If the goal of the Christian life is to know Jesus as a close, personal friend, then the outcome of that friendship is a peace-permeated life. It can be no other way since Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
We read that the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace…” (Galatians 5: ). Peace is an outcome of our relationship with the Lord. Many things in life work against us maintaining experiencing the peace of God. It may seem counter-intuitive, but we need to work hard at times to remain at peace.
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
Because of the awesomeness of knowing Christ and the glory of pressing on to know him, there are a few basic things of Christian living that we must be reminded about standing firm in. If we forget about these things our peace in the Lord will be snatched away from us.
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Disagreements. They are a fact of life, and we should expect them in the church. It is not reasonable to think that we are going to agree on everything, so it is crucial to a healthy church family environment to have a way to work through disagreements.
Not everything cause disagreements. In fact, it is usually the small, insignificant things that seem to cause the greatest problems. Euodia and Syntyche had worked side by side with Paul in the gospel ministry. They had great agreement on their mission – connecting people to Jesus.
We don’t know what the disagreement between them was. It wasn’t important enough for Paul to even mention, and this should give us a clue about how important our disagreements are in the rear view mirror. So Paul points them to the Lord where all agreement in the church family should start. They can agree together in the Lord.
How do we agree in the Lord? Somethings are non-negotiable. Hebrews 6 highlights a few of these elementary teachings, “the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:1-2) Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” We know that Jesus Christ is the only way to know God. He told his disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) These things we should have agreement on. They are essential.
Some points of belief Christians will disagree about. Paul addressed one issue that was of concern for the Jews because of the laws of clean and unclean food. “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.” (Romans 14:14) In Mark 7:19 we read that Jesus declared all foods clean, but for some Jews they had not yet come to this conclusion. They disagreed with Paul and believed that the food laws still were in effect. Paul basically says, let’s agree to disagree. There needs to be some tolerance for a difference of belief in things that are not-essential to knowing Christ.
How do we disagree in these non-essentials? We should stop passing judgment on each other first of all. When we pass judgment on each other we place ourselves in the place of God and pass judgment on him. We are saying, therefore, that God doesn’t know what he is doing. He should make this person stop. Well, who are we to tell God what he should or shouldn’t do? If he is concerned about it, he will bring about conviction in his child.
Sometimes our disagreements need to be addressed by limiting our freedom to do whatever we want to do. In the issue of unclean food, Paul says, “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” (Romans 14:20-21) This kind of behavior shows that there is a great love and concern for the faith of the brother or sister in Christ that reaches beyond our disagreements. If the greatest is love, and it is, then love should be the driving force in how we address disagreements.
So then, whatever the disagreement, we should agree together in the Lord. One helpful formula has been adopted as a motto by the Moravian Church of North America and also by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” “Often attributed to great theologians such as Augustine, it comes from an otherwise undistinguished German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, Rupertus Meldenius. The phrase occurs in a tract on Christian unity written (circa 1627) during the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), a bloody time in European history in which religious tensions played a significant role.” (Mark Ross, ligonier.org) In this difficult time that we face in America where disagreements can cause terrible pain, we would do well to adjust our mindset to the Lord’s will as revealed through his word.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Anxiety. We live in an anxious world. There is much doubt about the foundations of our society which have been in place for hundreds of years. There is much fear for the future both for our country and for our world. But the people of God have a different way of looking at things. Rather than respond in fear the default response is to rejoice in the Lord.
Sometimes Christians get accused of not dealing with reality. You’ve heard the phrase, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.” That might be one response to Paul’s encouragement to rejoice. What about all the things that are wrong and need fixing? How can a person rejoice with all the problems they face?
The Lord teaches us through his word that we can “rejoice always.” (1 Thess. 5:16) Even when the world is falling apart, and in so many ways it is, we rejoice because as Paul says, “The Lord is at hand.” (v. 5) This is not a denial of reality but rather an acknowledgment of the true reality of God’s omnipresence. The power of anxiety is when we only look at ourselves or the problems we face and do not look to the Lord. Peace begins when we bring our problems to the Lord and place our trust in him in everything.
Here’s the process. We face things that cause us to become anxious. We recognize them, and in prayer we bring them to the Lord. The next part is really important. We thank God for answering our prayers…even before we see the answers. Thanksgiving is an act of faith, and faith is super important when we come to the Lord asking for help.
Many people, especially when facing fears and anxiety, don’t think they have much faith. But Jesus said you don’t need a whole lot of faith. You need a whole little faith – faith the size of a mustard seed. In the book of Hebrews we learn about what amount of faith we need. “for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Do you believe he exists? Do you believe he answers prayer? Good! Then hold on tightly to these truths. Keep your eyes on him in pursuing knowing him.
Then the Lord will bring what he promises – the peace that passes understanding. Instead of fear the presence of the Lord brings peace. In him we find peace regardless of what storm is raging around us. When we are like Peter, who took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the wind and the waves, that’s when we begin to sink. When Peter was walking on the water, were the waves high and the wind strong? Certainly. What changed was his focus. This is what causes us to lose faith, to give power to anxiety and fear, and to fall into the black hole.
Don’t misunderstand me. This takes a tremendous amount of work for some. It’s not an easy path to take, but it is the right path. Also, just like Peter, we need those who will pick us up when we start to fall. This again is the reason that we need to be in regular Bible study and encouragement groups in the Lord. It is in that context of sharing life together in the Lord that we can get our eyes off of the storm and on to the Lord.
Maybe you’ve been diligent in resetting your mind on the truths of scripture, but from day to day you feel like you sink into a pit of anxiety. You don’t necessarily need a mindset reset. You need your mind to be guarded from the attack of anxiety and fear. You need your heart to be protected by God’s peace. These steps are the right ones to take. Stick to the program. Remember that you are in the Lord’s hands. He will bring you through.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Complaining. Wow, have we who trust in Jesus had a meltdown into this black hole. Instead of doing everything “without complaining and arguing” as we are instructed by Paul in Philippians 2:14, complaining has reached a level of artistic perfection. What we don’t recognize is that by living like the rest of the world around us, our peace has been ripped away. The God of peace is always with us, but when we walk down the road of complaining, God’s peace doesn’t follow us.
The formula here is likewise very simple, although it can be difficult to master. It requires a mindset reset. We must think about things that are worthy of praise. We must train our brains to resist the slide into sewage, and instead reach toward the heights.
We all need to vent. It is healthy to share our frustrations. It is not healthy to live there. When our default is to think about things we complain about, then something is not working right.
Sometimes it is just a matter of thinking about what we say and determining to spend more of our time thinking about things that are excellent. A potential goal is to spend 80% of our time thinking about whatever is commendable and 20% on what is stinky. It may take a long time to reach that goal. Start by simply tracking your conversations and work toward sharing one topic that is not wrapped up in complaining.
Sometimes our complaining should let us know that we need to be healed from something painful in our past which is bogging us down in the present. If we can’t seem to work through venting and get to praising, we might have an issue that requires spiritual healing. When something happens in your day that triggers an especially difficult experience from your past and you are transported back to feeling those emotions and reliving your experience, then I believe you could use the Lord’s touch to free you from that hurt. Once the Lord sets you free and brings healing, then you will be free to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure and lovely. Then you will experience God’s peace in that area of your life which right now is filled with conflict. If you would like to find out more, please talk to me. The Lord’s will is for us to be set free from the things that keep us from knowing him more and living in the light of his presence.