I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
As I sit down to type this month’s blog (and accompanying content for the AS BOLD AS LIONS PODCAST), my heart is heavy yet hopeful. We’ve gone through a lot in recent years, amen? It’s hard to even fathom all of it as we’ve learned how to shoulder the burden, pick up the extra weight and somehow move forward…knowing there’s no promise that tomorrow is going to get better. I’m not one to want to camp out in the land of negativity. I mean, yes my thoughts and feelings can naturally go there and often do. It doesn’t take much for me to see the glass as half-full. But in Christ that’s not where I want to be.
I can’t help but acknowledge, however, the real hurts and struggles some are finding themselves in as we near the midpoint of 2023. I see it so often on my Facebook wall especially on Mondays as I reach out for prayer requests. There are issues in the world at-large and yes, we are readily aware of those things. But the personal level of attack (so much of it spiritual), is taking a daily toll on the brethren. Homes being divided, marriages falling apart, children walking away from the Lord, financial difficulties, job loss, health concerns, church disputes/infighting, the lack of the church meeting altogether still in places….I could go on and on. Through it all, we’re not just trying to stay on the boat…we’re trying to keep things from sinking entirely.
Today isn’t my attempt to just slap a Band-Aid over a gaping wound. I know and you know all of the Sunday school answers and certainly, those things are not wrong. Yes, Jesus is still Lord. He is still in control. We remind ourselves of those things even as difficult days come. But if we can dig into even more practically in this discussion, what would that look like? You see, as I face some of these challenges I find myself needing to come back to what I know as truth. Even moment-by-moment reminders are needed throughout the day.
So as we walk this path passing through the fire and the storm, how do we have peace? How do we find hope? Here are some points to consider and some anchors I’m holding onto as we chart uncertain waters.
1. Peace comes through staying plugged in
How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103
I have learned there are 2 components to my own walk that I must lean into and trust in. Even for a man who has been a Christian most of his life, these things are still the hardest to consistently keep as my focus (because of distractions, pride, lack of motivation, whatever). But it is daily Bible study and prayer time that keep me plugged into the Lord and keep my life afloat when life seems crazy. I won’t say I’m knocking it out of the park because I am not. But even as I miss a day or two in my quiet time, I find my heart and my spirit is longing to get back. The time in His presence is never enough. The time at His feet is never wasted time.
In practical, real-world ways, we have to find out how that works in our schedule. Yes we should have an attitude of prayer throughout the day. No argument there. But concentrated time pulling away and carved out to meet with Him is so vital. Do you journal, do you read a devotional, are there certain books of the Bible or passages that you go back to? Find those and put roots down into that process. I keep coming back to the Psalms because there are so many themes that seem to address all aspects of life. Whenever I get done reading that book, I turn around and start again knowing there’s more (tune into my upcoming SUMMER OF PSALMS podcast series). And…the WHOLE Bible is that way. Ask the Lord to lead you to what He has for you to read. Stay plugged in through Bible study and prayer.
2. Peace comes through staying in fellowship
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14
As these days get harder, the temptation is to just pull away. But we must avoid unplugging from Christian fellowship at all costs. The two verses I’ve shared are a means to combat two different fronts in this battle: the need to seek accountability and the need to extend it. “We have fellowship with one another,” to me almost reads like a command. Because of Jesus, we stick with each other. We stick it out through difficult days. We make the greater goal of preaching Christ our priority over and above individual tastes and preferences. And we get into each other’s lives. Not for gossip, not for tearing down. But because we need it. We need people to hold our feet to the fire in a Christ-like way.
As we see more stories of churches doing this badly or pastors resigning due to various conduct issues, we strive for more community…not less. We do the oft-times hard work of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 — admonishing the idle, encouraging the fainthearted, helping the weak…in short, being patient with all. Who likes taking the role of an admonisher (a corrector)? Who likes being an encourager? Who enjoys being patient? Those are not easy roles and many times, they are fully exhausting. But this is the path we are to take as disciples of Christ. This is what keeps the Body unified and on mission. Peace comes as we stay in fellowship and help others stay connected as well.
3. Peace comes through staying in God’s will
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17
Peace will ultimately come to the believer as he or she rests in the knowledge of “I am in the will of God.” Truthfully, this is the point that we come to after we have stayed plugged in and after we have remained in fellowship. It rests upon us in way that is almost tangible. Guys, I have had a couple of tough years knowing that financially things aren’t always easy (my ministry is basically free of charge — yet it’s what I want to sow into as God provides my family’s needs). As I’ve looked at easier paths, less difficult roads, or just to go back to “fishing” (as the disciples did before receiving the Great Commission), I’ve realized none, NONE of those paths are the will of God for my life. And in the midst of the struggle and having to hold on tightly to His robe, I’ve found so much peace and so much reassuring me “This is the way, walk in it.”
Maybe you would say “That’s great Derek, I just don’t have that peace. I don’t know God’s will for my life.” We can agonize over this question and lose years of our lives and our effectiveness just because we wrestle with God over it. And even as He invites our wrestling, He ultimately wants you to trust Him and say “Despite the unknowns, You are God and You are in control.” See…those Sunday school answers aren’t wrong! If you truly are seeking Him each day, remaining in accountability, and simply trusting, He’s going to reveal the path to you. It will inevitably come. And along with it, peace will rush in and reassure you. One day may you look back at the times of doubt and unsteadiness and see those things replaced with a steadfastness and an ability to know…to just know that He is Lord and He is good. When you trust in Him that way, there’s no ask of the Lord that is too big or too far-fetched…it’s simply His will and you are His vessel.
As I close this entry, you may still be wrestling with the chaotic thing that is right in front of you. The thing staring you in the face each day. It’s there when you wake up in the morning and it’s there when you lay your head down at night. Part of what makes this hard each day are our feelings and our need to pick up the issue and just wrestle in the flesh with it. But we are not called to do that. As he goes into a description of Christlike attitudes and behavior, Paul urges us to have the mindset of Christ: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). For me, part of this involves being level-headed and sizing things up against Scripture instead of being reactionary and responding based on feelings. My wife has reminded me often of this wonderful quote: Trust in what you know to be true, not in what you feel. It’s been a constant reminder to then find peace in that truth and security. Feelings come and go. But the word of the Lord stands forever.
I hope this has been a helpful way to dive into this topic that gives some clarity. As Christians, we are the ones in this world who should be living at peace and displaying peace. That attitude should be a testimony to others and a draw for them to ask, “Why are you not worried as you see the world crumbing all around?” I believe those conversations are happening with increased frequency. It’s because even the world is starting to wake up to the fact that something is off, something is not right. May we be the tool the Holy Spirit uses to bring change in the world around, as we find the peace and hope of Christ and share it.
God bless you today! I love you guys and as always, I love walking this journey with you.
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17