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How can I have peace?

Philippians 4:1-4
If someone were to come and ask you, “WHAT IS PEACE”, how would you answer them? Peace is one of those things that everyone wants, but no one has a real clear answer of what it is or how you can get it and keep it. I like to look in the dictionary whenever I have a word that I need a clear understanding of. Webster’s dictionary has this to say about peace: it is the “freedom from or stopping of war; freedom from public disturbance or disorder; freedom from disagreement or quarrels, harmony, concord; an undisturbed state of mind, absence of mental conflict; calm, quiet, tranquility.” Someone once said that “Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.” [Lloyd Cory, Quote Unquote]
All the explanations of peace that I have mentioned so far and probably many of the explanations of peace that you might give talk about peace as if it is something that happens when conflict and problems are not present. I have to get rid of all those things that create anxiety in my life in order for me to have peace. I have to get rid of my husband or my kids, or my boss or my neighbors or my bills. If this is so, then you will never have peace, because as long as you are alive, you will always have conflict, and you will always have problems. I want us to see today that peace comes not by getting rid of our problems but by focussing our thoughts on what God wants us to think about. Someone else said “Peace is that calm of mind that is not ruffled by adversity, overclouded by a remorseful conscience, or disturbed by fear.” [as quoted in The tale of the Tardy Oxcart] Peace doesn’t come with the absence of the storm; it comes in the presence of the storm because Jesus is walking there beside us, and we’ve got our eyes on Him.

1. Peace comes through a mind that forgives. (vs. 2-3)
The church that Paul was writing to, the church in the city of Philippi, did not have peace. (By the way – the book of Philipians is the only book in the Bible that was written specifically to West Virginians. It was written to Philipi even though we pronounce it differently here). One of the main reasons for this lack of peace in the church was two women that were fighting with one another. There names were Euodia and Syntyche. We have no record of what they were fighting about, but whatever it was, it had separated their friendship with each other. I read this week of two unmarried sisters who lived together. Because of a slight disagreement over an insignificant issue, they stopped speaking to each other. Unable and unwilling to move out of their small house, they continued to use the same rooms, eat at the same table (separately), and sleep in the same bedroom. Without one word. A chalk line divided the sleeping area into two halves, separating a doorway and fireplace. Each could come and go, cook and eat, sew and read without crossing over into her sister’s domain. Through the night each could hear the breathing of the foe, but because neither was willing to take the first step to reconciliation and forgiveness, they coexisted for years in grinding silence. This situation was creating enough of a problem that word had gotten all the way to Paul in prison about their conflict. Paul knew that this was something that he had to deal with because he knew how destructive fights between individuals within the church can be to the life of that church.
This situation created great pain for Paul. Look at what he says in verse 1. He describes the people of this church as brothers, the ones he longs to be with because of his love for them. He calls them his source of joy and his crown. And he calls them his friends. Paul had begun the church at Philippi. Most of the people in the church had been saved as a result of Paul’s teaching. That included these two women that were now fighting. The people there were a labor of love for Paul, and now, it looked like things might fall apart because of some insignificant argument or offense. Have you ever been there? You’ve put your heart and soul into some project or person, and something so small that it goes unnoticed or ignored gets in the way and destroys everything that you have worked for. I read about a man who backed his bright, shiny new Cadillac out of the driveway and headed for the freeway on his daily commute to work downtown. He was busily shaving himself as he drove – a normal operation for him. I suppose he had his radio on, and he was listening to the news and traffic reports as he made his way to his office. Witnesses say that suddenly he reached up behind his neck and slumped over the wheel. The car swerved and went over an embankment, and he was killed. An autopsy was ordered. When he examined the body, the physician noticed a small pinprick behind the man’s ear. Apparently, a wasp had flown from some part of the car and had stung him, temporarily paralyzing a particular area of the nerve and blinding him with pain. He slumped over the wheel, lost control of the car, and died. (p. 180 Tales of the Tardy Oxcart) Little problems kill. (Heb 12:15 NIV) See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root [or root of bitterness] grows up to cause trouble and defile [or destroy] many. When you allow bitterness and anger to go on and on without dealing with it, you will not only destroy yourself; you will destroy many others right along with you. Take care of problems between yourself and others while they are small before they have a chance to grow into bushes that are entrenched in the ground.
Paul not only told these women to fix the problem that was standing between them, but he told them how. He told them to “agree with each other” (NIV). The NKJV says, “be of the same mind”. One translation has “to mind the same things”. These women could not change what had happened. That was an impossibility. But what they could change is how they felt about the situation and their attitude toward one another. They had to change their mind about who was at fault about the situation that they created. They had to change their mind about who was going to be the one to seek forgiveness and restoration. They had to change their mind about the character of the other person. “That woman is so cantankerous! It’s no wonder that she makes me so mad! She always wants her own way because she thinks that her way is always best! She’s so stubborn!” When we can’t have our own way, we start to attack the person rather than dealing with the situation. They needed mind surgery. A couple of chapters earlier in this book, Paul said this: (Phil 2:5 -8) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Jesus had an attitude of humility and sacrifice, not self-seeking and pride. That’s the kind of mind that these ladies needed to have.
And then Paul reminded them of something. He reminded them of all the work that they had done together in the past. They had faithfully served their Lord and their church by working to bring other people to faith in Jesus Christ. There were people in heaven because of how these two had worked together in the past. They had worked side by side with others as well for the same purpose. They had seen many receive forgiveness from the Lord and be released from their past, but now these two were unwilling to forgive one another and receive release from the bondage that they had created for themselves. They had forgotten all that and had gotten sidetracked onto unimportant issues. They had forgotten that their number 1 priority was to win people to Jesus. All that other stuff really wasn’t that important.
One day, a father took his son and one of his son’s friends on a fishing trip. They got to their camp sight, and everything was just perfect. The weather was warm but not hot, the lake was calm, and they had a level campsite. They raised their tent, cooked their dinner, and went to bed anticipating several days of great fishing. When they awoke the next morning, they discovered that a cold front had come through during the night. It was now in the low 40’s and a cold wind was blowing. They stayed in their tents most of the day and occupied themselves telling stories and playing silly games with one another to make the best of a bad situation. They went to bed that night hoping that things would be better the next day. The next day was more of the same. Only now, it began to rain. Once again, they tried to wait it out and occupy themselves in the tent. But by the end of the day, everyone was on edge and angry at one another. They decided to pack up and head home. They discovered that when fishermen don’t fish, they fight.
When you and I forget why we are here and turn our focus away from the job that we have been given, it is then that we start to fight with one another over things that have no eternal significance whatsoever. Who cares what color the carpet is or whether or not someone who uses your room messed it up or what date the church picnic is on and whose house it’s at? Yes, voice your opinion about these things, but if the decision doesn’t go the way that you think it should, don’t go getting angry at everyone and letting it destroy your relationship and your witness. We are here to bring people to Jesus! All this other stuff is just stuff. Never forget what the priority is. If you’ve got to get angry at someone, get angry at Satan. He’s the one that we are fighting!
Paul gave one more piece of counsel to help these two Christians get back in relationship with each other. He asked another Christian in the church to act as a mediator between them to pull them back together. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9) Smith and Jones were "on the outs" over a very trivial matter. This deeply concerned Deacon Brown, so he prayed that he might be a peacemaker. He called on Smith and asked, "What do you think of Jones?" "He’s the meanest crank in the neighborhood!" "But," said Brown, "you have to admit that he’s very kind to his family." "Oh, sure, he’s kind to his family all right; no one can deny that." The next day Brown went to Jones and inquired, "Do you know what Smith said about you?" "No, but I can imagine how that scamp would lie about me!" "This may surprise you, but he said you’re very kind to your family." "What! Did Smith say that?" "Yes, he did." "Well, if you hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t believe it." "What do you think of Smith?" asked Deacon Brown. "Truthfully, I believe he’s a lowdown scalawag." "But you have to admit that he’s very honest in business." "Yes, there’s no getting around that; in business he’s a man you can trust." The next day Brother Brown called on Smith again. "You know what Jones said about you? He claims you’re a fellow that really can be trusted in business, and that you’re scrupulously honest." "You mean it?" "Yes, I do," said Brown. "Well of all things," replied Smith with a happy smile. The next Sunday the former "enemies" nodded to each other. Brown continued his "holy meddling" until the next annual business meeting of the church when Smith and Jones shook hands and finally voted on the same side!
When you help to bring peace between two Christians that are fighting, then you are taking on the character of Christ. Christ himself brought peace between us and God, but it cost Him His life in order for it to happen. Are you willing to be a peacemaker? It will cost you, but it is worth it.
One more thing Paul brought to the attention of these battling warriors – you had better learn to be at peace with your brother now. You will be with them for all of eternity. [“whose names are in the book of life.”]
In order for there to be peace in that church and between those women, they had to put away their pride, forgive one another, and get back to the job that God had called them to do in the first place. Before they could be used of God to bring forgiveness into the lives of others, they themselves had to forgive. Are you holding onto anger and bitterness and hurt against someone in this church or in your life? You may have to dig a little bit to really get a good picture of your heart. Roots of bitterness, though not seen from above, reach way down into the heart and are very difficult to pull up. You will never have peace in your heart until the poison of anger and bitterness is removed, and it is replaced with forgiveness and love.
Then Paul moves beyond the immediate situation that the church was facing and communicates to them how they can have peace in their hearts as well as in their relationships. The two have a great deal to do with each other. When I do not have peace within my own heart, then it is extremely difficult for me to have peace with the people around me. When I am rebelling against God over something that He is telling me to do, or when there has been a time that I have not spent the time with God that I needed to in order to bring peace in my own heart, it is then that I lash out at the people I love and create conflict over seemingly insignificant situations. (James 4:1-2 NIV) What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. Fights on the outside come from fights on the inside. If there is no peace within, there will be no peace without. So Paul then talks about where to get that inner peace.
2. Peace comes through a mind that doesn’t fear. (vs. 4-7)
Before we examine this next set of verses, I need you to understand something. When Paul wrote these words and gave these instructions, he was not lying back in a lounge chair on the beach at a resort on the Mediterranean Sea. He was in prison in Rome. He was separated from his friends, prevented from starting new churches, and anticipating death at any time. It was the kind of situation where you would expect a person to be in despair and to be exhibiting fear and despair, not peace. Now let’s read Paul’s instructions.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” “But Paul, you don’t understand my situation. There’s no way that I can rejoice with what is happening to me.” Turn over a few pages to your left, and look at Philipians 1:12-18. [read it] Did you catch what was happening there. Paul has been imprisoned for preaching. So what does he do while he’s in prison – he preaches. I heard recently of a Chinese pastor who was given a 3-year sentence in prison for declaring his faith. While in prison, he began ministering to the other prisoners and seeing them saved. The gov’t offered him an early release after 2 years, but he refused because he knew that his work in prison was not over yet. Paul got to reach a group of soldiers while in prison that he would have never reached had he been on the outside. Then it says in vs. 14 that some of Paul’s comrades and converts were given greater courage to preach because they saw Paul’s bold stand. And others, trying to make Paul jealous or trying to stir up trouble for him began preaching too. Paul said, “I don’t care why they are doing it. The fact is that the Gospel is being spread, and in this I rejoice!” Paul was not being a hypocrite here when he told them and us to rejoice. He knew what hard times were, and he knew that the right way to react to them was not with fear or anger but with joy. Then Paul said . . .
“Let your gentleness [ or moderation ] be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” I’ve never been in prison, so I can’t say for sure, but if the picture that I have of prison is at all close, gentleness is not something that you want to show too much of. In prison, you want to be tough. You want to let people know that if they mess with you, there is going to be a price to pay. If you are perceived as being weak, you will be taken advantage of. Lots of bad things can happen to you. You would think that Paul would tell us to be tough, to take control, to get a firm grip on everything in their lives. That’s the way that most of us think that we get peace – by taking and maintaining control of every area of our lives. We think that if we don’t take control of our lives, someone is going to step all over us. They’ll interpret our kindness as a sign of weakness. We’re afraid to be gentle. Another way of thinking of moderation is comparing it to a yield sign on the road. The closer that Christmas gets, the more cars that there are on the road every day. Add to that the increased tension of the drivers on the road, and the chances of being in an accident are rising steadily. It is at this time of year that people have a great deal of difficulty yielding to one another. Everyone wants the right of way whether that means being the next car to go at a 4-way stop, fighting over the last set of Pokemon cards, letting your temper flare because somebody else got that parking spot that you saw at Wal-mart or getting to the shortest check-out line before the next guy takes your place. We want control, and we think that this is the only way that we are going to get peace. But Paul says that it is by gentleness – not bulling our way through, not fighting for our own rights, turning over control of our lives – that we can find real peace.
Earlier this morning, I made reference to an event that happened in the life of Peter while Jesus was on the earth. Peter and the other disciples were out in a boat on the sea when a huge storm came up. In the middle of the storm, they saw Jesus walking on the water. Peter asked Jesus if he could come out there and walk with Jesus. Jesus said yes, so Peter stepped out of the boat. Somewhere between the boat and Jesus, Peter started paying attention to the waves and the wind instead of keeping his focus on Jesus. As soon as he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink into the water. All of us in this room fit into that story at some point. Some of us are in the boat. Even though things may be a little rocky, we are trying our best to maintain control of our lives in the best way that we know how. Some of us have made it across the sea and are walking on the top of the water in the middle of the storm because we have our eyes on Jesus, and we are holding His hand. And then there are the majority of us who have stepped out of the boat and are headed to Jesus. We’ve turned over control of our lives to Him halfway. We’ll let Him handle eternity, but we’ll take care of today. Caught somewhere in between self-control and Jesus-control is a pretty dangerous place to be. The book of James says (James 1:8 NIV) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. If you haven’t yielded control of your life – your struggles, your future, your past, your fears, everything – then you cannot have complete peace.
“Be anxious for nothing . . .” I like the way that the KJV says that – “Be careful for nothing.” That doesn’t mean that you can run around like a bull in a china shop. That doesn’t mean that you can go home and shake all your Christmas presents until you know that one of them was made of glass because now you can hear it rattling around broken inside the box. To be careful means to be full of care. It means to be consumed by your concern over the things that are going on in your life. But rather than being consumed by our concerns and losing our peace over them, we’re supposed to take those concerns to God. (1 Pet 5:7 NIV) Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Paul says that we are supposed to first pray. Praying is simply talking to God about what you think of Him, what’s going on in your life. It is your means of taking those things that cause you anxiety and worry and placing them at the foot of God. Then he talks about supplication or petition. That’s where you ask God to do something in your life and in your situation. And then he says not to forget thanksgiving. As I thank God for what He has done in the past, something begins to happen. I begin to remember all of the things that God has done for me and how He saw me through all of those situations in my past – situations that I thought I was never going to make it out of. I start to realize that if brought me through then, then He has the power to bring me through today. And God’s peace begins to flood my soul, not because the problem is gone, but because I know that since I have the power and person of God, I have everything that I need to enable me to handle anything that comes my way. Look at what he says [read verse 7]. A peace for which there is no logical explanation will put a wall of protection around you – a wall that is provided by and built with the blood of Jesus Christ. (Rom 8:35-38-39 NIV) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. When you are wrapped up in the arms of Jesus, and you know that you have an all-powerful God who hears your prayers and is in control of every situation, that’s when you can have real peace.
I hope that as we examined those four verses that you noticed something that all three commands had in common. In order for them to be effective at bringing you peace, they have to be exercised within the confines of a relationship with Jesus. Rejoicing over your problems and your successes will not bring you peace. Rejoicing in the Lord will. Just yielding to life will not bring you peace. “Qe se ra, se ra, whatever will be will be.” That will just make you fatalistic and pessimistic. But yielding to Jesus and giving Him control of your life will give you a direction and a purpose for living. And not having a God and Savior to whom you can turn to lay all your burdens at His feet and not having his power to handle your problems will mean that you will have to deal with every part of your life on your own with no help. Human beings cannot provide the peace that you need; we’re all dealing with problems of our own. Only God can provide the peace that you need.
But you say, “As best as I can tell, I am at peace with others, and my relationship with Jesus is right. Why do I still not have peace?” The answer could be found in what you fill your mind with. Look at verses 8 & 9.
3. Peace comes through a mind that focuses on good stuff. (vs. 8-9)
There is a famous scene in Peter Pan. Peter is in the children’s bedroom; they have seen him fly; and they wish to fly too. They have tried it from the floor and they have tried it from the beds and the result is failure. "How do you do it?" John asked. And Peter answered: "You just think lovely, wonderful thoughts and they lift you up in the air." The same is true for the believer. The only way to defeat evil thoughts – thoughts that destroy your peace – is to begin to think of something else. You have heard it said that an empty mind is the devil’s workshop. Well, a mind that is filled with the wrong stuff is one that will rob you of your peace. (2 Cor 10:5 NIV) We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Pay attention to what you are thinking about. Don’t allow your mind to wander in all kinds of directions. Keep it under the Spirit’s control.
Paul gives us list of things that we can fill our minds with in order for us to have peace. You might want to think of these things as a check-list. As a thought enters your mind, and you begin to dwell on it, ask yourself if that thought meets the following standards:
 True – does it correspond to reality and to God’s declaration of truth in His Word? Is it a figment of my imagination? Am I interpreting the events and the motives behind those events in the correct way, or am I letting my pre-conceived notions about that person govern the way that I see what has happened? Am I just being paranoid? A friend of mine pointed out something to me in the account of Adam and Eve the other day. When God came to Adam, and Adam admitted that he was naked, God asked him a question; “Who told you that you were naked?” Who told you that? Examine where the thoughts that you are having came from. If they came from God, then they are truth, but if they came from Satan, then they are lies. He is the father of lies.
 Noble – do they place a high value on people?
 Right/just – do they correspond with God’s laws of conduct?
 Pure – are they mixed up with sin in the middle of them?
 Lovely – are they beautiful emotionally and spiritually? Are they uplifting and encouraging?
 Admirable – are they something that you think others would look up to and say, “I want to think just the way that you do”? Would you have a problem with people that you respect thinking the same thoughts that you are thinking right now?
 Excellent – do you think about stuff that is important, top of the line, useful, meaningful
 Praiseworthy – if others knew what you were thinking, would they praise you for it? Will God reward you for what you are thinking right now, or will you receive discipline from God for what you are thinking and the actions that will come from those thoughts?
The battle for peace is lost or won in our minds. Paul began in verse 3 by saying that warring persons need to have a change of mind. Then he said that a proper attitude toward our circumstances will give us peace in our minds. Finally, he said that we must take active control over what we allow into our mind because our thoughts control whether or not we will have peace.
Paul gives one final piece of counsel about finding peace for our lives. He says that once we have our thought life right, it must show itself through our actions. [read verse 9] It is in actions that I show my faith in God to take care of me and provide for me. It is also in actions that I gain evidence of the power of God.

In 1871, a great fire struck the city of Chicago, and the real estate holdings of a young man by the name of Horatio Spafford were all but destroyed. Mr. Spafford was a Christian lawyer in that city, and though much of what he owned was gone, he still maintained his faith in God. He knew that God was in control, and He knew that God loved him.
Two years later, Mr. Spafford and his wife decided to take their four young daughters to England for schooling since most of the schools in Chicago had not yet been rebuilt and were not of the quality of the schools overseas. Just before the boat was to leave, Mr. Spafford got called away on business, so he sent his wife and daughters ahead intending to join them on the next boat.
In the middle of the ocean, the ship that Mr. Spafford’s family was on collided with another ship. The ship sank to the bottom taking most of its passengers to their death. The death toll included the Spafford’s 4 daughters. Mrs. Spafford was rescued from the seas. On the rescue boat, she sent a telegram to her husband. The telegram said, “Saved, alone”.
When Mr. Spafford received this message, the tragedy of the fire seemed nothing in comparison to what the telegram implied. Money and burned buildings could be replaced but his children were gone! It was through these clouds of darkness and despair that there shone, into the heart of H. G. Spafford, the bright light of God’s promise. God would not forsake him in the trying hour no matter what the circumstances. Peace like a river or sorrows like sea billows – with God all is well!
And with that thought on his mind, H. G. Spafford wrote the words to the song “It is Well”. [read song]

Do you have peace this morning? Do you have peace between you and other persons in this church? Do you need to seek forgiveness and restoration? Do you have peace in your relationship with the Lord? It is only as you give Him complete control of every area of your life that you will have peace. What thoughts are ruling your mind this morning? Are they thoughts that promote peace between you and other people and between you and God? Or are they thoughts that create conflict because they are not based on the truth?
If you need peace, the Prince of Peace is waiting here to greet you if you will come.

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