Today’s potentially true statement will be brought to us by the letter ‘c’ for CIRCUMSTANCE!
Potentially true statement is….
“A shift in circumstances will be the key to peace and joy”
Let me provide some examples of how this looks:
“Once I finish this thing for work I will be able to rest”
“If I had a husband (and therefore sex) I would be more peaceful”
“I’ll be okay once I get past this season where work and life is crazy”
In what ways are you anxious or concerned? In what ways would a shift in circumstance set you free?
These aren’t false statements. They are potentially true. A shift in circumstances really might result in momentary peace. If you think someone at church is frustrated with you, you might be a bundle of nerves, and when you hear the ‘good news’ that they think you’re swell, it will result in peace. We’ve seen this work time and time again; we attribute peace to a resolution of circumstances. ‘I’m stressed at work, so I’ll work late’. Working late in this scenario will save me from anxiety. ‘I’m lonely because my husband is absent (or non-existant); good time with him (or having one at all) will help’.
All potentially true. But not truth.
Our truth today is brought to us by the letter ‘p’ for PHILIPPIANS, PAUL or PEACE
Paul instructs the church at Philippi to fight for their joy and peace. Instead of being anxious, they should make their requests known to God and then ‘the peace of God which surpasses understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.’
First things first – peace that transcends understanding is peace in the midst of circumstances. Peace that comes after you resolve conflict, or after you finish a big project or when you’re with the people you love most in the world and they are affirming you is good. it’s still peace. But it’s not peace that surpasses understanding. That peace makes total sense. Paul is writing from prison, with death on the horizon. This peace doesn’t make worldly sense.
Furthermore, the peace he promises here ‘guards’ us. From what? From our sin that is so easily agitated by circumstance. That guard is only necessary if we haven’t been removed from circumstances.
Here’s the truth:
A shift in circumstances will rob us of the opportunity to experience this peace.
Once I am married (or dead – whichever comes first) I will no longer have the opportunity to have peace in the face of singlness. Once I finish this crazy project I’ve been working on at work for like 80 years, I will no longer have the opportunity to have peace in the face of a big tasks list.
I hear college students tell me about 20 times a minute how hard it is to take a sabbath in college. Once they have time to take a sabbath they no longer have the opportunity to reflect to the world an obedience born out of a peace that transcends understanding.
And here’s the thing I love most about this peace. It doesn’t just guard my mind, it guards my heart. It’s a peace that changes everything. It changes how I feel. It removes comparison and fear and doubt and anger and bitterness. It produces joy and contentment and excitement.
The more challenging my circumstances the more I can experience a peace that makes NO sense; the more I can experience the reliability of Christ as a refuge.
When we counsel ourselves or a believer who is in a tough spot, our first efforts shouldn’t go to trying to fix or shift their circumstance. Our first question shouldn’t be: ‘what are the things that need to change to remove this anxiety’? Our first thought should be celebration; what an opportunity to experience one of the greatest gifts Christ has given us: His peace! What are the circumstances that are agitating your anxiety, your discontentment? How can these be an opportunity to see God reveal how great a savior He really is?
I don’t want a false savior. I don’t want to turn to working harder to save me from anxiety at work. I don’t want to turn to people to save me from loneliness. I don’t want to turn to resolving conflict to save me from my approval idol. Don’t misunderstand me: I want to work hard, I value community and I love resolved conflict. But I want those things to be fruit of a peace rather than idols to save me from peace.
In hard circumstances I have a limited time opportunity to experience peace that really defies understanding; that is completely illogical. In hard circumstances I have a limited time opportunity to test my heart and see the fruit that comes from trusting in Him.
Give me grace to believe that You are a better savior.