“The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts.”—PHILIPPIANS 4:7.
1, 2. What happened to Paul and Silas in Philippi? (See opening picture.)
IMAGINE the scene. It was about midnight. Two missionaries, Paul and Silas, were in the deepest and darkest part of a prison in the city of Philippi. They could not move because their feet were bound, and their backs were hurting from the severe beating they had just received. (Acts 16:23, 24) Earlier that day, a mob had suddenly dragged Paul and Silas to the marketplace. There, they quickly put them on trial. They tore off their clothes and beat them severely with rods. (Acts 16:16-22) What an injustice! Paul was a Roman citizen, and he deserved a proper trial. *—See footnote.
2 While in prison, Paul may have thought about what had happened that day and about the people living in Philippi. They did not even have a synagogue in their city, unlike so many other cities that Paul had visited. So the Jews had to worship outside the city gates near a river. (Acts 16:13, 14) Was this because there were not even ten Jewish men in the city, the number required to have a synagogue? The people living in Philippi were very proud to be Roman citizens. (Acts 16:21) Perhaps that is why they did not think that Paul and Silas, who were Jews, could also be Roman citizens. We do not know for sure, but we do know that Paul and Silas were unjustly thrown into prison.
3. Why may Paul have been confused when he was sent to prison, but what attitude did he have?
3 Perhaps Paul also thought about how he ended up in Philippi. A few months earlier, Paul was on the other side of the Aegean Sea, in Asia Minor. While he was there, the holy spirit repeatedly stopped him from preaching in certain areas. It was as if the holy spirit was pushing him to go somewhere else. (Acts 16:6, 7) But where? While he was in Troas, Paul had a vision in which he was told: “Step over into Macedonia.” Jehovah’s will was clear! So Paul immediately went to Macedonia. (Read Acts 16:8-10.) But what happened next? Soon after he arrived in Macedonia, he ended up in prison! Why did Jehovah allow this to happen to Paul? How long would he stay in prison? Even if Paul did wonder about those things, his faith remained strong and he remained joyful. Both he and Silas started “praying and praising God with song.” (Acts 16:25) The peace of God soothed their hearts and minds.
4, 5. (a) How could our situation be similar to that of Paul? (b) How did Paul’s situation change unexpectedly?
4 Have you ever felt like Paul? Perhaps there have been times in your life when you asked God to help you make a decision and you felt that you were following the leadings of the holy spirit. But afterward, you had many challenges or you had to make massive changes in your life. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Now, when you think about the situation, you may wonder why Jehovah allowed certain things to happen. What can help you to continue to endure, trusting fully in Jehovah? We can find the answer in what next happened to Paul and Silas.
5 While Paul and Silas were singing, many unexpected events started to happen. First, there was a powerful earthquake. The doors of the prison were instantly opened. Then, all the prisoners’ bonds were loosened. Next, Paul stopped the jailer from committing suicide, and the jailer and his entire family got baptized. Early the next morning, the city officials sent officers to bring Paul and Silas out of prison and asked them to leave the city peacefully. When the officials realized that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they understood the huge mistake they had made, and they themselves came to escort them out. But before Paul and Silas left the city, they insisted on saying good-bye to Lydia, their newly baptized sister. And they used the opportunity to strengthen the other brothers in Philippi. (Acts 16:26-40) How quickly everything changed!
IT “SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING”
6. What will we now discuss and review together?
6 What do we learn from those events? Jehovah can do the unexpected, so we do not need to be anxious when we face trials. We know that lesson made a deep impression on Paul because of what he later wrote to the brothers in Philippi about anxiety and the peace of God. In this article we will discuss Paul’s words at Philippians 4:6, 7. (Read.) Then, we will review some other Bible accounts where Jehovah did the unexpected. Finally, we will discuss how “the peace of God” can help us to endure trials with full trust in Jehovah.
Jehovah can do the unexpected, so we do not need to be anxious when we face trials
7. What lesson did Paul teach when he wrote to the brothers in Philippi, and what can we learn?
7 When the brothers in Philippi read Paul’s letter to them, what did they think about? Most of them probably remembered what had happened to Paul and Silas and the unexpected way that Jehovah had helped them. What lesson was Paul teaching them in his letter? The lesson was: Do not worry. Pray, and then you will receive “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” What does that expression mean? Some Bible translations say “surpasses all our dreams” or “excels all human planning.” So Paul was saying that “the peace of God” is more wonderful than we can imagine. While at times we do not know the solution to our problems, Jehovah does. And he can do the unexpected.—Read 2 Peter 2:9.
8, 9. (a) Even though Paul had suffered an injustice in Philippi, what good happened because of those events? (b) Why could the brothers in Philippi have full confidence in Paul’s words?
8 Paul’s letter must have strengthened the brothers in Philippi as they thought about what Jehovah had done for them in the last ten years. Even though Jehovah had allowed Paul and Silas to suffer an injustice, those earlier events resulted in “the defending and legally establishing of the good news.” (Philippians 1:7) Those city officials in Philippi would not dare persecute the new Christian congregation. Perhaps because of Paul’s mentioning his Roman citizenship, the disciple Luke was able to remain in Philippi after Paul and Silas left. Luke could then give extra help to the new Christians in Philippi.
9 When those brothers in Philippi read Paul’s letter, they knew that his words were not just personal opinions. Paul had experienced extreme trials. Even when he wrote to those brothers, he was a prisoner in his house in Rome. But he still showed that he had “the peace of God.”—Philippians 1:12-14; 4:7, 11, 22.
“DO NOT BE ANXIOUS OVER ANYTHING”
10, 11. What do we need to do when we are worried about a problem, and what can we expect?
10 What can help us not to be “anxious over anything” but instead to have “the peace of God”? Paul’s words to the Philippians show that when we are worried about a problem, the remedy is prayer. So when we feel anxious, we need to turn our worries into prayers. (Read 1 Peter 5:6, 7.) When you pray to Jehovah, be absolutely confident that he cares for you. Always thank him for every blessing you receive. And never forget that Jehovah can “do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive.”—Ephesians 3:20.
11 Like Paul and Silas, we may be surprised by what Jehovah does to help us. It may not be something spectacular, but it will always be what we need. (1 Corinthians 10:13) That does not mean that we should simply sit back, do nothing, and wait for Jehovah to correct the situation or solve the problem for us. We need to act in harmony with our prayers. (Romans 12:11) Our actions prove that we are sincere and give Jehovah something to bless. We should not forget that Jehovah can do much more than what we ask or expect him to do. Sometimes he surprises us by doing the unexpected. So let us consider some examples that will strengthen our confidence in Jehovah’s ability to do the unexpected for us.
EXAMPLES OF JEHOVAH DOING THE UNEXPECTED
12. (a) What did King Hezekiah do when King Sennacherib threatened him? (b) What do we learn from how Jehovah solved the problem?
12 In the Bible, we find many examples of Jehovah doing the unexpected. For example, when Hezekiah was the king of Judah, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, invaded Judah and captured all its cities except Jerusalem. (2 Kings 18:1-3, 13) Then, Sennacherib came to attack Jerusalem. What did King Hezekiah do? First, he prayed to Jehovah for help and asked Jehovah’s prophet Isaiah for advice. (2 Kings 19:5, 15-20) Next, Hezekiah showed he was reasonable by paying the fine Sennacherib demanded. (2 Kings 18:14, 15) Finally, Hezekiah prepared the city for a long siege. (2 Chronicles 32:2-4) How did the situation end? Jehovah sent an angel to destroy 185,000 of Sennacherib’s soldiers in one night. Not even Hezekiah expected that to happen!—2 Kings 19:35.
13. (a) What lesson do we learn from what happened to Joseph? (b) What unexpected thing happened to Sarah?
13 Consider what happened to the young man Joseph. While sitting in a prison hole in Egypt, Joseph could not have imagined that he would become the second most powerful person in Egypt or that Jehovah would use him to save his family from starvation. (Genesis 40:15, footnote; 41:39-43; 50:20) No doubt Jehovah’s actions exceeded all of Joseph’s expectations. Think, too, about Joseph’s great-grandmother Sarah. Did aged Sarah expect that Jehovah would allow her to give birth to her own son, not just receive the child of her servant girl? The birth of Isaac was much more than Sarah could ever have imagined.—Genesis 21:1-3, 6, 7.
14. What confidence can we have in Jehovah?
14 We do not expect that Jehovah will miraculously take away all our problems before the new world. And we do not demand that Jehovah do spectacular things in our lives. But we do know that Jehovah helped his faithful servants in the past in amazing ways. And he has not changed. (Read Isaiah 43:10-13.) That gives us confidence in him. We can be sure that he will give us the power we need in order to do his will. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9) What do we learn from the examples of Hezekiah, Joseph, and Sarah? Jehovah can help us even when we are in the most difficult situations if we remain faithful to him.
Jehovah can help us even when we are in the most difficult situations if we remain faithful to him
15. What will help us to have “the peace of God” even when we have problems, and how is this possible?
15 How can we have “the peace of God” even when we have problems? We need to keep our relationship with Jehovah strong. Such a relationship is possible only because of the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus. The ransom is one of the amazing works of Jehovah. Because of the ransom, he can forgive our sins, and we can have a clean conscience and draw close to him.—John 14:6; James 4:8; 1 Peter 3:21.
IT WILL GUARD OUR HEARTS AND OUR MINDS
16. What will happen when we receive “the peace of God”? Illustrate.
16 What will happen when we receive “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding”? The Bible says that it will “guard” our hearts and our minds. (Philippians 4:7) The original-language word for “guard” was a military expression that referred to a group of soldiers who were assigned to protect a city. The people living in the city of Philippi were guarded by such a group. They could sleep well at night knowing that their city was protected. In a similar way, when we have “the peace of God,” we do not worry and our hearts and minds can rest. We know that Jehovah cares for us and wants us to succeed. (1 Peter 5:10) And that protects us from feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or discouragement.
17. What will help us to trust Jehovah during the great tribulation?
17 Soon the great tribulation will come upon all mankind. (Matthew 24:21, 22) We do not know exactly what will happen to us personally. However, we do not need to be overly anxious about that time. Even though we do not know everything that Jehovah will do, we do know our God. We know what he has done in the past for his faithful servants. We have seen that no matter what happens, Jehovah will make sure that his purpose comes true. And he may do so in an unexpected way! Therefore, each time Jehovah does something for us, we experience in a new way “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.”