The past few weeks have been difficult. It began when I stood up after eating and immediately doubled over in pain. Then, while driving from church, my daughter hit a deer. My older son learned the store where he works is closing. And my younger son had his wallet stolen and along with all his money, licenses, etc., etc. We weren’t very happy about all this.
But Beverly and I chose to be close to God, so we prayed. He responded by easing my pain and showing me how to handle the newly discovered arthritis in my hip. My daughter was perfectly safe and her car, which miraculously had minor damage, was soon repaired. My older son has a new job starting in a few weeks. And a stranger found and helped return my other son’s wallet. Then a new chapter began.
A friend of the family, already with a terrible disease, suddenly became ill and had to be rushed to the hospital. Within 24 hours he had a massive heart attack. Within 48, he was gone. Then a longtime friend of mine, also with a terrible disease, became ill and had to be admitted to a hospital. Three feet of his small intestine were removed. Then the big shock came. They discovered stage 2 cancer.
Sometimes we receive a thorn in the flesh. At others, we get the entire bush. In this respect, we are just like everyone else on the planet. We all have our problems, difficulties, tragedies, dead ends, and broken dreams. But what separates us from the rest of the world is how we respond to such times in our lives. As I thought about this the other day, God reminded me of a special bit of Scripture.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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. Philippians 4:4-7
I once thought this was only for when we’re happy and all is right with the world. The idea that these words could actually be meant for the hardest of times would have been ridiculous to me. Yet that is exactly what they’re meant for. It all comes down to understanding what is being said.
Rejoice, chairoo, means not just to express great joy, but also to thrive, grow and develop. The word epieikes, translated gentleness, reaches further, expressing control over all our emotions so that we are gentle, kind, patient, merciful, bearing others’ burdens, and ready to forgive. And being anxious or merimnao is not merely being concerned, but filled with paralyzing caution and fear.
Thanksgiving, eucharistia, is gratitude freely given with no strings attached. To present your requests, gnorizo, means to declare and make them known. Peace is the word eirene…a quietness and time of rest, but also freedom from the rage and havoc of war. And then there’s guard, phroureo…to be a watcher, a sentinel to hem in and protect. So when we understand the fullness of this passage, we have:
Thrive and grow in the Lord. Let it e clear to everyone that you are gentle, kind, patient, merciful, bearing others burdens, and ready to forgive. Do not be paralyzed in times of concern or fear but, with gratitude, make your prayers known to God. Then He will give your spirit rest, a quietness you will not be able to understand. You will be free of the destruction from the spiritual war around you, for this divine peace will watch over you, surround you, and protect you.
There is one thing left we cannot miss. Ho Kurios eggus. The Lord is near. He is near in both time and place. For those who refuse to rejoice in the Lord, this is a warning. Draw close to the Lord and let everyone know. For those who choose to thrive and grow in the Lord, it is a comfort. The Lord is near. He is here in times of trouble. He will give us peace and rest. He will protect us.
Though this Scripture promises peace, these words are meant for war, the spiritual war that rages all around us. They are a King’s orders to His people for how the war is to be waged. They are His assurance of victory that will bring them peace. And they are His plans for how they will find success in this war, in grateful prayer. I pray we will be found ready, for…the Lord is near.
Special Request…As you fight the good fight this week, remember Nadeem and Sherri Kaiser, a Christian couple trying to adopt a child in Bangladesh. They have been detained there for more than 9 weeks due to various problems, the latest concerning their fingerprints and the inability of those in their home country (USA) to process a new set. I encourage you to read about their incredible journey at www.bangladeshlove.blogspot.com. Pray and make known your request to God. Rejoice in Him and let the world see that He is the one true King. And take a moment to encourage Nadeem and Sherri. Take care and be God’s,