If we want to experience the peace of God…
Church, I believe God has a message for us each and every week. I know this because I pray, I meditate and ponder over this very moment each week. I try hard to listen to God’s direction and remember that these are not my words, my thoughts, my message. It really has nothing to do with me. I’m just the messenger. And I love you and our God enough to surrender each week to Him.
I have to tell you that God gave me this message about two months ago. I knew there was a week in the planning between sermon series, next week we’ll start a Lenten series that will direct us and prepare us for honoring and celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection, but at the time I didn’t know why He wanted this very message, a message of connecting with God in a way that gives us true, real, attainable peace. But now I believe I do.
I am so moved by the revival that has broken out at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY that has now been happening for 11 days! The news of what’s been happening there has been spreading worldwide. But not because it was anything orchestrated or planned, but actually quite the opposite. Which is why everyone is so fascinated by what is happening.
Reporters have asked to come and do a piece on what’s happening, but the school has asked them not to because this is not happening for the publicity for the school or for anything else. This all began by a few students staying after their regularly scheduled chapel to pray. Others saw and joined. Then more joined, they worshiped and prayed, and more joined.
Now thousands have traveled hundreds of miles to just be a small part of this great movement and to feel the Spirit move in ways they’ve never known. Hundreds are waiting outside for hours to just get in the doors. They have opened two other facilities for the overflow of people. It’s absolutely amazing! How does this happen?
I heard one girl say that she just didn’t want to leave. She didn’t plan to be there day in and day out, she didn’t even know hours went by. She just didn’t want to leave…not because of the fun being had or because all her friends were there, but because she didn’t want to leave the presence of God.
Do you know that feeling? You see, that’s what’s really going on. Classes have been on hold, some began again with a whole lot of flexibility, but everything in every one of those lives has been put to the side to experience one thing…the presence of God. They are putting God first above everything else. They are getting back to the basics and remembering who God really is.
Other seminaries in AL, OH and TN are reporting similar things happening. Our kids who are going up in such a broken world are hungry and thirsty for the truth, for the One True Spirit that can transform their lives. And they are finding it. Oh what we can learn from child like faith.
Revival is reconnecting with God after a period of spiritual drought. It’s a reawakening. Meaning it’s not all about getting new believers in and reaching those who are lost. It’s about those who already call themselves a Christ follower removing the vale and being reconnected to God. When that happens, you bet others will see and want that too, even non-Christians.
And man do we need that right now. So much of our world is broken, people are walking further and further away from God. Christians every day are distracted and slowly falling away from the faith. Which then affects the whole discipleship making process. There are less and less to spread the Gospel. The harvest is great, the workers are few.
Every one of us know how hard this life can be and is on a regular basis. We are all affected by the busyness and distractions of this world. Again, all the more reason we need this right now. And all the more reason we need this message today.
How many here could use some peace?
Look, changing our situations, taking out the bad, the trial, the mess is not going to give you peace. The peace you are looking for can’t be found in the removal of any of that. The only true peace that will make a difference in our lives, in us is the peace of God. So the only way to get that is to be in the presence of God. That is why people are so drawn to the Asbury revival.
If we want to really experience the peace of God, then we need to listen up. We need to make room for Him. We need to show up willing and ready for Him to move in us! We need to tell God, “God, I want to know you, like really know you.”
If we want to experience the peace of God, we need to open ourselves up to Him, to His Word, His Spirit, to His truth.
You know, God gives us all we need to live as He asks us to. He gives us all the resources we need to connect to Him, to know Him, to know how to respond to Him. And one of the greatest, well known scriptures about how to have the peace of God is….
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Paul says here are the steps to having the peace of God:
- Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!
Happiness makes us think of unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, or being surprised for your birthday, strolling hand in hand with the one you love, or vacationing in an exotic location. Everyone wants to be happy. We make chasing this a lifelong pursuit: spending money, collecting things, and searching for new experiences. But if happiness depends on our circumstances, what happens when the toys rust, loved ones die, health deteriorates, money is stolen, and the party’s over? Often happiness flees and despair then sets in.
In contrast to happiness is joy. Running deeper and stronger, joy is the quiet, confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives – that He will be there no matter what! Happiness depends on happenings, but joy depends on Christ.
This letter to the Philippians is known as Paul’s joy letter. The church in that Macedonian city had been a great encouragement to Paul. The Philippian believers and Paul enjoyed a very special relationship, so he wrote them a personal letter to encourage them and to show his love and affection. In it he emphasizes the real joy of the Christian life, and speaks of the concept of joy and rejoicing 16 times in the four short chapters.
Now something else to know is that while Paul is writing this letter of joy, he’s sitting in jail in Rome for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. But while living a life dedicated to Christ, Paul had experienced beatings, ship wrecks, too many near death experiences, extreme poverty to an abundance of wealth and everything in between. Whatever the circumstance, Paul had learned to be content, finding, not happiness, but joy as he focused all of his attention and energy on knowing Christ and obeying him.
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him….10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.
Ultimate joy comes from Christ dwelling in us, becoming one with Him. Our inter attitudes do not have to reflect our outward circumstances.
- Let your gentleness be evident to all.
Be reasonable, gentle, charitable to all. Show everyone, even those outside the church, gentleness, kindness, peace. Because let’s be honest, if you’re not, you certainly are not causing them to have peace. When you do something kind for someone, doesn’t make you feel good. It gives you a joy, a peace. It also shows them the love of Christ and how to also have the peace of Christ in their hearts.
And we have to remember that we are not in a battle with flesh and blood; we are in a spiritual war. We are not to be battling with each other. They aren’t the devil. Instead of battling it out with your ex or your neighbor or whomever, be praying over them. Fight for them on your knees. Cause…
- Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
The disciples and Paul wrote and talked like they expected Jesus’ return. And we should too. This is Jesus’ promise to return to make all things right. He fulfilled God’s promise once when He came to earth to live and teach us and die for us. He’s not yet broke one promise, so we can have hope and believe that He will fulfill this one too in His timing.
- Don’t worry about anything.
This is something we all do. We know we shouldn’t, but we seem to forget or not fully trust that we don’t need to worry. Can worry change anything? No, it’s only a waste of time and energy.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:27 “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” In other words, does your worry have the power to give you any benefits? No, instead it’s likely taken a year off your life and is driving the people around you out of their minds.
Worry leaves you with more hurt and more pain. When worry comes, you know what you do…pray.
- Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need.
When the devil temps you or tries to distract you, you know what you do? Pray. Ask God for what you need. He is giving you permission, right here! Does that mean you can ask for a million dollars because that’s want you want? No, it’s got to line with God’s will. When God tells you no, it’s likely because it does not line up with His will.
But look, the book of James says, “You have not because you ask not.” You want healing in your marriage, you want direction of what you should do, you want your heart to be changed? Instead of worrying about it, take it to God. Then trust Him. You can begin to trust Him when you think about all that He’s already done for you.
- Thank him for all he has done.
Doesn’t feel good when someone thanks you for doing something? It does to God too. But more importantly, this benefits us, the thankers. When we appreciate and recognize all that God has for us and it changes our perspective pretty quickly. We can begin to trust Him, rely on Him, look to Him for anything and everything we need to live a Christian life. So get in the habit of being people of thanksgiving.
- Guard what goes into your mind.
Paul says one final thing, fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. In other words, guard your mind. The TV, radio, social media, books, etc. Garbage in, garbage out. If we are putting garbage in, we shouldn’t be surprised about what comes out.
What we put into our mind determines what comes out in our words and actions. And what you focus on is what you see a lot of. For example, the more I’m grateful for the things around me, the more I see of God in them. So focus on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
- Put into practice what we know
It’s not enough to hear or read the Word of God or even know it by heart. We must also put it into practice. How easy it is to listen to a sermon on Sunday and forget what I said by Monday (or even by Sunday afternoon)? How easy it also is to read the Bible and not think about how to live differently. Exposure to God’s Word is not enough. It must then lead to obedience.
The result of all of this, you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand when you put this scripture, Philippians 4:4-9, into practice.
Paul’s point, peace isn’t found in the absence of a storm. Peace is found in the presence of God.
The first reason we should pray is to be in the presence of God, to invite God in. And look, God is a gentleman, he is not going to invade your life. He’s not going to force Himself on you. You’re going to have to let Him in. The Bible says it like this, Revelation 3:20, “Look, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”
What we want God to do is be like BOOM and kick the door in saying, “I am the holy one of Israel here to clean and change everything in your life.”
Knock, knock… “Hey, it’s me. I was wondering today can I come into your house and clean up some stuff. Oh, you’re busy. You got a new boyfriend. OK, I’ll come back tomorrow.”
Knock, knock… “Hey, yeah it’s me again. Just wanted to see today if I could come in. I heard some whimpering, some crying, some things that aren’t settled in your life. Can I come in and help you?”
“No, I have things that aren’t fixed yet.”
“That’s why I’m here. Cause I’m a carpenter. I rebuild things, rebuild lives. And a matter of fact, I come with a cleaning tool called the Holy Spirit. We’ll come in and you don’t even have to worry. All you have to do is let us in.”
God is standing at the door every day knocking, and knocking, and knocking, and He says when you pray you’re inviting me in.