A Path To Peace

Bible Book: Philippians  4 : 4-7
Subject: Peace; Peace with God

There's something tranquil, something of reserve and cleansing, something of great power and peace that comes in the symbol of water. I don't know what it is. I do know Who gives it and I know that the sound and the sight of water itself is a reminder of the refreshment that God wants for every one of our souls. I want you to just be reminded that we, through the refreshment of the Living Water, whose name is Jesus Christ, can come to know Him and to be at peace. Those of us who have known Him for many years, can come back to Him and move away from the anxieties of our world and be at peace with Him again.

Let's hear what God has to say about peace in Philippians 4:5-7 through the message I'm calling, A Path to Peace. Paul, writing to the church at Philippi and the Holy Spirit is saying to us, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (now watch this..) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (NIV) My friends, we have the perfect opportunity to express what God has given to us in a formula, and that is to come to a conclusion and a solution. The formula is: Joy + Gentleness + Prayer = Peace. I'm urging you to strap your spiritual seatbelts on and let's discover the path to peace.

I. Joy

It begins with the very first of that formula and it is the word rejoice. Notice with me that we follow a theme of water and we find peace in the sense of the presence of the Living Water of Jesus Christ. Paul says it begins by rejoicing. You say, "I've heard this before. I've been a Christian a long time. I've been in the world a long time. I've heard a lot of people say, 'just be happy, don't worry, life will get better.'" That's not true joy. Happiness is a surface, a feeling, and a sensitivity that's based upon where we are and what we're doing where we are. It's circumstantial. It'll come and go. But joy, rejoicing in the Lord, is a deeper level, and it is a gift from God. In fact it's joy x 2. That's exactly what the text shows us. I could say that it's joy squared, but some of us have been away from mathematics too long and we've forgotten what that formula means. But all of us know enough of math to know that joy x 2 means that he said it twice in the text. Why do you think Paul said it twice? Because we need to hear it! Rejoice in the Lord! Some of us would say, "Okay, I've heard that. I know that. That's what I'm supposed to do." But he grabbed them by their spiritual collars and began to shake them a little bit and said, "Hey, again I say rejoice!" Think about that. Why do you think He had to say it twice? I think I know. Not only do we need to hear it, but also he understood that some of us are in difficult circumstances.

Perhaps we want to hear some answer from God and we are in a difficult situation. Some of you may be in school and it's tough and homework is a real drag. Some of us are having conflict on the job or in our home. Some of us are moving through broken relationships or, if not broken, at least some of them are bruised. Some of us may be having very strong difficulties inside of our family, as well as outside; and you're saying, "I'm supposed to rejoice in that!" No, not because of what's happening, but because of Who can change what's happening. We have a reason to rejoice. His name is Jesus and we need to rejoice. You see, my friend, Paul had been there and done that! He knew your circumstances would be tough. God knows where you are and what you're going through. When Paul was saying, "Rejoice and again I say rejoice," it wasn't just some glib statement to get you    spiritually high so that you could make it through the day and feel better about yourself. It came from a real position of pressure.

Have any of us been jailed for our faith? If so, it wasn't easy was it? Are any of us incarcerated right now? If not, then you have the freedom to go and worship Christ in a church of your choice. Have any of us been beaten because of our stance for Christ this week at school or at work or in the community? I doubt it. Have any of us been without meals because of spiritual persecution? No, I doubt it. But that's exactly where Paul was. You talk about tough times, that guy had been there and he was there when he was writing that. Can I remind you that he was in the Roman prison as he wrote this letter to encourage this church, yet he told them, "Rejoice, again I say rejoice!"

Hey folks, if we're ever going to be at peace with God and with each other and with the community that is around us, we've got to be, of all people, people who live and camp out in joy. And it's not what we can work up in our own self. It's a gift from God and that's the first part of the path - rejoicing.

II. Be Gentle

But there's a second part of the journey as we move our way toward peace and it is simply this - be gentle! Note it with me in verse 5 as he wrote, "Let your gentleness (here's the tough part) be evident to all." Hey it's okay, it's even easy to let my gentleness reciprocate for someone else's gentleness. I mean when they're nice to me, I'll be nice to them! But what about the guy who pulls into the parking spot that you've been sitting there waiting on for two minutes and he snatches it from you in ten seconds? What about the person who is in the left lane on the Interstate as you make your way back and forth on business trips that is going a clipping speed of 55 miles per hour and the truck is on the other side going 54 miles per hour and you are sandwiched in there! Are you gentle then? What about when you get that word from your boss after you spent hours and hours of overtime getting the project done and he or she pours into your office saying, "When are you going to do this the right way!" What about when the teacher gives you those red letter marks all over your paper that you stayed up not just the night before, but for days, working and slaving over; and even your parents looked at it and changed it? And you still didn't get the grade that you wanted! What about then?

Oh it's tough to be gentle isn't it? This is a difficult word to translate from the Greek New Testament into our language today. Gentleness is just one stab at it. I'd like to give you several other opportunities. Let's take a look at it. Be gentle means to yield or be kind or even lenient. The best way I can sum it up through my studies and preparation is simply to say that we need to be like Jesus.

We need to be selfless. And in the selfish world in which we live today, it says, "Give me, give me, give me; I want what I want and I want it now!" Isn't it different to be gentle enough to say, "I'll be like Jesus." That's what He did. This great God of glory came from everything that He could have ever wanted for all of eternity, and visited this earth that is filled with the stench of sin, and lived among people like us because He was selfless.

Not only did He live with us, but He died in front of us so that we, by faith in Him, could live forevermore. Can you think of a more selfless example than Christ our Lord? That was His gentleness. It wasn't a compromising gentleness. It's not this kind of thing where you sit down like a doormat and let people just step on you and smash you because you are so complacent and you're so Jell-O in the spine that you don't stand up for anything. No, that's not it at all! Gentleness is a strong yielding to God and to Him alone. That's what it means to be gentle.

Now the reason and the motivation behind all of this is not just so that we can be good people, but because the parousia is near. What does that word mean? Well it's a theological term and I'm not throwing it out there just to let you know that I took a little seminary here and there. I'm using it because you will read it in other contexts. Parousia is a simple word that means The Second Coming. Jesus is coming again! He came the first time; He's coming again. The motivation and encouragement for us is that He should find us being selfless, as He was so, that we can be prepared for what it's going to be like in heaven. The ultimate selflessness is discovered when the Savior, who served us and served among us, came as a man filled with the peace of God, and showed us that we could have a path to peace as well. He's coming again! Are you ready? Is your life stacking up to the kind of gentleness that Jesus had? Oh I know He turned the tables upside down in the temple, and I know there were times that He called the Pharisees and the scribes "whited sepulchers", but there wasn't a time in His life that He wasn't walking with God. But I know this, that He did it with the kind of yieldedness that only God has and God can give, and we can have it as well.

Now friend, this is as leaders should do. You may disqualify yourself here and say, "Well I'm not a leader, I'm not a deacon, I'm not a committee leader, I'm not even on a committee, don't want to be. I don't usher, I don't pray in public, I don't sing and I'll never preach." Folks let me tell you, you are a leader if you've come to Christ as your personal Savior. You are leading someone and they are watching you.

Now to the leaders Paul wrote on other occasions and he wrote particularly to young Timothy who was wanting to be the best leader of all. He spoke to him and said in 1st Timothy 3:3, "You must be gentle, you must be peace loving and not one who loves money." Well I didn't throw that in there! Paul put it in there because some of us think that money is going to be the answer to our happiness and ultimately to our joy and that's not it. Then he wrote in Titus 3:2, "Instead you should be gentle and show true humility to everyone." There's that word again; it's all-inclusive. Can you imagine being gentle to ALL? That's the way Jesus was. He yielded Himself to the Father so that He could be a powerful witness to others.

You make a difference in the world and you really can. One of the applications that we can put into immediate effect is to understand you have a way by which you can make a difference. You have a way to express your gentleness to the children who are in need. I would encourage you to read through this, to think through, to pray through the opportunity to make a difference, to put gentleness into application, to be yielded away from what you want to do to what God may want to prepare you to do in an even better way.

III. Pray

Now there's another part of our journey as we continue to walk together. As we do, we come to the most important spot that leads us to peace. Moving beyond rejoicing and being gentle, we move to the posture of prayer. We need to pray. We need to be people of prayer. Verse number 6 outlines it for us. Here Paul simply said, "Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer....prayer." Folks, we are people who are filled with fret. Don't fret, don't fret. "Fret not yourself," the scripture tells us. The psalmist wrote to as well, "Don't fret." Some of us are very, very anxious.

We've come into this room and we're anxious about the beginning of school, new jobs, and new opportunities. We're fretful over the 100-degree weather; I mean it's hot outside. Isn't it good to be inside where the air conditioning is working? We're such anxious people, worried about all things. Ninety-seven percent of the things that we worry about never come to happen anyway. Three percent of the things that do happen that we worry over, God can handle without any problem at all! The old German word for the word worry literally means to strangle or to choke. Some of us today, I'm looking at your faces, and you're being choked and strangled by something or somebody and you are so consumed with that and you're so filled with worry and anxiety that it's robbing you of the joy that you can have in Jesus Christ. Quit fretting about it all. You know, as I hold this little glass of water before you, this cup of water, I'm reminded that not only can it bring refreshment to me if I drink it, but it also serves as a source of reminder as I pour it into our fountain here that God's Living Water can make a change in all of our lives. But did you know this little cup of water here, just these several ounces,   has the potential, through being atomized through 600,000 million particles, to shut down seven city blocks with fog? You say, "That's impossible!" Oh really, that's the way that I've learned it to be. A cup of water like this can turn into seven city blocks of fog where we lose our vision...Had to turn the tape here and lost some message - need John to fill in.

Now, who's got a hold on your life? What little thing in your life has become so atomized, so particalized, so disruptive, so foggy that it has taken away your vision for God for what He wants you to do? You see, my friends, let's discover together that God has a better way for us. Now, as Paul was writing here he said, "I want you to pray.." (that's generally to be in an attitude of prayer) as he wrote to the church at Thessalonica, "pray about all things." Then he said, "I want you to do it with petition for supplications." That means to be specific about things that you pray. Give them to God, one by one, the things that you worry over. That's the plan. Put them into God's hand.

Then he says something very strange here. He said, "..with thanksgiving." You say to me this morning, "John, I can't thank God for what's happening in my life. I mean, do you know what's going on? Do you realize what a setback it's been for me? Thank God for that?" Wait a minute. Thank God that He knows the way out! He's got the solution; He is the solution. Thank God that He is using this as a way of pruning your life so that you can more abundantly bear fruit for Him because no vine that is not pruned will ever bear the fruit that God wants it to. You may be in a terrible, painful pruning process right now and all the while God says, "Give thanks, thank me for it."

The practical application of that is to make a list of those things that are strangling your life, put them before God, thank Him for each of them one by one because God knows the solution, and get on with your path to peace instead of sitting back and saying, "I'm not going to pray that kind of prayer; God's not going to listen to me. Maybe if I just don't talk about it, it'll go away." That won't happen! But what will happen is through the power of prayer God can totally transform your life. You see, friend, with thanksgiving there is the joy of having the Jesus attitude.

IV. Get Peace

Now we finally come to the end of the formula here. We've walked down the lane of rejoicing, we've looked at being gentle and we've discovered that prayer is the power. Now here's the command; here's the promise: Get peace; get peace! Note with me how Paul wrote it here. He said, "..and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus." My friend, I want you to understand that peace is not something that you work up. It's divine. It is given of God. When we go back to the word for joy, the New Testament word is kyrob. It comes from the same root as the word for grace, which is karis. Now I simply make that analogy to remind you that you can't have joy, you can't have peace, and you can't be gentle except by the grace of God. It is a gift to you. Who does it come to? It comes to those who have an open head and an open heart, who are ready to walk the path, who rejoice in Him, who are gentle because of His power and who are praying people. There's great gifts for those who are ready to receive today. It's divine and you know it transcends our knowledge. I know the scripture that we read speaks of understand, but the better translation there is the word knowledge. It seems to me that too many people today who are struggling say, "If I could just get enough facts about what I'm going through, the difficulties, the struggles that I'm going through...get enough in my head so I can conquer this thing, then I'll have peace." Oh you may for a day or two, maybe a week, maybe longer. But ultimately the gift of God (His peace) will transcend any knowledge that you have, no matter how much you know about what your struggle is. It's a gift from God. You've got to position and posture yourself to receive it and God wants to give it to you.

Finally, what He's saying to us here is peace that guards our hearts and our minds through Christ Jesus, like a garrison standing guard, keeping out the thief who would come to steal your joy. The greatest thief of joy is Satan who comes to steal, kill and destroy anything that you would work up in your own mind. God says, "I have a better gift for you. I have the promise of the guardianship of God." Do you see that rainbow there? As it crests itself on the screen it is a reminder that God promises peace to those who will follow after Him. Have you got that kind of peace today? Are you following after Him?

Some of us have learned well the insurance commercial from Met or Metropolitan Insurance. You see the blimp that goes across the field and it says, "Get Met; it pays." Let me give you a different picture today. Get peace; it guards. Okay? Get peace; it guards. It'll keep you with God as He's keeping you to Himself.


I have three questions.

Number one, where's you source of joy?

Where is it? Could you say today, "Well it's in me! I really become a happier, joy-filled person because of the things that I do and what I've learned and my experiences." If you say that it's in yourself today, friend, you are not discovering all that God wants you to discover. The better way is to say, "My source of joy is in the Lord. I discover that in Christ Jesus I am guarded.

Second question: How's your prayer life?

Oh friend, this is a personal question and it's not from me, it's from God. He looks and longs to hear from you in the morning as well as in the night, at the mealtime as well as in the daytime, at the time of school as well as in the time of work.

How's your prayer life? It's pretty embarrassing if we put all of the minutes that we spend in prayer this week collectively onto a screen and saw how few hours we genuinely had spend with God, even as a host of people with a great church like this.

Oh friend, I'm not admonishing you any more than I want to encourage you. I want you to have the peace of God. I want the peace of God and I know that this comes through the path of prayer.

Finally, are you at peace with yourself?

Have you come to the point where you've made peace with your past?

Not only that, are you at peace with others? Then I guess probably the bottom line and questions is this: Are you at peace with God?

Billy Graham wrote a powerful little booklet or tract that we've given out millions and millions of. Evangelistic Christians of all denominations have used this little tract and it is entitled "Peace With God." I've used this in Korea, I've used it in Indonesia, I've used it in the English translation and all kinds of different languages and I've discovered that worldwide people are screaming and crying for peace with God.

The culmination of getting peace with God is coming to meet Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you've met Him as your Savior and you're still struggling and you're still not at peace, then it's time to get back on the journey of the peace path again. It's time to rejoice, it's time to be gentle, and it's time to pray.