Joy and Peace

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“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”

—Philippians 4:6-7
As we approach a thanksgiving subject any self-examining Christian is bound to see that we fall far short in the area of being truly thankful to God. What we may fail to see is that this will invariably be vitally related to our state of spiritual joy and tranquility.

I often look at my congregation and see a sea of very sober expressions. I sometimes think “not a smile in a carload.” When I ask if meditation on the benefits from God is the reason for the stern looks, the faces are overspread with smiles, and silent confession is made that they were preoccupied with trivial, worldly concerns.

Which of us does not covet the “peace that passeth all understanding”? In Philippians 4:7 we have the promise that this peace of God shall keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. This grand promise, however, is clearly conditional and is absolutely dependent upon our compliance with verse 6. “Be careful for nothing.” Paul is not enjoining recklessness or even unconcern. He is saying, don’t allow yourself to be involved in worrying about anything. Instead of this natural tendency to be engulfed in worry we are to be occupied with prayer and supplication, voicing our requests to God. In the midst of all this he says, “with thanksgiving.” What place does thanksgiving occupy in all of this? How is thanksgiving, or expression of gratitude related to the peace of God keeping our hearts?

First, the very presence of gratitude brings joy. Can’t you remember the joy and thrill you have experienced when someone gave you a nice gift? There is not only a gratitude toward that person, there is just a general improvement in how you feel. Your whole mental and emotional attitude can be greatly improved by it. Now God has ordained that the just shall live by faith so He does not directly and visibly give us His gifts. They come in a much more invisible fashion and sometimes indirectly, through the hands of other people. Nevertheless, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17a). Satan seizes upon the invisible nature of these gifts and more particularly their invisible source, to cause us to take them for granted, see them as luck, or not consider the divine source at all. It is for this reason that we need to deliberately meditate upon the blessings of God.

The song writer said count your many blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. His Bible-based implication is simply this. When we inventory the blessings of God, they are far greater than we normally realize. If we count them, name them, dwell upon them, we will be surprised at what God does for us. I am fully persuaded that we sober-faced Christians, I spoke of earlier, could find ourselves smiling involuntarily much of the time if we would consciously count our blessings.

There is another great joy affording side effect of gratitude, and that is stronger faith. We can learn theoretically of God’s loving providence for His own by reading His word, but experimentally we learn it by the things God does on our behalf from day to day. Therefore, if we allow ourselves to be carelessly unaware of or unthankful for God’s blessings of the past, our faith for present and future needs will be less than it could be. Again the song writer says it like this. “Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by.” As we reflect back upon the dark problems of our yesterdays that have been turned into light by the hand of God, we can look with much greater confidence at the seen and unseen adversities of our tomorrows. Another song writer voiced this great truth in these words. “Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ’Tis grace hath bro’t me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” The past providence is here cited as surety for the future.

If you want joy and peace this is good therapy. Indeed, it is divine healing for the careful (worried) soul. By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. It will bring you joy that no unsaved person can afford, and the peace that passeth all understanding shall keep your heart and mind.

Amen.