Summary: Peace is illusive in our society. But God has provided a way for us to have it through thinking about the right things.
Dec. 5, 1999 Phil. 4:1-9
How can I have Peace?
If someone were to come and ask you, “WHAT IS PEACE”, how would you answer them? Peace is one of those things that everyone wants, but no one has a real clear answer of what it is or how you can get it and keep it. I like to look in the dictionary whenever I have a word that I need a clear understanding of. Webster’s dictionary has this to say about peace: it is the “freedom from or stopping of war; freedom from public disturbance or disorder; freedom from disagreement or quarrels, harmony, concord; an undisturbed state of mind, absence of mental conflict; calm, quiet, tranquility.” Someone once said that “Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.” [Lloyd Cory, Quote Unquote]
All the explanations of peace that I have mentioned so far and probably many of the explanations of peace that you might give talk about peace as if it is something that happens when conflict and problems are not present. I have to get rid of all those things that create anxiety in my life in order for me to have peace. I have to get rid of my husband or my kids, or my boss or my neighbors or my bills. If this is so, then you will never have peace, because as long as you are alive, you will always have conflict, and you will always have problems. I want us to see today that peace comes not by getting rid of our problems but by focussing our thoughts on what God wants us to think about. Someone else said “Peace is that calm of mind that is not ruffled by adversity, overclouded by a remorseful conscience, or disturbed by fear.” [as quoted in The tale of the Tardy Oxcart] Peace doesn’t come with the absence of the storm; it comes in the presence of the storm because Jesus is walking there beside us, and we’ve got our eyes on Him.
1. Peace comes through a mind that forgives. (vs. 2-3)
The church that Paul was writing to, the church in the city of Philippi, did not have peace. (By the way – the book of Philipians is the only book in the Bible that was written specifically to West Virginians. It was written to Philipi even though we pronounce it differently here). One of the main reasons for this lack of peace in the church was two women that were fighting with one another. There names were Euodia and Syntyche. We have no record of what they were fighting about, but whatever it was, it had separated their friendship with each other. I read this week of two unmarried sisters who lived together. Because of a slight disagreement over an insignificant issue, they stopped speaking to each other. Unable and unwilling to move out of their small house, they continued to use the same rooms, eat at the same table (separately), and sleep in the same bedroom. Without one word. A chalk line divided the sleeping area into two halves, separating a doorway and fireplace. Each could come and go, cook and eat, sew and read without crossing over into her sister’s domain. Through the night each could hear the breathing of the foe, but because neither was willing to take the first step to reconciliation and forgiveness, they coexisted for years in grinding silence. This situation was creating enough of a problem that word had gotten all the way to Paul in prison about their conflict. Paul knew that this was something that he had to deal with because he knew how destructive fights between individuals within the church can be to the life of that church.
This situation created great pain for Paul. Look at what he says in verse 1. He describes the people of this church as brothers, the ones he longs to be with because of his love for them. He calls them his source of joy and his crown. And he calls them his friends. Paul had begun the church at Philippi. Most of the people in the church had been saved as a result of Paul’s teaching. That included these two women that were now fighting. The people there were a labor of love for Paul, and now, it looked like things might fall apart because of some insignificant argument or offense. Have you ever been there? You’ve put your heart and soul into some project or person, and something so small that it goes unnoticed or ignored gets in the way and destroys everything that you have worked for. I read about a man who backed his bright, shiny new Cadillac out of the driveway and headed for the freeway on his daily commute to work downtown. He was busily shaving himself as he drove – a normal operation for him. I suppose he had his radio on, and he was listening to the news and traffic reports as he made his way to his office. Witnesses say that suddenly he reached up behind his neck and slumped over the wheel. The car swerved and went over an embankment, and he was killed. An autopsy was ordered. When he examined the body, the physician noticed a small pinprick behind the man’s ear. Apparently, a wasp had flown from some part of the car and had stung him, temporarily paralyzing a particular area of the nerve and blinding him with pain. He slumped over the wheel, lost control of the car, and died. (p. 180 Tales of the Tardy Oxcart) Little problems kill. (Heb 12:15 NIV) See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root [or root of bitterness] grows up to cause trouble and defile [or destroy] many. When you allow bitterness and anger to go on and on without dealing with it, you will not only destroy yourself; you will destroy many others right along with you. Take care of problems between yourself and others while they are small before they have a chance to grow into bushes that are entrenched in the ground.