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 (Philippians 4:6-7).
“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” (John 14:27).
In both of the above passages, we are told not to be anxious, troubled, or afraid and simultaneously promised the peace of God. Philippians 4:7 says that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. How does that work?
The Peace of God
In each passage, the order is different. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, says don’t be anxious about anything, and the peace of God will guard your hearts. Jesus says, "I am leaving you my peace; do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid."
They are both conditional statements. Imagine a parent saying to a child, “We’re going to have a great day at Disney World. Stay right with me today and I will protect you from getting lost in the crowds.” The parent could reverse the statement and say it this way, “I will protect you from getting lost in the crowds, but you need to stay right with me.”
The promise is a conditional one. John MacArthur says this, “Inner calm or tranquility is promised to the believer who has a thankful attitude based on unwavering confidence that God is able and willing to do what is best for His children” (MacArthur Study Bible note on Philippians 4:7). God’s peace will protect or keep us as long as we trust Him.
It’s like the bumper sticker says: “Know God, know peace. No God, no peace.”
It’s also interesting that Philippians 4:7 refers to “the peace of God” and Philippians 4:9 to the “God of peace.” Trust the God of peace and experience the peace of God. They go together. You can’t have one without the other.
You may have heard the story behind the beloved hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul.” The writer, Horatio Spafford, penned the words after hearing the news that his four young daughters had been lost at sea. The song begins,
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way; When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say; It is well, it is well with my soul.
How could Horatio Spafford, or anyone, write about the peace of God after such a loss? Horatio, along with being a lawyer, was a Presbyterian elder. Despite his tragic loss, he experienced the peace of God because he had already made a conscious decision to follow the God of peace. Peace guarded his heart and mind, which otherwise might have been devastated beyond hope.
Look at the contrast in Jeremiah 17:5-10:
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
God Guards Your Heart
Ever feel like you are dwelling in a parched place in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives? No water, no shade, no oasis, no refreshment? That is life lived without the God of peace. No protection. Open to the elements.
And then there’s the person who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. Instead of a bush in the desert, that person is like a tree planted by water.
Heat may come, but there will be nothing to fear because its roots are constantly soaking up the water from the stream. Its refreshment is built-in, inner peace and protection transcending all understanding.
The passage in Jeremiah goes on to say that the Lord searches the heart and examines the mind. The God of peace desires to guard our hearts and minds with His peace.
That is why David asked God to search him and know his heart; test him and know his anxious thoughts and see if there was any offensive way in him (Psalm 139:23-24).
Anxiety is offensive to God because it communicates a lack of trust in Him. (For a great book on this topic, check out Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing.)
Why Does This Matter?
In Matthew chapter 8, there is a great little story about the disciples out on the Sea of Galilee when a sudden, furious storm threatened to overtake the boat. Jesus was with them in the boat, but He was asleep.
The disciples became terrified and woke Jesus up begging Him to save them. “He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm” (Matthew 8:26).
Their fear showed their lack of trust. Even though the God of peace was right there with them, they did not yet trust Him, and therefore they had no peace. We can’t just believe that He exists; we must learn to trust Him!
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Kristi Walker has been a missionary in Berlin, Germany for over 15 years working with an international church as the Director of Student Ministries. She is the author of two books - Disappointment: A Subtle Path Away from Christ and Convinced. Applying Biblical Principles to Life’s Choices.