The Way to a Peaceful Mind

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4.4-9 ESV).

The Needle Was this Big!

As a boy growing up I remember having to go to the health department to get my shots in order to start school. I do not have any idea what they were for, but I most definitely remember the atmosphere.

You would sign in and then sit in a waiting area for your name to be called. In the waiting area there were a lot of kids doing one of two things—begging mom in tears, “Don’t make me get a shot. I’ll be good. Don’t let them stick me mommy!” or they were, what I like to call, scream-crying. I would explain the last one to you, but I am certain just thinking about a child scream-crying will cause you to take two aspirin.

Here I am, a little kid and all, watching other kids being tortured with the thought of getting a shot or in hysterics from being viciously attacked with a giant needle. My anxiety level was rapidly climbing the charts, mostly because I was imagining a shot about the size of the Seattle Space Needle. As the minutes ticked away I began to fantasize of what was about to happen. I could imagine several nurses holding me down while the doctor put the ever-growing needle into my arm. The longer I had to wait with the many other kids crying hysterically only heightened my sense of dread.

Realizing there was no way I could go through with this, I began to plan out my speech to my mother. I had made a list of all the chores I could do if only we would leave right now. But before I could get the words out it happened—“Bobby Pittenger, could you please come back to see the doctor?”

What happened next was like a blur. There was only one doctor and his nurse with me. No one was there to help hold me down. The initial stick of the needle hurt a little, but within seconds the pain and the bleeding stopped. It seemed as if it had only taken five minutes, but that could not possibly be true, could it? I remember thinking, “Is that it?” All the anxiety, crying, screaming, begging, and pleading for a little stick in the arm? Clearly the anxiety of wondering what was going to happen was far greater than the actual event. And if the truth were told, the torture I expected to endure was all in my head. I guess an anxious heart can be very, very deceptive.

How often does an anxious heart deceive us in regard to life’s difficulties? Philippians 4.6-7 says, “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 all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Be anxious for nothing. Don’t let bills, health, work, money, or anything else cause anxiety in your life. God doesn’t give us a loop-hole for a little bit of anxiety? Nope, He says, “Don’t be anxious.”

Fortunately, God doesn’t leave us hanging with just a “Thou Shalt Not Command.” Notice His plan to avoid anxiety:

  1. Prayer—spend time talking with God each day.
  2. Supplication—seek Him, share your concerns.
  3. With thanksgiving—tell Him how thankful you are for His presence, provision, protection, and promises during you difficulties.
  4. Share your requests—be honest about your needs, wants, and wishes.

Obeying God’s plan for defeating anxiety guarantees “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Questions for Group Discussion

I. Paul promised the peace of God would guard our hearts and minds when we cast our cares upon Him.  There are times when we move our focus from God toward the problem. You may not be immediately overcome by anxiety, however, like quicksand, the more you struggle the faster you sink. With that in mind:

  1. What is something that has caused great anxiety in your life?
  2. Where did the anxiety take you (fear, worry, fretting, anger, blaming, doubt)?
  3. How would things have been different if you had kept your focus on God and allowed Him to guard your heart and mind?

II. God has said that all of creation is good (see Genesis 1-2). We know that He created these things for our enjoyment, which brings Him glory. So…

  1. What are some of the ways you find comfort during stressful or difficult times? (e.g. family time, food, company, TV, shopping, etc.)
  2. How do these point you toward God?
  3. How do you ensure that these things are from God and not just your efforts to mask the fear and anxiety?

III. After being unjustly beaten, Paul and Silas were able to demonstrate the peace that surpasses all understanding while imprisoned in Philippi. Jesus lived out this peace throughout His journey to the cross. So…

  1. How did He remain in peace even when the wrath of God was about to be poured out upon Him?
  2. Remembering that Jesus is a human just like you, how can you have peace even when the world seems to be crumbling down around you?

At Peace With God’s Pace

Graceway MediaThis morning I would like to introduce you to Steve Roll, founder of Restoration Ministries. Steve is a godly man who longs to see others enjoy the healthy spiritual life God has planned for them. He has committed his life to be a helping hand and word of encouragement to those who are hurting.

I believe his insightful post, “At Peace With God’s Pace,” will give you simple advice on how to enjoy the life you’ve been given. Personally, I want to go through life at a pace which allows me to enjoy living. I don’t want to live at a frenetic pace feeling like a contestant on “The Amazing Race” going to different places but never having time to enjoy them.  God’s pace will always allow us time to smell the roses.

I pray Steve’s post, “At Peace With God’s Pace,” will bring you hope of enjoying life and not just rushing through it!

“The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace because he trusts in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3
 “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Psalm 37:23

“Are we there yet?” Like kids on a vacation trip trapped in the backseat of the car—we are an impatient people. Rather than enjoy the journey, we clamor to arrive at our destination. And we want to be there NOW!

Everyone is in such a hurry today. You and I run here and there, and there and here, like chickens with our heads cut off.  We have been duped into thinking that the fast lane of the rat race is where it’s at. Who says we have to run the rat race? I guess the rats do! So many people labor and live at a breakneck, feverish pace in order to keep up with the Joneses. If I read my Bible right, Christians are to keep up with Jesus, not the Jones. 

When you study the life of Christ, you find that He paced Himself during His three year ministry. His steps were established (ordered, directed, laid out) by the Father. You never see Jesus stressed out. The Lord never put pressure on Himself to perform or be successful. In the midst of intense opposition and adversity, Jesus experienced the peace of God. Why? Because I believe He was at peace with God’s pace on the way to the cross and resurrection.  

Someone said hurry is often the long way around in life. Hurry, scurry, and worry keep many people frustrated. Many people lack inner peace in their lives because they don’t pace themselves. No wonder we have so many stressed out, burned out, freaked out people in our society. 

I have always been a high energy person. At times, high gear has been my Achilles heel. As a young boy, I remember watching my first long distance track race. The starter’s gun sounded, the runners took off.  I was so disappointed that the runners weren’t sprinting and running in highest gear. The race was 5,000 meters. The distance runners knew something I didn’t. 

They understood the principle of PACE. To complete the race, they had to pace themselves over the distance. They couldn’t possibly run the whole course full throttle. They would run out of gas before the finish line if they ran full blast.
As Christians, we are running a faith race (Hebrews 12:1-3). The Lord’s will is for us to finish our faith race victoriously (II Timothy 4:7-8). It’s to our benefit that we run our race at His pace. If we run ahead of God, we will burnout. If we run behind God, we rust out. But if we run with God, hand in hand with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit, we WIN OUT!

God is a god of peace and pace. He is never in a hurry, He never worries, and He is never late or ahead of schedule. He is perfectly on time, all the time. His secret: a planned, purposeful, peaceful, productive PACE. God’s universe and Kingdom is one of peace when His creatures live life at His pace. A restful, productive pace that energizes us is God’s way.  

Isaiah makes it crystal clear: Perfect peace is ours when we steadfastly focus on the Lord and trust Him to quicken the pace or slow it down. Note it is God’s perfect peace that the trusting person will receive. God’s perfect, complete, whole, fulfilling, satisfying peace is something we cannot produce ourselves.  Our Heavenly Father is the god of peace who gives peace to His children. 

I don’t know about you, but most of the time my problem with pace is not going too slow, but going too fast. Through the school of hard knocks, my hard head is learning that God loves me so much He will find a way to slow me down when necessary!
If we desire to be healthy, peaceful, and productive, we must come to terms with being at peace with God’s pace. If you are out of sync with God’s pace, fall on your face before Him. Confess your impatience. Repent of your dysfunctional desire to control outcomes and have things your way in your time. 

Slow down long enough to receive God’s peace. As you fix your mind on Him, His perfect peace will flood your heart. Trust Him to direct your steps and to show you the proper pace to run your race. 

You and I are off and running into God’s plan for us in 2012. Great opportunities lie ahead for us to glorify God. Peace with His pace will produce less stress and more success in our lives. So let’s commit ourselves to run our race at His pace this year.

“For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:15
“Great peace have those who love God’s law; nothing shall cause them to stumble.” Psalm 119:165

A Word For Your Week:  Christian winners run their race at God’s pace.

Eternal Comfort

In Matthew 5:4 Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Without a doubt those who are born again in Jesus Christ find comfort in this life. Often we have to endure great trials, but with the Holy Spirit we are always comforted.  We may be in the midst of a deadly tempest and yet the Holy Spirit will give us a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).  Regardless of where we find ourselves in the brief existence we call life, Jesus has promised us eternal comfort with Him in heaven.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”   (Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

All I Want for Christmas is Jesus

My Christmas list this year is quite simple—I want to Obey Like Joseph, Trust Like Mary, Seek Like the Shepherds, and Worship Like the Wise Men. When I looked through the Sears Christmas catalog as a little boy, I always knew I would get a few of the toys I put on my list. I also knew that I would get stuff that would never go on my list, you know—socks, jeans, shirts, and things that your parents put on the list. However, when it comes to making out a Christmas list from the Word of God, one thing is guaranteed; you will always get what you ask for. When we are living within God’s will and ask for anything in Jesus’ name, God will give us that gift. I’m not talking about cars, homes, or other worldly possessions. I am talking about the same godly attributes that Jesus demonstrated for us during His life here on earth.

So, what is it that you want this year? What is it that your heart desires? Is it salvation? Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Just call out to Jesus and He will save you. Are you in need of forgiveness? 1 John 1:9 tells us “if we confess our sins, He [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us of all our sins.” Are you looking for peace? John 6:33 promises us that peace is found in Jesus. Are you looking for joy? Jesus taught His disciples that His joy would be our joy and that it would be made complete. It is only in Jesus that you will ever find true peace and joy. Maybe you are looking for rest. Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…for your souls.”

Whatever you may be searching for, it can only be found in Jesus. Is it happiness, satisfaction, love, a spouse, a child, a loved on to come to Christ? No matter what it is, just ask Jesus. Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

So tell me, what is it you want from God? Will you ask Him today? Regardless of what you need, God is more than capable of providing. He sent Jesus to provide a way to Himself. Now, He is waiting to pour out His immeasurable blessings on those who will humble themselves and come to Him. Won’t you come today? Bottom line, all I really want for Christmas is for you to know Jesus!