It is clear in his writing that Paul dearly loves the Philippians. He guides and encourages them. He urges those in conflict to "be of the same mind in the Lord." He writes, "even with tears," of those who refuse to believe.
Paul continues with his messages of joy, prayer, and inner peace: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice...Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Paul's messages of joy and rejoicing, of prayer and inner peace apply even today. However, in these trying times of war and terrorism and natural disasters and instant news coverage of horrific images and body counts, it's not so easy to "rejoice in the Lord always." It's not so easy to "let God's peace guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." It's not so easy, that is, unless you have faith in God. It's not so easy, unless you trust in God. It's not so easy, unless you receive God's grace (which is yours for the asking).
Last week we saw many disturbing images of the power and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, especially its toll in human suffering and loss. I wonder how many of the victims of Katrina -- those left homeless, jobless, suffering the loss of a pet, or a family member, or a friend -- held fast to their faith and their trust in God. I pray that they may continue to rejoice in the Lord, to let His peace displace worry at the center of their lives, to trust Him with their present needs, to see the boundless possibilities of the future God has in store for them, and to pray to Him with thanksgiving as well as with supplication. For once God's peace is within you, no force whatsoever (hurricane, earthquake, terrorism, etc.) can tear it from you.
May God's peace guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus, and may you rejoice in the Lord always. Amen.