Gary Carpenter Ministries
The life of the apostle Paul is such an example and an encouragement to me of how to truly live the Christian life. Paul didn't have it very easy as a believer living under fierce persecution in the first century of Christianity. Here is a partial listing of some of the trials and tribulations he endured:
2Cor 11:23-25 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
One day it stood out to me, "a night and a day I have been in the deep." Of course, he is referring to one of the times he was shipwrecked. I have tried to meditate what it was like for Paul. I picture him floating on a board in the middle of the Mediterranean ocean. Think about it. All day … and all night … floating in the middle of that vast sea. Perhaps it was still stormy and the waves may have been huge and the rain may have been pouring down on him. Or perhaps the storm had passed and he was just floating there on a sunny day. That ocean is so large you can't see land in any direction when you are floating in the middle of it. All day … all night … can't see land … thirsty and hungry.
Can't you just hear the taunts of the enemy? The thoughts that no doubt came against Paul's mind? "Where is your God now? You have faithfully served Him and this is your reward? You preach that God is a God of love but look at how you are treated. He has abandoned you. You will die in this ocean and your God doesn't even care." But Paul had learned something that very few believers ever do. Paul had learned the secret of living in the peace of God no matter the circumstances surrounding him:
Php 4:6-7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Even though most believers know these verses are in the bible, it is amazing how we are quick to worry and slow to pray. The King James wording that says "Be careful for nothing" actually means "Don't worry about anything." We are supposed to resist worry and be quick to pray about every circumstance. And notice we are to pray "with thanksgiving" … when we pray … not waiting until we see the answer … why? … because offering up thanksgiving when we pray demonstrates faith that our Father heard us when we prayed … and that means … our answer is on the way. Hallelujah! Paul continues giving instruction about constantly living in God's peace:
Php 4:8-9 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
Notice how he says if you do these things "the God of peace shall be with you." In the margin of my bible I have written, "and if you don't … He won't." Don't get me wrong, I know God is always with us. But Paul is trying to get us to understand there are conditions to walking in the supernatural peace of God. Paul is outlining those conditions in verses eight and nine. "Think on these things" is not a "suggestion." It is the instruction if we want to live in God's peace … the kind that passes all understanding … the kind that keeps us calm and full of faith even while we are floating on a board in the middle of the Mediterranean ocean when a shark swims by!
One way to do what Paul is instructing us to do is to focus on God's Word. It is true, honest, just, pure … and all of the other things mentioned. A good example is what the psalmist David wrote about when he faced great danger:
Psa 23:4-6 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Walking through the valley of the shadow of death, or floating on a board in shark infested waters, the instruction is the same … WE CONTROL WHAT WE THINK ABOUT. WE CONTROL WHETHER WE PRAY OR WORRY. If we pray in faith, and if we force ourselves to focus on the promises of God's Word … we can live in God's supernatural peace. We will come to the place of fearlessness, no matter where the Lord sends us, or what He sends us to do. The Lord is with us!
Sue and I love you and appreciate you. We thank God for your generous and giving heart. God bless you!
Your friend and co-laborer,