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 4:6-7 ESV
For those well versed in Scripture, this is a common passage heard countless times. A go-to. But sometimes, that means verses like these lose their power when our ears let the words skim by rather than settle and digest.
Jeremiah 15:16 says, Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.
Eating requires time and energy. Recently, I sat with these words. I ate them. And they became to me a joy!
Perfect Peace + Me
My tendency with Scripture is to grab hold of the me commands—what can I do, how can I make changes to better align with God’s will and ways. But I’m learning along the way that I am often the problem. The me‘s gotta go if I want to see the He perfecting His power and showing Himself strong.
So I was struck by this idea of God’s peace that passes all understanding. It is this perfect peace that is doing the guarding according to Philippians 4:7.
In a discussion of grammar (please pardon my linguistic nerdiness) the peace of God is the noun—the subject. The guarding is the action—the verb. And that teeny-tiny word in—that’s the preposition, a seemingly obnoxious way of stating the position of the noun as it relates to the rest of the sentence.
Where am I in this sentence? I’m out! I’ve handed over my anxieties with a thankful heart to God. He’s heard my prayer and supplication, and now His power is on the move.
What a thought!
God’s peace is a perfect peace. In the Scripture below, both perfect and peace are the same root Hebrew word šālôm(shalom). It carries the idea of completeness and soundness in as much as quietness, friendship, and tranquility.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. - Isaiah 26:3 ESV
Perfect peace. And note: who is doing the work of keeping us there? God is.
Romans 7:25 tells us (after concluding that those walking in newness of life by God’s grace face a war of the flesh vs the Spirit) that we serve the law of God with our minds. We serve Him with our thoughts. With where we set our minds.
So then, those whose minds are stayed on Him, will see perfect peace guarding them. A peace that passes all understanding.
All this happens in Christ. That positioning word.
Colossians 3:3 says that [we] have died and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. It is Christ’s righteousness that is robed around us. He is our white garment. And in Christ we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. A seal is a covering, so maybe too a guarding?
Keep going with me, here’s another Scripture,
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts - Colossians 3:15a ESV
Notice again the verb: ruling, the noun: peace, the preposition denoting ownership: of Christ.
Our role? To let. To allow. To relinquish and submit. In other words, to remove ourselves from the equation.
But there’s more to this peace. I’d be remiss for not also considering the idea that God’s perfect peace surpasses all understanding.
Surpassing – Me
Continuing with the mini grammar lesson, in Philippians 4:7 we are given an additional description, a clause that further exemplifies what the peace of God is like. It aids our understanding, and—oh, wait!—it is showing us that God’s peace surpasses our understanding.
In knowing it, we cannot understand it. In experiencing it, no rational explanation is found.
Why is that? And how is that?
To start, Colossians 2:3 says that in [Jesus] is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Then, jumping over to Psalm 111:10 we read that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Those who practice it have good understanding.
Now wait. Back up a second.
In Jesus is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. That’s important.
The fear of the LORD positions us in awe and wonder at who God is whereby we ultimately recognize our utmost need and desire for His rule and reign in our lives. Fearing God, we are humbled. We look on His Son, God’s free atoning gift of grace, and we enter in…
That’s the beginning of true knowledge. Then, in Christ is hidden all the treasures. Entering in, being found in Him. Hidden in Him. Preposition preposition preposition. We partake of the treasures of His wisdom and knowledge. The eyes of our hearts are enlightened to know Him more. We are led in all truth by the Holy Spirit. We witness His power, the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.
All this by first positioning our hearts before Almighty, All-Loving God with fear and trembling. Then, those who practice such fear have good understanding.
Good understanding. Not excellent. Not divine. Good. And there’s purpose in that:
Good understanding is a gateway to continued fear of the Lord. But perfect peace still surpasses all understanding, because it is fully activated by God not us.
God’s shalom brings us into friendship with him, a quietness and rest where we witness His glory that cannot be understood by the realities of this world. In first releasing the anxieties keeping us bound to our flesh, we enter into His throne room of grace and find mercy and help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).