7th Condition for Peace: Be Thankful

May 26, 2017

“Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Observe that Paul prescribed “earnest and thankful prayer.” Do you know what thankful prayer is? My definition of thankful prayer is grateful worship. I have found effective peace therapy in a litany of thanksgiving that has evolved in my devotional life over the last thirty years of praying through Paul’s peace prescription while accepting the hard reality of limitations.

When we’re thankful, we automatically move our minds from the negative to the positive issues in our lives. When suffering from a condition or illness that is causing us to lose our faculties one by one, we have two choices: we can continuously think about what we’ve lost, or are losing, or we can think about what we still have and be thankful.

As I experienced the loss of my physical ability, I have personally found that I get more mileage out of this condition for peace than any of Paul’s other conditions. I have so many blessings for which to be thankful. I discover regularly that when I begin to focus on my blessings, the peace of God is in place. As I think of all the problems I have because nothing works from my neck down, mentally I put those challenges on one side of a scale, while on the other side I place my blessings. I always find that the good stuff far outweighs my bad stuff – and the peace of God returns.

I highly recommend this thanksgiving therapy, which is a vital part of Paul’s prescription for peace.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


6th Condition for Peace: Rest in Christ

May 23, 2017

“The peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:7&13)

What does it mean to rest in Christ Jesus? It means we are so in union with Christ, as a branch is in union with a vine, that we draw from Him, the Vine, all the life-giving spiritual power we need for everything we do for Him, with Him and through Him, as we rest in Him. It means resting in His power to do the things He calls us to do, all day long.

As a bedfast quadriplegic & pastor, my way of expressing it is the Four Spiritual Secrets:

I’m not, but He is.
And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I can’t, but He can.

And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I don’t want to, but He wants to.

And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I didn’t, but He did.
Because I was in Him and He was in me.

So much anxiety, and perhaps the greatest peace thief disciples of Jesus experience, comes from thinking we must do the work of Christ in our own strength. If we are in the will of God, then often we are going to be faced with things we cannot do on our own, but, as vehicles through which Christ does His work, can be done. If we think it all depends on us, we lose our peace!

Overwhelming physical and emotional problems that are crushing the life out of us – terminal or chronic illness, difficult relationships and the challenges of everyday living – will only be manageable when we realize that facing them is not a matter of who and what we are, or what we can or cannot do. They are simply an opportunity to prove and demonstrate Who and what Jesus is and what He can do.

We must acknowledge that we can’t but Jesus can, as we rest our hearts and minds in Christ and in only what He can do.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


5th Condition for Peace: Value God’s Approval

May 19, 2017

“May the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

When Paul prescribes that we should address our peace vacuum by doing the right things we have been taught, he is challenging us to value the approval of God. God approves of right thinking and God approves when we do what is right. When we wrestle with the dichotomy of doing what is right and what is expedient, we should be motivated to offer the sacrifices of righteousness to God, and trust God because we value the approval of God.

God told Abraham: “Walk before Me.” (Genesis 17:1) How many of us do that? Do we really walk before God, all day long, every day? Have we ever actually moved through a 24-hour day holding in focus how God feels about who we are, what we are, and all the things we are doing – or not doing?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus asked the religious leaders a profound question: “How can you believe since you look to one another for approval and are not concerned with the approval that comes from God?” (John 5:44)

There are times in this life when we simply cannot have the approval of God and others at the same time. Sometimes we may not be able to explain to others what is going on in our lives. When those times come, if our peace depends on the approval of people, we will discover that the foundation of our peace is fragile.

One day when we face the certainty of judgement, the way we live our lives in God’s sight will be the only thing that matters.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


4th Condition for Peace: Do the Right Thing!

May 16, 2017

“The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”  (Philippians 4:9)

How can we maintain the peace of God in our lives, especially when facing life’s storms? Paul’s fourth condition for the peace of God is simply to do all the right things. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) According to Jesus and Paul, if we put God first, let God show us the right things to do and get on with doing it, God will provide what we need.

Sometimes the “peace thief” robbing us is the hard reality that we are not doing what is right. The author of Psalm 4 cannot sleep because he is struggling with hard choices. He can do the right thing, but if he does, he doesn’t see how he will make it through his crisis. He can do the expedient thing – that is what almost everybody does – and what he decides to do. But that is why he cannot sleep.

In the middle of the night, the Lord makes him know he is to make whatever sacrifices he must to do what is right, trusting God to see him through the consequences. “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 4:5) After resolving the dichotomy over what is expedient and what is right, his insomnia and anxiety are converted into peace because the peace of God and the God of peace are with him.

We often don’t see how we’ll survive if we do the right thing, but Paul and Jesus both say,

“Do the right thing(s)!”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


Paul’s 3rd Condition for Peace: Thinking About?

May 12, 2017

“…think on these things…”  (Philippians 4:8)

Paul and Jesus agree that we should think our way to peace (after praying!) Jesus challenged us: The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23) Jesus was talking about how we think and look at things – our mindset and outlook.

Paul gives us the same counsel in his third condition for peace: we can decide how we are going to think, and how we are not going to think. He challenges us to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and good news. How much time do we spend thinking about things that are untrue, dishonorable, unjust, impure, ugly, and bad news?

Isaiah wrote, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3) Paul and Isaiah agree that if the trust is always, the peace is perfect and perpetual. If the trust is up and down, the peace is up and down. If there is no trust, there is no peace, because we must keep our minds continuously fixed on God, trusting.

What does it mean to keep our minds fixed on God? For starters, we should think about Who God really is, and the attributes of God…

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he was in prison chained between two soldiers 24/7. Guards changed every 4 hours, which means he never had a moment of privacy, (yet through his witness many of those soldiers came to Christ in a “chain reaction.” 🙂 ) He had to practice this condition for peace continually: “Fix your minds on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and praiseworthy,” then, “the peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” (Just like these soldiers who were guarding Paul.)

In the context of our own experiences of terrifying stress, like combat, being violated by a crime, a terrible accident, surgery, prison, the news that we have a malignancy, or the final stages of an illness, this prescription can give us peace.

“Think on these things…”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace

 


Paul’s 2nd Condition (for peace): Pray About Everything!

May 9, 2017

“…tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer…” (Philippians 4:6)

It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry,” but what are we going to do about our problems if we don’t worry about them? Paul doesn’t leave us in a vacuum when he prescribed: “Pray about everything!”

The Word of God exhorts us to pray when we are in crisis situations. Psalm 46:1 has an alternate reading in the New Standard version, “God is our refuge and strength, abundantly available for help in tight places.” God delivered Paul from many tight places. We should therefore always pray in a crisis: “When it’s hardest to pray, pray the hardest!”

However, from personal experience Paul knew that God doesn’t always take our problems away. He had a physical condition that he described as a “thorn in the flesh.” Three times he asked God to take it away. Paul saw many people miraculously healed as he ministered the healing power of the Holy Spirit to them. Yet, when he asked God to solve his own health problem, three times God said, “No. No. No.”

But God also responded, “My grace is sufficient for you and that is all you need. My strength looks good on weak people.” (2 Corinthians 12 LB) His weakness drove Paul to discover the strength of God. When he did, he not only accepted his condition but eventually thanked God in it so the power of God might be showcased in him.

As Paul accepted the will of God regarding his thorn, he learned that the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us. Paul exhorts us from his personal experience that prayer may deliver us from our problems, or prayer may give us the grace to cope with them. But, in any case, pray.

Always pray about everything!

 Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


The Peace of God: A Prescription for Peace

May 5, 2017

“Don’t worry over anything whatever…” (Philippians 4:6)

In the fourth chapter of his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul prescribed twelve conditions for what the Bible calls “the peace of God.” Those who have the Holy Spirit living in them must meet these twelve conditions if they want to live in this continuous state of peace. If you profess to be a follower of Christ and you don’t have this peace, maybe you didn’t know it’s based on these conditions?

The first of these conditions is: don’t worry. Paul doesn’t begin his conditions for peace this way because there is nothing to worry about. He prescribes this because worry is not productive. In fact, worry is counterproductive. Worry saps from us the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical strength we need to cope with our problems. If you examine Paul’s peace prescription carefully, you will discover that he tells us to replace our worry with something that is productive: prayer.

I once saw a sign that asked: “Why Pray When You Can Worry?” I had hitch-hiked from the East Coast to the West Coast of America to transfer to a Bible college in California and I only had $23.00 in my pocket. The godly old man who showed me the sign ran the employment office for the college and I desperately needed a job. He saw the worry in my face, pointed to the sign and asked, “Which one is it going to be, son?”

The bottom line: being anxious doesn’t solve our problems.

Dick Woodward, 19 May 2009

Editor’s Note: Facing challenges, however big or small, can cause worry to throttle our peace. Dick Woodward (my Papa) ascertained that the peace of God (which is a gift of the Holy Spirit) can be learned in his booklet “A Prescription for Peace.” When a disease of the spinal chord confined him to a wheelchair, then to a hospital bed, he memorized Philippians 4 and learned how to access the peace of Christ even when he was in pain 24/7. In the next few weeks, the blog-posting elf will share 12 conditions of peace from his booklet & series we posted on this blog back in 2009.

Be blessed & may the peace of Jesus Christ be with you, always!