Welcome back to our study of what biblical peace is and how to have it.
If you stumbled on this page without starting this study at the beginning, I’d encourage you to click this link – “Peace In: Part I”
Peace In: Part IV
Have you ever been anxious?
Have you ever worried about a test, or an interview, or the future of a child?
Have you ever found it hard to concentrate at work because a weight in your chest you couldn’t ignore?
Today we have the ecstatic joy of learning how to cure anxiety! Today’s passage will examine our final Peace Prerequisite in order to achieve our first Peace Promise. There’re not enough reams of digital paper to record the lives that have been resurrected, the anxiety that has been destroyed, and the phobias that have been put to flight by the passage we’re going to study today!
But before we take a look at this life-changing truth, it’s imperative we review the two Peace Prerequisites we’ve seen so far in order to understand the full picture.
1. Our Responsibility to God. This goes far beyond simply “being saved.” Many people use that phrase to describe a state that denies the necessity to do or be anything else. Having a right relationship with God does include being justified by the work of Christ on the cross, but there is so much more that must be done to glorify Him in our relationship with Him. As an example, Philippians lists “joy in God” as a necessary outflowing of our salvation.
Rejoicing means to find our sole sense of happiness and joy in nothing else other than God and His truth. Let’s see what this looks like in every day life. I’m going to choose an extreme example because only a singular focus on God can produce an atmosphere for peace to thrive.
Real Life Example: Most parents say they love their children. But can that love for our kids produce peace? Can liking our kids, being proud of their accomplishments, providing for their needs, or going to their atrocious band concerts produce biblical peace? These actions carry no merit at all if removed from the proper motivation. Our motivation in all things must be God and His glory.
So, when I reflect on my son’s Yellow Belt or my daughter’s high score . . . what should I actually be joying in? There are many examples, but a few could be:
A. Thank you, Lord for my children!
B. Thank you, Lord for the gifts You’ve so graciously bestowed on my kids!
C. Thank you, Lord for the opportunities my children have to grow and mature for Your glory.
D. Dear Lord, please help me lead my children in a way that they understand the importance of using their talents in service for you.
E. I could go on . . . .
This is rejoicing in God. And this rejoicing can happen even in difficult situations:
A. Thank you, Lord for bringing this sickness into my child’s life. Help him to see Your hand in this, and teach him to depend solely on You.
B. Thank you, Lord that my son was unable to earn his Yellow Belt. Help me parent him in such a way that he understands the benefits of failure and learns to fix his mistakes to Your honor and glory.
In order to fulfill this Peace Prerequisite, we must not only joy in God, but do it all the time.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
2. Our Responsibility to Everyone Else. I cannot and have peace in my life if I’m at odds with the people in my life. PLEASE NOTE: You can always have personal peace if other people hate and attack you, but you will never have personal peace if you are at the attacker. Our motivation must be two-fold:
A. Love for Others. Our gentleness is due all men because God says we are to love (seek the best interest of) all men.
B. An Understanding that God is Near. Not only is the Lord’s return imminent – meaning we should be excited to have Him return and find us faithfully fulfilling the mission He commissioned – but we must also understand that God is spiritually near as well. We are indwelt by Him and should therefore never feel comfortable doing anything that attacks His character.
“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.”
When we plant our joy in God and water it with love for all mankind, we take the first necessary steps toward achieving peace.
But there’s one more vital Peace Prerequisite to understand before we can achieve that soul rest.
3. Our Responsibility to Life
“Be anxious for nothing.”
Each time this verse has blessed my life it has also brought severe conviction. “Be anxious for nothing?!”
Don’t ever be anxious.
Has the weight of that command ever really sunk into your head?
1. The Simple Truth – There really isn’t much to say here.
Don’t be anxious.
If you’re anxious, you’re disobeying.
If you’re disobeying, you’re sinning.
It’s that simple.
Side Note: Now, I’m not talking about the strange chemical tingles we may experience due to physical complications. I’ve only ever had “panic attacks” twice. Both times have occurred while I played host to a bacterial convention called Candida. “Feelings of anxiety” is a common symptom of Candida, but Candida-anxiety doesn’t grow out of worry, doubt, or indecision. It’s brought on by physical stimulus.
Before we continue, however, let’s remind ourselves what feelings are. Feelings are responses to stimuli. Sometimes that stimuli is physical and sometimes it’s mental. It’s also vital to note that mental stimulus is far more powerful than physical.
Negative emotional responses due to physical health problems occur, but they occur far less often than we are led to believe by the medical establishment. The vast majority of the time our feelings of anxiety are a result of our thoughts. And it is this anxiety caused by our machinations that is the focus of today’s study.
When we dwell on our troubles, meditate on our confusion, dream about our impotence, or wallow in our pain, we feed those chemical reactions, disobey God’s command, and forfeit our peace.
2. The Complicated Deception – Way too much could be said about this.
The medical community would have us believe that every abnormality we face (whether physical or mental) is the result of a disease or disorder. The preach from their highest perches that we are victims of factors we have no control over.
I don’t have the time or inclination to broach this topic now due to the requirements of a proper handling, but I will say this one thing:
If we transfer our faith from God’s perfect wisdom and omniscience to man’s ability to reason himself out of his problems, then we’ve surrendered every opportunity for real, lasting peace.
God says “don’t be anxious.” So, stop making excuses for your anxiety. Stop citing research. Stop quoting your shrink. Stop hanging out with friends who coddle your deception.
“But,” you say, “I can’t just ‘turn it off!'”
Firstly, no one ever told you to.
Secondly, the solution doesn’t come through your strength. The beautiful reality is that God does not leave us with an insurmountable command. He provides us the ability to obey. What you cannot do, He can.
“But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.“
Before we look at God’s provision I must warn you that just as our Peace Promises have prerequisites, so too does the promise of provision. There are conditions. God will provide the peace necessary to wipe all doubt and concern from you mind, but you must take the first steps.
When you encounter a conflict – perhaps it’s interpersonal (a once close friend attacks you, or a boyfriend/girlfriend pressures you to be impure), maybe it’s interpersonal (your flesh tempts you to view pornography) – your first and immediate response must be two-fold.
1. Talk to God about it.
The last thing I want is for this to sound trite. Unfortunately, so many divine truths have been spoken too oft by disingenuous lips that they’ve seemingly been stripped of their significance. But we must resist the urge to kick against the pricks no matter how “trite” it may sound.
Prayer is a potentially powerful form of communication. I say potentially because if it’s avoided or done wrong, it has no efficacy at all. But when we communicate with God intentionally, genuinely, and frequently, all the things that didn’t make sense about our faith come together in perfect harmony.
Do you want to kill fear? Talk to God. David learned this important truth, and he shared it with us frequently in the Psalms.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” Psalm 55:22
But when we pour our problems onto God’s ear, we must do it with the right attitude.
2. Thank God for it.
Stop Celebrating Suffering
There’s a philosophical movement of late in the Christian community that’s enamored with suffering. We’re encouraged to be honest and raw when it comes to our pains. Radio counselors point to the Psalms and admonish us to embrace our suffering, argue with God, and not hold it in.
But that’s not the biblical approach. Yes, David suffered, and yes, he put those thoughts and feelings to paper . . . but he never ended with suffering. The pain wasn’t the goal. He constantly pointed back to God.
Psalm 38 beautifully illustrates this.
In verses 1-14 David lays out pains too numerous to go into here. But in verse 15 he makes the statement,
“For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God. [emphasis mine]”
He then continues his lament through verse 20 but ends the Psalm with,
“Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me, Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.”
These are not the words of a man glorying in the pain. He’s focused on the salvation that will overcome his suffering!
Start Celebrating Salvation
God wants us to take our woes to Him in thanksgiving.
Do we need to take another moment to let this one sink in?
“How can God ask me to thank Him for my cancer?”
“How can I be thankful for my profligate son?”
“What kind of God would ask me to thank Him for a miscarriage?”
The same God who promised to work all things out for your greatest good and His greatest glory.
The God Who’s powerful enough to help and heal.
The God we’re trusting for our eternal salvation.
The God Who created us for a purpose and empowers us to fulfill that purpose.
When trust God’s purposes in trials, He grafts onto our lives a response that was previously foreign to us. When we see His salvation, the suffering scatters. When we peer on His provision, the pain pales.
Let’s look again at Isaiah 26:3:
“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in You.”
God promises to provide the ability to not be afraid (peace), but only when we acknowledge Him in all things. This starts with us viewing Him as our only source of joy (which will inevitably pour out into the lives of those around us) and ends with a calm assurance that God will keep His promises.
Look at this awesome picture He’s paintings: He says to us . . .
- Delight in Me more than anything else in the universe.
- Love everyone else because you love me.
- Trust me to supply everything necessary for your life and godliness.
- And because of that, you will be at peace.
Before we end today, let’s take a look at a very real case study: my father.
What’s It Like to Lose Everything?
A few years back my father developed a bacterial infection in one of his vertebra. Over time the infection grew putting intense pressure on his spine.
He had to stop working.
His legs shriveled due to lack of use.
The medical bills piled (neither of my parents had insurance because they were self-employed and had forgone it).
After the infection was finally removed via surgery . . . my father was paralyzed from the waist down.
But due to the over $200,000 in medical bills, my parents had to declare bankruptcy, and they sold nearly every possession including their home. With little more than the clothes on their back, their car, and my mother’s sewing machines (their only source of income), my parents moved in with my sister.
Unless you’ve been through a similar circumstance, to ask you to imagine the pressure my parents were under would be akin to asking a worm to understand why the bird has to eat him. But I praise God that these Philippians 4 promises were vibrantly fulfilled in living color in my family.
I saw changes in my father I wondered for years were ever going to come. His passion for God, his interactions with people, and his response to his upturned life were nothing short of miraculous.
And you know what?
Even though fear and doubt crept in from time to time, my parents were a shining beacon of peace and contentment. One of the things that spectators just couldn’t seem to understand about my parents was their grateful spirit. They were thankful for all the things they still had – including my dad’s life.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is not some pie-in-the-sky-in-the-sweet-by-and-by little talk we’re having here. This is hard-core, rip out your self-worshipping heart and transplant a God-beating drive that pushes all of this earthly care so far to the periphery that it doesn’t even register!
This is more than radical.
This is bigger than dynamic.
This is God at work in your life. This is taking everything you thought was true about life, burning it to ash, and embracing a paradigm you couldn’t have even dreamed up.
Only God can command us to never fear (and He has), and only God can provide the means to do it (which He does).
Our responsibility to the cares of this life is simple:
- Talk to God about it.
- Thankfully trust Him to do exactly what He’s promised exactly as He always has.
“When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” Psalm 94:19
“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6
“You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’” Lamentations 3:5
I would love to have you join us next Sunday for Part V.