Philippians 4:2–9: Peace
This world is many things, but it is not peaceful. When we turn on the news, we hear of constant wars, rumors or war, crime, and fear. When we go to work, we find ourselves surrounded by office politics, conflict, gossip, drama, and power plays. When we head home, we enter into short tempers, arguments, and long-developing dysfunctions in our families. But even when we can find solitude, we discover to our horror that our own hearts are filled to the brim with anxiety, bitterness, rage, and terror. No matter where we go in this world, we cannot find peace.
What, though, should we expect? Is it realistic to expect peace on this side of the Fall? Or, is the drumbeat of peace reserved for naive idealists who do not fully understand the depth of the brokenness of this world? As much as we crave peace, do we need to relegate our hope for peace to the coming reign of the Prince of Peace?
In fact, peace is possible. Although Paul has only used the word “peace” once so far in this letter in his standard greeting (“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…”; Phil. 1:2), he now turns his attention to peace as the fruit and goal of everything that he has taught the Philippians in this letter. Their unity, their joy, and their ability to endure suffering depends on their experience of the peace of God that will surpass all understanding.
1. Why are personal disputes so difficult to navigate? What does Paul teach us from his handling of the situation between Euodia and Syntyche? Do you have a dispute with another person where you need to learn to agree in the Lord? Are you aware of any other disputes where you are in a position to help arguing people to agree in the Lord?
2. Is it reasonable for Paul to instruct us to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4)? Why is constant rejoicing in the Lord so important in the Christian life? What keeps you from rejoicing? What strategies might help remind you to rejoice in the Lord always?
3. In light of the anxieties that we will inevitably face, what does Paul teach us about prayer? Why does Paul emphasize making our requests known to God with thanksgiving (Phil. 2:6)? How does Paul see the promise of the peace of God attached to our prayers?
4. On what kinds of things does Paul exhort us to direct our attention in Philippians 4:8? Where does most of your attention end up going? What might you need to change in your habits and lifestyle to redirect your attention to things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable? How, then, might you “practice these things” (Phil. 4:9)?