Nov 25, 2015
Nov 25, 2015
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. John 14:27
We have an ancient cherry tree in our backyard that had seen better days and looked like it was dying, so I called in an arborist. He checked it out and declared that it was “unduly stressed” and needed immediate attention. “Take a number,” my wife, Carolyn, muttered to the tree as she walked away. It had been one of those weeks.
Indeed, we all have anxious weeks—filled with worries over the direction our culture is drifting or concerns for our children, our marriages, our businesses, our finances, our personal health and well-being. Nevertheless, Jesus has assured us that despite disturbing circumstances we can be at peace. He said, “My peace I give to you” (John 14:27).
Jesus’s days were filled with distress and disorder: He was beleaguered by His enemies and misunderstood by His family and friends. He often had no place to lay His head. Yet there was no trace of anxiety or fretfulness in His manner. He possessed an inner calm, a quiet tranquility. This is the peace He has given us—freedom from anxiety concerning the past, present, and future. The peace He exhibited; His peace.
In any circumstances, no matter how dire or trivial, we can turn to Jesus in prayer. There in His presence we can make our worries and fears known to Him. Then, Paul assures us, the peace of God will come to “guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Even if we’ve had “one of those weeks,” we can have Hispeace.
Dear Lord, thank You that I can come to You with every care and Your peace will guard my mind.
In the midst of troubles, peace can be found in Jesus.
Thank God that you can take your cares to Him in prayer and ask Him to help you commit your situation to His care.
1 Samuel 30:1-8
After an exhausting three-day journey, David and his men finally arrived home to find a scene of devastation. Their homes were burned to the ground, and their families were missing. Utter despair engulfed them. David’s distress soon increased when his men’s grief turned into bitter anger and they spoke of stoning him.
Most of us won’t experience this extreme a situation, but we can identify with David’s discouragement. Sometimes despair follows a personal tragedy or loss, but it can also result from the weariness of ongoing daily pressures. Family problems, financial difficulties, and health issues may make discouragement a constant companion. The same can happen with emotional struggles over feelings of unworthiness, failure to overcome an addictive habit, the pain of criticism, or fear of inadequacy.
Despair can afflict anyone unexpectedly, but the Lord doesn’t want us to linger in a fog of depression. We often can’t avoid the situations that lead us into discouragement, but we do have a choice whether to stay in that condition. Instead of caving in to misery, David chose to strengthen himself in the Lord. He recognized that God was the only one who could give him the proper perspective on the problem and provide the guidance he needed.
When you’re discouraged, where do you turn? Perhaps the last thing you want to do is read Scripture and pray—initially, the passages may seem like meaningless words, and your prayers might feel empty. But if you persist in crying out to God, you’ll eventually experience His comforting strength.
“For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5)
There are times in the life of each believer when the trials become overwhelming and the whole world seems to be falling apart. Without the Lord, it would be impossible to escape, but with the Lord there can be safety and restoration, for He can be our precious hiding place until the storm is done.
There are many gracious promises to this effect in His Word, and we need only to claim them to experience them. The “pavilion” in our text is best understood as the tent of the commander-in-chief, well-protected and away from the battlefront. Surely, we are safe there. “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues” (Psalm 31:20). There is a wonderful Messianic promise in Isaiah 32:2: “And a man [that man is Christ!] shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”
There, sheltered from the storm, our gracious Lord gives comfort and sweet counsel until we are able to face the tempest victoriously. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2).
One of the most beautiful of these promises introduces David’s great song of deliverance: “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my Saviour; thou savest me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:2-3).
1 Kings 18:41
Only the prophet’s ears heard that sound, but faith is quick of hearing. Though not a cloud relieved the burning sky, and no wind had yet arisen from the quarter whence the rain usually came, the prophet was strong in confidence, and did not hesitate to declare it. Faith never goes beyond her warrant when she declares that the Lord will fulfil his word.
1 Kings 18:42
Different men go to different engagements. Ahab to eat and drink, and Elijah to wrestle and prevail with his God.
1 Kings 18:43
Faith keeps a watch; she bows to the earth in humility, but she sets expectation at work to look toward the sea.
1 Kings 18:43
True faith can wait; her importunity gathers strength from her Lord’s delays, and her expectation remains still on its watch-tower. It is a brave thing to be able to say, “Go again seven times.”
1 Kings 18:44
Prayer was heard, the little cloud was a sufficient token, faith was now fully assured and made her boast yet more courageously.
1 Kings 18:46
To shew his loyalty, he acted as a running footman. Stern as he was in his obedience to Jehovah, he was willing to serve the king if the king would serve the Lord.
1 Kings 19:1
Ahab’s pliable nature was always impelled towards evil by his haughty spouse. Woe to the man who mates a Jezebel.
1 Kings 19:4
His intense excitement had been followed by languor, his exhilaration by depression: man is but dust. He prayed to die, and yet the Lord did not intend that he should ever die. Truly, we often know not what we ask.
1 Kings 19:6
The Lord pitied his weary, and disappointed servant, and as he had before fed him by ravens, he now honours him by supplying his need by angels. We often receive our best consolations in our worst times, and then how sweet they are!
1 Kings 19:7
Twice came the sacred refreshment; the Lord doubles our comforts when our sorrows are multiplied.
1 Kings 19:8
A glorious march, a heavenly fast, a divine sustaining. Carmel’s struggles and Samaria’s disappointments were all to be rewarded by the communion of Horeb. Blessed are all they who wait upon the Lord; he will make them “a people near unto him.”
2 Timothy 2:5
After telling Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, Paul then switches to a new illustration so he can make another important point. The purpose of the discussion is still the same: Paul is explaining to Timothy how he should face the difficulties that lie before him at the moment. With that purpose in mind, Paul says, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”
The word “strive” is from the Greek word athlesis, which always described a man involved in a tremendous athletic competition. This kind of athlete was serious about his sport and totally committed to the goal of climbing to the top in his profession. He was willing to undergo any hardship, any training, any regimen, and any kind of discipline in order to reach that goal of becoming the very best in his field of sports. The word athlesis describes this type of committed, full-time, professional, determined athlete. This is the picture Paul now uses when he speaks to Timothy about overcoming the challenges he is facing.
Remember that Paul has already told Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (v. 3). Now by changing his illustration to that of a professional athlete, Paul is asking Timothy (and us) a very potent question: “Are you willing to be as committed to winning your fight as athletes are to winning in their sport? How committed are you? Is a little pressure going to elbow you out of the race, or are you more committed than the inconveniences you are experiencing along the way? How badly do you want to win?”
We must honestly ask ourselves these questions if we want to determine the true level of our commitment. You see, it is wonderful to serve the Lord and be a part of the local church when we aren’t facing any big problems in life. It’s easy to tithe, give offerings, attend meetings, pray, and sing with other believers when our level of service basically costs us nothing.
However, what are you going to do if things change and it starts to become more challenging to serve the Lord? What if it becomes difficult to hold fast to the vision He put in your heart or to the commitment you made to His call on your life? Will you still serve the Lord with joy? Will you still be faithful to your local church? Will you still give your tithes and offerings?
You see, it is the spiritual fights in life that always reveal the genuine level of our commitment.
Look again at what Paul says in Second Timothy 2:5: “And if a man also strive for masteries….”
Particularly notice the word “man,” because this is the Greek word tis. This word tis would be better translated anyone. The idea this word presents is anyone at all.
This tells us two very important things. First, anyone can compete in the life of faith. This verse is for tis—for anyone. Second, it tells us that anyone who desires to be a successful competitor had better pay heed to the proper preparation and training required to make him a winner! Notice Paul says that a man will not be crowned “… except he strive lawfully.”
The word “lawfully” doesn’t refer to the rules of the game, but to the training and preparation that professional athletes went through before the game actually commenced. This tells us that we should never attempt to enter the real arenas of life until we have gone through the necessary preparation to win. If we enter an arena without preparation, we better be ready to spend some time recuperating, because we are headed for a beating!
Winners are those who have trained and prepared themselves. Then, as now, athletic “scouts” would go out into the communities to look over all the young athletes. After finding a promising athlete, the scout would issue him an invitation to the training camp. At camp, the athletes were introduced to bodybuilders, trainers, and others who were skilled at fighting and competition. The trainers would put the athletes through incredible routines to build both their bodies and their minds, for mental alertness was deemed to be equally important to physical fitness.
Timothy knew all about the manner in which professional athletes were trained. This was common knowledge during his day. Everyone was familiar with the strict, regimented training that athletes went through in order to compete. Therefore, Paul’s statement on “striving for the masteries” didn’t require a lot of deep contemplation in order for Timothy to know exactly what the apostle was telling him.
Rather than moan and complain about how hard it had become to serve God, it was time for Timothy to change his way of thinking. If he was to be a professional and not an amateur in the Kingdom of God, he needed to see all his challenges as opportunities to use his faith, exercising himself under the most strenuous circumstances and thus developing himself to handle the greater tasks that were still ahead of him.
Although Timothy was facing real hardships in the present, he would still have to face additional hardships in the future. Therefore, rather than let his current circumstances pass without benefiting from them, he needed to view his present challenge as an opportunity to train and prepare for the future. If he could pass this test, he could pass any test!
What test are you facing today, friend? What has this time of hardship revealed about your own level of commitment? Are you as committed as you thought you were, or have you discovered that you are much softer spiritually than you realized? Rather than go forward in life in that soft condition, don’t you think it would be a good idea for you to look at this time in your life as an opportunity to get tougher and to grow stronger in the Lord?
I guarantee you—Satan hates every believer who dares to shine the light of God’s Word into places previously held hostage in darkness. If you decide to be one of those committed believers and to endeavor to do exactly what God has told you to do, Satan will be very alarmed by your obedience. He may try to stop you, throwing obstacles in your path that you never dreamed could happen to you. If you haven’t mentally and spiritually prepared yourself to be strong, these attacks of the enemy may overwhelm you.
Don’t you think it’s time for you to decide whether you are a professional or an amateur in God’s Kingdom? If you are a professional, it’s time for you to change your mental outlook on life and then get busy training and preparing so you can win every one of your future competitions!
Lord, I want to be strong enough to overcome any situation I’ll ever face in life. Forgive me for sitting around and wasting valuable time that I could have used to train and prepare myself to be spiritually fit. I’m sorry I’ve allowed myself to be lazy at times, and today I am making the decision to throw myself into spiritual preparation. I have decided to strive for the masteries and make my life count! Holy Spirit, please help me become everything Jesus intends for me to be and to make the changes in my mental outlook that are required for me to become a winner in life.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that I am serious about staying fit spiritually. I refuse to let laziness be a part of my life. I reject any temptation to moan, groan, and complain about how hard life is. I choose instead to see every event in life as an opportunity to flex my spiritual muscles and to become stronger in the Lord!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Want to change your world for Christ? Then consider this:
CATCH the passion for God and the knowledge of the Holy from extended time alone with Him, or from people who are infected with Jesus Christ. Get around those who are impassioned with being used of God to make a difference in this tired world. Keep in mind that “it is easier to cool down a fanatic than to liven up a corpse.”
“You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5b-7)
LIVE — Prayerfully delve into the Scriptures with the anticipation and trust of a child at Christmas time. Dare to unconditionally live out the truth God reveals to you from His Word. Respond sensitively to the conviction and leading of the Spirit. Claim and appropriate God’s promises to release you from life’s bondages: The fear of man, the love of money, the lust of the flesh, the desire to impress others; a wounded or embittered spirit; the ruts, the familiar, the safe… perhaps even the traditional. (James 1:22; Romans 8:14; Hebrews 6:11, 12; Romans 8:2; Psalm 34:4; Proverbs 29:25; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; 1 John 2:15-17; Hebrews 12:15; Matthew 15:8, 9)
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31b, 32, 36b)
Allow the Spirit to lead you into areas that demand trust and stretching. Be prepared to be surprised by the goodness of God upon your life. That is because God loves to bless those who dare to take Him seriously! (Acts 4:31; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12; 1 Samuel 3:9; Psalm 30:5)
“The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him… ” (2 Chronicles 16:9b)
IMPART — As Biblical truth becomes living reality, pass it on to others. That is, fish for men. Engage and infect people’s lives with yours. Take it a step further by making a sustained investment of your life into theirs. Embrace missionary martyr Jim Elliot’s impassioned heart-cry, “Lord, make my life a crossroad in the life of everyone I encounter.” (Matthew 4:19; 2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Corinthians 16:14)
QUESTION: Today, is your life “business as usual,” or is there a fire burning in your soul? If the fire is flickering close to extinction, ask yourself what root issues need to be reexamined? What changes need to be made? Jesus’ word of encouragement may be timely:
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Matthew 12:20a)