April 18, 2014

Worshiping the Prince of Peace

While salvation is of God, and deliverance from sin is from God, and while I cannot save myself, the Lord graciously explains how His people can be more cooperative with His grace. These verses give direction to me today . . .

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious 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. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:1–9)

Notice these words being with “stand firm” which is exactly what I want. I want my faith, resistance to sin, and obedience to God to be strong and consistent, not wavering between on and off.

The first thing suggested here toward standing firm is unity with other Christians. If I am at odds with others, then I must do whatever I can to get along, to “agree in the Lord” and work together with others. Also, like Paul, I must appreciate their work in the gospel.
The second thing toward standing firm is rejoicing in the Lord. If accomplishments, praise from people, making money, winning, or any other thing is my source of joy, I will not stand firm because those things will let me down. Jesus never disappoints, and He never will. He is my joy.

The third thing is to be reasonable toward all. That word can mean to show gentleness, to be fair, patient and mild mannered. This is a quality exhibited by those who trust the Lord even when life seems unfair and others are harsh. Faith in Christ makes reasonableness possible.

The fourth thing is remembering that He is at hand, very near. He reminds me of that in many ways, one being that He inhabits the praises of His people. When I praise Him, and when we praise Him together, He gives a deeper sense of His presence. This also enables us to stand firm.

The fifth thing concerns this study on prayer; God bids me to not worry but take all my requests and concerns to Him, with thanksgiving. Prayer is a vital part of mental health as well as enabling me to stand firm. Notice it says that when I pray, He gives a peace of mind that is beyond the ordinary. It guards my heart and sets my mind at rest.

For a person with easily scattered thoughts, this is a precious promise. Many times, God brings my to-do list into line by prayer, or He vanquishes my worries, or makes quiet my anxieties. I also notice today how the last part of this section (after “Finally . . .”) is impossible without the prayer that goes before it. God tells me to “think about these things” but unless I’ve given my worries and concerns to Him, I cannot do it. He is the One who makes godly thoughts possible.

I cannot stand firm without Jesus. If I am not cooperating with the grace and peace He offers, it will not happen. I cannot hash through all of my problems and issues by myself. I cannot rely on my own resources instead of depending on God because He is the only source of faith, holiness and obedience.

Today is “Good Friday” (and our city is oddly blanketed with snow). We are going to church to focus on all that Jesus has done in dying for our sin. But it is a “good” day because it marks the beginning of our redemption. Jesus broke the power of sin and self. He brought to us the offer of peace with God and the possibility to have peace in our hearts.

Jesus died, but He also rose again and lives forever. He is my peace, joy, and also my ability to stand with others in unity and faith, for I know that He reigns both in heaven and in my heart.

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