23 Peace -- Where do I find strength to battle anxiety and fear?

     On Sept. 3, Labor Day Weekend, I posted the devotional below, anticipating this week's study on PEACE. Six months later, we are at Week 23 in our BELIEVE study. How have you grown in this study? Did your grow in the virtue of JOY last week? Are you ready to grow in PEACE?

     For me, as I anticipated, this section of study on virtues has been the most convicting. Last week, I was actually embarrassed to admit I struggle with the virtue of Joy, or being content. This week will also be a week of conviction to be at peace, with Shalom.

     I was mentored in hospital visitation by a missionary who would visit, read a Scripture, and then pray with the person in recovery. (I will always remember our first visit was with a man who asked "Do you want to see my scar?" I don't know why he asked because he went ahead and showed us anyway!) My mentor always used the same verse, Philippians 4:6-7. Years later, I understand why. No other verse fits any better for hospitals than the one which speaks on having a "peace that passes all understanding" to guard and protect our hearts and our minds.

     Come to think about it, Philippians 4:6-7 fits just about any situation and struggle that we face in life that makes us prone to worry. Read it outloud, from the new New International Version:

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

     Labor Day weekend during presidential elections is typically the weekend that many people get serious in thinking about who to vote for. Today’s devotional speaks about peace and one of the readings in Week 23 will be passages that speak about praying for those who have authority over us, including the government, that we may “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence,” 1 Timothy 2:2.

     A common greeting in Jewish custom is “Shalom,” meaning peace. I like to think that when Jesus would greet the disciples such as in John 20:19, 21, 26 and other places that He would say, “Shalom.”

     I am finding the most conviction of the BELIEVE study in these virtues. I can intellectually and Biblically defend the theology aspects we have learned. But these lessons on “love”, “joy”, and “peace” will hopefully bring the most life change in me and in our church. After all, Jesus said that if we make peace, we will be most blessed (Matthew 5:9).

The following devotional comes from Zondervan. Be sure to check today’s Killeen Daily Herald about our church and BELIEVE.

Most of us think of peace as a feeling. We want to trade our anxiety, depression and fear for calming tranquility. There are many harmful and ineffective ways people attempt to achieve this feeling, most notably by using alcohol or drugs. Biblical peace, however, starts not with the feeling of peace but with the root cause of it, meaning a strong and healthy relationship with God and with others. Of course, peace with God is made possible only through the Prince of Peace. When Christ establishes his eternal kingdom, societal peace will be the norm.

Two-thirds of the use of the word “peace” (shalom) in the Old Testament involves the fulfillment that comes to humans when they experience God’s presence. Such peace can be experienced from God’s presence in our lives even in difficult circumstances.

Worry is the chief robber of peace in our lives. It prevents us from lying down and sleeping in peace at night. It keeps us on edge during the day. Our Prince of Peace, Jesus, emphasized the immense capacity of God the Father to love and care for his people individually before they let the worries of this life overtake them. He also stressed the important role of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Father, in supporting God’s people. [See Matthew 6:25-34.]

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)

I am free from anxiety because I have found peace with God, peace with others and peace with myself.

What difference does this make in the way I live?

When it comes to difficult situations you can’t immediately change or fix — broken, hurting relationships; illnesses or diseases; financial crises — go to God in prayer. Begin by rehearsing all the things you are thankful for — down to the smallest bit of beauty. Leave no stone unturned. Then lay your request before God. Just speak it out to him in complete honesty and clarity. Be specific. Offer to him the things beyond your control and ability to fix. 

As you engage in this spiritual practice of prayer, a peace beyond your comprehension will begin to bud on the end of your “branches.”

Let me tell you a story. In 1956, when Steve Saint was five years old, his father, Nate, flew with four other missionaries into the jungles of Ecuador to attempt to make contact with the most dangerous tribe known to man, the Waodani. After several months of exchanging gifts with the natives, the five men were speared repeatedly and hacked to death with machetes. Years later, Steve found out that a tribe member named Mincaye had delivered the blow that ultimately killed his father.

At the age of nine, Steve went to the Waodani territory for the first time to visit his aunt, who was a missionary there, and he visited every summer after that until her death. Her affection for the tribe was a major influence in Steve’s life.

When he was fourteen, Steve and his sister, Kathy, decided to be baptized by a couple of Waodani tribe members in the water next to the beach where their father had been killed. Steve says he has never forgotten the pain and heartache of losing his dad. “But I can’t imagine not loving Mincaye, a man who has adopted me as his own, and the other Waodani,” he says. “What the Waodani meant for evil, God used for good,” says Steve. “Given the chance to rewrite the story, I would not be willing to change it.”

This famous story of martyred missionaries and their families could have a much different ending — one filled with rage, bitterness, and hatred. But they pressed on despite horrible personal tragedy and saw God work miracles. Why? Because through forgiveness, the peace of Christ was chosen both as a response to the Waodani and as an eternal gift offered to the tribe. Once again, God used his people to bring peace and reach the unreachable.


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