Guard Your Heart With God’s Peace

Introduction:
Every Monday morning I meet, via Google Duo, with a few clergy brothers in an accountability group After we do a weekly family and church catch-ups we work towards the question that was made famous by our founding denominational father, John Wesley, “How is it with your soul?” Generally our responses ranges from:
 
“The kids aren’t fighting too much” to “Worship went pretty well this week” to “My leadership meeting was horrible” to “I’m not getting enough sleep or exercise” to “My diet is out of control.”
 
A few weeks ago I felt the need to stop this delightful banter to ask a question. “Do any of you notice an emerging pattern here?” “When we ask the soul question we normally respond with everything that has to do with our external circumstances.” “And we, as know-it-all-clergy types, know better.”
 
I elaborated. “No doubt external circumstances, whether good, bad, or ugly can influence our emotions/moods much like a fishing bobber bobs up-and-down atop of rough waters.” “However, should our souls, the rock bottom of ourselves, be subjected to the same bobbing?” I know plenty of people that are going through many difficult, negative, and challenging circumstances, but their souls are peaceful and even prospering.” “Honestly, I don’t put much stock in my emotions in anymore.” “They will bob with the everchanging circumstances of life, usually a million times before my first cup of coffee in the morning.” However, when my soul starts to bob I know I’m not spending enough time with God or trusting him as much as I should.”
 
How Is It With Your Heart?
If we were to change Wesley’s question, from “How is it with your soul” to “How is it with your heart” particularly as you have experienced the year 2020, how many of you would respond with “Great, Awesome, Amazing, Best Year yet, Hope Next Year is Just Like It!” I wouldn’t be surprised if you rattled off a litany of external circumstances that has already made this year one of the most challenging most us have ever experienced:
 
Pandemic, national/economic/church shut-downs, travel bans and restrictions, masks, social distancing, Millions of infections, tremendous loss of life, social justice, looting, rioting, protesting, chaos, election year.
 
Not to say there weren’t some good things that happened this year, there were plenty but it’s just really hard to remember what those things were. However, are we going to allow external circumstances to “bob” our hearts? As we continue our “Guard Your Heart” series today I’ll show you that we don’t have to. Please turn with me to Philippians 4:7, one of the greatest prayers in the NT
 
May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 
Paul & Philippians Know Anxiety
Paul penned this amazing prayer after instructing the Philippians congregation (v6)
 
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
 
Paul’s ban on anxiety here is not because he and his congregation were enjoying a season where everything was onward and upward and peaceful and prosperous. No, he bans it precisely because they had tons of things over which to be anxious. For instance, Paul is in prison awaiting execution. He’s uncertain if he’s going to live another day, week, or year (greatest anxiety in 2 Corinthians 11:28). The congregation itself was facing the constant threat of persecution from anti-Christian authorities. So when Paul says, “Don’t be anxious” he isn’t making light of anyone’s anxiety nor is he espousing a “serenity now” “pie-in-the-sky,” “mind over matter,” “all is calm, all is bright” perspective. He’s not even endorsing the Greek state of mind called ataraxia: life free of worry by ignoring everything (I think this was the inspiration to the Eagles’ hit song, “I got a peaceful easy feeling” (no, I can’t back that up). He does however, know the antidote to anxiety.
 
The Peace of God
The antidote to anxiety is the peace of God. When Paul promises that the “Peace of God” will “Guard our hearts and minds” the Philippians had a constant visual as to what he meant.
 
The Greek word he used for “guard” here is the military word, frorous, which means to protect or to secure. Philippi was a Roman colony and as such Rome posted a garrison there. So every day, the Philippians had the peace of mind of having the most advanced and mightiest army in the world guarding their tiny city. The “peace of God” Paul promises will stand guard over their hearts and minds just like the Roman garrison stands guard over their city.
 
God Is Peace
The phrase “Peace of God” is found only here in the NT. It speaks of the peace that God is, and gladly shares, with his people when they ask. Think about it. The most peaceful person is God. Psychologists tell us that anxiety come from two primary sources: (1) lack of control and (2) fear about the future (climate change). Is God in control? YES! Is God worried about the future? No! He knows the future! He controls the future! He is the future! That God himself is peace caused Isaiah to promise the perpetually anxious Israelites: (26:3)
He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are focused on you.
Jesus, the “Prince of Peace” promised supernatural peace as a parting gift to his people. Before his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension he assured his disciples (John 14:27)
 
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
 
 
In his popular book, “The Life God Blesses, Weathering the Storms of Life” Gordon MacDonald compares the peace of God with a submarine. No matter how violent the storm rages on the surface of the rolling seas, the submarine is poised and unmoved.
 
Conclusion:
If your peace is more like a sailboat than a submarine. If you are tired of being tossed “to and fro” by the storms of life. If you crave a permanent, perfect, and transcendent peace, the kind that will guard your heart, mind in each and every circumstance, all you got to do is ask the “God of Peace” through his Son the “Prince of Peace” and he will gladly give it to. Some come forward and let’s pray for a submarine type of peace that remains unmoved by the external circumstances of life.
 
May the God of Peace be With You All
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