Commentary on Philippians, 4:4-7 (Peace in Trials)

Philippians 4:4-7


4 Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice.
5 Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.  (ASV)


4 Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice.


Regardless of what’s going on in our lives, regardless of how difficult things may be for us, we are to rejoice. We’re not to simply rejoice, but to rejoice in the Lord.


Our joy, and the cause of our rejoicing is to be the Lord Himself. We’re to find our fulfillment in Him, in a close walk with Him. The closer we are in our relationship with Him, the more strength we have in dealing with the difficulties we may experience in life.


If Jesus is the focus of our life, if He is the object of our affections, then no matter what we happen to be dealing with, our joy and cause of rejoicing will be undiminished.


As Christians, we seem to rejoice in the Lord wonderfully when things are going well in our lives, but our rejoicing is to be unconditional, because knowing Jesus is enough. He is our total fulfillment, our total reward.


We must not make the mistake in thinking that we will love Him and rejoice in Him only when we believe He is blessing our lives. He is all that we need, and we are to live our lives with Him in view. Whatever hardships we may be going through, we must remember that these things are only temporary. They are a means of testing our faith, and the eternal rewards for our unwavering faithfulness is beyond comprehension.


5 Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.


“forbearance”  (Gr. epieikes – 1933)


Moderation, gentleness, graciousness, mild, fair, softness, charitable, sweet reasonableness.


Barnes:


Quote:
“Let your moderation be known unto all men – That is, let it be such that others may see it. This does not mean that they were to make an ostentatious display of it, but that it should be such a characteristic of their lives that it would be constantly visible to others.


The word “moderation” – ἐπιεικὲς epieikes- refers to restraint on the passions, general soberness of living, being free from all excesses. The word properly means that which is fit or suitable, and then propriety, gentleness, mildness – They were to indulge in no excess of passion, or dress, or eating, or drinking. They were to govern their appetites, restrain their temper, and to be examples of what was proper for people in view of the expectation that the Lord would soon appear.”
Unquote


Paul is instructing us to have a gracious disposition toward others, both among other believers and among those outside Church (“unto all men”). We are to be gracious in all our dealings with other people. To be so is to reflect the character of Christ. People are to see the sweetness of Christ in us. That can only occur in a close walk with Him.


Our testimony is everything. When people see the gracious ways of Christ in us, people will be drawn to Him. We are to be His light in the world, reflecting His likeness, displaying His tender love. It’s not so much our words that draw others to Jesus, it’s His character displayed through us. They need to see Him in us.


Furthermore, such character will encourage faithfulness among believers, as well. Even other Christians, especially young (in faith) Christians, need to see that Jesus makes a difference in our lives. If we’re to make a difference in people’s lives, they must see the difference Jesus has made in our own lives. The faith of others needs to be encouraged by the joy of the Lord they see in us.


“the Lord is at hand”


This refers either to the fact that Jesus is near to us, or that His return is near. Since Paul spent so much time discussing the resurrection and eternity with the Lord that we have to look forward to (in chapter three), perhaps it’s the Lord’s return that he has in mind here. But either way, I think the idea is that Jesus is presenting Himself, both in the present and in the future.


So you may be wondering what being gracious toward others has to do with the fact “the Lord is at hand.” Well, think about what causes us to be ungracious. It’s a life that is lived out of harmony with the Lord. If we are not walking closely with the Lord, our own sinful nature will show through, rather than His gracious character. Thus, the Lord is always near to live His life in us.


Furthermore, to be ungracious shows that we have taken our eyes off Christ, and we’re really just reacting to the difficult circumstances of our lives. When we feel overwhelmed, we tend to take it out on others. We tend to harbor a lack of faith, or even anger in our hearts toward the Lord for what we’re going through (blaming Him for “not taking care of us”), and that shows up in our relationships with other people.


Still further, we display an ungracious attitude toward others because we have our eyes on our circumstances, rather than on the Lord and what we have to look forward to in eternity. We’re always to live life with eternity in view. We must always bear in mind that we will one day be in His glorious presence, and all the things we have to deal with in this life will be forever behind us.


Once again, our testimony before others is everything. Jesus wants to present Himself through us to those around us. We can only do that by being in a real and intimate relationship with Him.


6 In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.


“In nothing be anxious”


Our discussion above flows right in with what Paul says here, and confirms that what we talked about is what he had in mind in the verse five. To be anxious suggests that we are being overwhelmed by our circumstances, and the evidence of that is in the ungracious way in which we deal with others.


So Paul says that we’re to be “anxious in nothing.” Instead, we’re to commit the difficulties of life to the Lord in prayer, in a spirit of thankfulness, rather than in fretfulness and anger. The result of this will be what Paul says next:


7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.


The result of our prayers will be the “peace of God.” Whatever we’re going through, as we cling to the Lord in faith and faithfulness, He will flood our souls with the “peace of God, which passes all understanding.” We can experience this peace even in the midst of severe trials…..for He will make Himself known to us, and give us a sense of His presence.


“shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”


This means that in the presence of peace, our hearts and minds will be guarded against anxiety and feeling overwhelmed by our circumstances. It’s only “in Christ Jesus” that we are able to experience this type of peace.


People without Jesus cannot know the same peace that we can have in the midst of trials. Again, this is to be our testimony before a world that needs what we have, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ. When they see the difficulties that we have, and the peace and joy that we exhibit in the midst of it all, they will know that Jesus makes a difference, and will be drawn to Him.


Such grace and response to difficulties can have a powerful and life-changing influence on other Christians, as well. We must be ever mindful that none of us are islands unto ourselves, but everything we do affects those around us.