4 Steps to Having Peace in Troubled Times

london-riotThese times we are living in are unprecedented in our lifetimes in terms of the amount of chaos, turmoil, upheaval, and shaking that is taking place in nearly every segment of society. With nearly constant threats of violence, terrorism, hatred, protests, riots, and the like, it is difficult, to say the least, to find a place of peace. Natural disasters seem to be increasing as well; nowhere seems safe anymore. Yet Jesus clearly warned us that times like this would occur, “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) This, and other warnings He gave, were not meant to put us in fear, but to prepare us so that we would not be blind-sided and panic. 

According to this passage, there are four steps to finding and keeping our peace in the midst of turmoil:

  1. Realize God knows everything. He knew this would happen, so He’s not surprised at all. He is not fretting or wringing His hands or worried. He has a plan and it is good, because He is. Though He doesn’t control everything, He is still on the throne and will always be. (See my article, Is God Really in Control? for my views on that topic).
  2. Understand that it is only in Him we will find peace. He is our peace. He is our place of rest, safety, and protection. He is with us, in us, and for us, therefore who can really be against us? We find peace in His nature, that in spite of trials and troubles, He is good and always has our best interest at heart. He works all of the circumstances of life together for our ultimate good. He may not keep us from trouble, but He walks through it with us, and will never abandon us.
  3. Know that the world and its ways will bring trouble. The spirit of this age is violently opposed to God and His ways. Jesus told us that the world hated Him, and would also hate us. (John 15:18) James said that friendship with the world meant hatred towards God. (James 4:4) To expect otherwise is to deceive ourselves.
  4. Jesus tells us to “take heart,” meaning, to be of good cheer; be of good courage; to be bold in the face of troubles! How can we be bold in the face of persecution, hatred, and violence? By knowing He has overcome this world. He was subjected to the worst possible violence, persecution and hatred. He was even betrayed by those closest to Him. He endured the greatest injustice of human history, yet He overcame it because of His love for us. Because He conquered every foe and came out victorious, so will we!

The more we meditate upon God’s nature as seen in His Word, the more we will know Him as He really is. Many in the Church still view Him as angry, vengeful, nit-picking, and perfectionistic. Too often He is believed to be judgmental, displeased, and disgusted with us in our weaknesses and failures. These ungodly views do not facilitate peace in our relationship with Him. We must get healed and free from these ways of seeing Him if we ever hope to have peace in our lives. The more we know Him, the greater our peace in the midst of any storm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Full Armor, Not an Exercise, But A Way of Life

db6990f53da4480d112fd1333a3dbe3aAs a believer for forty years, I’ve heard many interpretations and teachings on the full armor of God. It is a subject that many are familiar with. The main passage of Scripture that speaks of it is found in Ephesians 6:10-17. Most have turned it into a mental exercise where one visualizes “putting on” each piece of armor every day. The reason being, this is supposed to keep one safe from enemy attacks, almost like a magic charm or something. Frankly, this is a labor of futility. Not only does it not work, but it also misleads people into believing that going through the motions of this operation can protect them, rather than how they choose to live each day. I do not believe this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote this passage, as inspired by the Spirit of God.

When taken at face value, the meaning seems really simple to me. Each piece of the armor is symbolic of one aspect of Jesus’ nature or ministry. There are two different words translated “put on” used, the first is in Ephesians 6:11, the second, in 6:13. The first one means, to sink into clothing, to clothe one’s self, to envelop in, to hide in, to clothe with a garment. The second one means, to take up, to take in (to one’s self), to raise. The word used in 6:11 is the same word used in Romans 13:12, …“put on the armor of light,” and in Ephesians 4:24, “…put on the new self.” In fact, the whole verse of Ephesians 4:22-24, to me, is a precursor to the passage in chapter 6, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

When interpreted in context, as all interpretations should be, the armor of God is, in essence, the nature of Christ. The first piece, the belt of truth, speaks of Jesus who said He was, “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) This means that we should walk in truth in every area of our lives. Since satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44), truth will always defeat him. The second piece, the breastplate of righteousness, speaks of Christ’s righteousness which is credited to us at salvation (Phil. 3:9), He, Himself, is our righteousness. The third piece, the shoes of peace, speak of being a peacemaker (Matt. 5:9, James 3:18), and also walking in the peace of God. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6), the gospel is to restore peace between God and man (Luke 2:14, Col. 1:20). The fourth piece, the shield of faith, speaks of our faith in Christ which helps us overcome (1 Peter 1:5, 1 John 5:4). The fifth piece, the helmet of salvation, speaks of the protection of our soul (mind, will, emotions) that comes from the hope and meditation of our salvation (1 Thess. 5:8). The sixth, and last piece, the sword of the Spirit, speaks of the Word of God, which we use to refute the lies of the enemy (Heb. 4:12, Rev. 2:12, 2:16, 19:15). Jesus used the Word to defeat the enemy in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-10). It is our offensive weapon.

Finally, it is striking that Paul uses the word “stand” four times in verses 11, 13, and 14. This word literally means, be kept intact, to escape in safety; to uphold or sustain the authority or force of anything; to stop, stand still, to stand immovable, stand firm; to be of a steadfast mind; of quality, one who does not hesitate, does not waiver.” This describes what our position should be when faced with the enemy. We do not fight, but rather stand, clothed with the nature of Jesus, in His authority which is above all authorities. We remain immovable and unshakeable for greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world. 

When we clothe ourselves in Christ, taking on and standing in our new self made in His likeness, we have the greatest protection possible against the attacks of the enemy. This requires us to die to our flesh, surrender our ways, deny ourselves, and walk in obedience to the Lord, by His grace. It doesn’t mean we will never be assaulted by the enemy. It means we will continue to stand, and we will overcome him because Jesus did and He now lives in us. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Eph. 6:13)

Survivor or Overcomer? The Choice is Yours.

tmp475674510146666496Years ago I used to watch a television show called Survivor. I’m sure most of us are familiar with the premise of it. A group of strangers was taken to a remote location, given very limited provisions, and a predetermined length of time to figure out how to survive. Though we may not be faced with those types of challenges on a daily basis, many live in what I call survivor mode. We go through life reacting to difficult circumstances, trying to make it through each day. For some it means making it from paycheck to paycheck. Others may be enduring from one treatment to the next. It could be attempting to cope with multiple bad relationships. Generally speaking, challenges turn into crises and life becomes a battle we hope to withstand. Somehow that doesn’t sound to me like the abundant life Jesus promised He came to give us.

Of course, everyone faces difficulties; Jesus never said it would be easy. In fact, He forewarned us that this would be the case. But He never intended for us to hang on, hoping to be rescued one day. His plan was, and still is, for us to overcome. An overcomer thinks, and looks, nothing like a survivor. Those who believe they can overcome will let nothing stop them. They “grab the bull by the horns,” so to speak, using trials to propel them to new levels of growth and maturity. An overcomer runs to the battle, not from it, believing they can and will win. They meet challenges with steely determination, not dread and foreboding. Overcomers do not deny the pain, but are convinced they will conquer it. They have undaunted zeal to reach their greatest potential. Even when they get knocked down, they respond with perseverance, getting back up again and again. The Apostle Paul said it well, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

The difference between a survivor and an overcomer is in what they believe. The good news is, we get to choose what we believe! No one else can do it for us. We are not victims of our circumstances, unless we choose to be. God gave us free choice, and He will always honor whatever choice we make, good or bad. If you’ve been living in survivor mode, ask yourself these questions: Do I want to be a victim? Can I control this situation (whatever you’re facing right now)? Will I decide to react to it, based on how I feel? Will I choose to respond to it, believing God will bring good from it? Can I choose to trust God will walk with me through this?

Remember, reactions are always rooted in the flesh; responses are rooted in the Spirit. When we react to something, it comes from our feelings, which is part of our soul. We react in fear, worry, dread, anger, despair, etc. If we train ourselves to stop and think for a moment, we are more apt to respond than react. Responses are easier if we’ll immediately focus on God rather than how we feel. We must pause and ask ourselves, is He with me right now? Does He know what is happening? Does He know and care how I feel? Is He still in control? Can I trust His goodness in spite of this pain? These and similar questions will help us to quiet our soul and choose to trust Him.

Jesus has made it possible for us to overcome even the most difficult situations, for He overcame them all, including death and hell. He calls us overcomers, more than conquerors, and we can be, if we choose to see ourselves as such. We must take Him at His word, and trust His grace to enable us in our weakness. We don’t have to live in survivor mode any longer. Overcoming life is abundant life; the life He makes available to all who choose to receive it. We honor and glorify Him when we decide to use to the fullest this amazing grace!

Overcoming Temptation

No one is immune to temptation. It is familiar to us all. It entered the human temptationexperience at the beginning of time and is one of the three most common ways the enemy attacks us. The Scriptures give many examples of the temptations of the saints and provide wisdom to help us if we will heed it.

The first instance is found in Genesis 3, the story of the fall of man. No doubt, we are all familiar with the details, however; there are a couple of things I want to point out. First, the enemy lies to Adam and Eve, telling them that God has lied to, and withheld something valuable from them. (v. 4-5) At that moment, a seed of doubt was sown into their minds about the trustworthiness of their Creator. This seed of doubt, this thought, was the impetus for the temptation.

The thought, when dwelled upon, caused the first couple to consider their options. If God couldn’t be trusted and was withholding something of value from them, what was it? Eve looked at the fruit, turning her focus away from the One who had freely given them everything their hearts could long for. She chose to turn her attention to that which He had not given them, and had actually forbidden them to have. In doing so, she “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (v. 6)

There are three main areas the enemy targeted – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The lust of the flesh involves satisfying our appetites. The lust of the eyes speaks of greed, envy, and coveting that which we do not have. The pride of life includes that which we can achieve or accomplish. 1 John 2:16 further confirms this, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

Jesus was tempted in the same ways during His time in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11) We, too, have been or will be, tempted in these areas. It is not a sin to be tempted; it is a part of life in this fallen world and will be until Jesus returns. Many years ago, a former pastor said to me, “Temptation is about fulfilling a legitimate, God-given need, in an illegitimate way.” God has given us valid needs and desires that we cannot deny. He has promised to meet every need and longing of our heart when we seek Him first. Our part is to trust Him. Every temptation we face is another opportunity to trust Him.

When those seeds of doubt come and the devil whispers in our ear, “Did God really say…?” we must keep our eyes fixed on Him and remember, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin.” (Heb. 4:15) The One who overcame all temptation lives within us that we also might overcome!