“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3
Peace is something we all long for in this world. We want to see it worldwide, we want to see it in our communities, in our churches, in our families, and in our relationships with friends. C.S. Lewis suggested that if you really want to understand a word and its definition, you need to also know it’s opposite. So we will define peace and its opposite today.
I like Paul Thompson’s studied definition of peace: “Confidence and rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than your own [wisdom].” This type of restful confidence is not a based on the absence of stress or strife, but one that happens in the midst of these things. This definition mirrors our verse today. A mind that is steadfast on trusting the Lord is one that is confident in God’s wisdom above our own.
The opposite of peace is anxiety, worry, and the need to be in control; to be fretful. When we value our own wisdom above God’s, we will experience the opposite of peace. And let’s not pretend that we’ve not each experienced times of overvaluing our own wisdom. Who hasn’t tried to solve a problem or control an outcome by ourselves or before looking to God about it? We are all prone to this. I believe this tendency toward worry is why Paul instructs us in Philippians to pray about everything (Phil 4:6-7). Turning our attention to the One who is trustworthy and knows the best for each situation helps us come back to peace. It is part of how we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and it changes us from the inside out.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness . . .”
When I was a kid one of my ambitions was to be a race car driver. I dreamed of driving fast and making pinpoint turns. In fact, my early days of driving seemed to emulate this desire. However the times have changed. Driving a minivan and a 12-passenger people mover have limited my opportunities to live out my childhood dream; and it’s probably for the best.
Some say we lose our ambitions as we get older, but I’ve learned we just transfer them to more “age appropriated” things. We all have ambitions that drive us, cause us to worry, and lead us down specific paths. I contend those ambitions either drive us closer to Jesus or farther away. C.S. Lewis states, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.”
The last few Tuesdays we have looked at the worries we carry and chose in this life. Typically they indicate the things we desire and seek after and often can lead us away from our main purpose as Jesus-followers. In Matthew 6, Jesus implores us to seek him with first importance; to place him as the number one ambition for our lives. That word seek is an all-inclusive solicitation. It challenges us to determine what we desire and seek after most. Jesus lovingly and expectantly urges us to be all in with him.
Think about all the things you seek after: health, security, wealth, community, truth, success, yourself, sin, fleshly things, etc. Whatever we seek we will look for ways to fulfill it. When we seek God first, we allow him to give us a new perspective that changes how we live out our ambitions.
Take a few moments and use this prayer as a way to refocus on Jesus today.
“God of peace, giver of ever good and perfect gift, we should be living in a way that reflects your peace. But we are such worriers. We waste time and energy trying to control our destinies, when we should be putting our lives into your hands. Give us single-mindedness to serve only you. Give us trust and confidence that you are taking care of all our needs. Give us peace so that others will see your peace and be attracted to you. We pray this in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.” (Quoted from, A Deeper Look at the Sermon on the Mount, 2013).
Guest of God
Those that have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 1 John 3:9 NLT
There’s a man that tells a story of an unusual guest. Over the years, this family had a wide variety of guests in their home- from missionaries and pastors, to alcoholics and drug addicts. There is one particular guest who stood out from all the others. This young man was at their home for dinner and asked to stay the night. During the night, he raided the refrigerator and made a mess in the kitchen! When the man went to use his razor the next morning, he found it was in the guest room. His guest had borrowed it without asking. To top it off, the family car was gone- he had taken it without asking!
How would you feel if you had a guest in your home take advantage of you? Would your response change if this guest turned out to be a college-aged son who is at home on break?
Your identity in Christ is one of the most important aspects of how you live your life. Do you live as a child of God or a guest of God? We have different expectations of how we behave with family verses a stranger. God desires intimacy with us as His children. Galatians 4:7 says, “Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Do you feel like a guest or like a child of God?
Do you fully understand your position in God’s family? How does this affect your life?
The Business of Impossible
And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
Jonah 3:5 ESV
Another great understanding of who God is from the book of Jonah. Jonah knew what God wanted him to do and he didn’t do it. Yet through his admittance of his sin before God and men, those traveling with him on the boat were saved physically and eternally as they made life commitments to follow God.
God then saves Jonah through the belly of a great fish and through that experience he finds himself on dry land and God telling him once again to go to Nineveh where he would tell the people there God is going to destroy them for their sin.
This time Jonah follows where God is leading. In my mind probably for two reasons: (1) because he didn’t want to go against God again and (2) because he probably didn’t think the Ninevites would change and God would smoke them. What happens next is a complete miracle.
Jonah tells all the land of Nineveh that in 40 days God will overthrown them.
And the people of Nineveh believed God…from the greatest of them to the least of them. Jonah 3:5
When we follow God’s leading, even down paths we don’t want to go or down paths that seem to be impossible, God can do the impossible. He’s in the business of impossible. Creation and salvation, those are impossible and that’s the business he is in. Jonah felt that it would be impossible for there to be heart change in the lives of the Ninevites, but God used the faith steps of Jonah to start an impossible change in the hearts of a great city and great nation.
What’s your impossible today? What steps in God’s direction might you take for God to do the impossible right in front of you?
Not about Me
”And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.” 1 Kings 18:36 ESV
As the parent of a senior in high school, I hope that all of the parental wisdom I have bestowed upon my son, or at list some of it, has stuck. Wisdom such as “If all your friends jumped off a bridge…,” “I don’t care what Johnny’s parents let him do…,” “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all” and so many others.
One of my favorites is “the world doesn’t revolve around you.” I know I didn’t like hearing that one when I was young. I wanted the world to revolve around my preferences, my schedule, and my happiness – all around me. Fortunately the world doesn’t revolve around me, my children, or even you. The world revolves around God. Elijah understood this. Elijah was facing 450 false prophets of Baal when he declared to God that “you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant.” Take time to read 1 Kings 18:20-40 and see how God showed himself in a mighty way and proved Elijah’s claim to be true.
When you know God, and know that he is the one true God, you are free to serve Him with confidence. You know that the world doesn’t revolve around you. It revolves around Him.
Father, thank you that you are at the center of this world. Forgive me when I am self-centered and teach me to serve like Jesus, who took on the form of a servant and was obedient to death on the cross. Convict me when I act as if life revolves around me. Make me aware of opportunities to serve you and others.
Rebuked by Mother Teresa
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
I was reading a book of brief biographies (“7 Women, Eric Metaxas) that ended with the story of Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a group dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor by living alongside of them and loving them with the love of Christ. This portion of her life work is well-documented. Much attention has also been paid more recently to the “dark feelings” that Mother Teresa experienced in such work. The correspondence between her and her spiritual directors have humanized the saint in the eyes of many of her admirers.
Metaxas’ short biography opened my eyes to the way Mother Teresa spent the latter part of her life traveling the world. The power of her story enabled her to deliver two strong and very public rebukes regarding the sanctity of life. Having served the downtrodden for decades, Mother Teresa was asked to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast and to deliver an acceptance speech after winning the Nobel Prize. In each setting she spoke gently and boldly about the necessity of honoring the dignity of human life in all phases of development.
Standing before a President and Vice President who were decidedly pro-choice, and at a high-brow ceremony in a pro-choice host country, Mother Teresa reminded the world that abortion was one of the great moral challenges of our day.
At each respective event, both the highest offices in our country and some of the most important people in our world accepted these rebukes because the ridiculous love of Mother Teresa was irresistibly powerful. Her light shone before others and her good works were evident.
She lived her life in ridiculous love and it enabled her to be a dangerous witness.
I pray the same can be said about us.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)
I have a dear friend that says that God talks to her through “multi-media.” She will hear a sermon, a song, a friend’s words, etc., all saying the same message about one of God’s truths that she needs to hear at the moment. Maybe you can relate.
One of the benefits of our relationships with other believers is just that – the reiteration of truth or encouragement that we need as we meet together and share what we are learning from God’s word. I am always amazed to find that when I share something that God is teaching me, it is often something someone else needed to learn for themselves. The reverse is also true. As I listen to a friend talk about what she is learning from God, I sometimes am certain that that same message is from God for me, too.
The word encourage in this verse also means “walk along side.” Let’s not give up on the habit of walking along side other believers. Whether one-on-one or in a group, our relationships remind us of the hope we have for today (not just eternity) because of the gospel of Jesus (vs 23). Because if you haven’t noticed, this truth of total rescue through Jesus is slippery to us – we have a difficult time holding on to it.
So, who are your biblical relationships? I hope you will keep a habit of walking with them…you won’t regret it.