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).
Though Paul had been persecuted and was now imprisoned in Rome, he was one who knows peace. He was confined under house arrest, in chains, attached to a Roman soldier, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and he had been in this situation for two long years.
Yet the message from this confined man is not that of an anxious individual, rather the words come from a man who knows peace in his heart despite his circumstances. Amid the hardship and persecution, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding has settled into his heart. Paul, who has many reasons to worry and feel anxious, is at peace. We have much to learn from him.
In writing to the Philippian’s to express his gratitude for their financial support (4:18), rather than using this opportunity to complain and express his anxiety over his present situation, he instead urges them to commit their burdens to the Lord in prayer.
They had ministered to Paul, and now he is ministering to them. He encourages them not to worry about anything. Rather, they were committed to God everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving.
The Prerequisites to Peace
Rejoice in the Lord Always
As Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites were instructing the people, Nehemiah said, the joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh. 8:10). Solomon tells us that a joyful heart makes a face cheerful… and it is good medicine (Prov. 15:13; 17:22).
Rejoicing in the Lord should always be an integral part of our inner response regardless of our circumstances. Note that Paul tells us twice in verse four to rejoice. When are we to rejoice? Always! In 1 Thessalonians 5:16 Paul writes, rejoice always.
Let us not miss a critical truth Paul makes here. Our rejoicing is in the Lord. The point? Regardless of our circumstances and what feelings those circumstances cause in us (i.e., sorrow, disappointment, frustration, etc.), inner joy can be always present. Note what James says in James 1:2, consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials. Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is… joy… (Gal. 5:22). No matter what our circumstances, we can rejoice in the Lord always because we know we have been redeemed and reconciled to God. As His children, we know that He cares for us and thus have the assurance that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).
Let Your Graciousness Be Known to Everyone
The term graciousness means gentleness, reasonableness, magnanimity, forbearance, good will, and a friendly disposition.
Graciousness must be manifested to everyone. Paul instructs us to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people (Titus 3:2). We are to suffer wrong, but we should never initiate wrong (1 Cor. 6:7). We are to, bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good (Rom. 12:14, 21).
We find in Christ the perfect example graciousness, of gentleness. While crucified, when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).
If an individual has no peace with God or man, that person can never have inner peace. A gracious, gentle, meek person, however, will be both a glad and a godly person.
The Lord is Near
Amid four imperatives (4:4-6), Paul inserted a promised truth: The Lord is near. Whether or not we experience inner peace will be in direct proportion to our awareness of the presence of Christ.
The expression is near could refer to the imminency of Christ’s return. James writes, Therefore, brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near (James 5:7-8). This the blessed hope of which Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20-21: Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself.
The saint experiences genuine peace from and of God when he or she has certainty of the future; certainty of the fact that he or she could be with Christ at any moment.
The expression could also refer to the Christ’s omnipresence. He is with the believer always and in all circumstances: …And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). As a Christian you are never alone. We need to be reminded of this truth constantly, for lack of peace comes when we think that God has deserted us. Christ is with us always and He can meet our every need.
Don’t Worry About Anything
There is a substantial difference between real care and false anxiety. Jac Muller wrote:
“To care is a virtue, but to foster cares is sin, for each anxiety is not trust in God, but a trusting in oneself, which comes to inward suffering, fears, and worry.”1
The verb don’t worry and its noun “cares” are used in the New Testament in both a positive and a negative sense. First, it is used of the care of Timothy for the Philippian believers (2:20). In Matthew 6:25, the Lord instructs us: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? The remedy for false anxiety is prescribed by Peter, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you (1 Peter 5:7).
Second, false worry or anxiety is self-destructive. Christ claimed that a person should not worry about the necessities of life which the heavenly Father has promised to provide (Matthew 6:25). Why be anxious about that which we cannot control? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? (Matthew 6:27). False anxiety exposes the real issue, lack of faith, improper values and priorities. Jesus concludes by saying: If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:30-34). Worry, like weeds, choke the application of God’s word to one’s life and make one insensitive to the coming of Christ. In Luke 21:34 Jesus said, Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled from carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life, or that day will come on you unexpectedly. False anxieties are to be cast upon the Lord since He genuinely cares for His own: casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you (1 Peter 5:7).
But in Everything, Through Prayer and Petition with Thanksgiving, Present Your Requests to God
A worrying Christian will waver, but a trusting believer will be triumphant.
Several prayer principles are mentioned here as the divine remedy for a heavy-laden soul. First, we come before the Almighty through prayer. Prayer is the general invocation of God in which we give our adoration, devotion, and worship. Second, the believer should bring before the Lord specific petitions. If we need wisdom, we should ask for wisdom: Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him (James 1:5). Third, petition refers to the desperate cry for help arising from need. Fourth, all prayer must be accompanied by thanksgiving. A believer must thank God for the answers in advance, for His loving concern, and for access into the divine presence through Christ’s meritorious work.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 Paul instructs us to pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. We are not only to endure trials, but we are also to thank God for them. Only then will we have a positive approach to our trials, rather than sinful worry, false care, and anxiety.
When a Christian has joy, is gracious, has awareness of His presence, does not foster false anxiety, and prays, then will he or she experience the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, a peace that will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
1 Jac J. Muller, The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and to Philemon (Grand Rapids, MI: William. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1955), 141.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Copyright © 2006–2021 by Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.