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Personal peace for many of us can be a very elusive thing. Some of us have a measure of peace, but most of us need more of it in our lives. This little book is about that peace and the path that leads there.
The path to personal peace is a place where Christians can be blessed beyond what they could ever "ask or think." It is a place where we can know what to ask for and then receive the abundance of God's grace. It is the place where we engage in a personal relationship with our heavenly Father. As you read through these pages, you will become more aware of the reasons that, next to salvation, a personal relationship with God is the most valuable thing we can ever possess. There are other pathways in life, but this one of personal relationship is the one that leads to personal peace.
As you travel the pathways of life with me, I ask that you remember two things. First: God sometimes provides some of our needs even if we do not have faith, but the abundance of His grace comes only when we are trusting Him for His will in our lives. Second: We seldom trust someone we do not know....the way to trust God is through a close personal relationship. With this in mind, let us look at some of the pathways of life and especially the path that leads to personal peace.
In this life, each of us tread many pathways - some lead toward personal peace and others lead away from it - some lead to other pathways and some lead to a dead end. As we tread these pathways, personal peace can become distant and remote and difficult to find, but there is a path that leads straight toward that peace that "passes all understanding". It would be so easy if we could find this path early in life, but most of us walk many other paths before we reach that path that leads to personal peace.
It is my hope that, as we talk about these pathways of life, you will see life in a way you have never seen it before. By looking at the paths that lead to the path of personal peace, we shall see reality itself as we delve into the truths that God has revealed to us in the Bible. No matter where we are in life, regardless of how good or how bad the circumstances of our lives are, God has provided the signposts that will guide our paths to the path of personal relationship with Himself - the path that leads to peace. Let us then preview these pathways of life and see how they interconnect and lead to the path of personal peace.
All of us at some point in life, must walk the path that leads to self-identity. We simply must see that God really does love us and that His love makes us somebody. Most of us identify with things like traditions instead of identifying with God's love. But, with a loving relationship with our heavenly Father, we can be secure in who we are and in our reason for being.
Have you ever wondered about your reason for being? If you have never asked the question: Why was I born? I hope you will ask it now. This is sort of a connecting path that adds perspective to life. In becoming aware of the meaning of life we see new purpose for living - purpose that will help us avoid dead ends and enable us to go on to be ourselves.
If we are to be free to be ourselves, it is vital that we avoid the dead end that we politely call resentment. To some degree, it affects the lives of us all, and it tears down meaningful relationships with men and with God. The willingness to forgive is the pathway that leads to right thinking and victory in the Christian life.
Right thinking is the path that leads right through a battlefield. The battle, of course, is in the mind. You may not be aware of it, but there is a constant struggle over what kind of thoughts occupy our minds. Unless we discipline our minds, it is not possible to receive the strength God gives to overcome fear and all the wrong emotions that are caused by it.
Fear is so prevalent in our society that all of us are affected by it in some way. We need to tread the path that leads from fear to faith and then go on to courage which is so necessary to be successful in life. As we shall see, this will take us directly to the path of personal peace. However, on the way, we shall see suffering all around us and become aware of the necessity to deal with it.
No one likes to suffer, but God allows it to enter our lives because it can actually work for our good. We must not leave the pathway by responding to the circumstances of suffering - we must see that suffering can work for our good if we respond to God.
Responding to God requires the same kind of communication that is necessary with any other person. We must not only speak to Him, but we must hear Him. We need to walk the pathway that takes us close enough to God to hear His "still small voice" and to communicate with Him all through the day. If we are hearing God, we are able to receive His love and really become a loving person ourselves.
Jesus said that the most important thing we can do is to love God and that the second most important thing is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37). If we are willing to do this we come into full relationship with God and man - that means we are walking the path that leads directly to personal peace.
Let us then examine this path of personal peace from the perspective of various paths that we have seen. Better still, let us do more than just examine - let us begin a journey across the pathways of life right into a better relationship with our heavenly Father.
As we begin this journey across the pathways of life, we must of course, begin right where we are. Some know more about how they fit into life than others, but all of us, at one time or another, need to walk the path that leads to self-identity.
To participate in any kind of personal relationship, we should know who we are. Without knowing that, we cannot give of ourselves or relate to another person. Brothers and sisters are related because their blood ties them together, but they never become personally related until they give of themselves as a person - there must be a positive giving and receiving of each other. We can never be positive about giving of ourselves in any personal relationship unless we have positively identified ourselves.
Many people draw back from the reality of knowing who they are because our society teaches us that we are to conform to certain images of ourselves. Over time, people have come together in their self-images to participate in activities that have become traditional in our society - we call them traditions.
Many people, seeking to provide stability in their lives, hold on to traditions. In the stage play, Fiddler on the Roof, the father of a traditional Jewish family says: "Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do." Well, that did not prove to be true in the stage play, and it is not true in real life. All of us are tempted to shape our attitudes and activities according to established practices instead of seeking God and His ways. Some traditions add a certain flavor to life but many people are guided by traditional standards instead of a personal relationship with a loving God. It is through God's love that we have identity. Tradition, much of the time, hides our need to know who we are and what God wants us to do.
If you are old enough to remember the decade of the 60's, you will know that young people were no longer accepting the traditions of family and "the establishment" - traditions that centered around such things as church, sports, cars, and homes. They could see, for instance, that it is hypocritical to keep a tradition of being "church-going people" without a real commitment to Jesus Christ. They didn't have many answers, but those young people did not let traditions confuse them; they looked at life and asked the question, "Who am I?"
Well, who are we? Do we have an identity? The answer is a resounding YES! It is God's love that makes us somebody. We are loved by the very one that created the world and placed us in it. It is God's love that identifies us with Him. He loves us as individuals - as persons. We are persons in the same way that God is a person because we have been created in God's likeness. "Then God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26 RSV). Not only that, in 1st John 4:16 (LB), we are told: "God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him." We are not only made in the likeness of God, but we can live with Him in a loving relationship. Christians can know who they are because they identify with God Himself through a personal relationship.
The problem of getting to know God personally is that we are not born with His kind of life. We know from the Bible that the life of God is spiritual life and that men everywhere are dead spiritually because they are separated from God by sin. Romans 3:23 KJV says, "all have sinned," and in Romans 6:23 KJV we read, "the wages of sin is death" - the result of sin is spiritual death! But the last part of this verse brings us face to face with the very life of God. It says, "the gift of God is eternal (spiritual) life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Because Christians have received this gift of spiritual life, they have a personal relationship with God - a Father-child relationship. But, just like a child with its earthly father, we need to learn to love our heavenly Father and accept His will for our lives. When a child really accepts a father's love, it wants to please him - to return that love and obey him. It is the same with our heavenly Father. Through loving obedience, the relationship is established, and we know for sure that we belong to God. It is from this sense of belonging that we know who we are.
It is not possible to know God and not know who we are. Christians have an identity that does not depend on the ways of man such as custom or tradition. They have peace and joy that comes out of the sure knowledge that God is their heavenly Father and that they are going to live with Him forever. If you are not certain about your identity, ask yourself if you ever really repented of your sin. Repentance, which is turning from the ways of man to the ways of God, opens the way to a personal relationship with Him (the path of peace).
If a child loves its parents, it is continually, year by year, turning from its own ways to the ways of its parents. In this process of repentance, a personal relationship develops. If this relationship does not develop, love between parent and child does not survive. It is no different with a child of God. Repentance is not something a Christian does just once - if it is real, it becomes a way of life and causes us to develop in our relationship to our heavenly Father. It is so easy to say, "Well I have done that". But before you say that, I urge you to search your heart and know that you are continually turning from your own ways to the ways of God. You may have made a profession of faith and maybe went on to be baptized. But if you do not have peace and joy and that sense of satisfaction and belonging that comes out of a developing relationship with God, you have a need to turn from your ways to His ways. Repentance is the only way to Jesus and Jesus is the only way to eternal life. He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also" (John 14:6,7 RSV). My prayer is that you will make sure that you know Jesus - that you are a child of God. Tell Him that you are sinful and that you want to spend the rest of your days turning from your ways to His ways. Realize that because Jesus paid the penalty for your sin on the cross, the result of your sin doesn't have to be spiritual death. Open your heart and receive His gift of eternal life. Then, with a thankful heart, begin to return His love. When you seek to please Him, by committing yourself to Him in loving obedience, you will realize that the relationship has been established and that you belong to God and His family. Because of this belonging, you will never need to ask the question: Who am I?
In knowing who we are, we can begin to see reality in life. Out of this self-identity, it is now possible to see much more meaning and purpose in life - to see that God has a plan for our lives and earnestly desires to prepare us to live with Him forever.
As we tread our way across these various pathways, I believe it is good to pause and observe this wonder that we call life. Over the years, I have asked many people, "Have you ever wondered why we are on this earth?" Some had never thought about it, but most had pondered the question and were interested in looking closer at the meaning of life. From the Bible, we know the rebellious history of man and God's loving purpose for His Creation. The problem is that we, the created, tend to ignore God and go our own way. But when man decides to open himself to his Creator, the very meaning of life is opened to him. Only then can we see how destitute we are without God and how much we need a personal relationship with Him.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve had a personal relationship with God - they understood when He said, "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall die" (Genesis 2:17 RSV). Only God knows what is good or bad for our lives. But in their disobedience, Adam and Eve believed Satan's lie. In Genesis 3:4,5 (RSV), Satan said, "You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Their desire was to be like God - to be equal to God - to be their own god.
Well they ate of that tree, and man has had trouble and pain ever since. Even though Adam and Eve lived many years physically, they lost their spiritual life that day. They separated themselves from their Creator by believing that they knew what was good or bad, and so they refused to obey God. That is what the Bible calls sin. It says: "as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Romans 5:12 RSV). This sin that brings spiritual death has affected every human being since the beginning - "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 KJV). If we live with sin and without spiritual life, there can be no personal relationship with God. Without that relationship, we are all adrift in the sea of life without anyone to really depend on. To continue without that relationship, is to get by the best way we can until life is over - never knowing the true meaning of life or the plan God has for our lives.
Of course, God knew very well men would go their own way and try to be their own god. So He began working with them right where they were - teaching each generation a little more about his plan for mankind. As more people came into relationship with Him, God began to reveal that He intended to pay the penalty for man's sin Himself. That penalty was death, so He was to come to earth, as a human being, to die for the sin of the world. As the Bible account progresses, prophets spelled out the details of the coming "Messiah." In the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, we are given a detailed prophecy about the coming of the Messiah and His death. Later, we read the account of how He came and willingly died on a Roman cross for your sin and mine. Then, exactly according to prophecy, He was resurrected by the power of God. His name, of course is Jesus Christ.
Because Jesus paid the death penalty and lives again, God offers eternal life to those who repent or turn away from sin. Eternal life is a free gift of God to those who don't want to go their own way anymore - to those who believe that Jesus' death paid for their sin and who receive Him into their hearts and lives. "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23 KJV).
What, then, are we seeing as we follow the biblical account of God's great plan for man? Why is He so concerned about this life He has given us, and what is the meaning of it? Some say we are here to eat, drink, and be merry and then just die. But God says we are here to be part of this glorious plan that He has for our lives. The Scripture says: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV). A Christian has a new kind of life - the very life of God which is spiritual life. We are on this earth to be "born again" of the Spirit of God. Then we are to grow and mature in that spiritual life because we have a personal relationship with God. The God of the universe is a Person who loves us personally and desires our fellowship. Through that relationship, He makes it possible to grow and become all we are created to be. Through that relationship, He wants to use this time that we have on earth to prepare us to live with Him forever. That makes life so meaningful that all of us should be concerned about the time we spend outside of that personal relationship.
It is evident that the most important thing we can do in this life is to develop our relationship with God. God's standard for any relationship is "agape" love. "Agape" love always seeks the very best for the other person - it is centered on what is good for them instead of what is good for the self. Self-centered relationships are always warped and seldom touch reality. It is not possible to be ourselves if our love is centered on ourselves - but more than that, a self-centered person has nothing in common with our heavenly Father.
Probably the most damaging and most prevalent form of self-centeredness is resentment. As we shall see, anyone who holds resentment against another, holds himself in bondage. We must be free to be ourselves if we are to walk the path to personal peace.
Personal peace always dwells in an atmosphere of freedom - freedom to be ourselves. Most of us, to some degree, need this freedom. The problem is that the pathway that leads there is sometimes blocked - not by others but by our own doing. Almost all of us, from time to time, allow ourselves to be caught up in some form of resentment. If we hold resentment against others, we are not free to be ourselves with them. Resentment not only blocks our freedom to be ourselves, but it blocks out meaningful relationships - it is like a wall between men and between men and God.
Because resentment is so destructive in people's lives, it has been called a "cancer of the soul." It not only limits our personal peace, but it becomes a temptation to those around us because the natural response to resentment is resentment. If others resent us, we feel rejected - and that makes us want to resent and reject them.
Some of us have been rejected (or thought we have) since early childhood. All of us experience rejection from time to time. This causes anger and all kinds of negative emotions. We then say things and do things that we would never say or do if we did not have this cancer in our soul. It is so easy to resent what others say or do and just reject them. We feel we have some kind of right to resent those around us simply because we have been resented and rejected by someone who, probably, had previously been hurt himself. The hurt always begins in the emotions, but there are also mental, physical, and spiritual consequences.
Failure to forgive people who have hurt us brings on all those negative emotions - the result is anxiety and depression. If this goes on, the turmoil in the mind prevents the recognition of our need to forgive. Ultimately, failure to forgive brings us into mental bondage because those we resent so occupy our minds that they are actually controlling our thoughts. In addition, all of this can disrupt the chemical balance in our bodies and cause all kinds of physical suffering. But the most disastrous consequence is a rupture in our relationship with God because resentment is hate and hate makes us unable to love our heavenly Father. The Bible says: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen.?" (I John 4:20 KJV). The only relationship that is possible with God is a loving relationship. If we fail to forgive, the hate in our hearts and minds cuts us off from God because we have no personal relationship with Him. The irony is that when we are resentful, we only hurt ourselves. We always reap what we sow.
There is a spiritual law as binding as the law of gravity. It is the law of sowing and reaping: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap" (Galatians 6:7 KJV). Jesus said, "if you forgive people their trespasses - that is, their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go and giving up resentment - your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matthew 6:14 Amplified Bible). We cannot reap forgiveness until we sow it. In all of life we reap what we sow. If we resent and reject, that is what we reap. If we forgive, we are forgiven by both God and man - then a loving relationship takes place. If we are to walk the path that leads to peace, we must decide to forgive.
Forgiveness is wiping the slate clean and transferring the responsibility for any punishment to God - it is a definite, conscious act of the will - a decision. But is must begin in the heart - we must want to forgive, or else it does not happen.
Many times in my life, I have convinced myself that I had forgiven only to find that I still had that "telltale," critical attitude. I had forgiven in my head but not in my heart. If we are critical or prone to notice the faults of others, our forgiveness is counterfeit, because we do not want to forgive in our heart. We must see the plight of people who hurt us and actually get on their side.
Think for a minute how people think. In their minds, most people tend to justify everything they say and do. They rationalize their behavior even when others are hurt - sometimes they become very sophisticated in the way they convince themselves that what they say and do is justified. Sometimes they are not even aware of having hurt someone else because they are caught in this web of unreal thinking. When they reach this point, they have become insensitive to others - then they become unresponsive to both God and man. Some people wreck their entire lives as they persist in this unreal behavior. If we see that they are victims of this kind of thinking (that all of us are guilty of from time to time), any hurt we may receive from them will be less offensive to us - we can actually identify with them. then, with love and mercy, our hearts will begin to soften, and we will actually want to forgive. We can know we have forgiven others when we see their plight and, in mercy, have compassion for them. Jesus said, in His sermon on the mount, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matthew 5:7 NAS).
Another thing that helps us to forgive is the realization that most people's offenses toward us are a direct result of their own resentment. Because they have been hurt previously, they develop a critical attitude that causes them to reject others. Out of that rejection, they say things and do things that hurt us and cause our resentment toward them. It is a vicious cycle - more than that it is a disease that is loose in the world, and, when it infects us, it spreads like cancer in the bloodstream. Also like cancer, it takes many forms and may be difficult to recognize.
David said in Psalm 139:23 (KJV), "Search me, O God, and know my heart." We are not very good at searching and knowing our hearts, but God is, and if we ask Him to show us our resentment and unforgiveness, He will. If we confess these sins and ask forgiveness, God will forgive us and "cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 KJV). But that is not enough. We have to stop sinning. We cannot stay on this path to freedom unless we stop the critical attitude that is unforgiveness. We cannot be free to be ourselves until our heart attitude says, "I forgive you."
If we react to others with understanding, mercy, and forgiveness, the power and love of God enters in and attitudes change. Then the situation changes and Godly character prevails.
The Bible says, "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32 KJV). Forgiveness is something that is required of us by a loving God who knows that we cannot be the person He created us to be unless we are willing and even eager to forgive. We must have a forgiving attitude and a desire to love people by forgiving them. Giving and receiving forgiveness is the key that sets us free to fellowship with God and to walk that path that leads to peace. But that is not possible if we do not guard our thinking.
We must be constantly aware that there is a battle in our minds over whether we forgive or not. Even as we choose to forgive, we must be sure to stay on the path as we pass through the battle over the thoughts that we allow in our minds.
Have you ever thought of your mind as a battleground? Well it is! There is a constant struggle of the will over what kind of thoughts we will allow in our minds. As we follow this pathway through the battleground of our minds, we will see very clearly the importance of our freedom to make choices and how this freedom determines the outcome of our lives.
By giving us a "free will," God has made us responsible for the kind of thinking that goes on in our minds. We must decide between selfish thoughts or Godly thoughts. If we do not deliberately choose Godly thoughts, our minds become preoccupied with ourselves and the faults of others. The Bible says, "as a man thinketh in his heart so is he." What we are, our very character, is determined by what we think in our heart, and what we think in our heart is determined by the choices we make.
Our thinking is like an unbroken horse that is useless until it comes under the discipline of the bridle. Without the bridle of discipline, our thinking becomes as upsetting as the unbroken horse; then wrong emotions play havoc in our lives. The result is fear, anger, resentment, criticism, judgment, self-pity, depression, and all the wrong decisions and wrong actions that go with them. We must fight the battle for discipline in our minds.
You may say: that's like a war in my mind, and you would be right. But war is not so bad when you are victorious. What is bad is the defeat we experience when we refuse the resources God has made available to us. The war is no less real- the difference is: you are defeated and don't know it. That's tragic when we realize that victory in the mind can be ours in the power of God's Holy Spirit.
The problem is that most people think that the power of God's Holy Spirit is a kind of magic that comes in and fixes things. That is not true! God insists that we do our part in this battle in the mind. Our minds are not some kind of captive computer nor are we robots. Christians are part of the family of God, and our heavenly Father will not violate our will. He has made us free to choose, and even free to decide not to choose. Because of their indifference, many Christians decide not to choose in many situations. They do not realize that God wants us to use our freedom to choose - to cooperate with Him in the battle for right thinking. It is true that we cannot discipline our minds in right thinking without the power of God's Holy Spirit, but God doesn't enter in until we decide to do our part. We must participate in this battle to be renewed in our minds.
As Christians, we are not to copy the thinking of the world, but we are to be new and different with a fresh newness in our thoughts. The Scripture puts it this way: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Romans 12:2a RSV). Again, in Ephesians 4:23 (KJV), it says, "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind." We can be renewed by bringing discipline to our minds, knowing that we will be transformed in the process. If we stop conforming our thinking and thus ourselves to this world and to the selfish ways and customs of society, and ask God for the power to conform to His ways, we will surely be transformed. Society says, "don't be different" - God says, "be transformed."
Transformation, to many, sounds supernatural and beyond their reach, so they don't reach for it at all - they refuse the resources of God. We all need to see the reality of the Christian life - it is supernatural. The Christian lives with, and is empowered by, God who is supernatural. If we do our part which is natural, He will do His part which is supernatural. The questions then is: What is our part in this renewal and transformation?
In Ephesians 4:22 through 24, there are three steps we can take to be transformed in our thinking. However these steps can only be taken by those who have truly submitted their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit is not available to those who will not let God control their lives. Having said that, let us go on to examine these steps.
First of all, our part is to put aside our old way of thinking which is self-centered and deceitful - we deceive ourselves sometimes by believing our motives are for the benefit of others when they are for our own benefit. Second, our attitude, which controls our thinking, must constantly change for the better - we must become more and more interested in the welfare of others and want the very best for them. Third, we must take on the new nature that was made available to us when we were "born again". This, of course, involves actions as well as thoughts, but we must begin by thinking the way God would have us to think. We must, more and more, refuse to think thoughts that are inconsistent with the Christian life. If we put aside our old way of thinking, develop a loving attitude, and put on God's way of thinking, God will surely do His part in our transformation from wrong thinking to right thinking.
By now you are probably saying, "I cannot do those three things," and you would be right. None of us can overcome our self-centered thought patterns alone - it takes the supernatural power of God's Holy Spirit to make that a reality. But if we step out in faith to take these three steps, we can ask for, and receive, the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The Scripture says: "you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8a RSV). The very power of God will make us able to progressively accomplish the transformation of our thinking which will bring us into a close personal relationship with our heavenly Father. By thinking the way He thinks, we can have real fellowship with Him. This is the path that leads to peace, and, if we stay on it, our entire lives will be transformed.
Having begun this process of transformation, new possibilities are opened in the way we think and live. An example of this is found in Paul's admonition to the Philippians. He said, "Don't worry about anything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6,7 LB). Then, in the very next verse, he tells us the way God wants us to think. Here in one verse is a way to apply the bridle of discipline to our minds: "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8 RSV). This can be a check list as we step out in the power of the Holy Spirit to apply the bridle of discipline to our minds - but it will take persistence and courage.
All of us, to one degree or another, have a need for more courage in order to participate in this battle in the mind. Fear is very prevalent in our society - it affects our thoughts and our actions more than most of us realize - it also saps most of us of the courage we need even to enter the battle. If we are to have victory in the mind, most of us must first tread that path that leads from fear to courage.
E.Stanley Jones, in his book The Way, says, " Fear harnessed to constructive ends may be constructive. When we use fear and control it, then it is good. When fear uses us and controls us, then it is bad. Fear has three things against it: (1) It is disease-producing. (2) It is paralyzing to effort. (3) It is useless." The thing God meant for good becomes distorted in our lives, producing disease and sometimes paralyzing our efforts. As fear becomes part of our thinking, it manifests itself in ways that sometimes we fail to recognize. If you think about it, I believe that you will agree with me that worry is fear - fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of people, fear of ill-health, and so on. Fear will be added to fear as long as we allow that kind of thinking in our minds. Fear has a way of making itself comfortable in our lives and multiplying itself. We often live with it over such an extended period of time that it seems natural, and we allow it to affect everything we say and do. As long as we are exercising fear, we cannot exercise faith, and, without faith, we withdraw and lose the victory. It is absolutely vital in the Christian life to harness fear to constructive ends - to replace distorted fear with faith, and to walk the path that leads from fear to courage.
One of the best examples of courage that I know of is that of a young man in the Bible. This young man was not yet out of his teens the day he faced a giant of a man in mortal combat. The young man of course was David. Samuel had anointed him to become king of Israel, and, out of that experience, the Bible says, David received the fullness and power of God's Holy Spirit ( I Samuel 16:13). He stood there, fearless before Goliath, knowing that, in the Lord, he had the victory.
In my life, I have lost the victory many times because fear dominated my thinking. In looking back, I see that I often withdrew from the contest simply because I lacked God's power to overcome fear. Because fear can become part of our thinking, it is very easy to overlook the fact that a close personal relationship with God will cast out fear and give us the courage to be bold as lions.
David's testimony to Saul in the 17th chapter of 1st Samuel (RSV) was that he had fought lions and bears that attacked his sheep. In verse 37, he said: "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." I believe we can see a progression here. David must have begun with fear that seems natural to all of us, but he didn't stop there; he went on to exercise the faith God had given him. Out of his faith that the Lord would deliver him, courage emerged, and he became bold as a lion The progression, then, is fear to faith and from faith to courage. When fear is gone, we are free to exercise faith. When faith is exercised, the power of God's Holy Spirit enters in, and we become courageous. I believe that it was no less than the power of God that enabled David to say to Goliath, "You come to me with a sword and a spear, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of the armies of heaven and of Israel - the very God whom you have defied" (I Samuel 17:45 LB). There was no fear in that statement - if there had been, there would have been no courage. We need to handle our fear, then, in a way that makes it possible to exercise the faith that God gives to all of His children.
The Scripture, I believe, is very clear about how we are to handle fear in our lives. It recognizes fear as a good thing in its proper place, but fear is also recognized as a bad thing when it is distorted and begins to control us. Fear was very much on the mind of Jesus during His earthly ministry. This is apparent in the Scripture as we hear Him use such phrases as "fear not" or "peace be unto you" or "have faith in God." Our Lord was very sensitive to the way we distort things in our lives. If we are to please Him, we must be rid of the distortion of fear.
We have already seen that there is a progression from fear to faith and from faith to courage. But how do we get rid of fear in order to make a beginning? The Bible says, in 1 John 4:18 (KJV), that "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear." Perfect love is God's love completed in His children. We must realize that God really does love us individually. Knowing this, we can begin to receive His love. However, the love we receive is not perfected until we begin to return God's love. That is when love is completed or made perfect. The completion of that love becomes a personal relationship with God, because love is being given and received. There is the key. If we develop a personal relationship with God, fear is cast out, our faith emerges, and courage comes alive.
David and all the great men of the Bible were great because of their faith and courage - faith and courage that was a result of knowing God personally. That is, they received God's love as individuals, and as individuals, gave God their love. Out of this relationship, their fears dropped away, and courage made it possible for them to be greatly used by God. They did more than just recognize a truth about God's love - they did something about it by giving God their love. God's love was perfected or completed in them, and this gave them the courage to become what God wanted them to be.
The Bible says that God has a plan for our lives. It also says that "old things pass away," that "all things become new," and that we are to become "new creatures in Christ Jesus." All through the Bible, we are told, over and over again, that the Christian life is to be radically different than life was before we became a Christian. The response of the individual Christian to this theme of the Bible varies according to each personality, but there is a response that is absolutely necessary if we are to become what God wants us to be. That response is courage. We need courage to stand fast in our faith not only in the world but among Christians that do not stand fast in their faith. Millions of God's children have begun their Christian lives with hope and joy only to find, at some point, that fear neutralized their faith and their courage. We need courage to live our lives before God instead of living them before friends, neighbors, and family. Courage just is not present in our lives unless love is being perfected or completed in us.
The very first thing God wants us to be is a loving people. The Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. "Jesus replied, ' Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: 'Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.' All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others" (Matthew 22:37-40 LB). There, in a nutshell, is what God wants us to become. Love is woven through the whole creation because God is love. Love is the very fabric of the Christian life. We can talk about it and explain it, as I am doing now, but if our love is not completed, we will never have the courage to go on in the Christian life. Our churches are filled with folks who have never had the courage to become what God wants them to be. I was just such a person for many years until one day I realized that I did not love God. I had accepted His gift of eternal life, but I never received His love much less love Him in return. I simply did not have that personal relationship that comes out of a love that has been made complete. As a result, courage was lacking in my life. I was so filled with fear that I could hardly share my knowledge of Jesus Christ with others. Finally, I realized that God really does love me - that, in the power of His Holy Spirit, I could begin to fulfill the command to love God and to love my neighbor as myself. As we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we are able to return the love that we receive from God. Then fear is cast out, and faith and courage come forth.
I see now that courage is available to every child of God. The God of David is our God, and our God makes all of His blessings available to all of His children. We can have the same courage David had. Like David, we can stand fearless before every obstacle knowing that, in the Lord, we have the victory. Like David, we can be...bold as lions.
Boldness to some people seems brash and is not a desirable quality, but that is not what the Bible teaches. It says: "The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1 NAS). The person that is living in God's will has a boldness that enables him to stay on the path even in the midst of suffering. The bold Christian can pass right through the suffering in life to the blessings of God.
Without suffering, most of us are not very responsive to God. There have been times in my life that I ignored God because things seemed to be the way I wanted them to be. I was not aware that my heavenly Father tends to bless His children much like a physical father; He supplies certain needs whether we respond to Him or not, but many of His blessings come only as we seek Him in a childlike way. Without suffering, most of us would never learn to seek God at all-so, the path to blessing sometimes passes right through suffering.
All of us experience a certain amount of suffering- we not only suffer from accidents and disease, but we also suffer emotional pain which we generally refer to as anxiety or tension. No one likes to suffer, but suffering can actually work for our good if we respond to God. If it doesn't work for our good, then of course, we suffer for nothing. Many times I have suffered from tension and anxiety which eventually caused pain and suffering in my physical body - I didn't respond to God - I responded to the circumstances. The result was not spiritual growth - it was physical and emotional pain.
Suffering or pain is a warning. Whether it be a burned finger on a hot stove or an emotional pain that explodes in a resentful attack on our neighbor, pain is a sign that something is wrong. Little children take their hurt feelings or burned fingers to their parents - that is exactly what our heavenly Father wants His children to do with their suffering. The little child can receive comfort for his burned finger and instruction about hot stoves from its earthly parents; in the same way, God's children can be comforted and instructed in the midst of the trials and tribulations that all of us face in life.
But there is more than comfort and instruction available to Christians. God desires to bless us "beyond what we can ask or think." But we need to obey Him to receive His blessings. Listen to what the Bible says: "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you this day" (Deuteronomy 11:26-28 RSV). If we turn aside from the way God wants us to go, we not only rebel against Him personally, but we rebel against the physical and spiritual laws that govern His creation. If we are going to receive God's blessings, we must choose to obey Him and be in harmony with His creation. He has a plan for all of our lives, but it is in accordance with His laws. When we are obedient and fulfill this plan, our lives are filled with God's blessings. Out of obedience, we can expect health, prosperity, and harmony with God and man. Out of disobedience, we can expect disease, accidents, divorce, worry, rejection, and all manner of human suffering. Almost from the very beginning of man's life on earth, man has been inclined to disobey God and go his own way. The result is all the suffering and pain and hurt that we see around us. Out of our freedom to choose, we simply must choose to love and obey God.
Like a little child, we need to be willing to obey and even want to obey. Little children are not always obedient, but, if they love their parents, they will have a deep-down desire to obey them. We need this desire to obey our heavenly Father- but to be real, it must come from love. Jesus said in John 14:15 (RSV), "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." He also said, in the very next verse, that this loving obedience would result in the Holy Spirit coming into our lives. To love and obey God is to be in harmony with Him and His plans for our lives - then by His Spirit, He will cause things to work together for our good. In Romans 8:28 (KJV), the Bible puts it like this: "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (loving obedience). Not only some things but all things - even suffering- become beneficial to us as long as we love God and seek to obey Him.
In the midst of suffering, it is easy to forget about loving and obeying God - the natural thing to do is to dash around trying to find our own solution. But the rewards of this loving obedience are great; not only will all things work together for our good, but we will grow spiritually in the process. We all know that the physical stress of lifting weight causes our muscles to grow; in the same way, the stress of suffering can cause us to grow spiritually if we respond to God. In response, God will set our feet on that path that leads to peace - a close personal relationship with Himself. This close relationship is, in itself, spiritual growth because it produces much spiritual fruit in our lives.
Spiritual growth is indeed a great blessing, but there is more. We grow emotionally and have better physical health because our emotional and physical natures are subject to our spiritual nature. As we draw closer and closer to God, we produce more and more spiritual fruit. If we take only the first three fruits listed in Galatians 5:22, we can see a great effect upon our emotional life. If we truly produce love, joy, and peace, this spiritual fruit will eliminate emotional instability which is primarily responsible for the chemical imbalance that causes so much physical suffering.
In every circumstance of life, there are emotional, physical, and spiritual blessings. When suffering comes, it is either working for our good, or we are suffering for nothing. Is there suffering in your life now? Are you reacting to the circumstances of your suffering, or are you reacting to the love of God? The Bible says that we can love God because He loves us first. We must ask God to teach us to return His love just like little children learn to return the love of their parents. We can learn to love by example, and God is the best example in the whole universe. When we really experience God's love, it is easy to love Him in return. If we do this, we will never fall off of the path, as we go through suffering, to the blessings of God.
As we experience more and more of God's blessings, it becomes evident that the loving relationship that we have with Him is the only consistent way to receive from Him. There is not only communication in prayer and Bible reading that was never there before, but we can know the mind of God concerning the issues of our lives. As we walk this path to peace, it is vital that we maintain fellowship with the one who wants to bless us so abundantly.
I think that it goes without saying that all Christians have some kind of relationship with God - we are all standing on the path that leads to personal peace. But just being on the path does not always mean we will reach our destination - any personal relationship that goes anywhere is a two-way communication that becomes fellowship. The kind of relationship that leads to the peace of God is more than just speaking to Him - many people do that; if we are to have fellowship with Him, we must also hear Him.
All of us have a great need to hear that "still small voice" of God so that we can receive His guidance and know more and more about the plan He has for our lives. We need communication with Him all through the day - allowing Him to speak to us by placing His thoughts in our minds. But more than that, we need to live in His peace as we fellowship with Him day by day and hour by hour.
If you think about it, I believe you will agree that fellowship takes place only when we make an effort to hear the other person - if we are going to be in fellowship with God, we must spend the time and effort that is necessary to walk close enough to hear His voice. Jesus put it like this: "I have been standing at the door and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him" (Revelation 3:20 LB). It is plain, from the words of Jesus, that He seeks to fellowship with us, but He expects us to hear His voice and open the door. The problem is that our sophisticated ways are so foreign to the ways of God that it is difficult to hear Him or even know that the door is closed.
If we are to hear God, we must humble ourselves as a little child. We try so hard to be sophisticated adults, not realizing that God desires for us to be "as little children." He does not look upon His people as sophisticated adults - if we are Christians we are "children of God." Of course, older children can become rebellious, but little children, one or two years old, are naturally trusting, teachable, and submissive with their parents. All of us need to ask ourselves: Is that the way I am with my heavenly Father - or, am I a sophisticated adult? God wants His people to be responsible for what they say and do - but, He wants them to be as little children in their hearts. Jesus said: "Anyone who humbles himself as the little child, is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:4 LB). The desire to be sophisticated adults makes it difficult to humble ourselves as a little child. But, the way to hear God is through an on-going, Father-child relationship. Our part is to hear the voice of Jesus and "open the door" with a trusting, teachable, and submissive attitude. Then, as Jesus enters in, the power of His Holy Spirit "helps us in our infirmities" and we are able to fellowship with our risen Lord. Then Jesus leads us into that Father-child relationship with our heavenly Father. Through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can hear the voice of our heavenly Father and enter into our great privilege of fellowship with the God of the universe.
It is, of course, the infilling of the Holy Spirit that is needed by so many Christians that desire to hear God and to enter into this fellowship. When we receive Jesus, we receive salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but the fullness of the Holy Spirit never becomes a reality until we make Jesus absolute Lord over our lives. It is then, and only then, that Jesus fills us full and overflowing with His Holy Spirit - the Bible says that He will literally...baptize us with His Holy Spirit (Acts 11:16). The fellowship that follows is truly a precious and wondrous thing - it is the path that leads directly to personal peace. Anxiety and emotional conflict leave - then satisfaction and thankfulness come forth from a sense of well-being that is beyond description. This peace is such a blessed thing that many who experience it think that it will, of itself, continue for all time. That would be true if it were not for our natural bent toward thinking and acting our way instead of God's way. Because we have this natural tendency to fall away from the fullness of the Holy Spirit, it is necessary to respond to the knocking of Jesus again and again - to open the door with a trusting, teachable, and submissive attitude. If we are vigilant, we can come back into fellowship as soon as we fall away, but, because God has made that our responsibility, it is up to us to do our part in maintaining this loving relationship. There is this one thing about it: once we begin to hear God and respond to His love, the closeness of the relationship makes it easier to stay in fellowship with Him.
Actually, it is easier to stay in close fellowship with God than it is in human relationships because God's love is constant. He keeps on loving us no matter what we say or do - it is our love that is always in doubt. We must be willing to do our part in this loving relationship if we are going to stay on the path that leads to peace.
The pathway to personal peace is sometimes rocky and hard to travel - for most of us, it is difficult to stay on the path. The essence of all personal relationships should be love, and that is where we have difficulty. We relate to family, friends, and to God in various ways, but if these personal relationships are not characterized by love, they do not survive. Many times we begin a relationship with love and then wander off the path as we drift back into our self-centered ways. If we are going to stay on the path to personal peace, we must be willing to continue in love in all of our relationships - especially our relationship with God.
To continue in a loving relationship is not easy, because we tend to center our thinking around our own wants and needs. Because of this, some people tend to look at love in a general sort of way. They give of themselves in the beginning - then withdraw; yet, in the midst of withdrawn love, they are firmly convinced that they have a loving relationship. Love is not a "once for all" thing - if it is real, it grows and matures in a give-and-take relationship. If there is not a giving and receiving of love, the relationship grows stale and dies. The wonderful thing about our relationship with God is that He never withdraws His love.
We can receive God's love at any time - He is always right there offering us the abundance of His loving nature. That means that we can be in relationship with Him anytime we choose. Some Christians have never entered into this loving relationship - others have entered in and withdrawn- but all of us, if we choose to do so, can enter in today and tomorrow - and all of the rest of the days of our lives.
Someone has said that love is something you do and that is true. Love is a conscious or subconscious decision to give of ourselves to another person. Some people give of themselves easily, because they have a desire to be a loving person; this desire causes them to continue in various relationships all through life because they have decided to love. Although our emotions are very much involved, love begins as an act of the will. As we have seen, this is illustrated in the Bible by an encounter that Jesus had with the Pharisees. They asked Him: which is the greatest of the Ten Commandments? His reply was: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matthew 22:37 KJV). The most important thing we can do is to love God, but we must be willing, or we will never obey that commandment. If we are willing to love God, our lives can be transformed day by day. Why? Because, in being willing to love, we open ourselves to the possibility of receiving love, and love, especially the love of God, does more to change lives than anything in the whole world.
If we are to stay on the path to personal peace, we must see the reality of what God says to us over and over again in the Bible - that He really does love us personally. During His ministry here on the earth, Jesus' life was a continuing example of how God loves us personally. In reading through the Gospels, we can see that His relationship with people was sometimes characterized by "tough love" and sometimes by compassionate love, but He always had a selfless concern for them as individuals.
In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), we are given a beautiful illustration of how our heavenly Father loves us personally. Of course there is other meaning in this parable, but it is a wonderful illustration of God's love as it is described in other parts of the Bible. The rebellious son, who had left home, was now returning to a forgiving father who desired only to give to him and celebrate with him. If you read the parable with this in mind, I think you will become more aware of the warm personal love that our heavenly Father has for each one of us.
It is important for every one of us to let the truth about God's love penetrate our tough exterior - to let Him love us personally. As we receive the wonderful blessing of God's love we willingly love Him in return. With God's love as our personal possession and our love as His personal possession, we not only complete the relationship, but we can continue in it all the days of our lives. If we continue in it, we will surely stay on the path to peace.
Because the world around us is continually drawing us away from this loving relationship, it is important that we do our part to maintain it. The normal response to God's love is to praise Him - to recognize Him for who He is. David knew this and went on to become one of the great men of the Bible. He said in Psalm 34:1 (KJV), " I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth." He knew that praise was an integral part of his fellowship with God - it is no different with us.
Praising God, of course, varies with the individual personality - some people find that it is helpful to read David's Psalms - others hum or sing Scripture songs and hymns all through the day. An attitude of thankfulness will keep all of us continually aware of the great benefit of God's love - praise and thanksgiving always go together when we truly respond to God's love.
We know that David had a close personal relationship with God over a long period of time. From the Scripture, it is evident that he maintained this relationship by responding to God's love with praise and thanksgiving. Because of this, depression and negative emotions ceased to be a part of his life. He stayed on the path, and personal peace was the result. Personal peace will also be the result in our lives if we stay on the path. Let us then take a close look at this peace and discover why it comes to those who are willing to maintain a continuous, loving relationship with our heavenly Father.
Most of us, from time to time, experience some sort of peace, but that is not enough to live a successful Christian life. We need that deep-down contentment that makes us satisfied with who we are and what we have. We need to experience more and more personal peace - we need to learn to live in the peace that "passes all understanding." Since this peace looms before us on the pathway, let us look at it in a way that we can discover more about what it is, where it comes from, and how our relationship with God can keep us in perfect peace.
Billy Graham once told a story about a raging storm. He said: "The sea was beating against the rocks in huge, dashing waves. The lightning was flashing, the thunder was roaring, and the wind was blowing; but the little bird was sound asleep in the crevice of the rock- its head tucked serenely under its wing. "That," he said, "is peace - to be able to sleep in the storm." That is a beautiful picture in words - a graphic example of how a Christian can be an overcomer through the storms of life. But let us look closer at our own peace in our own lives.
Personal peace is the peace of God - it is a state of well-being that is free from anxiety, emotional conflict, and struggles with the conscience. personal peace dwells in the midst of uncomplicated lives and produces hope, love, and the "Joy of the Lord." But where does it come from? Jesus said: "My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27 KJV). Sometimes people settle for a form of peace, which is no more than a feeling of being accepted by other people, but real peace comes from God.
Many centuries ago, the prophet Isaiah made this astounding statement: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee" (Isaiah 26:3 KJV). If our minds are stayed on God - if we make Him and His ways the center of our thinking, He will keep us in perfect peace. Well, you may ask; How can I make God and His ways the center of my thinking? The answer is relationship - a continuous personal relationship with our heavenly Father.
As we have seen, all Christians that have not wandered away from God, that have an obedient attitude toward Him, have a personal relationship with Him - a Father-child relationship. This Father-child relationship takes place much like a young, earthly child with its father. It doesn't always happen, but it is natural for a young child to live in peace just as it is natural for a child of God to live in peace - in both instances, the mind is "stayed" or centered on the parent and his ways. Out of a simple, trusting relationship, the child centers its life on the parent. It is this uncomplicated atmosphere that is needed for the child to realize that he is truly loved by the parent and that it is good to return that love. It is in this relationship of giving and receiving love that a Christian can center his thinking on God all through the day - his mind is "stayed upon his heavenly Father who keeps him in perfect peace. Perfect peace is without interruption - it is a continuing state of well-being. If we are to live in that kind of peace, we must pursue a continuing relationship that keeps our minds "stayed" on God.
To live in peace, we must be willing to do our part in our relationship with God. If we lose fellowship, our peace will fade. We have seen that Jesus is constantly knocking on the door of our heart - seeking to bring us into fellowship (Revelation 3:20). If we are willing to keep the door open, our relationship will be continuous, because God's love is with us all the time. Our minds will be centered or "stayed" upon God as we return His love.
The way to get serious about living in peace is to learn to return God's love, and we can do that by accepting His love. It is sometimes very difficult to accept God's love because of our pride and our tendency to seek worldly things. But when we humble ourselves and truly experience God's love, the result is amazing: His love makes us want to love Him in return. With a desire to love Him, it becomes natural to include Him in every circumstance during the day. In this way we can come to know Him- to trust Him and to truly love Him. We can look up to our heavenly Father with trust and adoration as small children sometimes do with their earthly parents.
It is really true - to love God is to have our mind "stayed" on Him, and to have our mind "stayed" on Him is to live in His peace. If we live in His peace, we will surely be at home with Him.
This figurative path that we have been following has led us to personal peace. This peace is in the midst of a loving relationship with our Father. If you think about it, I believe you will agree that this loving relationship is our spiritual home - the place where Christians can live in peace. The tragedy is that we tend to wander; we truly are like sheep that have gone astray- like sheep that need to come home. The path not only leads to personal peace; it leads home.
It is true that "the world is not our home," that "we are just passing through." A child of God could never make the world his home because the world does not possess spiritual life. Our spiritual home is in our relationship with God just as our human home is in our relationship with our family. We have seen that we lose our peace when we are not in relationship with God. Our personal peace depends upon our being at home with our heavenly Father.
But many of us are like a certain young man that left home because his Dad didn't let him have his own way. He gave up life with his family because he didn't want anybody to tell him what to do. That young man's actions put him in a position very much like most of us. We are separated from our heavenly Father because we don't want anybody telling us what to do. Many people decide against life with God by willfully going their own way. They are not conscious of their decision because they are absorbed in their activities. They just ignore God. They don't realize that they were created for fellowship and companionship and that it hurts God when they become indifferent to His loving concern. Like the parents of that young man, God's greatest desire is for them to come home.
People everywhere, many that go to church regularly, wonder why God is not more real to them. Some have acquired great knowledge of the Bible - some have even had an experience with Jesus Christ, but He is just not real anymore. Why? It is because they have gone their own way. The Bible says: "We are the ones who strayed away like sheep! We, who left God's paths to follow our own (way)" (Isaiah 53:6 LB). God wants us to be at home with Him, but many times we decide to leave because we love our own purposes in life instead of loving God.
Like the young man who gave up his family life, we all misuse our freedom to decide. Our Creator does not force us to do anything - He could have, but He did not create us to be robots. He loves us, and He wants us to love Him in return - a robot cannot do that. So we use our freedom of choice to make ourselves the center of life - to pursue our own purposes. We ignore God because we want to be our own God. Since there can be only one God, we are not comfortable in His presence. To follow our own way, we refuse to remain in the presence of the very One who created us. Outside God's presence, we can never have that personal relationship that is necessary to be at home with Him.
Without a personal relationship with God, there is no communication, no spiritual mooring, no peace. Like the young man that left home, there is no one to look to for love, wisdom, and strength. Life becomes complicated and heavy and sometimes burdensome. Into this dilemma, the words of Jesus come ringing down through the centuries: "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 souls" (Matthew 11:28, 29 KJV). His offer of rest for our souls is nothing less than personal peace. The graciousness and humility of our Lord is truly amazing - in response to our unfaithfulness, He sends out an invitation like that. Personal peace is available if we will yoke ourselves with Jesus (yoke is defined as a relationship such as marriage). He offers the kind of relationship that is found in the home - a relationship that is our spiritual home. He longs for us to stop "following our own way" - to come on home.
There is a grand old hymn that says: "I've wandered far away from God, now I'm coming home." Have you decided to stop wandering and come home to your heavenly Father? I have - first, with repentance; now, with great joy, I am coming home. As I walk with Him and talk with Him, He makes me know that He loves me and accepts me and wants me to be with Him. And the more I learn to love Him, the more I experience personal peace. I hope that it is the same with you. If you don't know that you love your heavenly Father, you can ask Him to help you to receive His love and then love Him in return. The few years that we call life is all the time we have to learn to live in God's peace - to be at home with Him. This is the time we have to be prepared for eternal life. If you have been wasting precious years, it's time - come on home.