We learn a lot about letting the peace of God rule in our hearts by not only studying Colossians 3:15, but Philippians 4:6–9 as well. Listen to the Philippians text:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:6–9).
1. The Peace Of God Will Rule In Our Hearts When We Reject Anxieties And Ungodly Fears.
Paul says in order for the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds, we must begin to reject fears and anxieties that steal our peace. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of man brings depression” (NKJV). Many of us harbor fear of the past, the present and the future, and therefore miss the peace of God.
Paul told this congregation that was both being persecuted for the faith (Phil. 1:29) and struggling with division in the church (Phil. 4:2–3) to “be anxious for nothing.” This is the problem with many Christians: they accept fear as normal and rational instead of rejecting it as Scripture says.
Listen, it is not rational to live a life of fear when the God who created heaven and earth and runs everything according to the counsel of his will is your Father (Eph. 1:11). Would it be rational for the daughter of a billionaire to run around afraid of not having enough food to eat? How much more ridiculous is it for a child of God to live in anxiety or fear? Listen to what Paul said about the graciousness of the Father:
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:31–32).
Paul makes an argument from the greater to the lesser. If God sent his only Son to die on the cross for your sins, if God gave his best for you in his Son, how much more will he not ‘graciously’ give you all things? He already gave you his best. Won’t he make sure you have food to eat, clothes on your back, a job for the future? Won’t he make everything work for your good even in horrible situations?
It is not irrational to reject fear. It is irrational to live in fear when God is your Father. First John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casteth out fear” (KJV). When you know the Father’s love, you won’t be running around worrying about this or that because you know God is in control.
- Fear of failure
Many believers are robbed of God’s peace because they are afraid to fail. Their fear of failure rules in their hearts instead of God. The Israelites went into the Promised Land and chose to not take it because the fear of failure was ruling them. They said the giants were too big. They chose to not let the “peace of Christ” rule.
- Fear of people
Many believers are robbed of God’s peace because of fear of what others think, say, or do. They are constantly worried about how others feel about them. Therefore, they can never enjoy the peace of the God who is satisfied with them. When people are big and God is small, we are ruled by the former.
- Fear of the future
Many believers are robbed of God’s peace because of fear of the future. Again, Proverbs says anxiety in the heart of man brings depression. Many Christians worry about what’s next. They worry about tomorrow, and it robs them of peace.
How else do we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts?
2. The Peace Of Christ Will Rule In Our Hearts When We Live In An Atmosphere Of Prayer.
After telling us to “be anxious for nothing,” Paul says, “But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests unto God” (Phil. 4:6). One of the reasons the peace of Christ doesn’t rule in our hearts is because we don’t pray about “everything.” We don’t live in an atmosphere of prayer. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray “without ceasing.” Christians need to learn how to bring prayers before God throughout the entire day, and this practice will result in having a supernatural peace guarding their hearts.
Paul names three types of prayer in this passage we must practice: prayer, petition, and thanksgiving. When he says “prayer,” even though it is a general word for all prayer, he seems to be referring to a type of prayer since he adds the conjunction “and” after it and adds two other types of prayer: “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.” “Prayer” seems to refer to “special times of prayer that we share in periods of devotion and worship.” If the peace of Christ is going to rule in our hearts we must constantly worship God throughout the day.
The second type of prayer is “thanksgiving.” The very reason many of us cannot have peace is because we are constantly complaining and arguing whenever something bad happens (cf. Phil. 2:14). Sometimes we don’t even give God thanks when good things happen. Thanksgiving in everything is a discipline we must practice to have Christ’s peace. First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Finally, he says we must give “petitions,” which means bringing our requests before God. Peter said, “Cast your cares before the Lord for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). The very reason we don’t constantly cast our cares—our petitions—before God throughout the day is because we are too independent and too prideful. Pride will keep us from recognizing our need for God in everything and coming to him in humility with our requests. The humble person who knows his weakness, and therefore constantly brings his requests before God, will receive grace. Scripture says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 ESV). One of the aspects of grace that God gives the humble person who constantly brings petitions before him is peace.
Are you practicing living in an atmosphere of prayer?
I think sometimes the discipline of having a prayer and devotional time once a day can distract us from living in an atmosphere of prayer. What do I mean by that? I don’t mean to say that having set times each day to pray and read the Bible is bad. I’m not saying that at all. Those are necessary disciplines in the Christian life. However, many Christians have their time of prayer in the morning and then check off the box. To them, they have done their duty and there is no need to pray more. It’s like completing an assignment and then not thinking about it till the next day. No, Scripture never commands us to have one time a day to pray or read our Bible. The standard is much higher than that. Scripture commands us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). It commands us to meditate on the Word of God day and night (Ps. 1:2). The reason we set one or two times a day aside for devotion is to help us to do it all day.
The one who learns to pray in all things, bringing every thought and concern before the throne room of God, is the person who the peace of Christ will rule in. For many Christians, fear, doubt, and anger are ruling instead of the peace of Christ. The priority of a citizen of heaven must be the rule of Christ’s peace in his heart, and one of the ways that happens is by living in prayer—bringing constant worship, thanksgiving, and petitions before the Father.
3. The Peace Of Christ Will Rule In Our Hearts When We Practice Thinking On Righteous Things.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:8–9).
Paul gives two requirements needed to experience the God of peace: righteous thinking and righteous practice. We can be sure that where the God of peace is, there his peace is as well. We will consider the need for righteous thinking first.
Again, Paul says that when a believer thinks on godly things, it will result in the God of peace being with them (v. 9). It brings the presence of the giver of this peace into our lives. Listen to what Isaiah 26:3 says: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (KJV).
God keeps at perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on him. When our minds are consumed with God and his will, this brings a spirit of peace in our lives. For many Christians, God and his will are not the major concern on their minds every day. Their work, trials, or entertainment is the chief endeavor of their thoughts, and this keeps them from having peace. It is not that we stop thinking about other things; it’s that we learn, as an act of discipline, to make everything an avenue that leads us to meditation on God and his will.
If a person who loves you gives you an expensive piece of jewelry, is it given just for your pleasure? No. The purpose of giving you the jewelry is to help you think about the intimate relationship you share together. To enjoy the jewelry without thinking of the giver is to misuse the gift. The gift is meant to point to the giver and not obscure the giver.
I did not give my wife a wedding ring so she could have an addition to her wardrobe. The ring is a reminder to her, and everybody else, that she is in a covenant relationship with me.
Scripture says that “every good and perfect gift cometh from God above” (James 1:17). He gives “life and breath and everything we need” (Acts 17:25). Each breath is a reminder of our dependence on God. Our food, our job, and our relationships are reminders of the Giver. These gifts were never meant to be enjoyed apart from our relationship with God, and to enjoy them apart from him is to misuse his gifts.
That is how the world lives their lives and that is how many Christians live their lives. They take the gift and enjoy it apart from and in spite of the Giver. However, the one whose mind is stayed on God, thinking on what is noble, pure and just, will experience the presence of the God of peace—the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
In order to think on what is righteous, we must reject what is sinful and saturate ourselves with what is righteous. The reality is that many Christians forfeit Christ’s peace by the music they listen to, the movies they watch, the books they read, the conversations they entertain, etc. In order to think on what is right, we must guard our hearts and minds from all that pollutes and taints us (cf. Prov. 4:23; James 1:27). It must be our daily priority to think on what is righteous as we study God’s Word and think about everything in accordance with his revelation. God and his peace are with the person who practices this as a daily endeavor.
Are you training your mind to enjoy and meditate on the Giver in everything? This does not just happen organically; it is a work of discipline. We must choose to think upon God in everything, through the study of his Word, worship, and appreciation of his gifts. There, the peace of God can rule in our hearts.
How else can we allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts?
4. The Peace Of Christ Will Rule In Our Hearts When We Practice Righteousness.
Paul says that not only should we think on what is right, but we must practice it as well. Paul said, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9).
When we think on what is right and put into practice God’s truths, then the God of peace will be with us. We have all experienced this before. When we walk in rebellion toward God, we subsequently lose our peace with God. Peace cannot exist without righteousness. Listen to what David said in Psalm 32:2–5:
Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.
David says “blessed” or “happy” is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. Happiness and joy are the products of an intimate relationship with God and a righteous walk. But, when David sinned and did not confess his sins, he suffered physical pain; he suffered heart pain as he groaned. His strength was sapped.
We experience this all the time. When we live in sin, we cannot have the peace of God; instead, we experience the discipline of God. David said he could sense the Lord’s hand upon him, taking away his physical strength (v. 4). He groaned all day long. But when he confessed, he began to again walk in the “happiness” of the man who was forgiven.
It’s the same for us. Paul said, “Put these things into practice” and the God of peace will be with you. A righteous life brings peace and the presence of the Giver of peace. When we live and think on sinful things, we forfeit the peace of God and instead bring the wrath of God.
5. The Peace Of Christ Will Rule In Our Hearts When We Walk In Peace With The Body Of Christ.
Finally, in returning to Colossians 3:15, not only does Paul say we must “let the peace of Christ rule” in order to have peace, but we also must maintain peace in our relationships. Look at what he says: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”
This is also a common experience for us when walking in discord with a brother or sister; it removes our joy and peace. Often, instead of thinking on God, we think about how we were mistreated or misunderstood, what we should say or do next, and sometimes how to get even with those who harmed us. We can’t experience the peace of God when we are out of fellowship with one another.
Paul says we are members of one body. When one part of the body is not functioning in harmony with the rest of the body then there is some type of sickness and possibly even a cancer. The body can’t function that way and, similarly, there can be no peace of Christ in our lives when we are in discord with another member of the body.
Look at what David says about walking in unity: How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore (Ps. 133).
When there is peace and unity among the brothers, that is where God’s blessing is. That is where he bestows his peace. But where there is discord he removes his blessing. If we are out of fellowship with a brother or sister in the Lord, one of the ways we “let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts” is by seeking to reconcile that relationship. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As much as it depends upon us, we must seek to live in harmony with others. That means we must forgive others, we must bless those who curse us, and we even must serve our enemies. Romans 12:19–21 says,
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Discerning God’s Will Through The Peace Of Christ
The first priority of a heavenly citizen is allowing the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. It is very easy to allow worry to rule, either through the fear of man or fear of the future. Oftentimes fear can lead us to make irrational decisions. However, the child of God who is a citizen of heaven should not be ruled by fear but by the peace of Christ. It must umpire and decide our course of action.
How do we apply this to discerning God’s will? How do we apply this when trying to discern future steps, like “Who I should date or marry?” or “How should I serve in the church?” When trying to discern God’s will we must ask these types of questions concerning the peace of Christ.
- “Will taking this action disrupt my peace with God?” Each believer must develop sensitivity to his relationship with Christ and the Lord’s peace. Sin always causes discord in our relationship with God. Therefore, if it would be displeasing to God, then we should reject it. The peace of Christ must rule as we seek to do his will on the earth.
- “Will taking this action disrupt my peace with his body?” Paul said, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.” (Rom. 14:21). If it causes discord in the body instead of peace, we should not do it. This includes rejecting freedoms such as wearing certain clothes, going to certain places, enjoying certain types of entertainment, etc.
- “Has God given peace in my heart to proceed in this direction?” It has often been said, “Darkness about going is light about staying.” Having no peace many times is enough of an answer to not proceed. Again, peace is not the only determinant; it is possible to have a false peace. It must be tested by God’s Word and the agreement of the saints, but the peace of Christ must be discerned and obeyed.
Christians must develop sensitivity to the peace of Christ. He has left us his peace, and we must let it rule in our hearts. It must decide like an umpire. This should be the priority of every heavenly citizen.
 Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible – Commentary – Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible – Philippians: The Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible.
 W. MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. A. Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995).