July 14, 2014

The power of God to overcome stress with peace

Yesterday, our pastor began his message by listing many things that give people stress. Several pointed to current events, particularly in the Middle East. He then took us to Philippians 4:6-9, giving strong encouragement that Christians can have peace in the midst of life’s storms. Instead of worrying, we can pray. Last night, my hubby took his first of several planned trips to the Middle East.

God always amazes me with His timing. This sermon was just right for our situation. The pastor had no idea about my husband’s trip, but obviously listened to the Holy Spirit when he planned his sermon.

God also amazes me with how He uses Spirit-filled leaders and other Christians to be a blessing to one another. What if we had skipped church to spend time together before the flight? We would have missed a message heard by 400 people but seemed directly spoken to us.

After the service, our congregation gathered for our usual Sunday brunch. With friends, we often discuss the sermon and the effect it has on our lives. One of those friends repeated the encouragement several times. Two who live close to us said if I need anything, call them. They will watch out for me.

The early church was like that. They blessed each other. Their leaders blessed them as “many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.” The people esteemed these leaders and those who were Christians, resulting in “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.” (Acts 5:12–16)  

Today, many congregations don’t reverence their leaders and could take lessons from the early church in that regard. We also could take lessons in how to care for one another and for our unchurched friends. How often do we bring needy friends to hear messages that would heal their souls?

In those days, the believers also deeply cared for each another. If some were caught up in some sin, they gathered together “in the name of the Lord Jesus” and as the Spirit directed, to deal with the person “for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 5:4–5) These were acts of deep love and unselfish concern for their eternal well-being.

Those early Christians also had their priorities in order. They were told to “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” They did “not get drunk with wine” but gave more attention to being “filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with the heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:15–21)

Even though today’s church does not always fit this pattern, I am thankful for the people who bless each other in our congregation. They care. They pray. They encourage. They pay attention to what God says. They “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” Many of them are “holding fast to the confession of their hope without wavering” and often remind each other that God who promises is also faithful to keep his promises. They also constantly “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together . . .  but encouraging one another . . . .” (Hebrews 10:19–25)

So many times, our pastor gives a message that seems perfect for that day and perfect for our needs. I’m not anxious about my husband’s safety and well-being on this journey. I know that he is in God’s hands, but should fear become an issue, God will use that sermon and the encouragement of our Christian friends to remind me that I can take my worries to Him, with thanksgiving. When I do, the Lord will give me His perfect peace.

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. (Philippians 4:6–7)

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