Foundation Scriptures: Hebrews 3,4:1-8; Isa. 26:3,4
Key Verses Is. 26:3
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you.” (Isa. 26:3)
I have read and believe that a true state of happiness is the most difficult state for a Christian to achieve. In order to apprehend the veracity in this statement, one must be willing to be honest with themselves; next they must have the ability to detach themselves from the euphoric world in which they have become engrossed. Allow me to paraphrase: Wake up and smell the coffee! Please understand that I am not saying that it is impossible, I am simply pointing to all that comes against us to rob us of our contentment and joy. We will find out shortly that in Christ all things are possible.
Through experiential progression, I have come to the conclusion that no matter how determinedly and agonizingly we strive to escape the pain, heartache and despair that life so opportunistically places at our feet, we will inevitably endure asperity and anguish. Christians don’t like hearing that. We want to be told that post salvation life will be a metaphorical cakewalk. The truth is, we have been promised that there will be a great deal of trials and tribulation.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”
The Greek word used for tribulation here is “thlipsis” which means: pressure, oppression, stress, anguish, tribulation, adversity, affliction, crushing, squashing, squeezing, distress. This word carries the connotation of taking something that is free and unfettered and compressing it with the objective of producing something better. The same word is used of crushing grapes and olives in a press. “Thlipsis” is, in essence, spiritual bench pressing, making a stronger and more formidable Christian soldier. So, our struggles are quite a necessary part of our spiritual progression.
This does not mean that inevitable trials and distresses will be easy but they should not produce fear, anxiety, or bitterness. At the same time Jesus promised tribulation, he also promised peace. How is this so?
“Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” (John 16:32)
At the time of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion, the disciples would all in some way forsake Him and flee to the safety of their homes. Though they would leave Him, He would not be alone, because the father would be with Him. We have the same promise.
“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ “ (Heb. 13:5)
“For He Himself is our peace.” (Eph. 2:14)
Therefore, our peace is not in the absence of trials, but in the perpetual presence of our Lord and Savior. As believers, we tend to paint illusions of grandeur; we have all the right responses to the struggles and vicissitudes we face. Painting over the realities of this harsh world, we give the appearance that life is all peaches and cream; when in fact, the pressures against those who believe in Christ are a thousand times greater than those of the unbeliever.
At first glance, the aforementioned statements present a gloomy and dark picture and may be somewhat discouraging to those who are new in the faith; However, I believe that it is of vital importance that all Christians face the facts.
Fact One: We reside as aliens in a world that is under the rule and Lordship of Satan. We are considered aliens because although we reside here, our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil. 3:20)
Fact Two: The world by its very nature is hostile toward Christians. Christ declared that since the world hated him, it would hate us also.
Fact Three: We are dead centered in the midst of a spiritual warfare, the angelic conflict. We are both, participants and spoils of this war. There are spiritual forces that are constantly moving against us.
In summary, the Christian is constantly facing tremendous, powerful, insidious pressures, and often, the greater your capacity for service, the greater the believer can be used by God, the greater the pressure on every side — the world, the flesh, and the devil.
In the beginning, I stated my belief that a true state of happiness is the most difficult state for the Christian to achieve. I did not say it was unattainable, for it is very much within the grasp of every believer. Then why is it so difficult to achieve? It is difficult because believers have taken on the worldly view of ephemeral elation, happiness of the moment. The celerity at which happiness enters and exits the lives of believers is astounding. To most, happiness is circumstantial, depending on situational occurrences. This produces instability and ineffectiveness. God, through His infallible Word, has promised perpetual joy. This joy is irrespective in nature; it is not dependent upon external circumstances; it does not dwarf in the face of adversity and it burgeons in response to the development of our relationship with Christ. This joy is closely related to the peace God has promised. They are always found in close proximity to each other. Our joy and peace are produced through constant abiding in Jesus Christ. So allow me to reiterate this truth: Joy and peace are not produced through the circumvention of life’s storms, but are perpetually present despite them.
When your mind is fixed on Jesus; when your heart is settled in love, there is no storm, no disappointment; no heartache that can rob you of your joy and peace, even in the midst of the storm. We are forever coalesced to the Prince of Peace. “For He Himself is our peace.(Eph 2:14) The Greek “eirene” (eye-ray-nay) carries the meaning of state of rest, quietness, calmness, an absence of strife, and tranquility. It also carries a connotation of “being united with” as well as “to bring an end to hostility”. So in essence, the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7) is the culmination of “being united with Christ” whereas he “brings an end to hostility”, thereby creating a “state of rest” in which there is “an absence of strife” and a sense of “calmness” and “tranquility”.
This union with Christ is birthed through the channel of faith. God wants to provide a place of rest, but it has to be obtained through the promises of His Word, received by faith. Let us take a look at Hebrew 4:1,2:
“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it, For indeed the Gospel was preached to us a well as to them; but the Word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”
The first thing we notice here is the conjunctive adverb “therefore”. This word indicates that there is a preceding clause as well as a subsequent clause. The subsequent clause is easily identified as it immediately follows the conjunctive adverb, but where is the preceding clause? The answer is: In the previous chapter. The original text of the Bible was not separated into chapters or numbered in verse. This was done later as a means of reference. So we will have to look beyond the confines of these numbered boundaries. The preceding clause that completes this statement is found in Chapter 3, verse 19, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
In Chapter 3, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that the first generation of recently freed Israelites failed to reach the peace, tranquility, and abundance of the promise land. The writer quotes a passage from Ps. 95:7-11 that reinforces the cause of this failure to reach the promised place of rest.
In Chapter 4 he jumps from the past to the present and exhorts or admonishes the readers not to fall short of the promised rest.
“For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as them; the Word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with “faith” in those who heard it.” (Heb. 4:2)
Here lies the very thing that separates those who are able to attain true peace and happiness and those who are not —faith! They received the promise just as we have, but it did not profit them. They had the promise, but did not stand on it. We have thousands upon thousands of promises in the Bible. It has been estimated that there are in excess of 33,000 promises and of these, over 7,000 promises that God will have a direct and positive impact on those who will trust and believe in Him.
The problem with the Israelites in the wilderness was the spiritual ineptitude, the inability to see past their circumstances and trust God to perform that which he had promised. They received the promise, but it was not encapsulated by faith. Faith not only empowers, but it protects the promise. Faith guards against anxiety, doubt, despair, impatience, and fear.
We have to face the fact that as Christians, we are going to be tested; we are going to endure trials and tribulations; we will be battered by the storms of the suffering and compounded by the vicissitudes of life; however; God has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. God is saying, “You believed enough to trust Me with salvation, trust Me to provide you with that peace that transcends all understanding. Trust Me to provide you with that happiness that is inexpressible. Trust Me to anoint you with the power to fulfill your destiny.” He is standing before you telling you that His grace is sufficient for you.
God has bequeathed us His infallible Word, we only need to take hold of the promises that are before us.
When we are able to grasp the understanding that the absence of trials and storms in our lives is not indicative of the potential for joy, peace, and fullness, but rather, our joy, peace and happiness is afforded and sustained despite the presence of life’s trials, we are then able to enter that rest. We will be able to “count it all joy”. We will be able to enter into our divine purpose with an unbridled pertinacity, overcoming every trial by faith.
As the burdens of this tedious life press us down and drain us of our strength, we can rest in the calm assurance that God’s grace is sufficient for us and His strength is made perfect in weakness. We will be able to withstand the nefarious attacks of Satan while resting under the shadow of the almighty.
The Israelites in the wilderness could not enter the rest of the Promised Land because they did not receive the promises of God with faith. So then faith is a prerequisite for peace, and we know that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17)
It is time to uncover the secrets of God’s Word. It is time to uncover the secret that says: “If I delight myself in the Lord, he will give me the desires of my heart.”
It is time to uncover the secret that says: “I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging for bread.”
It is time to uncover that secret that says: “God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think.”
That secret that says: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
That secret that says: If I “wait on the Lord and be of good coverage, He will strengthen my heart.”
I’m talking about joy inducing secrets.
The secret that says: “He who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.”
That secret that says: “When my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take care of me.”
That secret that says: “No weapon formed against me, shall prosper.”
I’m talking about shackle loosing secrets.
The secret that says: “My defense is of God who saves the upright in heart.”
The secret that says: “Fear not for I am with you.”
The secret that says: “At my first defense, no one stood with me, but God stood with me, and strengthened me.”
The secret that says: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds.”
I invite you to do as I do. When darkness falls on my life, I call out the name of the Lord. I can call Him any time of the day. I will call Him in my moments of weakness. I will call Him and tell Him about my troubles. When I call Him, I can say, “Father, I stretch my hands to thee, no other help I know, if thou withdraw thine self from me, where else shall I go.” I can say, “Precious Lord take my hand lead me on and let me stand.” I can say, “Guide me over Great Jehovah, a pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak but thou art mighty hold me with though powerful hand.” I can say as the Psalmist, “Restore in me the joy of your salvation.
I can call Him down in the midst of the storm. When I call Him, I say, “Lord, I need healing” or can simply speak those two worded prayers: hold me; keep me; protect me; bless me; shelter me; guide me. No matter what happens I know when I call Him, He answers. I invite you to join me in this place of rest.
May God bless, keep, and prosper you, even as your soul prospers!
Bishop Rick Wallace