Rejoice, Request, and Remember
‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 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.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.’
— Philippians 4:4-9
There are three ‘Rs’ in Paul’s most wonderful paragraph about peace: rejoice, request, remember. With so many unspeakable things happening in our world, this passage allows us a window into perfect peace.
‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice’
Are you rejoicing in the Lord always? You should be. He’s controlling all things in your life for your good, and that’s grounds for great rejoicing!
‘But Tim’, you say,
‘What if I can’t find a job?’
‘What if I lose a marriage?’
‘What if I contract cancer?’
‘What if ISIS bombs the US?’
‘That certainly can’t be reason for rejoicing, is it?’
Yes it is. If God is with you, his power and his love are working every circumstance for your good. Every circumstance. Paul wrote these words while he was in prison: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.’ He rejoiced from a Roman jail! We too can rejoice even in our sufferings, when we remember that our loving God is using suffering for our good. Even if all hell is breaking loose, we can be at peace.
‘Let your reasonableness be known to everyone’
That word ‘reasonableness’ means ‘restraint’, ‘tolerance’, and ‘cool-headedness.’ In other words, let your ‘cool-headedness’ be known to everyone.
Terrible things are happening all around us. Everyone is talking about it. There’s a lot of fear-mongering going around in conversation, on the news, and on social media — even by Christians. But, that can’t be right! The world shouldn’t be hearing bellicose rhetoric from Christians. We should be the level-headed ones! We should show restraint in what we say.
Because, Christians, we are at peace, knowing that God is at work in our lives for good. Rough times are the best times for salvation. Rough times are when the world looks for a Savior. Rough times are when Christians should shout out, ‘God has fixed things in Christ!’, and then model something different: peace and well-being. Our loving Savior is at hand, walking by our side, and never forsaking us.
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God’
Do you have requests? What are they?
They’re probably universal. We’re often anxious about our careers, our children, our health and our safety. As Christians, it’s easy to deny our fears and doubts — afraid they’re evidence of lacking faith. Don’t deny your fears. They’re real! Give them to God. Request that he take your anxieties away.
God is a wonderful anxiety collector.
‘Cast all your anxiety on the Lord, because he cares for you.’ — 1 Peter 5:7
‘Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.’ — Psalm 55:22
Give him your fears and anxieties. He collects all your worries and carts them away. And what happens?
‘And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
Do you have peace in the face of terrorism and war?
The kind of peace I have surpasses all understanding, but yes. I have peace. God assures me that he is working all things for good and peace. He guards my heart and my mind.
‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about (remember) these things’ — Philippians 4:8
We are assaulted by fear because we only dwell on the alarming things in the world.
Paul says, ‘Stop it!’ Remember the good things! Remember the things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. And what are those things?
‘What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you’ — Philippians 4:9
And what do we see in Paul?
Keep your eyes on Christ. Look at his truth, purity, loveliness, and excellence. Look at the fact that he died to restore you God — the God who works all things for your good.
If you look only at frightening things, you’ll be frightened. When you keep you eyes on Christ, the God of peace will be with you.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German and Christian resistance fighter who defied Hitler, was sentenced to death on April 8th, 1945. That would have been the ideal time to lose all sense of peace and well-being. On the contrary, as he mounted the scaffold in the extermination camp in Flossenburg, the camp doctor had this to say, ‘In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.‘
I wonder why?
Bonhoeffer tells us in the last poem he wrote before his death, a work included in many German textbooks:
Should it be ours to drain the cup of grieving
Even to the dregs of pain, at thy command
We will not falter, thankfully receiving
All that is given by thy loving hand
Remember Christ, Guardian of your life. Request that he take your fears. Rejoice in all things.
Let peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.