I wrote this devotional for a ladies' banquet at the beginning of December and thought I would post it here. I hope it is encouraging.
Peace. We hear a lot at Christmas time about peace. “Imagine” is heard on the radio stations –
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
John Lennon thought that the absence of religion would lead to peace. He’s right if you think of “religion” as something you do to gain favour with God. But true religion only leads us to peace.
I’ve learned a lot about peace in the past year and a bit since Emily’s death. I didn’t even realize what I was learning until one Sunday this summer, we sang “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy” for the children’s song. The second verse is “I’ve got the peace that passes understanding”. All of a sudden it hit me – I now know what the peace that passes understanding is that Paul talked about in Philippians when he said,
“Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Tonight, I’d like to spend a few minutes thinking out loud with you about peace.
First, Paul assumes something in this verse. He assumes, because he’s already written several chapters to the Philippians, that the people there already have a relationship with God. They can make their requests known to God because they already have that relationship.
True peace starts with our relationship with God. John Lennon was wrong – it’s not the absence of a relationship with God that leads to peace but instead a true relationship with Him. But that relationship also has to be on God’s terms. Part of the reason for conflicts around the world is that people use religion as an excuse for conflict. But God says differently – He tells us that all of us are in conflict with Him. Our sin keeps us from God. It’s a rebellion against God and His holiness. True peace starts when we admit our sin to God and trust in the actions of Jesus Christ on the cross when He took our sin upon Himself. Only when we bow before God in humility and admit our sin and our need for a Saviour, will we have peace with God. That’s why the angel said, in speaking to the shepherds, “Good will and peace to men.” It had to come through Jesus. We will never have true peace until we have first made our peace with God.
In this verse, Paul urges his readers to be anxious for nothing. Think about that – nothing. How can it be that we can be anxious for nothing? What do we need to know about God in order to apply this command that will result in a peace that passes understanding?
First, we see the character of God – we can trust Him in our prayers because of who He is. When we read the Bible, we find out about God’s character – He is merciful and loving, He is holy and perfect and He gives grace to us. I have heard of a call & response used at some churches that says, “God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.” When we pray, when we’re looking for peace, do we believe that? Do we trust God because of His character to know that He is good and He will do what is best for us? We rarely have understanding of God’s plans, especially at the time, but we must look at God’s character as revealed to us in the Bible and based on that knowledge, trust in Him. That will bring peace because we know that “whatever God ordains is right”.
It is because God is holy that we can have confidence that he will fulfill his promises to us, that his power will be used to help us, that his mercy will be poured out on us, and that his wisdom will design our suffering and everything else in our lives to work together for our good. (Dustin Shramek)
This brings us to our second thing to understand about God: His sovereignty, which means that He is in control of all things. When we pray, we understand that because God is sovereign over all things and because He sees all things from the perspective of eternity, we can trust God with what happens in our lives. And because we trust Him, we have peace – peace that seems incomprehensible to those who don’t trust in God.
Some might argue that God is not sovereign and not in control of all things. But what kind of a god would He be in that case? If He is not in control, He is a weak god and we can’t trust Him with anything.
Now this comfort, this trust in a sovereign God doesn’t mean that we necessarily will find it easy to submit to God’s will. I think that is why Paul tells us to come to God with prayer and supplication. David Powlison says that ‘Prayer means “ask for something you need and want.” Supplication means “really ask.”’
In times of trouble, in times of grief, we call out to God and really ask for help. The psalms are great examples of this. God promises that when we cry out to him, when we pray earnestly to Him, that He will give us peace.
This peace doesn’t necessarily come easily. It takes time and it takes study of God’s character and His word and other writings about God. There were times for me when I would read something and feel like throwing the book across the room. But I had to stop and think about what I was reading. Sometimes I had to close the book and come back to it the next day after thinking about it for a while. I had to ask myself - Is it true? Many times, I could see that it was true but I didn’t want to believe it. But I had to submit to God’s word. God’s grace gave me the ability to accept what was written, although it wasn’t easy. It was a long process to get to the point where I could see results by understanding the peace that I experience.
So peace is found not in a lack of conflict or in a “perfect” life. Peace is not something that just happens, nor is it put on like a sweater. Instead peace starts first with our relationship with God – have we knelt in submission to God and had our sins forgiven? Then do we understand something of God’s character? Are we looking for ways to learn more about Him? And are we willing to submit to His sovereign will? Do we pray and bring every request to God? When we do that, the promise is this: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.” Is. 26:3.
Streams in the Desert – The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you His unwavering strength that you may bear it. Be at peace then and set aside all anxious thoughts and worries.
from Spurgeon - Beside Still Waters – Have we ever had the shadow of a reason to doubt our Father’s goodness? Have not His loving kindnesses been marvellous? Has He once failed to justify our trust? Ah, no! our God has not left us at any time. We have had dark nights but the star of love has shone forth amid the blackness; we have been in stern conflicts but over our head He has held aloft the shield of our defense…. What we have known of our faithful God proves that He will keep us to the end.