-Christian first-century thinkers, he thoroughly Christianizes them. Specifically, in Philippians 4:4–5a, the Apostle emphasizes the importance of joy, which is one of the marks of the kingdom of God (Rom. 14:17). Moving on in today’s passage, Paul refers to the “peace of God,” which is another mark of the Lord’s kingdom.
Philippians 4:5b–7 opposes the “peace of God” to anxiety. Simply put, although we should plan for the future and pay attention to meeting our needs and the needs of our families (Prov. 15:22; 21:5; 1 Tim. 5:8), we must never let fear control us. With due diligence we must anticipate what may arise and plan for it, but we must trust finally in the Lord’s power and provision, not our own cleverness. No matter our problems, our needs, or our hopes, God is in control and we are not. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Prov. 19:21). We must hold on to our hopes, dreams, and plans loosely, knowing that the future unfolds as the Lord has ordained it (James 4:13–17). Ultimately, we must trust that He knows better than we do when our plans go awry.
How can we do this? First, if we remember that the Lord is at hand, we will find it difficult to be anxious (Phil. 4:5b). The Apostle could mean that the Lord is near in the sense that He is present with us by His Spirit to console and strengthen us, or he could mean that Christ is near in the sense that His return is imminent. Actually, Paul is probably referring to both aspects of Christ’s nearness. We should not be anxious because our Savior will be with us and will make us strong enough to endure all that comes our way. But we also should not be anxious because Jesus could come at any moment; this world will not last forever, and all of our worries will give way to eternal bliss in the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21).
Furthermore, Paul tells us that committing everything in prayer to God leads to peace (v. 6). Our peace is not because the Lord gives us all that we ask for but because communion with God reminds us of all that He has done for us. Prayer helps us see that the same Lord who has been good to us in the past will also be good to us in the future. This truth gives us tremendous peace.
Matthew Henry comments, “When anything burdens our spirits, we must ease our minds by prayer; when our affairs are perplexed or distressed, we must seek direction and support.” A consistent prayer life increases our peace about the Lord’s sovereign provision as we trust in God and not in our own plans. Let us always remember that God enjoys communing with us in prayer but that He has the right to answer our prayer as He will.