How can we have peace? Philippians 4:1-9 New Resources by Revd. Alex Pease

New Resources Philippians 4:1-9

How can we have peace? I don’t mean “PEACE man!” as the hippies used to say in the 70s, although, of course, not having conflict in the world would be wonderful….

But how can we have peace, in the every day situations in which we find ourselves:

when we are facing the sack

when we have a devastating diagnosis

when we have lost our money

when we are arguing with our spouse

when life seems pointless…..

even in the trivial situations:

when we are stuck on a train (because of leaves on the line)

how is it that some people seem to be able to travel through these difficult waters without trouble, while others scream, shout and sob?

How can we have peace?

As you know, at Valley Worship this year we have been enjoying a series of talks on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  In February at Valley Worship we looked at the new heart that we have in Jesus Christ when we are baptised by the Holy Spirit and born again from above and we become followers of Christ.

In subsequent months we looked at all sorts of other aspects of having that new heart. 

This month I am speaking about the new resources that we can have in Jesus Christ: namely the peace of God and the God of peace; resources which will help us navigate our way through life and enable us to stand firm as Christians.  To stand firm in the Lord.

How can we have that peace?

How can we stand firm in the Lord?

This peace that we need is not just ‘peaceful feelings’ but a sense of peace summed up in the word ‘shalom’ which suggests a sense of wholeness; the inner wholeness of the the fulfilled person.

But how do we obtain these resources?

Paul answers this question by five points made in this passage:

where we look for our joy

how we conduct our relationships

how we deal with worry

how we fill our minds

how we behave

First, by ensuring verse 4 that we seek our joy in the Lord. 

What do you rejoice in? What gives us that thrill of excitement?

Driving a new convertible perhaps? Seeing our child score a goal, knowing that we have done something well?

My experience of this job, is that the most exciting thing of all is when I see someone starts on the journey of faith when the Holy Spirit starts working in their lives and you can see the penny drop that it is all true and their lives are starting to be transformed.

That is the joy of running the Alpha course…it’s the joy of all Christian work.  I think this is what ‘rejoicing in the Lord’ means – rejoicing in seeing the Lord at work.

If we look for our joy in what the Lord is doing, rather than in our own successes or the successes of our children then we are going to have peace about our own successes and failures or our children’s successes and failures.

So the first point for the reborn Christian, the person with the new heart we talked about in February, is to seek our joy in what God is doing rather than in what we are doing.  Its quite a big shift in thinking but the alternative is exasperation at our own and other people’s failings which we then blame for our own unhappiness.

Second, verse 5, we need to show gentle forbearance in our relationships.  We mustn’t expect too much of others.  We need the uncomplaining readiness to accept others as they are and not as we would want them to be.  My friend Yann Dubriel says, referring to clergy (but it applies to any job or relationship we have) ‘be kind’.  We are bound to make mistakes, but if we have been kind, people will forgive us.

Thirdly, we need to substitute our worry with ‘prayer and supplication’.  If we want to enjoy God’s peace, we need to be willing to submit our situation to him with believing prayer and turn to him in trust.

It is actually difficult to be worried and pray at the same time worry and prayer are like fire and water.  They don’t mix – the water extinguishes the fire.

A story.  It’s a trivial one, but illustrates the point.  To understand this story you need to know (those who don’t already) that I am quite a driven person.  The thing which was prized in the law firm in which I worked for 25 years, as much as intellectual capability, was the ability to get things done: to finish the deal for the client; to carry the ball over the touch line – whatever the obstacles; not letting anything get in the way.

When I was at theological college, we were expected to go and visit the places of worship of different religions, to understand and learn to respect their differences and similarities.

One day we were going to a Sikh gudawara in Southall in West London.  I was to travel by train directly there from Winchester via Basingstoke and Reading.  But maddeningly, my train got stuck outside Reading and so I missed the connection to the stopping train to Paddington which would have stopped at Southall.

So I thought, ‘well I will get on a direct train to Paddington and then take a train back to Southall.’

So I got to Paddington and asked some rail staff on the platform which was the next train to Southall and got on the train they indicated.

The doors locked.  And the train started to pull out of the station.  Then the announcement came over the tannoy ‘first stop Reading’……

Now for most of my life, this would have driven me completely mad.  But I prayed ‘Ok God what are you teaching me in this situation?’

Strangely, I had a sense of complete peace about it.  I had a brief thought about the people whose taxis had failed to turn up  to take them to the World Trade Centre on 9/11.

Anyway I rang the tutor and he told me to go direct to the college in London and just miss out visiting the Sikh temple.  And so I returned to Paddington again.

But I just thought I would mention this to the staff there….not to be angry but so that this sort of thing didn’t happen again.  So I spoke very gently to the lady at the information desk.  She summoned the station director……Mr Singh.

I told him what had happened and he said ‘oh don’t listen to those people on the platform they don’t know anything….‘Look at the board!’

‘But what can I do to say sorry? Can I give you a coffee?’

‘No’ I said ‘but you can explain to me about Sikhism as I have missed my appointment at the Gudawara’.

So for 30 minutes on Paddington concourse, while people were constantly coming up to him saying ‘Mr Singh, Mr Singh, there is a problem on Platform 5…or his mobile phone was ringing, the wonderful Mr Singh explained to me the history and principle beliefs of Sikhism….

The sense of peace that I had while the ‘crisis’ unfolded was a sign I think that God was about to do something and he did, and taught me to give up my situation in prayer in any crisis.

So the third point is we need to submit in prayer our situation to the person who is our peace: Jesus Christ, our Lord.  As we submit our situation in difficult circumstances to the Lord, as we see him act in our lives, we will find it easier to trust him and we will learn to trust him, whatever the emergency.

And actually (and this is tough to hear) we need to thank him for our circumstances, whether good or bad.

Fourthly, we need to be really disciplined about how we fill our minds:

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

I have a Californian friend who runs a major US fashion business.  She, of course, lives not too far away from Hollywood, the world centre of cinema and TV.  She has an expression about the ‘ear gate’ and the ‘eye gate’.  She says we need to be really disciplined about what we watch and what we listen to because what we put into our minds can contaminate us; can make us cynical; can make us envious; can make us dissatisfied; can make us depressed.  We need to be discriminating.  Listening to bad news, the whole time makes us miserable.

Some people say, ‘we need to be broad minded; we need to experience every point of view’ but then that is a bit like saying ‘how can we know if heroin is bad for us unless we try it?’

So we need to be discriminating about what we let past the ear gate and the eye gate.

Fifthly and finally, if we are to know the presence of the God of peace, then, for certain, we must seek the life of which he approves.  We are not going to know what that is unless we read his manual on life: The Bible.  We need to be completely familiar with it.

Five strategies for peace:

seek joy in Jesus

be kind to others

pray with thankfulness instead of worry

defend the ear gate and the eye gate

seek the life of which God approves

To sum up, with apologies for those who have recently heard this story from me.  Michael Green,  the theologian, tells a story about a 14th century German mystic called Johann Tauler which encapsulates how Jesus’ disciples can find peace.

One day Tauler met a beggar. ‘God give you a good day, my friend,’ he said. The beggar answered, ‘I thank God I never had a bad one.’

Then Tauler said, ‘God give you a happy life, my friend’. ‘I thank God’, said the beggar, ‘that I am never unhappy.’

In amazement Tauler asked, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well,’ said the beggar, ‘when it is fine I thank God. When it rains I thank God. When I have plenty I thank God. When I am hungry I thank God. And, since God’s will is my will, and whatever pleases him, pleases me, why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?’

Tauler looked at the man in astonishment. ‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘I am a king,’ said the beggar.

‘Where, then, is your kingdom?’ asked Tauler.

The beggar replied quietly, ‘In my heart.’


Philippians 4:1–9(NRSV)

4Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry 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.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

This entry was posted in Sermons. Bookmark the permalink.