Peace That Surpasses All Understanding

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Peace That Surpasses All Understanding

James R. Aist

“There is no real and lasting peace in living with the fear of an eternity in hell hanging over your head!”

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).” What, exactly, did Jesus mean when he said, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”? And what did Paul mean when he wrote, “…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding…” (Philippians 4:7)? I believe that if we can gain some insight into how the peace of God differs from the peace that the world offers, then we will be more inclined to seek peace from the true source of real peace, the God of the Bible. So, that’s what I will focus on in this article.

The Peace That The World Gives

The peace that the world gives comes in the form of various human creations: government, military, treaties, wealth and economic systems, to name a few. These worldly sources of peace may confer, for a season, a kind of peace that may best be described as the absence of conflict and war and a diminishing of fear, but the threat of war, poverty and tyranny is always there to disturb the experience of peace. Moreover, such peace is often attained at the expense of lost liberties. And, the peace offered by the world does nothing to address the universal and overarching problem of sin, for which we must all answer to God one way or another. There is no real and lasting peace in living with the fear of an eternity in hell hanging over your head! All of these promises of peace will fail in some way and at some point in time, because they are the products of the creativity and understanding of mere mortal men. Mankind longs for a peace that surpasses what the world is capable of providing with such limited and unreliable human understanding. We can say “Peace, peace”, but there cannot be peace that truly satisfies and lasts, apart from God.

The Peace Of God

When we were born again, we received peace with God, because our sins were forgiven, and our conscience was cleansed of the guilt of sin (1 John 1:9). And, we received also the peace of God, a peace that helps us to deal effectively with the trials and tribulations of living as Christians in a fallen world. However, in order to experience this kind of peace, we must first settle, once and for all, several key matters in our minds and in our hearts:

  • The Bible is God’s word. I can trust the Bible to be the authentic word of God to me. It is God-breathed (or inspired) by God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16), not a fanciful invention of mere mortals (2 Peter 1:16). In the Bible, God says what He means and means what He says. This is where I should look first and foremost for answers to the important questions about truth, morality, myself, my future, suffering and God (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12).
  • God is sovereign. He is the creator of the universe (Colossians 1:16), and He rules and reigns over everything (Exodus 15:18). With God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).
  • Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus claimed to be the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16), and God the Father identified Him as “…my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6), and no one comes to Jesus unless the Father draw him (John 6:44). Jesus is the Messiah, the promised savior of the world (1 John 4:14). As a born-again Christian, I know that I have eternal life (1 John 5:13).
  • God loves me. I am created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) to be in personal relationship and loving fellowship with Him (1 John 1:3). My true destiny (i.e., the reason God created me in the first place) is to honor, praise and worship God and to obey Him in all things. He hears and answers my prayers (Psalm 143:1). I am so important to God that He sent His only begotten Son (Jesus) to die for my sins, making peace with me forever (John 3:16). He loves me with a steadfast, everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
  • God is on my side. Through His gift of faith in Jesus Christ, God has made peace with me (Romans 5:1); I am no longer subject to the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). Jesus calls me “friend” (John 15:15) and “brother/sister” (Mark 3:35), and I am His co-heir (Romans 8:17)! God actually takes pleasure in making me prosper (Psalm 35:27).
  • God is faithful. God does not change (Malachi 3:6), and He is not a liar (Numbers 23:19). He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). What He has promised me He will do (Isaiah 46:11 b; Hebrews 6:13-15).
  • God owns me. Since I am a born-again Christian, God owns me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). His claim on my life is His right, and my life is His to do with as He pleases. I am no longer living for myself, but for Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). I am God’s servant. He always has a good reason for whatever He allows in my life, even if I don’t know what the reason is. I have made peace with these realities.
  • God will reward me. He has promised me that, as one of His chosen ones, my eternal destiny is an everlasting life in heaven with Him (John 3:16), a rightful inheritance that is full of glory, full of peace that passes all understanding and full of joy unspeakable (Ephesians 1:18). And, He has given me His Holy Spirit as a guarantee that He will, in fact, fulfill this, the greatest of His promises (2 Corinthians 1:22). The value of this glorious future reward far outweighs any trial or tribulation that God allows me to suffer in this life (Romans 8:18).
  • Witness of the Holy Spirit. God has not left us to our own devices to settle these matters with Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to abide within every born-again believer, and His Spirit testifies to us the truth of His written word, thus helping us to accept these things as settled issues (see Acts 5:32, 1 John 5:8 and Hebrews 10:10-18).

When these matters are settled in your mind and in your spirit, once and for all trusting God no matter what happens, then you are connected to God with an unbreakable bond, and the peace of God will rule in your heart (Colossians 3:15). When the storms of life assail you, your “anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:13-20), — i.e., your trust in God — will hold, and, in your spirit, you will be able to live in peace and joy even as you are being buffeted in your soul/mind and body by the storms. Let me illustrate this point with an analogy. Picture a sailing ship anchored close to shore. When a storm arises, the wind will come with a fury and threaten to break the chain and set the ship loose from its anchor, driving it to a place where it shouldn’t go, the rocky shoreline. You are that ship. Your faith is the chain that keeps the ship connected to the anchor. Your soul/mind naturally does its best to resist and withstand the storm, but it is the anchor that enables you to stay put, in perfect peace, until the storm passes. Your trust in God is the anchor, and it enables your spirit to remain calm and at peace while the storm rages. And, you no longer have a need to ask “Why did this storm come?” You can simply trust that God has a good reason for allowing it, because you have already settled these matters with Him. You know Him, and you have the peace of God, the peace that surpasses all human understanding and reaches all the way to your very spirit.

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

The Bible Answers the “Big Questions”

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The Bible Answers the “Big Questions”

James R. Aist

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

There are a number of “big questions” that mankind has been struggling with since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden for sinning against God. All too often, the answers to these questions seem unknowable, especially when God is left out of consideration. This article focuses on answers to some of these “big questions” that I have discovered through careful study of the Bible. You may or may not find these answers to be as convincing and satisfying as I do, but the Bible does have answers nonetheless.

The article is structured so as to first introduce you to each of the questions I am addressing here, and then to provide hyperlinks that will connect you to the pertinent article(s) that will provide the answer(s). Let’s get started, shall we?

  1. What is man? This may seem at first to be a silly question with an obvious answer, but, for our purposes, it’s a good place to start. All of the other “big questions” arise because of our unique nature and existence. For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  2. For what purpose did God create us? Before God created Adam, He had already created the earth, with all of its plants and animals, and the angels. Something must have motivated Him to conclude His works of creation with…us. But what was it? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  3. What is the righteousness that God requires? Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden for sinning against God, and this separation from God continues to this day in all who are born into this world. But God has provided a way for us to be reconciled to Himself by becoming righteous ourselves, despite our sins. How can this be? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  4. Who goes to hell? All of mankind have sinned and fallen short of the righteousness that God requires. God has provided a way for mankind to be reconciled to Himself, but what happens to those who do not follow this way? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  5. Why is evil and suffering so pervasive in this present world? The Garden of Eden into which Adam was originally placed was an environment free of evil and suffering. Why isn’t our world still like that? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  6. Why is God allowing Satan to tempt us during this Age of Grace? Those of us who have been “born again” are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, so why hasn’t God already put an end to Satan’s permission to tempt us to sin? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  7. What is Jesus waiting for? Jesus promised that He would come again to the earth to destroy His enemies and rule the earth with His saints. That was about 2,000 years ago, and He still hasn’t come back. So, what exactly is He waiting for? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.

As you can see, I have not tried to answer all of the “big questions”, but I hope that you have been blessed by what the Bible says about these seven. Perhaps you can discover on your own what the Bible has to say about your “big questions.” Happy hunting!

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

Some Thoughts on Suffering

A tornado near Seymour, TexasSome Thoughts on Suffering

James R. Aist

“The way to deal with suffering in any form – from the mildest irritation to the mental and physical agony that so absorbs and overwhelms you that you groan and scream – is to offer it to God who has permitted it, telling Him to make what He wills of it, and of us through it.” – John Eldredge

Introduction

I’m not an expert on the topic of how to deal with suffering, and I doubt that I have anything really new to say about it. And I do not have the definitive answers that most people yearn for. But I do have experience with serious suffering, having been forced to suffer through a deeply painful divorce that broke up my family, and having had to deal with the death of my 20 year-old daughter who was struck and killed by a car while crossing the street. And, I tend to process and analyze thoroughly my experiences with suffering, rather than just dismiss them quickly and move on. So, perhaps, something I say here, or how I say it, will be helpful, at least in some small way, to you or someone you know who is suffering with a loss or a personal tragedy. For those of us with a Christian world view, one of the first thoughts that pops into our head when we are suffering is, “Why did God allow that to happen?” So, let’s start there.

God Has a Reason

The week following the death and burial of my daughter was a week out of Hell. I was numb, so stunned and emotionally drained that I couldn’t even go to work. All I could do was to sit in my recliner in the corner of the living room and rehearse the events of the past week. The unthinkable had happened, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Now, I’m usually not one to ask God “Why did you allow this to happen?”, but at one point during that week I was hurting so bad that this question was about to come out of my mouth. At that moment, I was stopped by the Holy Spirit with these thoughts that rushed through my mind: “You don’t need to know why. You know God well enough to trust that He has a good reason.” Suddenly, a peace came over me, and I no longer felt the need to ask “why?” God paints with a broader brush than we can even imagine. Put another way, God is sovereign over His entire creation and knows the end from the beginning. And, sometimes, in order to accomplish a greater good, He has to allow us to suffer in this life. Even if He were to explain it to us, I doubt that we would be capable of understanding the explanation, much less of accepting it as sufficient. Sometimes we just have to trust God to have a good reason, even if it hurts terribly and we can’t even imagine what that good reason might be.

God Does Not Delight in Suffering

 “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” (Psalm 22:24).

In the Garden of Eden there was no suffering; that is, until Adam and Eve sinned against God. Then the whole creation, including mankind, came under a curse. As a result, sin, suffering and death became the lot of mankind in this life. Suffering is a result of sin entering the world through Adam (Romans 8:18-23). But one day, God will create a new heaven and a new earth in which the original conditions of His creation will be restored. Then there will be no more sin, no more death and no more suffering (Revelation 21:4). That is the heart and will of God toward His chosen ones, and that is the promised future for all born-again Christians.

Jesus Was a Sufferer

“He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”
(Isaiah 53:3)

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering.”
(Isaiah 53:4)

Because Jesus experienced the most extreme and unjust kinds of suffering, He knows what we are going through. He invites us to cast all our cares upon Him, including our sufferings, because He cares for us and He will sustain us (Psalm 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:7).

Finding the Silver Lining

Suffering can be a good teacher. My brother, Gene, used to say, “Some people live and learn; others just live.” I’m more of a live and learn kind of guy. Although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I learned a lot from going through the divorce with my first wife. I learned what is most important to me in choosing a spouse. I learned what the roles of a Godly husband are. And I learned how to be strong in a marriage relationship. Ok, I’ll admit that there are less painful ways to learn those things, but, for some of us, it turns out that suffering through a divorce is just what it takes to motivate us sufficiently. I was determined not to make the same mistakes again. And I didn’t.

Suffering can also be a good trainer. In order to be a more effective and understanding high priest, Jesus was made like us,fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and … Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:16-18). In the same way, to the extent that we learn positive lessons from our suffering, we are made wiser, more compassionate and better able to minister effectively to others who are suffering. Granted, we are not likely to be thinking along these lines while we are going through the suffering, but this can be a silver lining that appears later around the edges of our storm cloud of suffering.

And finally, suffering can produce a harvest of undeniable good. Until a couple of years ago, I struggled to find any good that can come from a long, painful and seemingly undignified illness, such as often happens with cancer patients. Death comes without any easily identifiable good resulting from such prolonged agony. Then I heard an exceptional, true story that changed my mind. An elderly, born-again lady was suffering from cancer for six months and was under sedation for severe pain most of the time. In her hospital room, she drifted in and out of consciousness, mostly out. But during this time, something extraordinary happened. Her family began to sense a very strong presence of the Holy Spirit in her room every time they came to visit. The hospital staff began to sense the same thing. The born-again Christians among them were able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all who came into the room. Word of this spiritual experience spread among the staff, and more and more of them came into the room to find out for themselves. By the time the lady finally passed away, 18 people had received Christ as their Lord and Savior because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in her hospital room and the faithful obedience of the believers present! Now, this may sound presumptuous, but I can only imagine that this is one cancer patient who would agree that her suffering was well worth the harvest of saved souls that resulted from it.

Knowing When to Quit

When tragedy happens, it is normal — perhaps necessary – to try to understand why it happened, or why God allowed it, or if there is any good thing that can possibly come of it. I believe it can be a good thing to attempt to find answers to these important questions. Sometimes, one can come to, at least, a tentative answer that is satisfying to some extent. But, at some point, chasing these elusive answers gets to the point of diminishing returns. We find ourselves retracing our thoughts without any new revelations or any greater understanding than came to light the last time we agonized over the same thing. That’s a good time to practice self control and quit trying to figure it out. It’s time to force ourselves to focus on moving on, and to just let it be what it is.

Keeping the Faith

If you’re angry with God, you believe in Him. So trust in Him too. He has a good reason for whatever He allows in your life.

Sometimes, people get so angry with God for allowing something really bad to happen to people they know and love that they turn against Him, abandon their faith and break off fellowship with Christian friends. Nothing good can come from such a reaction. When this happens, it’s a good time to re-examine your knowledge and understanding of God and the nature of the faith that you did have. Was yours a natural faith contingent upon God pretty much doing what you want Him to do, or was it a supernatural faith based on a genuine, born-again experience? If you were born again, then you will not really abandon your faith; God will guard your heart and your mind and preserve your faith. You just have to stand firm until the storm passes.

Jesus didn’t promise us a “rose garden” in our Christian walk here on earth. But, He did say, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). So, hang on to your faith in Jesus no matter what happens in this world. That is the most precious of your possessions, and the one you can least afford to walk away from. Your eternal destiny is hanging in the balance.

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)