Together... I Can Sense Peace

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God wants a covenant relationship with you. John Maxwell offers practical suggestions on how to deepen your relationship with your Heavenly Father so that you may experience His peace.

This morning I continue a series on Partnership With God. God wants to have a covenant relationship with us. He wants to give blessings and promises to God's people, but this is determined by you and me entering into this covenant relationship with him. This morning, I'm going to talk about peace. God wants to give us peace. In fact, notice the title of the message "Together... I Can Sense Peace." I cannot sense peace without God, but when I begin to partnership with him I can have peace in a very stressful society.

As an introduction to the message this morning, I brought with me an editorial that I cut out a few weeks ago in USA Today, written by the founder, Al Newhart. It's entitled "What is the Most Stressful Job?" He says, “The list in the current issue of Health magazine makes me rethink whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.”

The 10 most stressful jobs are rated in this order:

1.   Inner city high school teacher.  (I can imagine that, can't you?)

2.   Police officer.

3.   Miner.

4.   Air traffic controller.

5.   Medical intern.

6.   Stock broker.

7.   Journalist.

8.   Customer complaint worker. (Wouldn't that be a joy? Every day work behind a desk listening to complaints.)

9.    Waitress.

10.  Secretary.

Well, how'd you do? Were you in there? He goes on to say, "I have no qualms about nine of those, but journalists don't belong on the list. We cause more stress for others than we suffer ourselves." I think that's true. He said, "Seeing the stress list made me think of the flip side. Which are the least stressful jobs?"

And then he gives his candidates for the people who have no stress in their job. Here are two:

1.  Preachers. (I mean, all we do is show up on Sunday and that's it.) His reason for preachers having the least stressful job: "Because they're pretty sure there's a heaven, and when they die they're going to get to go there."

2.  Lawyers. “Because they're pretty sure they'll never go to jail. Only their clients do.”

I want to talk to you about stress and how to have peace. I love the definition I was given several years ago about worry: “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but never gets you anywhere.”

There's a lot of truth in that. I'd like to give you the advice of the Apostle Paul and Jesus, a practical lesson on how to have peace in your life. Let's look, first of all, what Paul said. Philippians 4. Are you ready? All right, here we go. Verse 6, Paul says, "Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything, and with thankful hearts, offer your prayers and requests to God."

Now, I'm going to stop there for a moment because there are two phrases I want you to underline: where Paul says, "Pray about everything," and then "with thankful hearts." As we talk in this series about partnering with God, we're finding out that God has incredible promises for us, but there is our part and there's God's part. It's a partnership. It's not just all God, and it certainly is not all us. And Paul here tells us there are two things that we must do if we want to have this incredible peace that passes human understanding:

My responsibility:  Philippians 4:6-7a; Colossians 3:15-17

1.  Pray about everything.  Philippians 4:6-7a

  • There is nothing too great for God's power.
  • There is nothing too small for God's care.

Paul was saying, God is an awesome God and he can handle both ends. Sometimes we sing the old classic hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." And there's a stanza that says, "Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear." Why? “All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

Types of people:

A. Those who bring nothing to God in prayer.

Worry says, basically, I'm going to handle everything without God. They're the people who just do everything themselves; they're independent. They just go on with their life trying to make their own breaks.

B. Those who bring some things to God in prayer.

I would say 90 percent of us this morning in the auditorium fall into this category. We bring some things to God in prayer. We certainly don't bother with everything. Just the issues that seem to put stress on us.

C. Those who bring everything to God in prayer.

Paul is saying that if you want the peace that will pass all human understanding, learn to bring everything to God in prayer. In fact, the way to not worry about anything is to be prayerful about everything. Now it is impossible for you and I to bring everything to God in prayer. We don't even think about bringing everything. I don't want us to think that, every step we take, we say, "God help me with this step, and help me as I turn my body, and help me as I look up and help me as I look down." I'm not talking about that kind of help. He is talking about having a prayerful attitude about life so that when anything begins to press on us, create stress and anxiety, our first response is to turn it over to God.

I said most of us as Christians fall into category number two because we carry many things for a period of time knowing it is a load but saying, "I think I can handle this on my own." And too many times, we don't turn it over to God until it becomes too heavy. Therefore, we're not immediate in our response of giving it to God.

2.  Be thankful.  Colossians 3:15-17

A spirit of thankfulness always shows up in peace Scriptures.

"With thankful hearts, offer up your prayers." I love preparing messages, because I learn so much from it. One exciting discovery in working on this message is that every time you find God talking about supplying peace, you'll find related to that peace a grateful, thankful attitude. Let me illustrate.

Turn to Colossians 3:15: "Each one of you is part of the body of Christ, and you were chosen to live together in peace. So let the peace that comes from Christ control your thoughts..." Underline this next phrase,  "...and be grateful. Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other..." Here's another phrase to underline, "... with thankful hearts. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God. Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus as you..."  And again, "... give thanks to God the Father, because of him."

A thankful heart implies...

A.  Gratitude.

B.  Perspective.

A person that can be thankful in the midst of huge problems and pressures, is a person focusing on God and the big picture. Otherwise, they would be so immersed in their worries and problems that they would lose all gratitude and thanksgiving.

C.  Maturity.

It shows emotional strength. Although emotions get pulled on quite heavily, they don't allow their emotions to rule their life.

D.  Submission.

This is by far the most significant. You show me somebody that is thankful in the midst of problems, and has a positive attitude during a dark day, and can smile when the pressure's on, and I'll show you a person who believes God is sovereign and in control, and in the sovereignty of God, this is where they are to be. They're willing to submit to it.

You show me somebody that's critical, complaining, trying to jerk God around, and I'll show you a person that's not submissive. A cheerful attitude in the midst of supreme difficulties shows a very submissive, servant heart. Paul is telling us it's that kind of attitude that brings us peace. We think it's an absence of problems that bring us peace. It's not, because I'm here to tell you folks, this is life, and even in America life is full of problems. Amen? You all got one? You better believe it.

Peace is not an absence of problems. It is the presence of a thankful, grateful heart that can see beyond the problem. It is the testimony of a man about to die of cancer in three months, who writes his Thanksgiving letter to his friends with these words, "I am thankful not for what I have, but who has me." Now, there is somebody that understands a peace that passes all understanding.

God’s responsibility:  Philippians 4:7b

God will bless you with peace...

Let’s look at what God says in Philippians 4:7, where Paul says that we are to pray about everything, and be thankful in our heart as we offer up these prayers. Notice what he says, "then because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace..." Notice he says he’ll bless us with two kinds of peace:

1.  That is beyond human comprehension.

What he's really talking about is a peace beyond human control. Mankind can't give it to you; mankind can't take it away from you.

2.  That controls the way you think and feel.

American Standard says, "The peace of God shall guard your hearts and mind." It is a picture of guards standing watch over a city to keep the city from being plundered by the enemy.

Remember...

  • The love of God desires only what is best for us.
  • The wisdom of God knows only what is best for us.
  • The power of God allows only what is best for us.

Now, I want you to go as quickly as you can to Matthew 6. We now come to the teachings of Jesus, who gives us some very sound advice about inner peace. In the Sermon on the Mount, the most popular and well-known message you can preach, he gives us five steps to inner peace.

Steps to inner peace:  Matthew 6:25-34

1.  Relax yourself. v. 25

Southern California translation, mellow out. In verse 25, here's what Jesus said, "I tell you not to worry about your life. Don't worry about having something to eat, drink or wear. Isn't life more than food or clothing?" Now, you know what our Lord is saying? Every day you're going to think about food, and clothing. But these are just issues of every day life and he wants you to know that they're always going to be there. But you're going to have to relax yourself and understand that those types of pressures are common to all mankind.

It's interesting: Abraham Maslow, the psychologist, found that self‑actualizing people have a great deal of tolerance for uncertainty. They don't have to have everything lined up or nailed down or structured. They can handle a lot of options, a lot of questions, a lot of the unknown. When I read his important study I thought that it wasn’t only a conclusion that Abraham Maslow made; Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, is saying that's the way Christians ought to be. He's saying that when we really understand partnering with God, we ought to have a great deal of security in an uncertain future.

In fact, I'm quite amazed and concerned when I see paranoid Christians shook up about the future, as if we don't know who holds the future. They're like Charlie Brown and Linus in Peanuts. Lucy comes up to Charlie Brown and Linus, who both look very frightened, and she says, "What are you two so worried about?" Charlie Brown answers, "Well, we're afraid of the future." Lucy pauses a moment and says, "What are you afraid of—tomorrow, Friday, next week, anything in particular?" Linus replies, "No. We're worried about everything. Our worrying is very broad-minded." You know, I know a lot of broad-minded worriers. You just throw out a subject and they get worried about it. You know what I mean?

The other day I figured up that if a person lived to be 75 years old, they would live 656,990 hours. Folks, that is too long of a period not to have fun. An 85-year-old lady wrote a paragraph called, "Looking Back."  I'll read it.

"God, if I had my life to live over, I would bear more mistakes next time. I would relax and ramble around and be sillier than I have been on this trip. I would take fewer things so seriously, and I would take a lot more chances. I would take more trips and climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less prunes. I would, perhaps, have more actual troubles, but I sure would have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I'm one of those people who have lived sensibly and safely, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I've had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I'd do more of them. In fact, I would try to have nothing else, just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years in a big chair acting like all of those persons who never go anywhere without a thermometer, hot water bottle, or raincoat and a parachute. If I had it to do over again, I would come later next time. I would worry less, laugh more, and pick a lot of daisies."

That's my kind of girl. Folks, you take yourself way too seriously. Oh God help us. Just go home and look in the mirror. It ought to help you lighten up. The bad news is we take ourselves too seriously. The good news is you don't need to do it any more because there aren't that many people watching. Relax.

2.  Value yourself.  vv. 26, 28-30

Now, he says, if you really want to have inner peace, place value on who you are. Look what he says in verse 26, "Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest, they don't even store grain in barns, yet your Father in heaven takes care of them.  Aren't you worth more than the birds?" Well, animal rights people don't think so. Just a thought. Look at verse 28, "Why worry about clothes? Look at how the wild flowers grow; they don't work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon, with all of his wealth, is not as well‑clothed as one of them. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you."

The Lord's amazed. He says, “I can't imagine—you humans have so much more value than the wildlife and wild flowers. I mean, they were here yesterday, next week they're gone; yet I've clothed them in all their beauty. But you're here for life. Don't you think I can take care of you?” Put value on yourself. Now I'm not Norman Vincent Peale or Robert Schuller, but I'm telling you, those boys are more right than wrong, so you better hang on. The worse problem people have is a poor self‑image. Please believe me, Jesus created you in his image. He created you for holiness. He created you to be the person that he wanted you to become. And God don't make no flops. You all right out there?

You are valuable. The fact that God sent his only begotten son to this world to die for you, tells us the value he places on us. But, sadly, in our society, a society that so desperately needs a self‑image, in a society that so desperately needs to think right about themselves, there's such a devaluation of human life. Whether it's the abortion issue or the euthanasia issue, or the animal rights issue, it doesn't matter. Everywhere you go, you see society trying to pull man down, as far as our value to God and our uniqueness. Wasn't it this week they transplanted a baboon liver into a human? How's the fella doing? Anybody know? I don't know how he's doing, but it just was interesting to me that the animal rights activists were worried about the baboon. It's incredible, isn't it? We live in an incredibly messed up, twisted, upside down society.

My goodness, I was watching “20/20” the other day and they were talking about murder. The high percentage of kids that go to schools with guns. And in wrapping up this 20-minute segment, they asked a high school teacher why they thought so many kids were taking guns and blowing themselves away. And the high school teacher hit it right on the bulls-eye when he said, "It's because the kids have no value for life, for themselves or for anyone else."

I love the story of Oliver Wendell Holmes, the great jurist. He and a 6-year-old little girl took a walk together down the block one day. When they got back, he was kind of worried about her parents and said, "Now if your parents want to know where you were, tell them you took a walk with Oliver Wendell Holmes." And she looked up and said, "Thank you. If your parents wonder where you were, tell them you took a walk with Mary Suzanna Brown." Don't you love it? Put value on yourself.

3.  Accept yourself.  v. 27

Look at verse 27, He asked the question: "Could worry make you live longer?" A lot of people worry about things they can't control, like their physical appearance. Folks, you are what you are, and the quicker you can get acquainted with and like who you are and not try to be anyone else, the more inner peace you'll have. So if you're short, fat, and bald, be happy. And don't try to be, tall, slim, with a full head of hair. Just be who you are. Look in the mirror and say, "It's not the best, but it's me." Now, be the best you can be, but don't try to be anyone else. Quit pounding yourself into the ground. Be unique, be the smartest fat, baldheaded, short person in the world.

I was just in Des Moines at our general conference, which basically means we get together for four days and sit in hard chairs in the convention center and pass resolutions that make no difference. All these pastors have suits on, and I'm there in a sweater and loafers, with a Diet Coke. I'm the only one. Everybody else looks and acts serious. I'm enjoying myself. You’ve got to make the best of a bad situation. I had a pastor say to me, "Oh, John, you look so relaxed and comfortable. I wish I could have worn a sweater." He felt like he had to conform and look like everybody else. If I don't act and look and walk and talk like them, will they accept me? Who cares? No one else will ever accept you and be comfortable with you until you accept and are comfortable with yourself.

Timetable for anxiety (study of 104 psychologists):

 Here are the issues that make us anxious at different ages:

18     Identity.
20     Appearance.
23     Good impression.
26     Career.
30     Salary.
33     Job security.
38     Children.
41     Purpose in life.
45+   Health.

Just accept yourself. Listen, if you're 80, love 80. Every age has it's blessings, every age has it's drawbacks. Quit playing, "Well, when I get older I can retire. Well, when I was young I could work." Cut that out.

4.  Focus yourself.  vv. 31,32,34

Focus on:

A.  Your worry.   v. 31

In verse 31, he says, “Don't worry and ask yourself... ” and they're asking the same questions we talked about earlier, “‘What am I going to eat? What am I going to wear?’” In other words, just look how weary you get from worry. Look how it stresses you out. It’s like an addiction. It starts real small with a small concern, then becomes a habit, and before long it's bigger than life. It surrounds us and swallows us and consumes us. Worry is like fog. I was reading the other day that the U. S. Bureau of Standards says that a dense fog covering seven city blocks a hundred feet deep is composed of one 8-ounce glass of water. One 8-ounce glass of water spread out can stop the world's largest airport. That's what worry is. It expands and obscures.

B.  God.    v. 32

In verse 32, he says, "Only people who don't know God are always worried about such things." Boy, I wish that were true. I love the statement by Mary Crowley: "Every evening I turn my worries over to God He’s going to be up all night anyway." 

C.  Today.   v. 34

Verse 34, "Don't worry about tomorrow; it will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today." Or as Ziggy said, "The present slips by us as we ponder the past and worry about the future." How true that is.

One day at a time...

  • Today is all you have.
  • Today is all you need.
  • Today is all you can handle.

5.  Consecrate yourself.  v. 33

Look what he said in verse 33, “But more than anything else, put God first and do what he wants..” That's the consecration. “Then all the other things will be yours as well.” In other words, he says to totally give yourself to God, and become his full‑fledged partner.

Formula for Peace: Put God first in every area... Receive God's peace in every area.
CONCLUSION

The thought hit me as I was working on this message. I was thinking about this peace. The only peace that you don't receive is in the area that you don't surrender to God. He said, "If you seek first my kingdom, all these things will be given to you."

Let's pray. Father, you're a marvelous God. You see the sparrow when it falls, you know us. In fact, the psalmist said we are wonderfully made. As we leave today, may we have a new sense of who we are because of your gift to us of your Son, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. God, may inner peace be a reality for the people at Skyline. Not an absence of problems, but a continual presence of peace. And may that peace be ours, God, because we've learned to be a partner with you. This I pray in your name, Amen.

Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 6:25-34
“Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but never gets you anywhere.”

My responsibility:  Philippians 4:6-7a; Colossians 3:15-17

1.  Pray about _______ (Philippians 4:6-7a).

  • There is nothing too great for God's power.
  • There is nothing too small for God's care.

Types of People:

A.  Those who bring________to God in prayer.

B.  Those who bring________ to God in prayer.

C.  Those who bring________ to God in prayer.

2. Be_______ (Colossians 3:15-17).

  • A spirit of thankfulness always shows up in peace Scriptures.
  • A thankful heart implies...

A.                                         

B.                                          

C.                                          

D.                                         

God’s responsibility:  Philippians 4:7

God will bless you with peace...

1.  That is________.                                                                                               .

2.  That controls the way you________and________.                       .

Remember...

The love of God________only what is best for us.

The wisdom of God________only what is best for us.

The power of God________only what is best for us.

Steps to inner peace:  Matthew 6:25-34

1.  ________ yourself.  v. 25

2.  ________yourself.   vv. 26, 28-30

3.  ________ yourself.  v. 27

Timetable for Anxiety  (study of 104 psychologists)

18  ________                                                                                             

20  ________                                                                                              

23  ________                                                                                   

26  ________                                                                                     

30  ________ 

33  ________

38  ________

41  ________

45+ ________

4. ________ yourself.  vv. 31, 32, 34

Focus on: 

A. ________.  v. 31

B. ________.  v. 32

“Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He's going to be up all night anyway!”  Mary Crowley

C. ________.  v. 34

One day at a time...

  • Today is all you ________.                     
  • Today is all you ________ .                         
  • Today is all you ________ .                         

5. ________yourself. v. 33

Formula for Peace: Put God first in every area ... Receive God's peace in every area.

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