How come Paul was so happy? Listen to those familiar words:
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4–7.
It‘s important to remember that these words were written by a man who had been frequently imprisoned, beaten, wrongly accused, shipwrecked and …well, have a read of 2 Cor 11. It’s a bleak list.
And yet he claims that he can be happy in every circumstance (“Rejoice!”); that he can be totally without anxiety for the future (“Be careful for nothing”); and that he can experience the keeping power of the peace of God (“The peace of God…shall keep you”).
In the same letter, he explains why. He says “I have learned the secret…” What is that secret? It is tucked into this passage so quietly that you might have missed it. It is that “The Lord is at hand”! Paul experienced the presence of the God of peace and thus could not get flustered by a world of anxiety. If the Lord is at hand, then history is securely in his grip. Past, present and future: the Lord is sovereign over every aspect of time. A future unknown to me is mapped out by him. So, if I trust him, why should I experience anything but peace?
That was Paul’s secret. This morning, I want to reflect on the wise words of Corrie Ten Boom:
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”