Note: This is the second article in a series for Advent. Previous articles are always available online at http://www.webbweekly.com.
How are you doing?
Before reading further, take five minutes to think about your answer. I’m serious. Turn off the TV and the radio or whatever else is making noise, and then set your timer for five minutes. Now, sit still in the quiet and honestly think about how you’re doing.
Consider the condition of your current life. Think about your feelings, your thoughts, your soul, your physical health, and the state of all your relationships. Is there heartbreak? Attack? Lies? Confusion? Distrust? Anger? Anxiety? Depression? Worry? Fatigue? Sleeplessness? Disunity? Fear? Disappointment? All of this stuff results in stress — a condition plagued with guilt (toward God), regret (toward self), and bitterness (toward others).
If you’re human, then you’re under stress. And if life has been extra difficult, then you’re probably at a stress-induced breaking point. We’ve all been there. Life on planet earth is hard — and no one gets off easy. No one.
My friend, peace is not the absence of problems. If that were the case, nobody would ever have peace because we always face problems. Jesus faced big problems and yet He was called the Prince of Peace. Jesus didn’t promise us a problem-free life. Instead, He promised to give us peace in the midst of our problems:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
After sharing with his disciples the problems they were about to encounter, Jesus said this, ““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
So, how do we experience peace even as problems come and stress builds within us? It’s a great question.
But before I offer an answer, I feel the need to make an important point. God wants us to live in peace, not stress. The problem with stress is that it consumes finite time and energy while crushing infinite clarity, creativity and productivity. Allowing stress to control our lives is sin because it is incredibly wasteful. Believer, you can’t afford to let stress waste your potential. You might not like hearing it, but wasting your potential is a serious sin. It’s time to confess your sin and repent.
Unlike stress, peace is a tranquil state blessed with innocence (before God), contentment (with self), and harmony (with others). Peace is vital for experiencing “life to the full” and for investing all of our God-given resources into the genuine worship of loving God and loving others. The Psalmist summed it up this way, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” See Psalm 34.
Here are three big steps to living in peace:
First, be reconciled to God. Reject the stress of guilt by confessing your need of salvation through Jesus Christ. He will forgive and remove your sin and guilt. Innocence before God lays the foundation of genuine and everlasting peace. See Romans 5:6-11. And like the woman at the well, once you experience the thirst-quenching peace of God, you will never thirst again. See John 4:13-14
Second, be reconciled to yourself. Reject the stress of regret by forgiving yourself of past failures. Rejoice in the redemptive work of confession and restitution and in the hope of a bright future for you and for those you have hurt. Like Paul, put the past behind you and press on to take hold of God’s purposes. See Philippians 3:12-14
Third, be reconciled to others. Reject the stress of bitterness by forgiving others without reservation or qualification. Be quick to forgive and slow to become angry. Trust that God has your back so you can freely forgive, love and serve all people. Don’t be overcome by evil, instead, overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21
I’m not suggesting that these three steps are easy to take. They’re not. They require discipline, humility and sacrifice, but above all, they require trust in your heavenly Father. Yes, Jesus warned us that we would have problems in this world, but He also encouraged us to take heart because He has overcome the world. See John 16:33
King David had his share of problems, but he wrote Psalm 23 as a disciplined step of peace:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Peace is a gift of heaven. You must open it. Go back and review those three steps to peace — and then seek peace and pursue it. Why not write your own “Psalm 23” and declare your faith to God even as you walk through your problem-filled valley. My friend, peace is worth the effort — and I pray peace will fill your heart today.