(Philippians 4: 6-9)
Months have passed since Covid-19 disrupted our lives, and many of us long for normalcy again. We long for the familiar again. We long for the way it used to be again. Yet, if we are honest, we realize the way it used to be may never be again. And, even though we know the pandemic in which we find ourselves is temporary, sometimes it does not feel so temporary. Things have changed. Routines have changed. Normalcy has left us, and an unwelcomed, uninvited new normal has brazenly sashayed into our lives leaving us reeling from its unexpected blow.
Governments, in countries across the globe, have responded to this virus with great tenacity. Here, in the United States, our federal government has responded with social distance guidance, payroll protection programs, and stimulus checks, among other things. Governors and mayors in states and cities across the country have responded to this virus in a myriad of ways- some good and some perhaps not so good. But, what about us? How should we as people of faith respond to this invisible enemy? How should we as people of faith respond to this chaotic crisis that has wreaked havoc on our world, taken what we love, and those we love? What should our response be? Siblings in Christ, we find the answer to that question in God’s word. For God’s word lets us know that all the time and especially during this unprecedented time, we can have the peace of God in our lives. Our response is to not be anxious and to rest in the Peace of God.
During this global pandemic, we cannot afford to let worry rob us of our peace. It has been said that worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it will not get you anywhere. Perhaps you are asking the question, “how can you tell me not to worry when there is an invisible and incurable virus running rampant in the world?” As human beings, it is almost impossible for us to not feel worry sometimes, and especially during this pandemic because worry is a natural response to adverse circumstances. However, there is good news. Although we cannot stop worry from coming to us, we can stop worry from staying with us and in so doing we can maintain the peace of God in our lives.
What is the peace of God? The peace of God is a precious gift, given freely and willingly by the triune God to those whose faith and trust are in God. In his Notes on the Bible, Albert Barnes says the Peace of God “is that which is felt when we have no anxious care about the supply of our needs, and when we go confidently and commit everything into the hands of God.”
In one of the most familiar and beloved passages in the book of Philippians (Philippians 4:6-9), written by the Apostle Paul to the Christian Church in Philippi, we find Paul providing a prescription, if you will, for maintaining peace in the midst of adversity. From this passage, I would like to share with you four things that we can do to have the peace of God in our lives during this time of pandemic and beyond.
First, if we are going to have peace of God in our lives, it is important for us to be prayerful. Paul says in Philippians 4:6a, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition…” If the truth be told, when we feel discouraged and overwhelmed, we do not always feel like praying. However, if we are going to have peace, then it is important for us not to back up or slack up on our prayer life. It was Charles Spurgeon, the great prince of preachers, who declared, “Our perils are nothing so long as we have prayer.” While our cell phone is our direct line to others, prayer is our direct line to God. And when we pray, we have the priceless privilege of leaving all our worries with God. Taking everything to God in prayer and leaving everything with God in prayer enables us to have peace.
In addition to being prayerful, if we are going to have the peace of God in our lives, it is important also for us to be thankful. Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving…” Being thankful during this pandemic can be a tall order. Believe me, I understand. Like some of you, Covid-19 has infected many of my friends and loved ones. In fact, earlier this year I lost an aunt and uncle to this terrible virus. They were twins. Their names were Isaac and Rebecca. He died on the same day we buried her. In fact, he died just thirty minutes after her graveside services were complete. We were on the way home from the cemetery and our grief was still fresh when we received word of his passing. As twins, Isaac and Rebecca came into this world with each other and due to complications from COVID-19, they left this world within weeks of each other.
Believe me, I know being thankful has its challenges right now, and yet in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, God’s word exhorts us to give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus. We cannot gather in our church buildings like we used to and as a result, virtual worship has become our new normal, but thanks be to God that worship does not require a building. We are fighting a vicious virus for which there is no cure and the piercing possibility that those who haven’t contracted it, may contract it, lurks around like a shadow on a sunny day, but thanks be to God that at least so far, many have remained virus free. While we deeply mourn the loss of those who have lost their lives due to the virus, we gratefully give God thanks for those who have survived it. Having an attitude of gratitude even while enduring the perils of this pandemic will help us to maintain the Peace of God in our lives.
Not only is it important for us to be prayerful and thankful during this pandemic, but to maintain the Peace of God in our lives, it is important also for us to be truthful. Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God…” Present your requests to God. How refreshing it is to be truthful with ourselves and with God. The truth is there are some things we just cannot do on our own. And there is nothing wrong with saying, “God I can’t, but I know you can.”
- God I can’t fix it, but I know you can.
- God I can’t handle it, but I know you can.
- God I can’t do it, but I know you can.
- God I can’t make it right, but I know you can.
To maintain peace in our lives during this pandemic it is important for us, when we pray, to present our requests to God being truthful with God about how we feel, what we feel, and why we feel what we feel. If we do not know why we feel what we feel, we can be truthful about that too. Then, after presenting our requests to God, it is just as important for us to trust God with the results. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The supernatural way in which the peace of God guards our hearts and minds is unexplainable. It transcends understanding. When we rest in God’s peace, chaos may be around us, but God’s calming assurance will be within us.
To have the peace of God in our lives during this pandemic not only not only is it important for us to be prayerful, thankful, and truthful, but it is important also for us to be thoughtful. Among other things, the word thoughtful means to “show careful consideration and attention to something or someone.” Paul says in verses 8 and 9, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. And, the promise for those who think on these things, according verse 9, is that the God of peace will be with you.
When we give careful consideration and thought to the things Paul notes in verse 8 and to our lives, in general, it ought not take us long to realize that even amidst an unrelenting pandemic, we still have so much to thank and praise God for. If you do not mind, would you just pause for a moment and thoughtfully think about your life? Think about how God has blessed you. Think about how God has kept you. Think about how God has protected you. Think about how God guided you and provided for you.
- The ailment that didn’t abolish you
- The burden that didn’t break you
- The craziness that didn’t crush you
- The disruption that didn’t defeat you
- The enemy that didn’t eradicate you
- The fight that didn’t finish you
- The gamble that didn’t grip you
- The habit that didn’t hook you
- The infection that didn’t infect you
- The jam that didn’t jar you
- The killer that didn’t kill you
- The lies that didn’t level you
- The mishap that didn’t move you
- The need that didn’t nag you
- The offense that didn’t offend you
- The problem that didn’t pen you
- The quarrel that didn’t quell
- The rumors that didn’t ruin you
- The set back that didn’t sink you
- The trouble that didn’t trip you
- The unemployment that didn’t undo you
- The vexation that didn’t vex you
- The weakness that didn’t wreck you
- The “EX” spense that didn’t “EX” haust you
- The yearning didn’t yoke you
- The zig that didn’t zag you.
From “A to Z” can you see that it was God who was with you and it was God who brought you through what you were going through? The good news for all of us is that the same God who has been with us, is still with us, and will be with us during this pandemic and forevermore. Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. I believe it and I hope you do too.
Thanks be to God for peace in a pandemic! Amen.