I have always loved Philippians 4:6–7, where the apostle Paul says, in no certain terms, “Don’t worry; be happy.” This sentiment of Paul’s ought not to be understood trivially but palpably. He’s not glibly encouraging the church to grin-and-bear-it, as if God’s Word advocated for such trite resolve. The apostle’s encouragement to “be careful for nothing” is conjoined with the promise that God’s peace is ours, along with his person. Upon the moment of faith, the sinner is united to the Lord Jesus Christ in his sinless life and sin-bearing death (Rom. 6:4–11). This union is what encapsulates the depth of meaning in the Christian life. And, furthermore, this union is what keeps and anchors us throughout all of life’s ebbs and flows (Heb. 6:19). “And the peace of God,” says Paul, “which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
But I wonder how often we live with that truth? I wonder if we live conscious of the fact that God’s peace is ours? Or, instead, do we the “petty annoyances” of our daily lives disturb the peace that God gives us through his only begotten Son? Such are the questions Rev. Alexander Maclaren seeks to answer in one of his sermons out of 1 Kings. He writes1:
How much inward peace is ours? It is meant that there should never pass across a Christian’s soul more than a ripple of agitation, which may indeed ruffle and curl the surface; but deep down there should be the tranquillity of the fathomless ocean, unbroken by any tempests, and yet not stagnant, because there is a vital current running through it, and every drop is being drawn upward to the surface and the sunlight. There may be a peace in our hearts deep as life; a tranquillity which may be superficially disturbed, but is never thoroughly, and down in its depths, broken. And yet, let some little petty annoyance come into our daily life, and what a pucker we are in! Then we forget all about the still depths in which we ought to be living; and fears and hopes and loves and ambitions disturb our souls, just as they do the spirits of the men that do not profess to have any holdfast in God. The peace of God is ours; but, ah! in how sad a sense it is true that the peace of God is not ours!
This paragraph is exceptional — precisely because it’s so descriptive of many churchgoers over the last year-and-a-half or so. At least, I find it describing me. There are so many instances where I find myself not living in/with God’s peace. A bevy of “little petty annoyances” seem to creep up and burgle the peace that’s been gifted to me in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It’s funny, in a sad sort of way, that the infinitely true gospel of God can seemingly be thwarted by the trivial frustrations of daily life. But such is life post-Genesis-3, I suppose. But such, too, is why the life of the faithful is lived “by faith” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11). Nothing but faith binds us to the God of peace who gives his peace to us unceasingly.
Grace and peace to you, my friends.
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Vols. 1–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1944), 2:2.297–98.