November 18, 2009

Peace is a practical thing

Actions follow attitude. This undergirds my idea of how to live the Christian life. Get your heart right and your hands and feet will follow. Along with this, I believe that thinking right will reduce and even eliminate anxiety and stress.

I also notice the order of things in the Bible, verses like “Yield to God, resist the devil” (James 4:7), and know that they are in this order for a reason. No one can resist Satan and fight God at the same time. These two principles came together this morning and taught me that I cannot always put God’s way of doing things in a box.

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:7, a promise of God’s peace. However, I read and studied it in its context.

Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9)
The devotional guide points out that the promise is for those who pray about their concerns with a thankful attitude. While it does not promise what the answer to our prayers will be, it does say that God will give a special peace, one that “surpasses all understanding.

I’ve experienced this supernatural peace. The first time it happened at the onset of a family crisis where one of our children was in grave danger. We prayed. Our prayer included an expression of thanks for His care. We were not thinking about this verse, but were surprised at the peace that flooded our hearts — before the answer came and our child was safe. This peace made no sense. According to what was happening, our intellect, analysis, and insight had no reason for it. It was simply a gift from God that guarded our hearts in the hours that followed.

This verse, in context, blows my theory about thinking right produces less stress. God took away the stress because we took our concern to Him with thanksgiving. While this may have been a good start toward thinking right, this incredible peace was not our doing and we knew it. Only God could have produced it.

With that event in mind, I’m noticing the order in this passage. Take my requests to God with thanksgiving > He gives peace > then think right and meditate. This ability to think right flows from having peace. It is not the cause of it but the result!

Christians would love to pray and have every uncomfortable circumstance eliminated from our lives. Instead, God asks us to trust Him in the midst of every situation. This is why Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

He makes this possible by offering us supernatural peace. Having this peace does require prayer with thanksgiving. Being thankful is vital because it is an expression of acceptance and trust. We live in a fallen world filled with problems and stressful events and cannot make things go away. Wishing for heaven or being upset with God for allowing all this nonsense will not bring peace, but trusting Him will.

The nature of this peace is also found in the words will guard. It is a military term that implies my mind is in a battle zone. It needs to be “protected by a military guard” which, in a wartime situation, either prevents hostile invasions or keeps those in a besieged city from escaping. This peace from God protects my mind from external influences that attack it, and keeps me focused on God’s truth rather than running around in circles.

I sit here remembering many other times when I should have been in a dither and God gave peace. It in never a calm from denial or withdrawal, or a pie in the sky escapism, but a strong inner sense of His power and that He is in control, no matter what is going on. Nothing could be more practical.

Artwork: Prince of Peace by Greg Olsen

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