And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7)
A few summers ago my son and daughter were both on a church mission trip to Romania. The date of their flight home overlapped by a day or two the week we had scheduled for our vacation at Sea Island, Georgia. This meant that once the group had landed in Atlanta my kids would catch a short flight down to Jacksonville, Florida – about an hour drive from our vacation spot.
The Jacksonville airport is rather small and I was surprised to discover that at 10:00pm it was a ghost-town. There were no ticket agents on duty and the security check-points were entirely shut down. This presented me with a problem. My daughter was traveling at that time as an “unaccompanied minor.” I had received instruction and authorization from Delta Airlines to go and meet her at the gate where they would arrive.
At 10:00pm in the Jacksonville airport – at least on this night – there was no way to get to the gates. No way, except one.
A Perfectly Clear “No”
Off to one side of the expansive concourse was a wide hallway. This was obviously where arriving passengers exited on their way to baggage claim. A large sign hung above this hallway telling people like me that entry was prohibited. This was made perfectly clear with all caps.
Beneath the sign, posted at a pulpit-like structure, was a lone TSA agent. As I began to move toward him, he stood up. As I moved still closer, evidently ignoring the large sign in all caps, he began to move toward me. He seemed suspicious of my intentions, and understandably so.
I explained my predicament. Delta instructions . . . unaccompanied minor . . . need to get to gate.
He listened politely and patiently. And his response to me was simple and clear. “No.” That was it. Offered without a hint of apology or the slightest indication of a willingness to negotiate, the answer was firm. “No.” Rightly interpreted, he meant “no way . . . not a chance.” I took a seat in the concourse waiting area.
Before long, my kids who were old enough to deeply resent traveling as “unaccompanied minors” arrived and found their own way from the gate. The end of the story is uneventful, even forgettable. But I’ve not forgotten my brief conversation with the TSA agent.
The Peace You’ve Been Promised
As Paul urges the Christian community in Philippi to fight worry and anxiety by bringing their requests to God in prayer, he includes a powerful promise. He’s not just telling them what to do, he’s showing them (and us) what will happen when they do it.
As you push back against your anxieties by taking them to God in prayer, “the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The word Paul uses for “guard” is a military word that evokes the picture of a sentry standing diligently at his post. The sentry is there to say “no” to anything that poses a threat to what has been placed in his care.
This is what happens as we pray. God’s peace stands watch over your heart and mind, over your thoughts and emotions. This is exactly what Jesus promised to give his followers in John 14:27. He promised to give them his peace, a peace different from the peace the world gives. Paul calls it a “peace that surpasses all understanding.”
This peace is not had by escaping your problems or eliminating the pressures that you might be dealing with right now. This peace – the peace that Jesus intends for us to have – is obtained as we pray, boldly making our requests known with thanksgiving.
In 1855 Joseph Scriven wrote words of comfort to his mother that became the text of a well-known hymn. “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
What needless pain are you carrying? Why not go to God in bold prayer and obtain the peace he stands ready to give to you?
Gracious God, you offer us a peace that can’t be found in this world – in money or safety or comfort or other people. We want this kind of peace to mark our lives, but too often we give it away by our neglect of prayer. By your Spirit, lead us to bring our anxieties to you, prayerfully leaving them in your hands, receiving the peace you have promised through Christ our Lord. Amen.