I have recently become a volunteer for a large Christian website.
Well, I shouldn’t say “recently.” I have actually been commissioned as a volunteer for some time – the pastor in charge of the department I volunteer for just hadn’t sent me any work for months. But he finally e-mailed me a couple weeks ago, explaining that the ministry is currently experiencing a greater workload than they can handle right now, and did I have any free time to help out. Of course, with five homeschooled children and a full-time night-shift job, I don’t really know the meaning of the phrase “free time,” but I wasn’t going to tell him that.
So what do I do in my volunteer position?
I answer the e-mails of people who submit questions to the website.
Some of those who send messages aren’t Christians, but most of them are – and they’re all worried about a myriad of topics. They worry about whether they’re actually saved, about whether close friends or family will ever be saved, or whether they’ve truly been forgiven after a history of “dabbling” in the occult, the secret destruction of adultery, or the painful struggles with bulimia or substance abuse. Many more worry about finances, their jobs, their homes, and anything else you can think of.
And I can’t help noticing that all of these Christians, sadly, have one thing in common: none of them have true peace.
Now, when it comes down to it I certainly have no room to talk – there have been many instances in my life when the peace of God just doesn’t seem to be anywhere in sight. Even now, as I face mounting pressures from a variety of sources, I often find it a daily test just to survive, let alone to thrive in my walk with God. And yet having peace is an important key to doing just that – thriving, not just surviving.
The act of mere survival is not exactly what God has in mind for our lives – He surely wants us to experience all the blessings of abundant living that He has in store for us. Why, then, is peace so elusive to so many, myself included, who claim to know Christ?
The answer, I’ve found, lies in more than just waiting for God to automatically deliver it to us, like a UPS package dropped on our doorstep. Peace is promised to us as Christians, but a far more proactive role is required on our part that many of us don’t even think about.
Consider the words of Romans 15:13, which says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” In this verse, we are clearly encouraged to trust in God so that He will fill us with joy and peace. But how do we trust during the times when our thoughts and hearts are filled with doubts, and the walls, it seems, are caving in all around us?
A verse that has become one of the most meaningful to me throughout my Christian walk has been Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.”
There are two things I especially love about this verse. The first phrase tells us to be “anxious for nothing.” Now, the very fact that the word “anxious” is used speaks directly to me in a way that no other verse does – I have to admit that I have the market cornered on anxiety. And yet, we are told to be anxious for nothing. Nothing. Not a thing – not for where our next meal is coming from, not for where we will get the money that will fix the 10-year-old car that broke down last week – again – not for anything. Instead, we are told to let our requests be made known to God through prayer. And what will happen once we deliver it all to Him in prayer? Here’s the other thing I love about this verse in Philippians: the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds.
So it doesn’t matter that the 10-year-old car needs to be fixed and there is no money anywhere in sight to pay the repair bill. Once we lift the problem up to God in prayer, His peace will protect us from experiencing unnecessary anxiety about it. We don’t have to understand how the problem will be solved, but we can be assured that we will live through it, with the perfect peace in knowing that God has it under control. (And there’s that trust issue again.)
Prayer is so fundamental to the Christian walk, and yet it can be – and so often is – taken for granted. It has an amazing power to change the lives of others, but just as importantly, it has the power to change our own lives – and it is the key to true peace. Even Bible reading doesn’t hold as much meaning for us unless we ask God, through prayer, to open our hearts and minds to His Word.
Peace comes only as a result of not just knowing the Savior, but abiding in Him by daily by staying in constant contact with Him. Peace is a gift that the enemy is always looking to snatch away from us – which is probably why Philippians 4:6 tells us that our hearts and minds will be “guarded” with it when we take our requests to God in prayer.
So from now on, let us all remember the words of Philippians 4:6.
And from now on, I will certainly encourage all the faceless souls I encounter by e-mail to read and act on those words.
They are worth remembering for a lifetime.