“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7, NKJV)
I typically follow the pattern of B-L-E-S-S in praying for my family. The acronym represents body, labor, emotions, social, and spiritual. I pray for their physical health and safety, their finances, jobs and school work, their inner turmoil, relationships between spouses, parents and children, and our extended family, and spiritual health asking for God’s sovereign, saving, subduing, sanctifying, sustaining grace. All these are fleshed out with details of the moment that I am aware of.
It’s the third area that particularly relates to the subject of today’s blog—emotions. I pray in respect to those disturbers of the peace that cause upheaval and disability to the soul, such as anxiety, bitterness, discontentment, greed, envy, and fear.
Worry is an adept tormenter of the soul and thief of peace. It is particularly insidious in that worry engages in idolatry. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells His hearers, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34). Our Lord helpfully sorts out two categories for us, a today category for which we are given grace and ability and a tomorrow category for which we will be given grace and ability once we get there.
But Christ’s teaching against worry does not begin in verse 34. He tells us in verse 25 not to be anxious about our life and its necessities. We are not like those who do not know God (v. 33). Rather, we know God as our Father and we are to trust Him and seek His kingdom as a matter of priority (v. 33). In fact, that is to be a thrust of our daily prayer (Matt. 6:7-11).
Where does idolatry come into play? Just as v. 34 begins with a “therefore” causing us look upstream in what our Lord has taught, so does v. 25. Just prior Jesus says: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
So the question is, whom will we serve? Or to put it another way, whose kingdom will we seek—our own or God’s? If we are serving ourselves and seeking our own kingdom, we will hold tightly to our goods and want charge of our lives and contingencies.
Worry grasps for control. It does not trust God to do what we want. So it foolishly tries to usurp the prerogative that belongs only to God. That’s why Jesus begins the section on worry by calling attention to where our treasure is (Matt. 6:19-21). Is it invested in the kingdom of God where it is inviolable or in this world where it is subject to ruin? Where is our focus (vv. 22-23)? What stirs our heart?
Peace comes from trusting God and entrusting ourselves, our families, our goods to Him, insisting, “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done.” That’s why when Paul addresses the subject of worry in his letter to the Philippians, he directs our attention to God and urges us to rest in Him (Phil. 4:4-6). Thankfulness will drown out our murmuring and combat our grumbling and complaining as it reasons with all that God has spoken.
The result will be not only the peace of God (v. 6) guarding our hearts and minds; it will be a greater apprehension and appreciation of the God of peace being with us (v. 9). Our Lord Jesus reminds us to take hold of the peace that is ours because we are His: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Ultimately, it is the Christian’s hope in Christ that is the hub of peace amidst the frenetic goings on of life. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).
- In what way is the peace Jesus gives us different from the world?
- How does Christ's teaching in Matthew 6 expose worry as idolatry?
Father, by the Holy Spirit fill me with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of Your name.
For study of the fruit of the Spirit through abiding in Christ see A Vine-Ripened Life (Stanley D. Gale, Reformation Heritage Books)
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.