Battle For Peace

The news is so negative. It has always been that way. However, today it seems like the negativity carries a megaphone and a bat. Despair echoes from every direction. Conflicts boil over in every relationship. We are paralyzed with anxiety and wield our opinions like swords. The devil dances with delight.

It is time for disciples of Jesus to go on the offensive. This is the moment to fight for peace. Now is the hour to rise to the occasion. But beware, our weapons are not physical, but spiritual. The battleground is not outward, but inward. The war is won by overcoming evil with good.

The path to peace does not come from human rulers, medical advances, or powerful organizations. Our peace is greater than any worldly calm. It comes from a transcendent God.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)

How often have I come to those words in search of peace and left frustrated!? I felt my peace should rise each morning with the dew, but it was gone just as quickly.

I discovered that peace does not come from chanting these words like a magic formula. They are not an ointment you rub on a bad day. The peace of God is a promise that depends upon tangible actions on my part. I must engage in the battle for peace, and God will ensure I win.

The strategy for winning the battle for peace is laid out in Philippians 4. Here are a few essential tactics.

Stand Together. A divided army is a defeated army. You see, there were two ladies in Philippi who were arguing, and the church felt the pain. Paul’s advice to them was to, “agree in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2). How can we spread peace, when there is no peace among us?

The blazing passions of our times are setting fires among believers. Now is the time to lay down your opinions and “pursue the things that make for peace” (Rom. 14:19). More than ever your world needs you to be a “blessed peacemaker” (Matt. 5:9).

Hold on To Joy. When days are dark it is hard to see the light of joy. You must fight for it. You must hunt it down. But it is there, in an endless reservoir, when you look in the right place. “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Phil. 4:4). Find your joy in the Lord, for it does not crumble when the world quakes.

What makes you happy? Your anxieties reveal your true source of joy. When you are anxious about things that are temporary, worldly or selfish; when you agonize over the loss of your pleasures and plans, it is time to lay down your anxieties and “rejoice in the Lord.” Counteract every crushing report of despair with a reason to hope and rejoice in the Lord (this was the practice of the prophets and the psalmists).

Talk with God. I’m not surprised that people are afraid, uncertain, and angry. The problems of this world are too great for us. Even a microscopic virus is too great for us! But we are not alone. Through prayer we can rest in His ensuring wisdom and power. Through prayer we can fill the halls of our hearts with thanksgiving and praise. We need more prayer warriors who will lay down their constant need to be seen, and battle for peace on their knees (Phil. 4:6, 11-13).

Focus Your Thoughts. You are what you think! When our thoughts are dominated by the conspiracies, uncertainties, and violence of our day, we will be walking zombies of despair, or even worse, marching soldiers of ruin.

Guard the gate of your mind like a sentinel. Beat back the hordes of negativity. Only open the eternal real estate of your heart to things that are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8). In this culture, if you passively sit in your chair your mind will be captured by a parade of pessimism. It is time to break the stupor, get out of our chair, and go on the offensive and focus our thoughts on what is godly!

Take Action. The battle for peace has one more piece. Put on your shoes and do something to serve the Lord. Paul wrote, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:9). The time you spend helping the weak, saving the lost, serving the saved, healing the broken, will fill you with more peace than another hour plugged in to this cynical culture.

Lay down your pillow of escapism. Lay down your passive guzzling of pessimism. And bring the peace of God into a reality in your world.

Paul’s prayer is mine.

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way.
The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thess. 3:16)

Tim Jennings,
Castleberry church of Christ, River Oaks, Texas. 

From Focus Online

The Purpose of Suffering

Transformation

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippains 4:13)

Do you ever find yourself complaining throughout your day about silly frivolous things? Do you complain when it takes 20 minutes to get through the drive through at Burger King even though there are only two cars ahead of you? Do you complain when your tired and you just don’t want to do your homework, or the dishes? How about not wanting to go to work, or do your job while you are there? I’ll be the first to admit that I can sometimes be a big complainer––just ask my wife. The truth of the matter is that we really have absolutely nothing to complain about. It must sadden the LORD to listen to us grumble and complain about such minor things in our lives.
In 1 Corinthians 10:10-11, we can read about how the Israelite nation had this very problem. After they were freed from Egyptian bondage, and led into the wilderness, some of them began to complain and grumble about the conditions that they were living in. Some of them lost their lives because of their complaining. The Corinthians were told not to grumble, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples, and were written down as a warning to us.
How strong this message is! The complaining that we so easily find ourselves doing is not very becoming of a Christian, but suffering for righteousness is.
When I hear someone is having a bad day, I usually tell them that you’ve got to have some bad days to appreciate the good ones. They usually tell me to shut up and go away!
To know Christ is to have fellowship in His sufferings. Philippians 3:10-11 tells us that to be a disciple is to suffer. According to 1 Peter 2:21-24, we have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for us, leaving His life as an example for you to follow in His steps. Then in Matthew 5:10-12, it tells us we are blessed when we are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. James 1:2-4 says that when we suffer, we also grow.
Here is a story by an unknown author that I’d like to share with you. One day, a man found the cocoon of an Emperor Moth. He took it home so that he could watch the moth come out of the cocoon. On the day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the moth for several hours as it struggled to force it’s body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and just seemed to be stuck. Then the man, in his kindness, decided to help the moth, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon. The moth emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and small shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the moth, expecting that at any moment the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened. In fact, the little moth spent the rest of it’s life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled legs. It was never able to fly.
What the man, in his kindness and haste did not understand, was that the restricting cocoon, and the struggle required for the moth to get through that tiny opening were necessary. God had planned it that way to force fluid from the body of the moth into it’s wings. It would then be ready for flight once it finally achieved it’s freedom. Freedom and flight would only come after the struggle. By depriving the moth of that struggle, the man deprived the moth of health and great achievement.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. Our sufferings make us who we are. Read Romans 5:3-5. Trials produce many great qualities in us. We are blessed when we suffer for righteousness, 1 Peter 3:14-18. The conclusion of this is 2 Corinthians 4:8-11, we glorify God in our suffering.
We all have struggles, we all have trials. What we must understand is that the suffering here in this world and this life is not going to last forever. If we as Christians can continue to endure and fight the good fight, then we know that there is a home waiting for us in Heaven. If you are not yet a Christian, then you do not yet have that hope of being with God in the end. You need to asses your situation and find out what is keeping you from the Lord. He wants you, and you need Him, so become a child of God today.

––Eric Olson, Waupaca Church of Christ, Wuapaca, Wisconsin

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

(2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 16)

Practicing the Golden Rule

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

Most people, religious or not, recognize the “golden rule” – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is based upon Jesus’ statement in our text above. We know the statement, but how do we put it into practice? Let us consider a few thoughts.

We Must Take the Initiative

Jesus did not say, “Treat others as they treat you.” Instead, He said to treat them how you want them to treat you. The kindness of others is not a prerequisite to this command. In other words, if people do not treat us well, we are still to show love to them.

The reality is that people often may not treat us in the way we would like. This could be as simple as people ignoring or disregarding us, as Paul’s brethren did to him when he was on trial (2 Timothy 4:16). It could also take the form of persecution, something all Christians will face in some form (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus taught that we are to “turn the other [cheek]” when we are mistreated by others (Matthew 5:38-41).

We are not to treat others as they treat us, but as we would want them to treat us. Jesus said, “This is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). This is what God has been consistently teaching His people throughout the ages (cf. Matthew 22:39-40; Romans 13:8-10).

Why We Treat Others This Way

On a basic level, we are to show love for others because God commanded us to do so. Jesus has “all authority,” so we are to do what He has said (Matthew 28:18-20). If we are wise, we will hear and obey His word (Matthew 7:24). If we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).

Beyond this, we are to treat others with love because of the inherent value of each person. That means we practice the “golden rule” and treat others this way because they are worthy treating that way. All men were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Jesus willingly died on the cross for each person (John 3:16) – even the “chief” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15, KJV). Everyone is worth the same before God.   (continued on back)

There is also the matter of our relationship with God. Jesus said that God will deal with us in the way we deal with others. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15). If we use an unmerciful standard of judgment against others, God will use that against us (Matthew 7:1-2). John wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). We cannot claim to love God if we do not love others (1 John 4:20-21).

How We Should Treat Others

We can start by showing respect for others. We typically think of the “golden rule” in terms of showing love (which we have already mentioned), but it is also important to think about it from this perspective. We should show the same respect toward others that we believe we deserve. This means we will do certain things:

Put others first – “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Paul said elsewhere that we are to “give preference to others” (Romans 12:10), being willing to put their well-being ahead of our own.

Be willing to forgive – “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). Jesus said later that the number of times we are to forgive is “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). In other words, we are not to “keep score,” but be willing to forgive always.

Strive to live in peace – “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:17-18). We can accomplish this by showing “patience” and “tolerance for one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

We should also help others when they are in need. We can ask ourselves the question: Would we want (or need) help if we were in their situation? Paul told the brethren in Galatia, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). We are to be like the good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable (Luke 10:30-37) who saw a man in need and did what he could do to help. James warned that failing to help those in need when we are able to do so is an indictment of our faith: “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14-17).

We can also practice the “golden rule” by leading others to the truth. At times we may be tempted to refrain from teaching the truth to someone for fear of offending them. However, if we were wrong, would we want someone to correct us and show us the truth? We should have that desire, so we should teach others as well. When we teach others as we would want to be taught, we should do it with gentleness (2 Timothy 2:24-25) and humility (Titus 3:2-3). Our initial text about practicing the “golden rule” sits between passages about correcting others (Mathew 7:1-5) and the fate of the unfaithful (Matthew 7:13-14), so the point about teaching certainly fits here. We need to learn how to talk to others about spiritual matters as Paul described: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Conclusion

Regardless of how others treat us, we are to treat them with love and respect. Let us treat others how we want them to treat us so the Lord will treat us with the same love, mercy, and kindness.  

(Andy Sochor, plainbibleteaching.com)

The Door Is Closed to the Unforgiving Spirit

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14,15).

IN ORDER TO SEEK GOD WITH HONESTY AND INTEGRITY, WE MUST REMOVE ANGER AND RESENTMENT FROM OUR HEARTS. There is nothing that will keep us away from God more certainly than a failure to forgive those who have wronged us. Jesus said simply, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). It is only the merciful who will receive mercy (Matthew 5:7; James 2:13).

A truly merciful spirit involves more than the grudging forgiveness of others when they come to us and beg for grace. Jesus called upon us to be people of such character that we will not rest until broken relationships are mended, even if we have to be the ones who take the initiative. Whether the relationship has been broken by our own sin, the other party has sinned against us, or there are sins on both sides that need to be forgiven, in all cases we are to seek out the other person and do all we can to repair the breach (Matthew 5:23,24; 18:15). Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). And mark it well: “if it is possible, as much as depends on you” requires the doing of much more than we think is “necessary.” If God had thought of nothing more than what He “had” to do, He certainly would not have given His Son’s life to make possible the mending of our relationship with Him. It was, after all, we who had broken the relationship, yet His love did not complain about having to do more than was “necessary” to fix it.

But we should be extremely careful. In our conflicts with others, we may be wrong about who it is who actually needs forgiveness. If we think we’re generous enough to confer forgiveness, we need to beware of pride and faulty judgments. Our view of what needs to be fixed may be seriously out of sync with the way God sees it. So having a forgiving spirit means not only that we’re willing to forgive the other person; it may mean adjusting our concept of what is actually broken about the relationship. Humility may mean reversing the direction of the forgiveness — seeking the forgiveness of the very person that we, at first, thought needed our forgiveness.

“No prayers can be heard which do not come from a forgiving heart” (J. C. Ryle).                                            

––Gary Henry, wordpoints.com

Let Us Run the Race

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

BETWEEN NOW AND THE TIME OF OUR DEPARTURE FROM THIS LIFE, THERE IS A “RACE” THAT HAS TO BE RUN. And frankly, the image of a race is mainly an image of pain. Anyone who has ever run a footrace of any distance knows that before the end finally comes, every muscle in the runner’s body cries out for relief. And the longer the race, the more tempting it is to simply quit running.

A great cloud of witnesses. When we run as God’s people, we are doing something that many, many others have done before us. And the writer of Hebrews describes those who’ve gone before as a “great cloud of witnesses,” a stadium full of supportive spectators cheering us onward with the hearty cry, “You can do it!”

Lay aside every weight. In addition to supporters, we also happen to have a spiritual adversary whose purpose it is to defeat us. We must not let him have his way. The “sin which so easily ensnares us” must be laid aside. It’s a simple matter. Either we decide to lay our sins aside or they will be our undoing.

Run with endurance. We are not in a sprint but a marathon. For all we know, it may be many years before the time comes for us to rest. But remember the “cloud of witnesses”? One of those witnesses is Paul, who wrote toward the end of his life, “I have finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7). He did it, and we can do it too.

But there’s no chance we’ll do what Paul did if we’re not motivated by what motivated him: the glorious prospect of being with Christ forever. He said he had sacrificed every worldly thing that ever mattered to him: “that I may gain Christ and be found in Him . . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-11). Any goal less powerful than this will fail to keep us going. We must fix our hearts upon our Lord and determine that we are going to run the race, come whatever may. There can be no question or equivocation about it. So let us not merely study or think about running the race. Let us run the race.

“To believe in heaven is not to run away from life; it is to run toward it”

Joseph D. Blinco

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com