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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Perfect Peace Is Not in Our Hands

Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)
3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Each one of us has difficult times in our past and future. Some of these are challenges and some are hardships. God uses them as an opportunity to bring something good to us and to mature us. These things will make us lose our peace if we do not keep our minds steadfast toward the Lord.

I have been leading my church to understand that the real difficulties which face us are not the illnesses nor the financial crisis nor and of the challenges which all of humanity faces. The real difficulty is remaining at peace when your world has predicted doom and destruction. The challenge is to keep your peace when your world falls apart.

Some people believe that a stoic attitude should be developed so that one becomes detached from the reality in which he lives. This, to me, is like a drug which numbs any reaction to what is going on. Stoicism never allows the person to rejoice. It is a kind of fatalism which is favored by some of the eastern religions.

Peace is not a lack of emotions. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane was full of sorrow. He prayed so fervently that sweat drops came as blood from Him. He certainly was stoic about His near future. Yet, I contend that He never lost His peace. His peace came from His Father. That peace came because He never varied from His Father's will. He didn't like what He knew He must do but He still did it.

We will be in His perfect peace when our minds are steadfast toward Him. We may not like what we are going through. We may not like the challenge that He has put before us. Yet, we want His will when we are steadfast toward Him. We want it more than relief from the struggle at hand. This peace allows us to walk forward regardless of the challenge.

Many years ago I asked God if He wanted me to become a senior pastor. There was a time when I had no desire to do it. He told me that this was His will and I further asked if I could preach like someone I thought was a great preacher. The Lord asked me, "Are you willing to drink from the cup I have had him drink from?" I didn't know what I was saying when I told Him that I would. I have thought about that conversation I had with the Lord many times since then. I have especially thought of it when I have been going through a tough time.. I think I am taking a little sip from this cup when I go through the tough times. Remembering that conversation keeps me at peace even when I don't like what I am going through. It keeps me doing what He has called me to do.

About ten years ago I tried to get out of the senior pastorate. I interviewed with a church for a staff position. I was in a terrible situation at the time. I had no peace because I was willing to violate my calling to get relief. During the interview I heard my calling again. Though I went through the rest of the interview, I was at perfect peace because I knew that I was not called to do what this church was calling me to do. I didn't think they thought so either. I forgot about the interview immediately and set out to continue in the senior pastorate. A couple of weeks later I got a call from a member of the committee. I had so forgotten about the interview that I didn't realize why the person called. I felt so bad that he thought he was giving me bad news since they decided to call someone else to that position. I am glad that committee listened to the Lord. I was at perfect peace by not getting the position. In fact, I was at perfect peace even though the struggles continued.

Perfect peace is not in our hands. It is in His hands. We receive that perfect peace when we walk truly and fully in His will. The events of our life may make us sad but they will not steal the peace that comes when we walk with Him.

I have this peace because I know I trust Him. He knows me, knows what I really need, knows my abilities and puts me where I need to be to carry out His will. I can truly rest in this even when the gates of hell oppose me. I have His peace.


Anthony Chia said...

Excellent entry. You have correct understanding of how peace "works"; many don't.

Indeed, it is so, "That peace came because He never varied from His Father's will. He didn't like what He knew He must do but He still did it."

In 2 Cor 6:10, we read the apostle Paul wrote "sorrowful yet always rejoicing". Peace and joy go together. Anxiousness or lack of peace is a bane to joy or rejoicing. Yes, Jesus was sorrowful for a time, yet he was still with peace. The apostle Paul was in jail, but he still had the peace and joy to rejoice, and miracle took place.

I believe when we are put in a very difficult situation, where many would be anxious, be of lacking in peace, sorrowful even, when we remain in step with God, miracle will follow. Jesus’ season of great sorrow was followed, too, by the greatest miracle of all time – salvation for all men. Job comes to mind, despite the “lion” tried to devour him; Satan caused him to lose his assets, his children, made him “leprous” and inflicted him great pain from the sores, and made his wife and friends to thumb him down, he, Job, remained steadfast and faithful to God. Miracle came for Job, too. He was restored, doubly even (except for children, those who died were NOT really “lost”) (you can read the blessing {against beginning of Job} in the ending verses of the Book of Job).

Jesus Himself gave this: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

What was the “these things”? The preceding verse gave us the clue: “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”

Among other things, Jesus was giving understanding of matter of peace, joy, and rejoicing, living in a fallen world with troubles. First, it is very clear that Jesus did NOT mince His words about we would continue to have troubles, living in the world.

Second, Jesus explained in verses preceding v33, the picture of how “it is to be”:

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, …, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: …
32 A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

The typical scenario is along this line:
v20a: you will “weep and mourn” while the world rejoices.
It is so, often, in your trouble, you are sad or disappointed, when others are happy or celebrating.
v20b: you will be sad (or grieve), repeated! But it WILL turn to joy.
v21a: or you will experience pain and anguish, like a woman about to give birth.
v21b: But it WILL to turn to joy, forgetting the pain and the anguish experienced, when the bundle of joy arrives.

Can you get away from “weeping and mourning”, and from “pain and anguish”? Can you and I get to no more such? We can avoid unnecessary troubles, but so long as we are still in the world, there will be some troubles. What is necessary and what is NOT necessary? When you have taken reasonable steps to avoid one, and it still comes, and it comes NOT without God knowing and allowing it, it is a necessary trouble.

Ps Prentis started with “difficult times” as either hardships (troubles) or challenges. So, apart from looking at necessary troubles, we also have the necessary challenges or works. For this, your volition is involved; and the way you are to exercise your will, is to consider if the challenges or works are in line with the overall counsel of the Word, and if it is the will and desire of God for your life.

Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

Can you get away from the challenges or works? Can you and I get to no more such? Now, if they are in line with the overall counsel of the Word, and it is the will and desire of God for your life, you want to say, “No”, every time? Is that wise? What will that speak of your love for God? Can you run from all of assignments by God? Have you read the story of Jonah, of how he tried to run from his assignment? Will you and I grow in holiness and godliness, running away from it all? Will that secure your peace and joy? The answer is no; you can’t run away from it all. The woman can exercise her volition and NOT have a baby, but then, she misses the bundle of joy to be had.

Of course, challenges and troubles do go together. Jesus referred to Himself as an example (v32) which the (then) disciples would come to know, it was both a challenge and troubles for Him. Yet, it was as Ps Prentis said it, Jesus would NOT vary from His Father's will. He didn't like what He knew He must do but He still would do it, and we know He did it. We see that this understanding is generally stated for us in Romans 14:17-18, that the kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, and those who serve in such manner is pleasing to God.

Important things to note:
The bearer of the peace and joy of God is the Holy Spirit. Would the Spirit of God be out of peace and joy? How come He can be always with peace and joy? Why must it be so, that the Spirit of God is always to be with peace and joy? Yes, it must be so, for God would NOT ask us to be after peace and joy, and to be rejoicing always (Phil 4:4). How come the Spirit can always be so? The reason is that He always is doing the will and desires of the God.

How come He can be always executing that? Because He knows the mind of God. And so, having peace is got to do with ginosko-knowing God and resting on Him, and NOT some stoic attitude as such. Because the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God, we are asked in Scripture, to be led by the Holy Spirit. When we are led by the Holy Spirit, we are welcoming the Holy Spirit to work through us, the will and desires of God. And when He does that, His peace and joy manifest, and we experience it as it is shed broad in our heart. That is how peace and joy in the Spirit continues in our heart, the heart of a believer. And this is how and why the peace of God which surpasses all understanding can guard our hearts and minds.

When we want to move out of step with the will of God, the peace of God wanes. Pastor or preacher who taught that peace isn’t that important in decision-making is WRONG. We have to be sensitive to the drop in the peace level. If you ignore it, and repeatedly make decisions out of step with the will of God, soon enough, your peace level drops to disastrously low level. The opening verse of the blog entry said it well: perfect peace from God comes to those whose minds and hearts are stayed on God; and they remained steadfast, unwavering, because they have come to know God (ginosko-know) and so, trust Him.

Before I end, let say that while I say “miracle will follow”, we have to understand we know NOT all of the circumstances of the scenario we are in; only He knows, and so, it is God decides when, how and in what form, the miracle will come. At the end of struggle, you MAY find, humanly understanding it, there is no “benefit” to you, but rest assured, God does NOT short-change you (God is debtor to no one), and that Romans 8:28 said, “In all things God works them for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes”.

I can go on to talk about our works following us and the garment of righteousness, and that it is those who carried out the will of God that enter the gate of Heaven, but I must stop here.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

Prentis McGoldrick said...

Many times I wish people would read your comments before they read my blog. You do such a good job.