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Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! - Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
I wish everyone had a grandma Doris like I do. She’s 91 years old, 4’11” tall, one of the best cooks I know, and loves her family selflessly. But my favorite part of my grandma has got to be some of the hilarious country sayings I’ve heard her drop in conversations. I have actually heard her say this week’s Say What?! phrase, “He’s more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” Honestly, it might be my favorite. What great imagery!
This week, we are going to talk about what that long-tailed cat must feel like—our anxious thoughts, our endless worries, our deep fears—but also what God wants us to do with them. We’re going to start each day reading and meditating on Philippians 4:4–8. These verses are part of Paul’s final words in his letter to the Philippian church.
Paul is not blind to anxious thoughts or dismissive of worry. Sometimes our heart feels heavy. Sometimes things are hard and you feel lonely. Sometimes our legs get weak or our arms give out. We need a reason to keep pushing. We need a reason to rejoice. That’s exactly what Paul is talking about. He wants our joy to be in something else, not in our circumstances.
I love this quote from author Paul Tripp: “My joy isn’t handcuffed to the surrounding circumstances. I don’t have to have my heart yanked wherever they go.” That imagery of handcuffs is helpful. When you’re handcuffed, you aren’t able to go where you want or do what you want; you are, in effect, powerless. That’s why we seldom experience joy. We allow it to be handcuffed to our circumstances. We say things like, “I would be happy if…” or “If this hadn’t happened, then I would be in a better mood.” So it’s important to note that verse 4 does not say rejoice in your circumstances always; it says rejoice in the Lord always.
We have reason for joy because we are chosen children of the King of kings, the Savior of the world, the Creator of everything. He is our Father. He is always near and always faithful. Rejoice in that reality. Handcuff your joy to Him.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. - Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
A quick glance at the evening news can leave us riddled with fear and worry. A brief scroll through your social media feed can induce anxiety and insecurity. It’s fascinating how quickly our emotions can ruin our day.
So learning what to do with our anxious thoughts may be one of the healthiest things we do for both short-term and long-term peace of mind. Thankfully, God’s Word gives us some direction here.
The NLT translates verse 6 in a simple way: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” If only it was that easy, right? If a stranger said that to us, we would likely get offended or at least write them off because they just don’t understand. If a friend said it, maybe we wouldn’t get as upset, but it still feels like trite advice that simply won’t work. But what about when God says it? Our Creator, our closest Friend, the One who is all-knowing and all-powerful, who loves us, who has our absolute best in mind. How does your heart respond to your Father saying those words to you?
In the middle of trouble, when you are in the heat of battle or overcome by anxiety, you will run somewhere for refuge. You will run somewhere for rest, comfort, peace, encouragement, wisdom, healing, and strength.
Perhaps when you are anxious, you run to other people, hoping that they can be your personal messiah. Perhaps you run to entertainment, hoping to numb your troubles away. Maybe you run to a substance, trying your best to turn off the pain. Maybe you run to food or sex, fighting the pain with pleasure. Since none of these things can provide the refuge that you seek, putting your hope in them only tends to add disappointment to the trouble you’re already experiencing.
God really is your refuge and strength. He has the grace you need to face what you’re facing. He holds the wisdom that you desperately need. He is with you in every situation. He is near. “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (4:6b NLT).
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
Why are scary moments so much scarier when we are by ourselves? If you’ve ever watched a scary movie alone, got separated from the group in a haunted house, or been in an intense moment by yourself, you know the feeling. But that changes when others are with us. Why does having someone else with us change our emotions and, more importantly, our experience?
Peace is not the absence of something; it’s the presence of someone.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. It’s His peace to give. And He’s made His gift of peace available to us. He told us this explicitly in John 14:27: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (NLT). His presence in the midst of our circumstance is the key. It’s what Paul wants us to understand.
Paul has experienced this good gift firsthand, and he wants us in on it, too. If we invite Jesus into our circumstances, if we take them to Him in prayer, He promises we’ll experience peace and a guarding of our hearts and minds.
I want us to camp out on the word “guard” in verse 7. That word may invoke images of a soldier on guard or a strong gate protecting an entrance. It protects. It decides what is safe to come in. It shields from attacks. Paul uses the word “guard” here in a Greek verb tense that is called future active indicative. I’m no Greek major, so I had to look that one up, but it’s equivalent to someone saying “I will guard (once),” “I will guard (often),” and “I will be guarding” all at the same time. So God’s peace is something we not only experience now but will continue to experience in the future. His peace guards our hearts and minds from today’s AND tomorrow’s troubles.
And here’s the beautiful part: He is offering this peace for everyone who rests in Him in prayer. When you feel like you're losing your grip and God reminds you that He’s the one holding on— that’s peace. He is our only comfort in life and death. Even when we can’t see it all, we choose to trust the Voice that speaks peace over us.
Close out your devotion time today with worship, thanking God for who He is and recommitting your faith in Him. Let this song “Peace Be Still” guide you into prayer with Him today.Share Tweet
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. - Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Paul gives us eight things to fix our thoughts on. One for each day of the week, plus an extra to grow on! Think of them as a set of “gates” that a thought must pass through before it’s allowed to stay in our heads.
Let these characteristics guide your thoughts and direct your motives. Paul is implying that we have the power of governing our thoughts, so therefore, we are responsible for them. What we really need is not positive self-talk or “happy thoughts,” but godly thoughts. This is a very practical verse that helps us take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), which leads to the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). If the thoughts are ordered well, the outward life will follow.
Trade your anxious thoughts for holy thoughts today.
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 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. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. - Philippians 4:4-8 (NIV)
This week, we’ve been looking at each verse separately, but that’s not how they come to us in Scripture. They are written together as Paul is ending his letter. So an important question to ask when studying the Bible is this: How are these verses connected? Why did Paul put them together?
Rejoice always. Don’t be anxious. Pray in every situation. Fix your thoughts on these things.
I think Paul was giving us a “recipe” for how to experience the peace of God. He even plainly tells us that in verses 7 and 9. Just like any good recipe, you have the right to ignore it and try your own thing. I don’t know what kind of cook you are. I don’t cook often, so when I do, I desperately rely on the recipe and follow it meticulously. And that’s because when I’ve tried to just wing it or do what I think is best, it never turns out so well. So how are you going to treat this recipe for peace that Paul is putting in your hand?
If you follow the recipe, even when it doesn’t make sense or you think you have a better way, you will be rewarded. In these five verses, Paul is giving us a recipe that we can use every day, in every situation, and for any occasion. This passage provides us with practical guidelines and hope. The instructions Paul gives us won’t come naturally; we have to learn to do them and choose to do them. And the result is not just a simple kind of peace—don’t sell God short! The promise is for a peace that guards your heart and surpasses all understanding.