My wife and I were sitting on our couch talking about the upcoming holiday season, and I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Needing some time to think, she asked me what was on my own wish list.
I started thinking of when I was a kid and Christmas would be on its way. My sisters and I would get so excited to get each other presents. We loved giving gifts to one another and surprising each other with a very specific present. My mom homeschooled us and my dad was a soybean farmer for most of my childhood, so we similarly got so excited at the idea of treating mom and dad with what little money we had. We’d beg to go to Target to get a new rolling pin for mom or a new church shirt for dad. It was all so exciting and it made me smile in my living room years later.
When asked the same wishlist question, my mom would often reply with a smile: “I just want peace.” Being an eleven-year-old, I had no idea what to do with that. My sisters and I would sarcastically tell each other in our Christmas shopping meetings that mom “just wants peace again.” Even to this day, before she can give the same answer, someone will interrupt and say, “Wait, let me guess–peace?” A soft smile forms on her lips and we all laugh and move on.
Commendable, no? Don’t we all want peace? And couldn’t we address the fact that Christmas is the season for peace on earth to be a cherished and hoped for reality? Isn’t peace a glorious thing to wish for? Of course it is. But as children we never knew how to deliver this.
My sisters and I didn’t fight much growing up. We definitely sinned against one another and hurt each other’s feelings, but there was no hatred spewing out of our mouths at every possible second. We have actually grown really sweet friendships with one another as we’ve grown, and our times of laughter and celebration are plentiful. But even to this very year, my mom’s request remains. So, how do we pursue peace on earth?
Philippians 4 offers so much hope to those pursuing peace, but it’s different than what we might expect. The peace that Paul is describing here is an indescribable peace! Why doesn’t he spell out the specific steps to achieve peace? Because we cannot work our way into peace. We cannot achieve it on our own. God is the only giver of lasting peace. God supplies peace in a manner consistent with his character. Just as God’s ways are unsearchable, and his sovereignty so magnificently complex, so are his delivery methods for the grace he bestows on us.
We learn from Philippians 4:4-7 that peace comes as a result of casting our cares on God, dedicating ourselves to a life of prayer and supplication, and being intentional with our thought life. Peace is the result of obedience. It consistently comes upon those who put their hope and faith in God.
Peace should never be the end goal for the believer, but a result of a goal. Look at Jesus as an example: the founder and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before him endured the cross (Heb. 12:2). The goal was obedience and glory to God the Father. The result was glory, honor, joy, and peace.
Being obedient to God is much easier than trusting Him. Should you dedicate your life to the principles of Philippians 4 out of a spirit of obedience, but divorced from faith, you will be disappointed. God may not change your circumstances. He may not take you out of your volatile environment. The point is: supplement your obedience with faith in God that you might withstand any trials of life with peace from him.
Stand firm in his promises to you. You will receive his peace.
Remind yourself of his sovereignty. Waves of peace will wash over your heart.
Tell others about your Savior. Watch peace flow out of you into the hearts of others.
If this weren’t enough helpful instruction for believers on how to receive peace, Philippians 4:8 follows up with a list of thought patterns to adopt while we learn how to cast our cares, change from disobedience to faithfulness, and pray in ways that we might never have before. Truth, honor, righteousness, purity, loveliness, grace, excellence, and worthiness of praise are topics of thought which will deliver peace. The wonderful thing about this list of characteristics is that God is the one who fully encompasses them all. You cannot think about truth as a Christian without referencing God as the author of truth. God, in his wisdom and worthiness, tells us the blueprint for lasting peace in your heart: out of obedience to God, we must set our minds on the things of God, and the result will be an incomprehensible peace that can only come from God. God is at the center of it all—when this happens, people can see clearly.
Do you wish for peace in your family and in your heart? Make God the end goal. Serve him by serving others. Glorify God in everything you do. Spend time praying for wisdom, healing, a new perspective on your life, and wait on him. Peace will accompany him, but will never fulfill you if it comes separated from Him.
This Christmas, I am going home with a peace that surpasses all understanding because it is God who stands at the center of Christmas. Whatever your circumstances, whatever your history, however you have lived before, you may find the peace of God today when you look to Him and simply ask.