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Peace “that exceeds all understanding”

May 5, 2023

Daily Scripture

Philippians 4:4-9

4 Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. 9 Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Paul wrote this letter in prison (cf. Philippians 1:13-14). He might be put to death—or freed (cf. Philippians 1:20-26). Imagine the apostle in that dank Roman dungeon (likely a hole in the ground), waking each day uncertain about whether and when guards might come to end his life. Clearly Paul’s words were much more than just religious “happy talk.” With every human reason to be anxious, he instead recommended prayer, peace, trust, and a focus on the good and beautiful in life.

  • What did Paul say results from presenting your requests to God in prayer? Do you ever wish he’d said, “Bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions—and God guarantees that everything will come out the way you want”? (As we read on Monday, he knew firsthand that wasn’t how prayer worked—cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.) What made the gift of God’s peace more precious for the apostle, even when unsure if he faced execution or not, than any other gift?
  • Paul wrote that God’s peace “exceeds all understanding.” Okay, stop and think about that. Even in conditions when your human understanding thinks there is no reason for peace, Paul’s phrase said he had, and you can have, God’s peace. In what ways does a wish for total understanding, to figure everything out logically, at times rob you of peace? How can you value your mind, yet not expect or demand merely human explanations of all divine reality?

Lord Jesus, I want to walk every day in your peace. I want to focus on the excellent, on the admirable, even if the latest scandal or conflict obsesses everyone around me. Keep my heart safe in your eternal hands. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller is Director of Student Ministries at Resurrection Overland Park. A Kansas native, she has been a professional actress for the past 15 years, and she loves to see the vastness of God’s creation through theatre and the arts. Leah is pursuing an M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology. Leah, Brian, and their two children love to play tennis, golf, soccer, and board games.

What a lousy idea it is for other people to be the source of our peace. This is the title of a sermon by one of my favorite writers, Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. It has stuck with me. I have found when my life “hits the fan,” so to speak, and I’m desperately seeking peace in the storm, my first reaction is to try and retrieve peace from others. I’m many times disappointed because while others have succeeded in distracting me from whatever has been troubling me, the undercurrent of unrest is still moving inside my soul. What I need is rest. Quite rest. Prayerful, quiet rest.

Rest and quietness are rare today. Think through your past day, week, and month. What percentage of it would you categorize as restful and calm? Unfortunately, these concepts feel further out of reach all the time. Yet we find in the peace of God these critical, life-giving gifts. The words “rest” and “quietness” are at the root word of “peace” in Philippians 4:6-7. Quiet, rest, and the peace of God are not fanciful wishes, nor are they unrealistic for our world. God graciously provides us an invitation, paired with simple instructions, for how we can live a life marked by His peace.

Prayer, trust, and thanksgiving are the instructions God has given us to cling to in the chaos of life. While this world’s perception of quiet and rest becomes foggier, our view of God’s peace can grow clearer. And yet, we will never know the full extent of it. His peace is beyond understanding, which means we can spend our entire lives discovering and experiencing more of it! How amazing is that? His peace is greater than mere emotion. Thank goodness! It is multi-faceted, reflecting God’s glory and affecting every area of our lives. As we spend more time in prayer, trading our worries for God’s presence, His peace will give consistency to our souls. Our spirits will be calmed and composed. Life’s circumstances will send out wakes like a giant ship stirring up serene waters. Still, God will faithfully bring our thoughts back, assuring us of God’s faithfulness and love, which far exceed anything this life offers.

Laying down our worries, coming to God with requests and thanksgiving, and practicing a life marked by His peace can be daunting. I want to slip into my old habits of asking others to give me their peace, to distract me from my worries. But that’s not lasting. What stays is something I can’t capture in words fully, but it’s a powerful peace I’ve come to know through prayerful petition and time resting in God’s presence. This peace extends farther than our composed thoughts and balanced emotions. God’s peace strips us of barriers that once held us back from God’s work, liberating us and empowering us to make a difference in this world.

Full disclosure: as I’m writing this, I’m sitting in the middle of a worship rehearsal for the new COR Worship Collective music video. I’m surrounded by fantastic worship leaders, pastors, and friends from Resurrection. The drums are banging; the room is loud. I’m tired from a long day of work, a bit frustrated from rush hour traffic, and what I need most is some peace that exceeds all understanding. Where am I going to get it? My friend Melissa sits beside me with encouragement, and our buddy Katy snaps a picture.

I’m sweetly distracted but no closer to peace. And then the room is quieted. Our leader shares words of inspiration, and we go to God in prayer. Trusting in God’s presence with us tonight and thankful for the opportunity to be leaders of worship. The music starts, the band plays, and we all begin singing in exaltation.

“When the giants surround, fears pinned me down, they’re calling my name.
When I’m tired and don’t want more of the same
I’m sick of playing these games and falling so short.
But you loved before I knew Love, and your grace was enough to spark a fire inside.
The light in this heart of mine is the power of Christ, a Resurrection life.

So, I’ll stand in the rain or the fire, in the darkest corners to show your love.
And I’ll rise with the morning sun declaring hope has won, Resurrection life!”
(Resurrection Life, written by Matt Bisel)

This is God’s peace that continues to exceed all my understanding! It’s a Resurrection life, and I can feel it right now.

If you’d like to experience God’s peace through music, I invite you to take a listen to the COR Worship Collective, wherever you stream music.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.