“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
If you want to win the outer battle, you must first trust God and win the inner battle.
It is described in different ways: Calmness of spirit. Peace of mind. Serenity. Tranquility. Contentment. It is a condition of mind and heart when one trusts God and is deeply grateful and appreciative. Distractions are blocked out, anxiety is absent, fear is defeated, stress is eliminated … irrespective of the circumstances.
As the Proverb above says, that kind of tranquility of heart gives life to the flesh. The opposite — when we are jealous or envious or anxious or fearful — is a condition of mind and heart that is emotionally and physically debilitating.
The point is that although on opposite ends of the spectrum, peace and anxiety are both deeply felt. Not just emotionally, but also physically.
It is critical to understand that the peace that God gives is unrelated to circumstances; it is a goodness/fullness of life that is not touched by what happens on the outside. You can be in the midst of great trials, feel the pain/stress, and still have peace. The presence of contentment does not eliminate the pain and stress; rather, it mitigates it and puts it in perspective. Contentment helps you focus on who God is and what you need to do, not on how you feel.
In other words, you learn contentment by trusting and doing. Rarely does God simply give you peace and contentment. If you want to experience contentment in Christ, then you just respond to his love and his lordship. You must trust him and do what needs to be done in response to the reality of the situation. And the more challenging the situation, the deeper the trust, and the more difficult the doing.
Consider the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the book of Daniel. They are a great example of peace as they stood their ground in face of Nebuchadnezzar’s ultimatum: “If you do not worship [the image], you will be thrown immediately into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hand?” (Daniel 3.15)
Their reply—recorded in Daniel 3:16-18—is powerful in its clarity and in their trust in who God is.
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.”
The three men did not panic. They were calm, purposeful, and spoke with clarity and confidence.
“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.”
They were respectful, but bold and decisive — they knew their God!
“But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
They simply asserted that whatever happens doesn’t change their trust in the Lord. God intervenes, or he doesn’t. They are delivered from the fire or burned by it. They live or they die. Either way, they knew God and were content.
The key point from Philippians and Daniel is that contentment is not determined by the situation. Peace is not about circumstances. It is about trusting God and doing what needs to be done in response to the circumstances you face.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13.11)
Trust God, win the inner battle, and stand strong in peace.