…"But the Word of God is not chained or imprisoned!" 2Tim. 2:9
Believers 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.
Where do you go when things aren’t going your way? Is there a well worn path to your favorite watering hole, or maybe a friend that will allow you to use their shoulder to cry on? Whatever you do or wherever you go, does it bring long lasting comfort and strength to see you through life’s storms?
I’m speaking to those who our children of God, those who claim that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior, and you’ve chosen to walk with Him through this life. If this is you then you need to listen to what I’m about to tell you.
Weather you’ve been in a storm or maybe you’re going through one right now, or maybe every thing is hunky dory for you and life is good, get ready my friend, because the storms will come. Jesus promised that when He said;
This world, and anything in it should never be a haven of rest for us, no matter if things are good or not going so good. Learn to run to your heavenly Father, and not to the things you used run to when you lived in the world.
“Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossions 3:3
Remember we are not a citizen of this world anymore, we belong to Christ and our citizenship is in heaven. We have a new address and we are just passing through this one.
“But our citizenship is in heaven – and we also await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:20
Living the Christian life, walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and living a life that is obedient and brings glory and honor to the name of Jesus Christ, is not an easy road.
Jesus gave us this warning, but He also gave us His promise to always be with us and will always give us what we need for this journey or the task at hand, and will never leave us nor forsake us. You and I are never alone.
Have you learned this in your walk with the Lord? Is it something that, through trial and error, you have experienced in your Christian life?
In Jesus earthly life, He learned this, just as we do. He was our example and He paved the way for you and I to walk in “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. Hebrews 5:8
Listen to what Paul said, “Toward this goal I also labor, struggling according to his power that powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:29
These words, labor and struggling, don’t sound like very pleasant and easy words. The work that God had called for Paul to do was anything but easy and comfortable.
But don’t forget the rest of that verse…”according to his power that powerfully works in me.” Paul was just the channel for God’s work to be accomplished, just like you and me are today. We are God’s hands and feet in this world. We carry the fragrance of Jesus Christ wherever we go, to a lost and dying world.
“Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” Matthew 11:29-30
Sometimes storms come because we have drifted away from God and He is lovingly and gently trying to bring us back, or it is God preparing us for something that is coming our way. Whatever it is, it’s always for our good and to bring God glory. That’s why we’re here, to bring God glory.
When I was a kid in school, my friend and I got into trouble and we were called down to the principle’s office. That only meant one thing. Back in those days you were allowed to get paddled by teachers and principles, and that’s exactly what happened to us, but I will always remember what my friend said to me when he came out of the office after getting his shot first. He told me, “when he starts, lean into him and it won’t hurt so much.”
My friend, when the storms come into your life, and they will, learn to lean into God, and it won’t hurt as much.
“Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons?
“My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline
or give up when he corrects you.
Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed.” Hebrews 12:3-13