“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7
Now more than ever, we live in troubled times. Our country is at war and violence in our cities is increasing. The divorce rate is climbing, so families and marriages are unstable. New church scandals and drama hit the media every week, so ministries are unstable, the current investment and mortgage crisis has our economy unstable, even the weather has been beating on some of our cities this year, so the very atmosphere is unstable. The angst over the upcoming election has many of us on edge. Will our candidate get into office and will that candidate deliver on the promise to fix the mess the last eight years have created?
I was chatting with a good friend the other day. We work for the same government agency. Due to state budget deficits we’ve been told that not only are we not getting our small cost of living raise in January, but effective November we’ll be furloughed one day a month. Losing income while anticipating higher health insurance cost for 2009 isn’t a pleasant scenario. Particularly when everything else in the world from gasoline to food is climbing higher by the week. My friend said, “Girl, we’re living in such hard times.” I replied, “I know, can you imagine how much harder it is for the people who don’t know Jesus.
Christians have an awesome assurance through the promises of our faith, that God is a provider of not only our physical needs, but of the emotional need for peace during life’s trouble. The Bible says in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Those are powerful words, because the reference to the word “give” means peace is a gift. However, I’ve learned that like many of God’s gifts, it’s one we must understand to actually receive.
As topics in the Bible go, peace is a large one. The King James Version makes over 400 references to the word peace. I’d like to point out two things about peace that we as Christians sometimes forget. The first is that peace is not situational. The biblical concept of peace does not focus on the absence of trouble. It is unrelated to circumstances. You may be in the midst of great trials and still have the peace that Jesus promises. The Apostle Paul said he could be “content in any circumstance” and he demonstrated this ability when he was in the prison in Philippi. He witnessed to a guard while there and bought the man and his family to a saving knowledge of Christ. Imagine as a prisoner Paul was able to witness to someone who was free. It was the power of not only Paul’s words, but his countenance and not only his countenance, but the singing that came out of his soul. Paul was able to get this man’s attention by how he looked, what he said and how he lived out what he said. Paul reached out and grabbed the gift of peace.
My second point about peace is that although it’s a gift, it’s one we have to work at keeping. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that peace is one of the fruits of the spirit. That means as a fruit of the spirit it’s one of the qualities we strive to have. God has left it for us, but we must reach out for it and work to keep it. We do that through prayer, Bible study, controlling out thoughts (as admonished in II Corinthians 10:5), and through Godly relationships and entertainment. That’s why it’s so important to guard our hearts and our spirits by surrounding ourselves with people who love the Lord. It’s also the reason I take great pride in writing Christian Fiction. Our world is so filled with filthy, silly entertainment. I love the gift that is Christian Fiction.
It’s good to know that in Jesus we all have access to same peace that Paul had. It’s good to know that if we keep our minds stayed on HIM that we can always count on HIM to plant a song in our hearts. It’s good to know that if we put the time in with prayer and supplication that the fruit of peace will bear itself. And finally it’s good to know that no matter what, Jesus never takes a furlough day and his Dow Jones average is always up!
A version of this column was originally published at http://www.urbanchristianfiction.com/ where I write a monthly column.