How to receive peace

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

March/April 2014 Issue – ‘The Great Legacy’

Today’s text for reading and meditation is:

Philippians 4:1-9 (NIV): ‘Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I’ve very little to say about what Selwyn has written.

However, I think the following is important: we must first trust God with every aspect of our lives. He has authority over all creation, and He does actively exercise that control. There is nothing that happens in our lives that is outside of His sovereign power. God is all powerful and the bad things that happen to us – is being used by God to transform us into the likeness of Jesus.

Consequently, there is nothing that we should habitually fear, and what fears we do have, and some fears are inevitable in this chaotic world; can be handed over to Jesus in prayer. This is what Paul is saying in this verse: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’

In the act of fully trusting our loving God, especial when we are facing trials, we will find that His peace will always guard our hearts and minds.

In Selwyn’s conclusion, we read these wise words: ‘When you put everything into His hands and are willing to open your hearts fully to Him then peace is the inevitable result.

The problem with many people is that they don’t fully trust in God’s power, and goodness, especially in the application of His love in their lives. How very, very sad!

Your view?

A simple test

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

January/February 2014 Issue – ‘Songs for the Road’

Today’s text for reading and meditation:

Psalm 125 (NIV): ‘Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures for ever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and for evermore.

The sceptre of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.

Lord, do good to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart. But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers.’

I agree with Selwyn when he says that we need to trust in the truth that ‘the Lord surrounds his people both now and for evermore’.

He writes: ‘How good are you at trusting? In many ways, the degree you trust in God will be the degree to which you are secure as a person. One of the best tests I know to evaluate how secure I am in God is to examine my heart when Iexperience strong feelings of anxiety.’ Do we turn our eyes towards Jesus in times of trouble or do we seek solutions in other places or people? Or, do we deny that we have a problem, so as to avoid doing anything about it?

He goes to say: ‘The psalmist says in Psalm 46:1, ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.’ Lovely sounding words, but are they true? I believe they are. … If you can’t bank on anything else you can bank on what God says.

Is there something in your life today that you need to give to God and trust in His ways?

I think there are three components to trusting in God’s ever-present help. One, that God is all-powerful and is able to help in every situation. Second, that God is good, dependable and He can intervene in our lives. (That is, Jesus is not a by-stander, watching everything but never getting involved with our lives.) And third, perhaps the most important point, some people believe that God is almighty and does become involved with His creation – but, they feel they are not worthy enough to be helped by God.

If you have difficulties in believing that God will help you because you think you are insignificant – a person of little importance in God’s eyes – then think again. He gave His life for you – He has given you the priceless gift of eternal life – because He totally loves you.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans 5:1-8 (NIV), we read: ‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’

The above verses give us some important truths to hang onto, and they are; while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (There was no one who was good in God’s eyes, you and me included.) The next point builds on to this foundation stone – now we have access to God as His children, how much more can we now be certain of His love? Then, if that wasn’t enough – He gives us His Holy Spirit – who enables us to identify, and believe in, these truths. So, when Jesus looks at you – He sees His treasured child, who He protects (from spiritual dangers) and, at-all-times, surrounds you with His love.

[The psalmist, who wrote the psalm we are looking at today, did not have the knowledge of the mysteries concerning Jesus; yet, he could still say, ‘the Lord surrounds his people both now and for evermore.‘ We, as Christians, can say, ‘Jesus surrounds me, with His love; in God’s love I trust.’]

How great is that?

What was Paul’s thorn

Selwyn looks at the following verses of Scripture, and asks: What was Paul’s thorn?

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV): “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

It really doesn’t matter – what the thorn was – the main point is – that it was ‘a messenger of Satan – sent to torment Paul’.

Of greater importance is God’s response  to Paul’s persistent prayer: God’s grace overcomes anything which Satan may send to torment us.

I think it’s important to be aware that as we work in God’s harvest field – we will need to face the possibility of getting thorns in our hands (or sides). It’s Satan’s attempt to slow us down – to discourage us – to get us to focus on our own situation and to tempt us to take our eyes off of the task which God has has allocated to us.

As with Paul, we need to appeal to God for assistance; and then; to have confidence in His grace – that in our weakness His strength will support us and His love will overcome any painful obstacles –  our trust, will enable Him to heal any wounds.

What do you think?

‘The dark night of the soul’

Selwyn continues to discuss the feeling some people have – that they have been abandoned by God.

Like, Selwyn – I’ve never been through such an experience – so, I can’t really comment on this type of feeling. However, I have, on a few occasions felt totally abandoned by family and friends – and, the only thing that held me together during those times –  was that, no matter what, I always had a relationship with Jesus.

The only other situation that I can refer to – is that at times I’ve felt distant to God; yet, that has always been through my own fault. I’ve wondered off the narrow path; and, then I have a sense that I’ m in a wilderness. Such a feeling for me – provides an inbuilt warning – a type of red flag – that something I’m doing or not doing – is not aligned to God’s will for my life.  As soon as I’m aware of the reality of this type of situation; I quickly seek God’s guidance to back-track to that place where I went off by myself; knowing that my Lord will be waiting to lead me along the right path.

Selwyn has used the following Scripture, to provide an example of being abandoned by God – but, I think that this is a very special case, and none of us will ever find ourselves, in the same situation – I think it was an unique moment in history, never to repeated.

Matthew 27:45-46, 50-54 (NLT) [The death of Jesus – on the cross.]: “At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice,‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

… Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.

The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

I think Psalm 22, holds the key to the meaning behind Jesus’ words, called out on the cross; I recommend that you read the entire Psalm. Here are a couple of excerpts [Psalm 22:1-5, 11, 25-31]: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them. They cried out to you and were saved. They trusted in you and were never disgraced. …

Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me.

… 

I will praise you in the great assembly. I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you. The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the Lord will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy. The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him. All the families of the nations will bow down before him. For royal power belongs to the Lord. He rules all the nations.

Let the rich of the earth feast and worship. Bow before him, all who are mortal, all whose lives will end as dust. Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.

His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.They will hear about everything he has done.”

I think Jesus, felt both the horrific pain, suffering and loneliness of His death and His pending glorious resurrection – when His vows would be fulfilled and His victory recognised by the whole world, when all creation will bow to His authority (as foretold in Scripture, eg Psalm 22). All who feel abandoned and cry out for salvation – will know from Scripture, together with their belief in Jesus that through His death –  they will be saved – and, they too – will rejoice, with Him, at their resurrection. If you ever feel distant to God, then dwell on these words from Psalm 22 –  ‘They cried out to you and were saved. They trusted in you and were never disgraced.’  Then pray – ‘I place my trust in You, my Lord!’

Your views?