It was the end of the church service. The pastor had preached this very long and very convoluted sermon. And the parishioners were making their way out of the sanctuary, the pastor stood at the doorway shaking the hands of his flock. He noticed at the end of the line this gentleman who always gave feedback on his sermons. So as the pastor shook his hands, the man commented, “You know, pastor, your sermon today reminded me of the peace of God and the love of God.”
“That’s wonderful,” the pastor said, “tell me why.”
“Well, your sermon reminded me of the peace of God because it surpassed all understanding and it reminded me of the love of God because it endured forever.”
This morning, I would like to talk about peace. How do we have peace in a stressful world – a world of countless assignments, tutorials, examinations? How do we have peace in a world where tensions simmer under the surface and threaten to blow up at any time – between nations, between peoples, even between family members and friends?
The Bible speaks of the peace we can experience in God in this passage from the book of Philippians 4:6, 7 “… do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Let me make a few quick reflections from the text. First, when God says do not be anxious about anything, it does not mean that we should not be legitimately concerned about our daily affairs or use that as an excuse for being irresponsible. Rather, it’s the idea that we are not paralyzed and incapacitated by worry or fear that we cannot act. Do not be anxious about anything.
Second, the antidote to anxiety is prayer. “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In what way is prayer the solution to anxiety? In the fact that God is sovereign, He is in control, even if we aren’t. When we let our requests be made known to God, it isn’t as if He didn’t already know our needs… “Oh, sorry, didn’t notice!” Rather, it is our acknowledgment of dependence on and need for God. “God, I can’t do this, but You can. I don’t have this resource, but You do. Please provide for me.”
Also, I find it interesting that thanksgiving is mentioned. Thanksgiving helps us remember God’s mighty deeds for us in the past (“Thank You God for helping me through prelims”) and therefore strengthen our faith to trust Him for what He will do in the future (“I pray You’ll help me through A-levels”). Thanksgiving also reminds us not to take God for granted.
A third observation is about the wonderful promise of God. He promises supernatural peace. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Dear friends, the secret of peace is that is it not the absence of trouble, conflict, adverse circumstances… the secret of peace is the presence of God. You see, the apostle Paul who wrote the book of Philippians was not writing from some ivory tower. The book of Philippians is one of several prison epistles, so named, because Paul wrote these letters while being imprisoned for being a Christian. And yet he experienced the supernatural peace of God while in that difficult situation because God was with him.
There is a well-known hymn titled, “It is well with my soul”, written by Horatio Spafford. What may not be as well known is the background story. Horatio Spafford was a prominent Chicago lawyer whose business was thriving. He owned several properties throughout the city. He and his beloved wife had four daughters and a son. Life seemed good. And then tragedy struck. One after the other. He first lost his son. Then the Great Chicago Fire destroyed nearly every real estate he owned.
A few years later, Horatio decided to treat his wife and daughters to a much-needed escape from the turmoil. He sent them on a boat trip to Europe, with plans to join them shortly after wrapping up some business in Chicago. Just a few days later, he received a dreadful telegram from his wife, “Saved alone…” It bore the excruciating news that the ship they were on had been involved in a collision with another sea vessel, and all four of his daughters had perished.
Horatio was on his way to meet his heartbroken wife, passing over the same sea that had just claimed the lives of his remaining children. It was then that he put his pen to paper and the timeless hymn was born, the first verse and the chorus goes like this:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul.
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
[Pray]: Dear God, through difficult circumstances and situations, I pray for each one of us, that we will not be anxious. We will not fear. We will instead place our trust in You. As we learn to pray and commit our needs to You, You promise we will experience Your supernatural peace… for You promise to be with us. In Jesus name, we pray, amen.