“The Peace of God That Excels All Thought”
“The peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Phil. 4:7.
1. Why did the apostle Paul know that godly persons have no reason for undue anxiety?
THE Christian apostle Paul knew from experience that godly persons have no reason for undue anxiety, for Jehovah is with them. Paul had been imprisoned, beaten, stoned, had often been near death, and had experienced many dangers, even among false brothers. But never had God abandoned him. The apostle constantly turned to his heavenly Father in earnest prayer, casting anxieties on him and never experiencing disappointment.—2 Cor. 4:7-9; 11:23-27.
2. What would result if fellow Christians followed Paul’s counsel recorded at Philippians chapter four, verse six?
2 So it was with utmost confidence that Paul urged fellow Christians not to be anxious over anything, but to let their petitions be made known to God, taking everything to Him in prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving. What would result from their doing this? The apostle continued: “And the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Phil. 4:6, 7.
A Peace That “Excels All Thought”
3. (a) What is the “peace of God”? (b) If we have God-given peace, why have we no reason for overwhelming anxiety?
3 The “peace of God” is a calmness and tranquillity enjoyed by dedicated witnesses of Jehovah even amid the most difficult circumstances. It stems from a close personal relationship with our Father in heaven. As possessors of such peace from Jehovah, we let God’s holy spirit motivate us and are sensitive to its leadings. In fact, we pray for that spirit, and for its fruit of peace. (Luke 11:13; Gal. 5:22, 23; Eph. 4:30) Hence, we have no reason to be overwhelmed by anxiety, for we know that nothing can happen that is outside the divine providence. (Compare Acts 11:26.) Indeed, Jehovah makes all his servants “dwell in security.”—Ps. 4:8.
4, 5. (a) Compared with Jehovah’s Witnesses, what kind of peace do others have? (b) How does the “peace of God” differ from any peace that might be experienced by those not serving Jehovah faithfully?
4 Compared with Jehovah’s Witnesses, many people may have more secular education or greater ability in certain fields of human endeavor. They have problems, of course, but are confident that they will be able to reason out suitable solutions. Hence, they feel quite secure, not being especially anxious about their personal future. They seem to be at peace, enjoying relative tranquillity. Why, the Scriptures mention even “the very peace of wicked people”!—Ps. 73:3.
5 The “peace of God,” however, is entirely different. It is not based on self-confidence and the viewpoint that human reasoning will always succeed. Paul said that this God-given peace “excels all thought” or “surpasses all comprehension.” It has been called “that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand.” (Phil. 4:7, New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures; The New American Standard Bible: New Testament; The Jerusalem Bible) Yes, those faithfully serving Jehovah have a tranquillity neither possessed nor understood by humans in general.
6. (a) When does it become especially evident that we have the “peace of God”? (b) While waiting for Jehovah to act on a matter about which we have prayed, do we have any help? (c) Is it spiritually strengthening to ‘throw our burdens upon Jehovah,’ and why do you so answer?
6 Whether those dedicated to Jehovah really have the “peace of God” becomes especially evident when things happen that affect them deeply but that are beyond their control. Humanly speaking, they are incapable of coping with such anxieties. Do we at times find ourselves in these circumstances? How appropriate that we then pray earnestly, being specific in our petitions and making definite requests for divine aid or direction! (Compare Judges 6:36-40.) Thereafter, we must wait for Jehovah to act. In the meantime, if we have the “peace of God,” we can sense the aid of Jehovah’s holy spirit and we remain tranquil, patiently waiting to see how the Most High will work out the problem. There is nothing foolhardy about this attitude, for the psalmist David said: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” (Ps. 55:22) Moreover, when the problem is thus resolved and the test is past, we will know that “the God who gives peace” has answered our prayers.—Rom. 15:33.
Guards Hearts and Mental Powers
7. (a) In the Scriptures, “heart” often denotes what? (b) If we have the “peace of God,” why will we not ‘become heated up because of evildoers’?
7 Paul said that the “peace of God” will ‘guard our hearts and mental powers.’ (Phil. 4:7) One Bible translation calls this peace “a garrison to guard your hearts and minds.” (Weymouth) In the Scriptures, “heart” often denotes the seat of affection and motivation. (Ex. 35:21, 26, 29; Ps. 119:11) If we are plagued by undue anxiety, our affections and motivations may be acted upon detrimentally and we may behave in an unbalanced or improper way. For instance, we may ‘become heated up because of evildoers,’ thus being robbed of all tranquillity. But this will not happen if we possess the “peace of God,” for then we will know that Jehovah sees all things and will settle accounts in due time. (Ps. 37:1-11) So our hearts will remain calm and will not impel us to act rashly. This is good for us emotionally, spiritually and even physically, for “a calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.”—Prov. 14:30.
8. (a) At Philippians 4:7, what is the difference between “hearts” and “mental powers”? (b) If we have the “peace of God,” why is it unlikely that we will lose mental balance? (c) Will anything permitted by our heavenly Father do us lasting harm?
8 “Mental powers” are not synonymous with “hearts,” although there is an interplay between them. Whereas the mind reasons on information, the heart motivates a person. So to make sure that we are pursuing a proper course, we must have knowledge of God’s Word and must prayerfully rely on him. If our minds were unduly distressed—if we were to have great anxiety—we could not make suitable decisions. We might even lose mental balance. However, this is not likely to happen to us if we have the “peace of God,” because then our hearts are in check and our minds are at rest. We really believe that ‘the hand of Jehovah is with us’ and that nothing our heavenly Father may permit will do us lasting injury. (Matt. 10:28; Acts 11:21) Instead of being anxious and beleaguered by many troubled thoughts, we truly trust in Jehovah, and thus our “mental powers” are guarded. How? “By means of Christ Jesus,” through whom a close personal relationship with the heavenly Father has been made possible.—Gal. 1:3-5.
9. Although Paul had the “peace of God,” was he entirely without heartfelt concern?
9 Naturally, Paul himself knew that Christians are not totally without heartfelt concern. He admitted that the failure of fellow Jews to embrace the “good news” caused him ‘great grief and unceasing pain of heart.’ Yet the apostle was not overwhelmed by anxiety and was content to let matters rest with God, who acts justly in choosing those upon whom He will have mercy. (Rom. 9:1-18) Hence, despite strong feelings, Paul let the “peace of God” guard his heart and mental powers.
10. How, then, will God-given peace guard our hearts and mental powers?
10 Like Paul, who undeniably had deep concern, we can have the “peace of God”—that inner tranquillity and calmness that results from a precious relationship with Jehovah. It truly can guard our hearts and mental powers from becoming overly anxious about our needs. We can be confident, fully assured that Jehovah provides for his servants and answers their prayers. Instead of being in constant turmoil, our hearts and minds will be at rest because we trust implicitly in our heavenly Father.—Ps. 33:20-22.
Life’s Necessities Assured
11. Having the “peace of God,” why should we not be unduly anxious about life’s necessities?
11 If we truly have the “peace of God” and are convinced that he is the “Hearer of prayer,” we will be able to cope with anxieties. (Ps. 65:2) We will always feel that we have divine help, and in this there is great peace of heart and mind. For instance, we will not be unduly anxious about life’s necessities. Jesus told his followers: “Quit being anxious about your souls [or, “life”] as to what you will eat or about your bodies as to what you will wear.” Why should we not have such anxiety? Because Jehovah, who makes ample provision for the birds and the lilies, surely can and will feed and clothe his faithful servants. “So,” said Jesus, “quit seeking what you might eat and what you might drink, and quit being in anxious suspense . . . Nevertheless, seek continually [God’s] kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:22-31) Indeed, if we put spiritual interests first in life, we can be confident that our heavenly Father will take care of us.
12. What Scriptural illustration shows why even those devoted to Jehovah must avoid placing too much emphasis on material things?
12 Even individuals devoted to Jehovah need to avoid placing too much emphasis on material things. For example, because the land could not sustain them together and to end quarreling between their herdsmen, Abraham granted his nephew Lot the opportunity to choose where he preferred to reside. Lot chose the best of the land, but this meant living among wrongdoers. In time, he was taken captive and had to be rescued. (Gen. 13:1–14:16) Later, Lot found it necessary to abandon his material possessions so that his life might be spared when Jehovah destroyed Sodom. Still later, Lot felt compelled to leave the city of Zoar and take up residence in a cave. (Gen. 19:1-26, 30-38) Although he is called “righteous Lot,” it appears he learned the “hard way” the folly of a godly person’s laying great stress on supposed material advantages. (2 Pet. 2:7, 8) How much better to pray for specific direction and always put spiritual interests first in life!
13. Why should Christians not be in anxious suspense over life’s necessities?
13 If we do make spiritual matters of utmost importance in our lives, this will contribute to our peace of heart and mind. Certainly, we can be confident that the One to whom all the gold and silver belong is fully capable of furnishing his servants with life’s necessities. (Hag. 2:8) Of course, it is proper to pray that God will “give us today our bread for this day,” and it is fitting to work industriously to meet real needs. (Prov. 6:6-11; 31:10, 13-24; Matt. 6:11) But ‘since we brought nothing into the world and cannot carry anything out, we should be content with sustenance and covering.’ (1 Tim. 6:6-12) Why be in anxious suspense? The psalmist was right when he said: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.”—Ps. 37:25.
The Way to Real Success
14. Why is it not fitting for us, as Christian witnesses, to place great emphasis on human achievement and supposed success related to it?
14 It is not uncommon for men of the world to create anxiety for themselves by placing great emphasis on human achievement. The Bible does, of course, encourage diligence and the development of skill in one’s work. (Prov. 22:29) But blinding ambition and much anxiety over supposed success are not compatible with the “peace of God.” In fact, the quest for dominance over others may cause the ambitious person to use questionable methods, perhaps undermining the efforts of fellow workers and pursuing a devious course that results in divine disapproval. (Prov. 3:32; 2 Cor. 4:1, 2) True, the overly ambitious may receive the plaudits of men, even as hypocritical religious leaders of 19 centuries ago made gifts, prayed and fasted in such ways as to receive praise. But Jesus Christ condemned their actions and said that those self-centered hypocrites were “having their reward in full.” (Matt. 6:1-18) How foolish for any of Jehovah’s Witnesses to live with self-made anxiety by trying to be “great,” only to find that eternal blessings have thus been lost!—Compare Jeremiah 45:5.
15 For the person who truly enjoys the “peace of God,” the way to real success does not lead to questionable methods and pointless striving. From the Scriptures he has learned that in present-day society, filled as it is only with imperfect and sinful humans, ‘the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise have the food, nor the understanding ones the riches, nor the knowledgeable ones the favor.’ (Eccl. 9:11) Indeed, “foolishness has been put in many high positions,” and a person can see “servants on horses but princes walking on the earth just like servants.” (Eccl. 10:5-7) Yes, princely or noble individuals may not be granted the dignity they deserve, whereas servants—far less qualified men—may be ‘riding on horses’ just like the nobility.
16. On what do godly success and achievement depend?
16 Have you been ‘put on the shelf,’ as it were, not enjoying the supposed success you once desired? Why be anxious about that? Let the “peace of God” reign in your heart, and experience the comforting tranquillity that this brings. Continue to do the divine will and look to your heavenly Father to bless your efforts in his service. This is what really matters in life. Godly success and achievement depend on spiritual objectives and viewpoints. The psalmist correctly stated: “Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked ones . . . But his delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night. And he will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed.”—Ps. 1:1-3.
17. (a) To enjoy the greatest success, what must we do? (b) What can you do to help others to enjoy “the peace of God that excels all thought”?
17 We could enjoy no greater success in life than to come into and maintain an intimate relationship with Jehovah God. A keen desire to please him will move us to bring him honor by our godly words and deeds, to do good to fellow humans and to share with them “the glorious good news of the happy God.” (1 Tim. 1:11) Great will be our joy if, with the blessing of our heavenly Father, we can help others to learn about his marvelous purposes and also come into a precious dedicated relationship with him. Then, like us, they will learn to cope with life’s anxieties. They, too, will come to enjoy “the peace of God that excels all thought.”
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Even amid the most difficult circumstances the Christian can enjoy the “peace of God”