Week 5 is a reminder for us to live the peaceful life that God intended, no matter what our circumstances are at this very minute. So let's dive in!
~ Obtaining Peace
Now that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Philippians 4:11~ When I moved from California to South Carolina four years ago, the above verse became very real to me. No matter what state I lived in, I would be content! But I think Paul was also talking about something deeper. The world is searching for relief from their stresses. Today, crisis-driven, money-motivated hectic lifestyles are pressing people to their limit. Have you ever wondered if it was possible to live a stress-free life? As a businesswoman, could you sell peace if you advertised?
Well, you can be the first person on your block to have that peace. The Bible is full of comments and teachings on how to live without stress. Peace is priceless; it cannot be bought or sold.
~ Peace is a state of mind ~ When we live a life of prayer, we can build positive mental health. I'm not talking about sitting all day with our hands folded looking towards the ceiling. I talk to God while I'm making the bed, and my Writer's Wagon--my first van ever!--is a No-phone Zone, but I can dial up Jesus any time!
It is the Holy Spirit that transcends our own weak spirit to lift us to a point of being content. This peace described in the Bible is defined as a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Man cannot create this product; it comes only from God.
Giving up our wants is a major key. I find that the more I want, the more demands I put on myself, thus propelling me out of my peace zone. I have to remind myself:
What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Mark 8:36~ Remove stress by eliminating sin ~ There are many peace robbers: money, power, and physical temptations, to name a few. These can be forms of sin when they are taken to the point of losing our peace. God gave us the Ten Commandments to make our lives peaceful, not to make our lives harder. When you think about it, most of our stress is self-inflicted.
Most of us know what is right and wrong, so let's focus on correcting any stressed-caused sin. God knew we would not be perfect. In planning for our transgressions, the Bible tells us how to remove stress by eliminating the sin. We are called to ask for forgiveness. God calls us to confession because secret sins cannot co-exist with peace of mind. When we confess our sins, God forgives us before we finish the sentence. In Psalm 51:10, David asked God to forgive his sin and to create in him a clean heart and renew a right spirit in him. God forgives us, just as he forgave David. God takes pleasure in watching the cleansing of our conscience.
A few months ago I experienced my own personal stressed-caused peace robber. I asked a Christian editor who I had met in California if she would be interested in editing my manuscript before I sent it out into the mad world of publishing houses. She jumped at the chance, and because she needed the money, I sent her $300.00 up front. Three months of communicating via e-mails, she continued giving me excuses why she hadn't shown me any work. Was my writing that bad? Was she bored to tears? went through my insecure mind.
My flesh worked overtime, trying to figure out how I should handle the situation. She finally confessed that she was in alcohol rehab. Oh, my. It was obvious that she wouldn't be editing for awhile, so I quickly offered her an easy payment plan. Instead, she asked me if I would forgive her $300.00 debt. Oh-me-oh-my. That money didn't grow on trees, I wanted to tell her, but instead, I asked God what I should do. "Lord, I don't want to let her off the hook if You're trying to teach her something." Know what He said? Forgive her. Double oh-me-oh-my. I beat myself up for days because I thought He had told me to hire her. Finally, as I quieted my spirit, the Lord explained, I'll deal with her. As for you, Sharron, this incident isn't about the money. It's not about forgiving the debt; it's about forgiving her.
I got the message loud and clear. I forgave her and her debt. It wasn't easy. I felt betrayed by a person I trusted. But it reminded me once more that we must always put our trust in the Lord. He will never disappoint us. And that is where I found my peace.
~ If God says we're forgiven, then we are! ~ The hardest part about forgiveness is forgiving ourselves. Long after we have confessed our sin to God, we often carry the guilt with us, day after day, sometimes year after year. The devil enjoys this because it paralyzes us from having the perfect communication with our Father. I did hear from God about hiring the editor, even though the outcome didn't turn out the way I had planned. There is always more to every situation we find ourselves in than meets the eye. God forgives us, so we must carry on to the next assignment that awaits us.
~ Let it all go! ~ I recall a story of an old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened. Isn't that the truth? Most things we worry about never come to pass. Worry and fear creep in, and before we know it, we are paralyzed to go about our daily tasks, much less make any decisions that need to be made.
Our heavenly Father wants us to just give it up! Stop beating yourself over the what-if's. Jesus says,
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30~ Sometimes peace robbers are just life's misfortunes ~ Stuff happens--I know, the world calls it something else, but it's all the same!
In the midst of all the stuff, you must accept the gift of peace that God offers you. Look around--times aren't getting any better. We can only see our situation through our own eyes, but God sees the big picture. No matter what comes our way, we learn to weather the storm, and walk through it. When Rob and I lived on the World War II ship, the MS Restoration, for fourteen months, stuff happened daily--whether it was a hurricane or a tropical storm on the Pacific or the Atlantic, or a personality conflict between the crew on the Mediterranean or the Black Sea--and I still don't know which was worse!
~ Life becomes a pleasure when we learn to dwell in peace. It's hard to stop and smell the roses when we're under the burden called stress. I can work in harmony with Christ more when I demand less from myself. Simplify is my motto. When we lived on the Restoration, our cabin was the size of a walk-in closet. I had three lockers for my everyday clothing. The rest of our belongings were stored in boxes underneath the double bed Rob built for us--there was no way he was going to sleep in a single bunk for fourteen months! I learned to travel light, for which my husband is grateful. Now, I'm not suggesting that you give away all your beautiful handbags and shoes! But ask yourself before purchasing that next item, Is this going to clutter my life, or bring me peace? I know, that's a loaded question for you Prada purse-collecting gals. But if you've noticed, it's harder for us to reach out to the needs of others if we don't have peace ourselves, so let's endeavor to keep our 'want lists' short, simple, and necessary (oh, thou shoe collectors, please don't turn me off!).
Through the years, I have found that as my faith grows, my stress level decreases. Since moving to South Carolina, when a stressful situation hits me in the face, I take a deep breath, lasso my little malte-poo, head out the door, and go for a walk. The pond, the trees, and the fresh air does wonders for my soul. I can pray and walk at the same time, so by the time I walk in my front door, I'm surrounded by a peace that passes all understanding. I've given myself time to process the situation, and I have a happy dog! What works for you? A long walk? A hot, relaxing bubble bath? A good, sweaty workout? A trip to the mall for another pair of shoes?--kidding! Delete the last suggestion--I don't want to be responsible for a stressful purchase!
Living in peace is impossible to teach because it is a personal journey of knowing and loving the Lord and getting close enough to let Him teach us how it works.
Good decisions and God's wisdom lead to peace in the challenging journey of life, my WINning friends, so let's snuggle up to our heavenly Teacher this week and see what He has for us. And if you have time, please share your thoughts about the Bible study thus far, from one WINner to another!