Thursday, March 17, 2016

A recipe for peace

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

The scripture passage above is a recipe for peace. It is not an easy recipe to follow because in this short passage of Paul’s letter, he describes very particular guidelines to follow. First, Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always, which is not easy. It takes a lot of effort to rejoice when physical, emotional and economic problems plague us every moment of our lives, and the lives of our loved ones. Yet in the next sentence, Paul encourages us to be reasonable ( or kind, gentle fair). How can we be reasonable when rejoicing when we are sick or bankrupt?

The answer, in part, lies in whom or what we rejoice. Paul does not ask us to rejoice in our sickness, but to rejoice in the Lord. There is a difference—a reasonable difference. A good analogy to explain the difference is when a friend of my mother, Betty, was in the hospital close to me (but many miles away from her home) and I went to visit her. Betty told me that she was so glad to see me. Betty was not glad that she was sick, but she was glad for my presence. It lifted her spirits. This is exactly what Paul tells us to do. To rejoice in the Lord, no matter what the circumstances, because He is at hand. He is near us, and will bring us peace.

The recipe for peace described above is difficult for two reasons. The first reason is that we do not keep the ingredients for it on hand, which are patience and humility. Patience is required in order to rejoice in the Lord despite the circumstances, and the humility is required so we can give everything to God and recognize that we cannot handle our problems on our own. The second reason is that this recipe requires a tremendously long cooking time—every minute of our lives. One we start preparing the recipe, we must mind it constantly. We cannot neglect it because it will either burn in the oven, or it will not bake at all. But above all, we must remember that it is God’s grace that makes peace a possibility!