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Saturday, December 22, 2018

A Precious Gift is Waiting for You

 A Precious Gift is Waiting for You
Jesus promises His followers a precious gift – the gift of peace.  “My peace I give you, my peace I leave for you, not as the world gives, give I unto you….” (John 14:27)   The gift of peace is also one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that is promised to believers.  And all through the Bible God promises peace to those who love Him.  But when darkness moves in to surround our souls and pain and trouble threaten to harm our lives, can we still hold on to the peace that has been given to us?
So how do we hold on to this promised peace anyway?  There are such scary things going on in our world that it is no wonder we often become worried and anxious.  But God tells us not to worry but to change our thought patterns.  Change our thought patterns?  God cares about our thoughts? Scripture says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2) New thoughts come from new perspectives.  We don’t have to live by the world’s fearful perspectives since we have been born again into the kingdom of heaven and have been given new perspectives.  
So how do we break old thought habits and start living into our new perspectives of hope and trust in God?  First of all, we need to know Gods’ Word.  Isaiah 55:10-11 says that when Gods’ Word is sent out it does not return empty.  In other words, it is powerful and does a job – makes a difference wherever it goes.  So we need to let Gods’ Word do a job in our thought lives - think over life situations and problems with Scripture to guide our thought process. And stand on (believe) the promises in the Bible that are there for us.  Allow God’s Word to be a light to guide our thoughts.  
In His Word God promises to take care of us, forgive our sins, answer our prayers, and gives us victory in the end.  He promises to make every situation work out (eventually) to the good for us if we love Him. (Rom 8:28) When we look at our problems with God in the picture, we get a new perspective. We are to exchange the old ways of worrying for the new ways of trusting in Christ.  We are to look at life through Gods’ truths.  Our thought patterns are all important. Scripture says: “As a person thinks in his heart, so is he.”  (Proverbs 23:7)
Scripture teaches that with Gods’ help we can accept or refuse thoughts – choose constructive or destructive thoughts. Instead of being held hostage by old hopeless thought patterns, we can learn new hopeful ones.  To have peace in our lives we will need to try to refuse sinful thoughts and meditate on Biblical truths.  Scripture says: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  (2 Cor. 10:5)
Isn’t this scripture asking us to take every thought we have and make it be obedient to Christ?  How do we do that?   This Biblical request is an invitation for us to try to follow –however imperfectly.  As we try to obey, we may take two steps forward and one step backward.  We may fail as many times as we succeed at this.  But we are to keep on trying  – keep on working to make our thought life obedient to Him. Let’s see how it might work out in real life.
We once knew a Christian man – let’s call him Paul – who tried (imperfectly) to respond to his troubles by looking at them with the new perspective – the perspective of seeing things through the truths in Scripture.  Paul was a pastor and his small church was not able to pay him very much.  He and his wife Sue and their family lived in a small apartment and he drove an old car.  Paul’s wealthy parents were disappointed that Paul had become a pastor.  They had wanted him to become a successful businessman and make money. The parents were embarrassed that their son drove an old car.  Year after year Paul’s mother criticized him for being a “failure”, causing Paul to criticize his mother back for being so critical of him in the first place.  These hurtful exchanges stole the peace from Paul’s life and kept him irritated.
When Paul and Sue’s children grew up, Paul’s mother announced that she and Paul’s father were changing their will and leaving their wealth to the grandchildren only.  They would skip over Paul and Sue since they were losers anyway. Several of the children began to agree with Paul’s mother.  Since Paul and Sue did not have a big bank account, they were not important. Again, Paul was hurt and angry. He tried harder to impress his mother and please his children –but to no avail.  Anger and frustration left Paul with no peace. 
 Time passed by and one of the grown children stopped speaking to Paul and Sue.  Paul parents seemed to encourage the son in his decision to cut off his parents.  Desperation set in for Paul and Sue as they tried again and again but failed to regain contact with their grown son.  Up to this point Paul still viewed these family problems through the eyes of this world.   Anger and bitterness took over his thoughts concerning his parents and son and he had no peace.
More years passed with the son and his family hardly speaking to Paul and Sue.  The devastated couple began praying and asking God to change their son and restore the relationship they had once had with him. Paul and Sue knew that it is Gods’ will that families have good relationships, so they believed that God would answer their prayers (eventually) and that their son would come back and have a relationship with them someday.  This gave them some peace – even if this prayer wouldn’t be answered until the distant future.  They could count on God to answer this prayer and they clung to this hope for their family.  This gave them some of the peace Jesus promised.
Gradually Paul realized that the people who hurt his feelings– his parents and his son – were not the real ones that were against him.  Ephesians 6:12 reads: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  This was perhaps a trial that he must bear.  This helped Paul have some peace and stop blaming his family and himself.  He acknowledged that the problem was over his head and he kept giving the situation to God whenever it bothered him.  This gave him some peace.
Paul and Sue often cried on each other’s shoulder about their family problems.  Sue would remind Paul about the latest hurtful remark from the mother or Paul would count out the number of years it had been since they had last seen their son.  Dwelling on the negative seemed to keep Paul and Sue feeling hopeless about a solution.  But one day Paul read Philippians 4:8 and he suggested that he and Sue start thinking and talking about the good things about the mother and son.  And they would latch on to the good news that they could trust God to answer their prayers for reconciliation with family.  Playing down their problems and concentrating on Gods’ faithfulness and the good in their lives would help give them peace.  And it did.  
The scripture that Paul quoted was: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, think on these things.”  (Philippians 4:8) As Paul and Sue reminded one another about the good times they had had with the mother in the past and the good qualities that their son had they felt more hopeful.  And they continued to remind one another that God was taking care of everything.    
Paul gave his anger to God and started doing what he could to love his rejecting family.  And God gave him a new view of things – a new perspective.  Paul could see that God would take care of everything.  Paul could let go and have some peace.  He remembered the words of Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” He promised himself and God that he would appreciate the good in his mother and refuse to let her criticisms make him angry.  This resolve gave him peace where before he had allowed the criticisms to keep him upset.   
Eventually Paul’s parents grew old and needed help. Paul and Sue were there loving them and taking care of their needs.  Paul’s mother began to mellow, and she complained because her criticisms didn’t bother Paul anymore. And then finally the son began to reach out to Paul and Sue after thirty years of rejection. 
Surely God will finish the healing of Paul and Sues’ family ties, if not on earth then definitely in heaven.  It took time for Paul and Sue to learn to trust God.  Time to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor.10:5) At first, they would feel helpless when they couldn’t solve their problems themselves.  But finally, they learned to believe that God was working behind the scenes.  And then because they trusted God, they had peace in the midst of their trouble.
Without trust in God, Paul and Sue could not have struggled through this long trial without giving up.  And without trust in God we can not go though our trials without giving up either.  Because we serve a mighty God, we never have to give up on anything that is good in our lives.  Let’s get our thoughts in line with Gods’ promises – His truths.  And we will enjoy the good life – and we will have peace in the midst of our troubles    


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