Jan

2

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Having Peace in Every Circumstance, Part 3

stormsBelievers often find themselves living in contradiction to the world, and we should. The runaway anxiety and constant fear that grips so much of the world does not have the same hold on us—or at least, it shouldn’t. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at anxiety from a biblical perspective, and examining God’s care and provision for His people, and how that should free us from worry.

Today we’re bringing our Attacking Anxiety series to a close with part three of our discussion on Paul’s prayer that we would know and rest in God’s lasting peace and grace. The apostle wrote, “May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18).

A final characteristic of God’s peace is that it is not subject to circumstances. Paul’s prayer was that we might continually enjoy it “in every circumstance” (v. 16). This peace is not subject to anything that happens in the worldly realm. It is not built on any human relationship, and it’s not dependent on human feelings, decisions, or situations.

Rather, God’s peace is built on a divine plan and promise from an unfailing God who will secure you in Himself, and who will do everything for your good. This peace is a product of an unchanging divine relationship, and it is unbreakable, unassailable, and transcendent.

As we noted earlier, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). He was saying, “There’s nothing to fear or be anxious about because I’m giving you a divine, lasting peace that cannot be fractured or damaged by the world.” We demonstrate that Jesus keeps His promises when, in the midst of worldly upheavals that would normally tear us up and trouble our lives, we remain calm.

Paul’s great desire was that we enjoy that kind of well-being, which is why he prayed toward that end. His parting wish was this: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:18). He wanted every man and woman who would ever put his or her faith in Christ to experience the abiding presence of God’s grace.

Grace is God’s goodness or benevolence given to those who don’t deserve it. “Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). It was in the person of God’s Son that “the grace of God has appeared,” making salvation available to all (Titus 2:11). Once we embrace this saving grace through faith in Christ, we are blessed with God’s grace, enabling us to withstand any difficulty that would tend to make us anxious. Paul described this grace while confessing to a difficulty that brought him great anxiety:

There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. . . . Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians12:7-10)

As believers, we also are blessed with the grace that equips us for divine service. Paul expressed his appreciation for this grace in saying, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy . . . the grace of our Lord was more than abundant” (1 Timothy 1:12-14).

Grace is what enables us to grow spiritually in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). In the material realm, Paul appealed to God’s grace in encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous in giving to the Lord’s work: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

God’s grace saves us, helps us cope with our anxieties, equips us for service, and enables us to grow spiritually and to be rich in God. Like God’s peace, it is always available, and there is no limit to it. And again, like God’s peace, the conditions for receiving it are trusting God, forsaking sin, enduring the refining process, doing good, and living by the Word. As we are what we ought to be, God infuses us with His peace and grace. And that has a wonderful way of crowding out anxiety.

I want to close this series on a personal note. Just a few days after preaching a sermon on the peace and grace God bestows on His people, I had an unprecedented opportunity to apply it to my own life: I was notified that my wife and youngest daughter were in a serious auto accident, and that my wife, Patricia, would probably die. Everything seemed like a blur to me, the details frustratingly sketchy—I was afraid she was already dead. During my hour-long drive to the hospital, I had a lot of time to reflect on the severity of the situation. Yet I experienced a deep and steeled peace simply because I knew God had not failed me—His grace was in complete control.

I am happy to report that God spared both their lives, and that Patricia recovered beautifully. If you too rely on God’s grace, He will see you through the most difficult trials.

MyLoveNotesFromGod

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Dec

21

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Having Peace in Every Circumstance, Part 2

stormsIt’s only through God’s grace that believers can face every circumstance with calm, assured peace. Anxiety does not have to reign in our hearts—we can hold fast to God’s peace and provision through any of life’s storms.

We’ve been looking at the nature of the peace God grants to believers, as explained in Paul’s prayer from the church at Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18.

Not only is that peace divine in origin, but it is also a gift. When Paul prayed, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace,” the word translated “grant” is the verb meaning “to give.” It speaks of a gift. God’s peace is a sovereign, gracious gift bestowed on those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Psalm 85:8, a verse you may have never noticed before, the psalmist stated, “I will hear what God the Lord will say; for He will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones.” God grants peace to those who belong to Him. Jesus said, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). There’s no greater gift for the anxious than God’s peace.

Some, however, will seek relief for their anxieties through a false peace. God is generous to whom He grants His peace, but there is a limit. Isaiah wrote, “‘Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will heal him.’ But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 57:19-21). He will grant peace to those who come to Him from near and far—those who grew up hearing much about Him and those who heard little to nothing—but those who don’t come to Him, the wicked, enjoy no real peace.

Thomas Watson explains further:

Peace flows from sanctification, but they being unregenerate, have nothing to do with peace. . . . They may have a truce, but no peace. God may forbear the wicked a while, and stop the roaring of His cannon; but though there be a truce, yet there is no peace. The wicked may have something which looks like peace, but it is not. They may be fearless and stupid; but there is a great difference between stupefied conscience, and a pacified conscience. . . . This is the devil’s peace; he rocks men in the cradle of security; he cries, Peace, peace, when men are on the precipice of hell. The seeming peace a sinner has, is not from the knowledge of his happiness, but the ignorance of his danger (A Body of Divinity [Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986 reprint], p.262).

The peace of the wicked is born out of delusion. True peace is the child of saving grace. In a prayer similar to the one that closes 2 Thessalonians, Paul said, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). Peace is a gift to those who believe.

And God’s peace is the gift that keeps on giving. A less commercial way to express that truth is how Paul said it: “May the Lord of peace . . . continually grant you peace” (2 Thessalonians 3:16). By adding “continually,” Paul was emphasizing that it is constantly available. The implication is, however, that it can be interrupted.

It isn’t God who interrupts our spiritual peace, but us. We can suspend the flow of peace in our lives by succumbing to our flesh, which is still part of this world. Unless we “walk by the Spirit,” our means of controlling the flesh (Galatians 5:16), we are open season to all kinds of anxieties: the dread of the unknown, the fear of death, the loss of a loved one—and we all can list a string of others.

How does this unfortunate process begin? When we stop focusing on our permanent condition in Christ, who will certainly bring us to glory. And when we start basing our happiness on the fleeting things of the world. Those things by definition will change. Thus, if we get upset when they do, we will spend our lives in distress.

People who can ride through the toughest issues of life and remain calm are not indifferent; they’re just trusting God. What if our ride is a little bumpy? What if we’re feeling troubled, anxious, and fearful? How can we restore the peace? How can it remain uninterrupted?

The psalmist said to himself, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11). He reminded himself that God was there to help him. We can trust Him because He is trustworthy. He genuinely cares for us.

Long ago, God made it perfectly clear to Israel that peace comes from obeying His Word (Leviticus 26:1-6). The same truth applies today. Peace is restored through obedience. The first step is to turn from sin. Sometimes the sin is the doubt, fear, and anxiety itself, but also it can be an underlying sin that has produced those feelings. Probe your heart and isolate the cause of unrest. Forsake the sin that has been revealed to you and obey God by applying the opposite virtue. In the case of anxiety, that means having faith in God to help you manage life’s details.

Something else that will restore your peace is to accept whatever stresses or challenges God has seen fit to bring into your life. In the book of Job we read:

Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal. . . . In famine He will redeem you from death, And in war from the power of the sword. You will be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, and you will not be afraid of violence when it comes. You will laugh at violence and famine, and you will not be afraid of wild beasts. For you will be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field will be at peace with you. You will know that your tent is secure, for you will visit your abode and fear no loss (Job 5:17-18, 20-24).

If you understand that God is using all the difficulties you face to perfect you, you’ll be at peace. It is not all for nothing. You may not always know why you’re going through this or that, but be encouraged that there is a good reason. Turning to the New Testament, Paul said if you want peace, do good (Romans 2:10). All who do good will enjoy peace. To be more specific, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable. . . . And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18). Living according to the Word—according to heavenly wisdom, to God’s revealed standard of righteousness—brings peace.

If you’ve lost God’s peace in your life, you can find it again. Retrace your steps by trusting God in everything, turning from sin and walking in obedience, enduring His refining work in your life, doing what is good, and living by His Word in a righteous way. As Paul said, God’s peace is continually available to you. Avail yourself of it.

My Love Notes From God

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