Happy Thanksgiving! What follows is last year’s seasonal post and I’m “thankful” to offer it to my readers once again.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
With the advent in communications we have plenty of opportunity to worry on a global scale. The invention of the printing press, the telegraph, the telephone, the radio, the television, airplanes, computers, satellites, Internet, and e-mail, all provide a wealth of worry woes. There are more occasions to worry about peace, famine, economics, politics, and portfolios than ever before. It seems that the more we know, the more we worry. And the more we worry, inevitably the less we trust. What follows are my musings on Paul’s instructions to the Philippians (and God’s instructions to us).
- The attitude in which we present our requests to God is one of “thanksgiving.” How can we possibly be thankful to God for the things/people that cause us stress without simultaneously holding to a strong sense of God’s sovereignty?
- It was in the midst of extreme suffering that the Hebrew believers were encouraged to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15). This necessarily entails an attitude of thanksgiving to God for how he sovereignly uses the pressures of life to bring about our growth and his glory (see also Gen. 50:20). Hence, thankfulness is related to our sense of God’s meticulous sovereignty, and our sense of God’s meticulous sovereignty is related to our joy. Thus, we can hardly have joy (a deep and profound trust in God no matter what) without thankfulness.
- Paul insists the result of rejoicing in the Lord (4:4), pursuing gentleness (4:5), and prayerful thanksgiving (4:6) is supernatural peace. It is supernatural because only God can give it thorough Christ (Jn. 14:27; Col. 3:15).
- There are conditions (4:4-6) under which God’s peace obtains. However, we must distinguish between conditions and causes. That is, we should not think that there is a mere formula for causing or experiencing the peace of God. Since our natural proclivity is to complain under pressure rather than rejoice and give thanks, it will always be the case that our rejoicing and thanksgiving is done by God’s gracious and empowering Spirit and never produced from within us. We cannot draw a straight line of cause-effect between our rejoicing and our joy. It is God who produces the peace; not us.
- Most important, this is a peace that results, not from answered prayer, but from resting in God’s control with thankfulness. Put differently, the peace of God is certain whether our requests are granted or not. It is a peace that guards our minds and hearts from worry and anxiety over our circumstances.
May God grant you a spirit of thankfulness that is grounded in God’s loving orchestration over your life’s circumstances and may you truly experience the peace that only God gives!
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare of the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I am trusting him.
(Psalm 91:1-2, NLT)