This is the most rare and excellent jewel and the richest treasure ever yet heard of. It surpasses our capacity and understanding more than anything. If we had it, we would be guarded and kept by it in our hearts and minds. We would be guarded against all the fears and discouragements that encompass our souls like many enemies. Of all things, this is the very thing of which we have greatest need at such a time as this. It is the thing that can keep us best in all troubles. This treasure is a unique God-given peace that passes “all understanding”.
This is how Alexander Henderson describes the peace of God in a sermon on Philippians 4:6-7. While we may gain a full knowledge of the world with our intellect and understanding, we cannot do so with this peace of God, for it passes all understanding. If we get this peace of God, it will be a strong guard against all our enemies, both outward and inward. We have all this through Jesus Christ.
1. What Robs Us Of the Richest Treasure?
Henderson observes that Philippians 4:6-7 shows how we may obtain this peace. First, Paul tells us what we should not do: be anxious or “careful”. Anxiety is forbidden. He also makes clear what we should do, “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”. Finally, we have the promise the result of this (if we do it in the right way) will be that this all-surpassing peace of God will “keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.
Henderson makes it clear that when anxiety robs us of this richest treasure when we fail to commit the outcome of all events to the Lord. This doesn’t mean we should be careless about everything. We should rest in doing our duty. We must make careful plans and think carefully about what we ought to do. Yet we must not to be overwhelmed with worries and cares about the outcome of events. Rather, we must let our requests be made known to God by supplications with thanksgiving. When we do this, we may be secure, having this peace of God through Jesus Christ.
Henderson indicates that some of the main worries that concern us are regarding our nation: what will become of it? Others are concerned for their families and livelihoods. We may also have personal concerns for our own spiritual wellbeing.
2. What Helps Us Gain the Richest Treasure?
Prayer is also commanded. The best way for us to unburden ourselves of our anxiety about the success of anything and to commit the matter to God is to pray to God and join thanksgiving with prayer. Those who cannot unburden their anxieties on God are most unhappy.
When God is beginning to do anything about which you ought to have concern then He is calling you to pray to Him and cast the burden off ourselves onto Himself. If we could learn to do so it would bring comfort. It is a pitiful thing to see men worn out in sorrow and in the depths of affliction and not to know so much as that there is a God to pray to, or that He is thus calling them to pray to Him. The natural man has no mind at all to pray; but the child of God should not do so.
Let us learn always to come to God and to make Him our resting-place. Let us always lift up our faces toward heaven to Him; for He is our King, our Lord, and our Husband. If we cast our care upon Him, He will care for us. Indeed, He must care for us if we rely on Him, for He is obliged to do so.
Surely, when we do not know what course to take or what to do but we see everything to be against us, then let us send up that winged messenger of prayer to heaven. It will not fail to bring help to us.
(b) Pray with Thanksgiving
There are three ways in which thanksgiving must be joined with prayer.
1. Thanksgiving for favours in the past. Everyone knows they are bound to thank Him for these. Otherwise it is evidence that we are altogether unfit and unprepared for prayer.
2. Thanksgiving for favours in the present. He who sets himself to pray in the Spirit, before
he has finished praying will find reasons for thanksgiving to God for some favour received at that time received. David begins many Psalms with many heavy and sad complaints but he ends many of them with joy, praises, and thanksgiving to God. This was not for things received in the past but for something received by him at that time. Thanksgiving for present favour shows that our prayers are not mere lip-labour.
3. Thanksgiving for favours in the future. We should at least promise thanksgiving to Him for the benefits that we are to receive. If not it is evidence that our prayers are nothing else but hypocrisy.
Therefore, if you are praying to God for good success in your own particular concerns (including in the matter of your salvation or benefiting from the means of grace) or are praying for a blessing on Church and nation, let it still be joined with thanksgiving.
(c) Pray in Everything
Before, he said “be careful for nothing.” Now, he says, ” In everything let your requests be made known to God.” One is contrary to the other; one speaks of nothing, the other of everything. One is of the same extent as the other. Christ will have us to be concerned about the smallest thing but to know that it is He principally who cares for it, for us. He will have us show our care by praying to Him for it. If it is a great matter that you stand in need of, then recommend the matter to God, and resolve that you will wait on Him for the success. I will only do the duty that the Lord requires of me, indeed, I will not leave off doing my duty until it is done, even in the smallest matters.
Luther would never have achieved the Reformation he did, if he had not laid this foundation. He uttered speeches to that same purpose. Some thought that they were uttered rashly and unadvisedly, but he spoke them in confidence and boldly. On one occasion he said: ‘The Pope will sooner be converted, and turn from his ways than I will quit this’.
If you are troubled about the success of small matters, consider that God is directly calling on you to recommend the matter to Him by prayer. Do your duty in it, and recommend the success of it to God. Thus you will find the peace of God possessing your soul.
O if we knew this, what a communion there is between God and the Christian soul! They cry to him, ‘Abba, father, my father’. The child will not cry more to the father or mother than when it wants to have anything from them or when anything troubles them. We should see a continual necessity laid on us of elevating our souls to God in prayer.
(d) Pray, Making Your Requests Known to God
We cannot inform Him any better concerning our condition than He knows already. Neither can we move Him to grant us anything which he did not intend to give us before. But Scripture speaks about God in this way because the Lord has ordained us to use this means of prayer as though we were to inform Him of our case, or move Him to grant anything to us. We should be as diligent in prayer as if it were so. God’s promise and decree that He will do us good should not discourage but rather encourage us to pray.
Some object that if the Lord has resolved to do anything He will do it whether I pray to Him or not. That is true, so He will. But when we see the Lord working for us, we must go out and meet Him. If He has ordained any good thing for you, He will likely stir you up to cry to Him for it.
3. Can We Estimate the Value of the Richest Treasure?
This peace of God transcends the ability of the mind, judgment and understanding of all men to comprehend it. It is the most excellent thing possible. None can trouble those with whom the Lord is at peace. We may say that we will have peace, but unless the Lord grant it unto us, we will not get it ; and therefore we may not trust in man, nor in the arm of flesh, to get peace by them; but we must only trust in God for it.
The natural man knows nothing at all of this peace. If you speak about this peace, faith (the mother of this peace) and joy (its companion), it is a foreign language to him. He cannot conceive of what it means. This peace also passes the understanding of the regenerate man and the child of God even after his new birth. He comprehends something of this peace and it brings him to consider what it is, but yet he cannot tell what it is, for all that.
When a man comes to the sea, he knows that what he sees it is the sea even though he cannot see the whole sea from the one side to the other. This is like God Himself, it may be seen that He is great, glorious, wise, powerful etc. but none can tell how much He has of every one of these attributes. When the child of God gets any measure of this peace, he cannot imagine what he has got of it, it is so far beyond his expectation. No one understands this peace of God, not even those who have it.
They cannot express it, but they know well enough when they have this peace. If you ask anyone what bodily health is, perhaps he cannot tell you what it is or how great a benefit it is. He knows well enough when he lacks it, however, and then he knows its worth best. It is the same with the peace of God in the soul.
Peace of Conscience
There is also a peace that comes through the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins. We get this also through Jesus Christ. There is a peace also when all the powers of our soul are in harmony to serve God. We have this through Jesus Christ also. We must therefore first of all be partakers of Christ, and then we will assuredly be partakers of this peace.
Something of this peace is to be had even here in this life. Seek after it and never content or at rest until you get it in some good measure. If this peace had not begun in your soul, still seek after it through Christ and you will find that it comes in to take possession of your souls.