By Barbara Higdon
There is a pervasive theology called the “prosperity gospel” or the “name it–claim it” gospel which says that wealth and physical well-being are what God wants for us. All we need is faith to believe it, positive speech to claim it, and we’re going to get it. It sort of makes God a vending machine: we insert faith and he’ll deliver security and prosperity.
Paul had a different take on this in today’s Scripture reading. He acknowledges that we may grow anxious, then he promises us the peace of God—not the removal of difficulties.
My online dictionary defines peace as “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.”
Is that possible when the world is wracked by mass shootings, terrorists driving into crowds, nuclear threats, and violent storms?
Is that possible when threatening illnesses strike our loved ones or us?
Is that possible when relationships dissolve, children do drugs, or spouses drink too much?
Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter containing today’s verse. After his confrontation with Jesus and conversion, Paul faced a lot of difficulties. He left a life of power to become a traveling missionary, persecuted as he had once persecuted. He knew the peace of God, and he knew it wasn’t going to change those hard circumstances. In fact, he found a way to rejoice in every circumstance. He wanted others to know that the peace of God would guard our minds and our hearts.
How? “…by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, we must present our requests to God.”
Requests for more money and security for ourselves?
Requests that we’ll never grow sick or die?
I don’t think so. Those fears and failed expectations are often what produce our anxiety.
If there’s room in my inn for Christ, He is going to help remove anxiety and replace it with peace. The Lord is near. Rejoice.