Living out peace comes down to this one question
It is possible in spite of great grief, sorrow, loss, discouragement, confusion, pain and broken relationships, to learn how to live in the peace of Jesus and return to peace when ambushed by the anxieties and the brokenness of this life.
All of us battle anxiety.
All of us struggle to live in the peace of Christ. All of us struggle to remain in perfect peace.
However, the Prince of Peace, Jesus, can restore peace to you regardless of how the world around you tries to take it from you.
The Apostle Paul told the Philippians in Philippians 4:6 not to be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
If you and I are going to live in peace, we have to stop worrying.
That is easier said than done, right? These moments are not easy when you are laying on an operating table, or sitting at your kitchen table trying to figure out how to make ends meet, or saying goodbye to a love one, or trying to save your marriage, or rescue a wayward child. It is hard in these moments to turn off the mind, to trust the Lord with it, and live out peace in your life.
It is easier to give up, give in, and just worry ourselves to death.
The Apostle Paul wants to teach us from God’s Word how to break these cycles of worry that create chronic anxiety in our lives that cripple our emotional abilities to function in healthy thought patterns. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:7 that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
You have to let the peace of God guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
How does this take shape in us?
It took me a LONG time to learn this, but now that I am almost fifty years old, I’m a lot smarter.
When you are in the midst of a crisis or consumed by worry, ask yourself this question: “Do I want to understand and control my life, or do I want the peace of God?
Here is the catch, you can’t have both. This is the fundamental decision that will determine the level of peace in your life.
I have decided I would rather know that God’s got it than to know what God’s doing in my life.
And when I reach this place, His peace consumes my fear because my control has been released to Him. And then I no longer want to know what is going to happen, I am just comforted to know that whatever happens, God’s got it! And more importantly, God’s got me! It is at that moment when His peace passes my understanding.
I would rather have God’s peace in my life than the knowledge of knowing what He is doing in my life.
My knowledge only complicates my life. His peace simplifies my life. It gives me hope, regardless of the circumstances or the eventual outcome. This enables me to return to peace quicker and live out peace in my life more effectively.
As you practice letting go of needing to understand your life, you realize, what you think about, has a lot to do with how effective you will be at living in the peace of God.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 that whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy to think and meditate on these things in your life.
It is important that you and I practice good mental health.
It is unhealthy to focus on dishonorable, unjust, impure, unlovely, uncommendable, things that lack excellence, or are unworthy of praise. However, God wants us to practice healthy things and to think on healthy things.
So, are you practicing what you think about? Are you thinking on healthy things or do you focus on unhealthy things in your life? Do you focus on how people have wronged you, the relationships that you wish were different but can’t do anything about them, and the pain and destruction other people have caused you? Are you getting better or bitter with age? Only you know the answer to that question.
No one wants to be a negative thinker but many of us find ourselves in this rut. This negative thinking eventually leads to negative acting. Once this occurs, our behavior begins to destroy the fabric of our mental health.
Negativity is not a healthy thing to focus on and it will negatively affect your walk with the Lord and even your physical and mental health over time.
Who in your life models for you good mental health? Paul encourages us in Philippians 4:9 to focus on those people in our lives. We are to put into practice the things we have learned, received, heard, and seen in them, and if we do, the peace of God will be with us.
If you and I want to experience the peace of Christ, we have to practice the presence of Christ that we have seen lived out in other’s lives. As we do this, we have to remain positive about what God can and will do through us. He tells you in Philippians 4:13 that you can do all things through Christ. What does that mean? It means you can handle success and failure. You can handle gain and loss. You can handle good times and bad times at the same time.
Ask God for the strength to do it, He will give it to you. And sometimes that strength will come through the help of others. Paul was grateful for the help he received from the Philippians. He told them in Philippians 4:13 how kind it was for them to share in his troubles. All of us need someone to share in our troubles. It is how God made us.
One of the first things anxiety steals is your attitude of gratitude. It is easy to feel alone, overwhelmed, and defeated. It is important you remember how others are with you. Who in your life are you grateful for? Remember them, it will give you the strength you need to go on.
God will give you the strength to do what He has asked you to do or endure. He will bring just the right people in, just at the right time to help you shoulder what He has asked you to carry in this season. I have experienced this many times in my life over the past twenty-four years of being a pastor.
We know from Acts, God called Paul to share the Gospel in Rome. Philippians 4:22 tells us Paul was effective because he remained faithful regardless of the cost, even if that meant His life.
Paul went to Rome and spent quality time with the Lord in a jail cell. I wonder if he ever thought to himself, “so this is what my ministry influence has come to? I expected more in the later years of my life.”
What little did he know that Rome would become the vehicle by which God would use to disperse the Gospel to the entire world. As they say, “All roads lead to Rome.” And if all roads lead to Rome, then that means all roads from Rome lead to the entire world.
God used Paul in that little jail cell to send the Gospel to the household of Caesar. From there, the household of Caesar took the Gospel to the entire world. This is why you and I get to know of Jesus today.
Sometimes looks are deceiving. Sometimes our “insignificant moments” turn out to be our most significant moments in life.
Maybe you feel like what Paul may have felt like. Maybe you feel like your ministry or the significance of your life has been narrowed to little or nothing of what you expected. Remember this, God sees and He hasn’t forgotten what you have done for Him.
He remembers and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
It worked for Paul, and it can work for you, too.
Can you say, “I don’t understand what God is up to in my life, but I trust Him”?
If so, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will go forth in your life in a more effective way in spite of the anxious filled circumstances of your life because you have chosen to live a life of peace through the power of Jesus Christ.
Kelly Williams is co-founder and senior pastor of Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His books include: The Mystery of 23, Friend of Sinners and Real Marriage. He also maintains a blog.