Don’t Worry; Be Happy! The Battle for Peace of Mind!

If you’re like me a “Don’t worry; be happy!” admonition isn’t exactly effective. The battle for peace of mind can’t be minimized. The struggle many people at times face is significant and life altering, causing emotions to sway like a skyscraper during an earthquake.

Sometimes even temporary issues can send one into extreme frustration or anxiety, whether the pivot point is a serious health problem, financial crisis, relational issues, or any number of other life events large and small. Paul challenged the Corinthians to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor:10:5)

That sounds like attempting to have a dozen toddlers sit still for a photo. Toddlers don’t stay still and neither do my thoughts or over-active imagination.

Nonetheless, God places on us the full responsibility for the thoughts we choose to dwell on. So how can we and do we win this battle for a mind at peace? Fortunately, God doesn’t leave us groping for our own solutions to this immense problem.

Rejoice

When hope seems lost and expectation for improvements buried and gone, the command to rejoice sounds cruel at best. Unless of course, the one giving the instruction was himself familiar with facing life and death situations.

“I am in chains for Christ . . .
and will continue to rejoice . . .
I eagerly expect and hope that
I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always Christ
will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Philippians 1:13,18-21

Maybe that is sufficient evidence to heed the advice of Paul whose struggle, pain and loss far exceed our own. When the chips are down and all natural support is stripped away, he concludes that everything apart from Christ is “garbage.” (3:8) In essence, he reminds us all that life is short and eternity is long.

Paul sets the context for his encouragement just before reminding us all that the “Lord is near!” When we sense that deliverance is close at hand, we have the capacity to endure much more than we previously thought possible.

Rejoice in the Lord always
[delight, gladden yourselves in Him];
again I say, Rejoice!”
Philippians 4:4

Don’t Worry; Be Happy

Paul, through personal example, demonstrates the possibility of maintaining joy in difficult situations. Then he adds to his clear command to rejoice, another, “Don’t worry!” During less intense problems it’s perhaps easier to find something to be grateful for and happy about, but when you’re facing foreclosure, your marriage is heading to divorce court, or the illness is diagnosed as terminal, “Don’t worry; be happy” sounds empty and unrealistic.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything,
but in every circumstance and in everything,
by prayer and petition (definite requests),
with thanksgiving,
continue to make your wants known to God.”
Philippians 4:6

Gradually, I’m beginning to understand Paul’s admonition. Prayer changes everything, starting with me and my perspective. Thankfulness perhaps improves the nature of our thoughts and emotions more than any other quality. Jesus encouraged his listeners that God knows and loves each of us so much that He even knows how many hairs we have on our heads. (Luke 7) Apparently, that’s about 150,000 hairs per person. Then He says,

“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more. . .”

When you consider there are about 1 billion trillion stars in the known universe and God has each one not just numbered but named, we understand how great God is and how much He really does care. (Ps 147:4) Suddenly, I view God and my life from a new context.

It is only as I fully know my need, that I come to know the goodness and greatness of my God. Maybe, “Don’t worry; be happy” isn’t such a far stretch after all.

Peace in the Storm

As I take those things that rob me of joy and shadow me with fear, placing them in prayer before God, peace becomes possible.

“And God’s peace [shall be yours,
that tranquil state of a soul assured
of the salvation through Christ,
and so fearing nothing from God
and being content with its earthly lot
of whatever sort that is, that peace]
which transcends all understanding shall garrison
and mount guard over your
hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

I’m beginning to see the strategy for winning this battle over depression and anxiety. I’m not sure about anyone else, but for me, the decades long struggle with mental illness proved to be largely a spiritual issue. I can say, at least in part, that I’ve been transformed by the renewing of my mind, aligning it to who God is and what He declares. (Rom 12:2)

Though once impossible, now “Don’t worry; be happy!” is completely attainable.

Thinking

For a  brain like mine that was once deeply rutted with “stinking-thinking,” rerouting thought patterns has taken persistence and time. That’s why Paul continues his exhortation,

“. . . whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence
and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable,
whatever is kind and winsome and gracious,
if there is any virtue and excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think on and weigh and take account of
these things [fix your minds on them].”
Philippians 4:8

My thoughts are becoming increasingly a more accurate reflection of this description. At times, however, it is downright scary how ragged, selfish, and putrid any random thought rolling through my head might be. But just imagine! Imagine how different life would be if every thought was taken captive and aligned with Christ through this short, albeit challenging, list.

Practice

If I stop reading here, however, I will miss the mark. “Don’t worry; be happy!” will remain an elusive impossibility. To embed these truths deeply in my life, they must be practiced.

Practice what you have learned
and received and heard and seen in me,
model your way of living on it,
and the God of peace
(of untroubled, undisturbed well-being)
will be yours.”
Philippians 4:9

Reading our Bibles and knowing the truth begins the process but will leave us lacking if we settle for knowledge alone. Winning the battle for the mind takes effort — a praying and petitioning God kind of effort, plus diligently censoring our thought life kind of effort. When we willingly practice and model what we have learned, that process continues until radical mind-renewing, mind-healing transformation occurs.

Jehovah Shalom, the God of Peace, remains untroubled and undisturbed. He grants us His perfect peace that supernaturally garrisons and guards our hearts and minds. Then, through Christ, “Don’t worry; be happy!” becomes a daily reality and peace truly does win.

The Posture of Peace – Peace The Most Powerful Weapon

The posture of peace outperforms any other ammunition we possess for combating the enemy. Peace perhaps is the most powerful weapon God gives us. When Paul describes God’s power to crush Satan, He doesn’t call Him “the Lord of mighty armies.”

“…I want you to be wise
about what is good,
and innocent about what is evil.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan
under your feet.”
Romans 16:19-20

It is “the God of peace” who crushes Satan.

The Dream

God sometimes uses dreams to capture my attention. Such was the case the other night. I was being driven down a fairly steep embankment. We weren’t following any kind of marked trail. It was obvious few people travelled here.

Suddenly, before me was a peninsula jutting out into a lake. On the east side sheltered in a peaceful cove, a little cottage nestled among trees. On the west, a similar cottage stood stoically. Fierce waves, dangerously peaked a full ten feet above the shoreline. An invisible shield was restraining the waves from obliterating everything in their path.

Towering waves

Both cottages were offered to me — the peaceful and the dangerous. A woman stood tall and strong on the peninsula, facing the angry tide.  With a camera equipped with a telephoto lens, she captured images — first of a flowering vine bridging two outbuildings, then of clouds framed in golden beams above the storm. She produced multiple images of beauty found within the ominous storm.

I stood on this little piece of land dividing the fierce from the calm, the frightful from peaceful shores — opposites of each other, yet part of the same property.

Then God gave me understanding of the posture of peace. While unpredictable onslaughts threaten my security, stability or livelihood, simultaneously, peace co-exists, undisturbed by violent circumstance.

Examples of Peace

Three perfect examples come to my mind: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men determined from youth to settle into the perfect haven of peace with God without compromise. They experienced both peace with God and the peace of God!

“You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
Isaiah 26:3 

How do I know? You cannot prove a person’s character by what they say, but you can accurately evaluate them by what they do!

Fire and flames

Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps the most powerful king that every lived, ordered everyone to bow down and worship a magnificent statue he made of himself. These godly men refused! Talk about facing a storm!

Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego…
if you do not worship it,
you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace.
Then what god will be able to rescue you
from my hand?”
Daniel 3:13-15

Nebuchadnezzar knew only little “g” gods! These three knew big “G” God! The posture of peace filled them with strength as they faced the king’s unreasonable fury.

Peace of God

The King threatened with the clenched first of an unpraised hand; these servants of God trusted a hand much stronger!

“… we do not need to defend ourselves
before you in this matter.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God we serve is able to deliver us from it,
and he will deliver us
from Your Majesty’s hand.
But even if he does not,
we want you to know, Your Majesty,
that we will not serve your gods
or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel 3:16-18

Political correctness collapsed before truth! The king’s rage intensified as he ordered the furnace heated “seven times hotter.” (3:19) The king’s strongest men cast these brave ones into the blaze.

The other day while standing over a small bonfire, I managed to singe my hair, scorch one eyebrow, and come away cloaked in the aroma of smoke. Not these fellows!

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar
leaped to his feet in amazement...
‘Weren’t there three men that
we tied up and threw into the fire?…
‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire,
unbound and unharmed, and the fourth
looks like a son of the gods.”
Daniel 3:24-25 

Lightning Storm

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s posture of peace before the storm, equipped them to walk serenely in the storm. When we choose to walk with God in times of testing, He will walk with us in that testing.

“When a man’s ways please the LORD,
he makes even his enemies
to be at peace with him.”
Proverbs 16:7

Posture of Peace

The posture of peace unravels the enemy’s power over any situation. No wonder our adversary attacks our peace!

“The peace of God is an impregnable fortress.
Never ever, lose your peace, and you will always know victory.”
Rick Joyner

Paul prays for believers,

“May God himself, the God of peace,
sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit, soul and body
be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will do it.”
I Thessalonians 5:23-24

The victory of and through “the God of peace” goes beyond external appearance to the depth of heart and soul — purifying and preserving completely.

Prepared in Advance

In my dream, the menacing waves were invisibly held back from crashing down upon the shore.

“And the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

This word “guard” comes from a compound word meaning “to be a watcher in advance, to mount guard as a sentinel, post spies at the gate, of figuratively to hem in, protect, or garrison.” Peace prepares us beforehand — protecting from present and future harm.

Mount a garrison

No matter how difficult the circumstances God provides His peace in advance!

Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

Honestly, the storms of real-life create waves more threatening than any dream. Challenges, at times, seem insurmountable. Ask Shadrach, Meshach and Abedneggo! These three men were prepared in advance by God. God was with them in the fire, protecting, preserving and sanctifying them. The same God is with us too.

Be Still

Sometimes, like a boatful of worried disciples, we cry out for help and the storms are hushed.

“And he (Jesus) awoke and rebuked the wind
and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”
And the wind ceased
and there was a great calm.”
Mark 4:39

Peace be still!

But not always. I associate with David’s honest psalm: “my thoughts trouble me…because of the threats…my heart is in anguish…terrors of death...fear and trembling.” (Ps 55:2-6) David wished he possessed wings to fly away from his personal storm. When his closest friends stood against him, David turned to his only option, calling for God’s help.

“He will redeem my soul in peace
from the battle which is against me,
For they are many who strive with me.”
Psalm 55:18

I have no idea what you are facing today — what waves threaten your “little cottage” home.  May I encourage you to maintain the posture of peace? Peace is the most powerful weapon you possess.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself
give you peace at all times and in every way.
The Lord be with all of you.”
2 Thessalonians 3:18

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Mercy, Peace and Love – Jude Contending for the Faith!

Mercy, Peace and Love

Every time I read the book of Jude I am deeply convicted. He speaks straight! Yet, the redemptive words of mercy, peace and love are woven throughout.

“Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.”
Jude 2

These qualities, however, were not functioning freely within Jude’s audience. Quite the contrary! In wisdom, Jude speaks these redemptive words over their lives.

Just like the leaders in my life, Jude brings correction bluntly yet filled with grace. Such is Jude’s brevity and urgency as he speaks. His words emulate mercy, peace and love.

Love Birds

Verse eleven resounds clearly

Woe to them!
They have taken the way of Cain; they have
rushed for profit into Balaam’s error;
they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” 

What are the core attitudes and attributes of these three men that deserves a “woe”? It is an important question to ask since…

“Now these things happened to them
as an example,
but they were written down for our instruction…”
I Corinthians 10:11

Cain

Like many brothers, Cain and Abel were different in occupation, attitude and worship. The full story is in Genesis 4. They both worked hard and gave God from their labours. What is the way of Cain?

  • Lacked Faith – Hebrews 11:4 explains that Abel’s offering was better because it was given in faith. Faith and obedience are inseparable. It may not make sense to us why God chooses a certain way, but obedience walks through faith. Abel prepared himself as well as his offering; Cain prepared an offering without preparing himself.
  • Rage and Indignation – “furious and despondent” (HCSB), “upset and depressed” (ISV), “angry and downcast” (NET). Cain’s name, “a man from the Lord”, shows his favoured family position.  Abel’s name means “breath or vapour,” as if it was prophetically given to the shortness of a life unfulfilled. Favoured children find it difficult to come in second!

Angry Bull

  • Unrepentant –  We all make mistakes and err; the frailty of humanity rests on us all. How will we respond when correction comes?

“…sin is crouching at your door it desires to have you,
but you must rule over it.”
Genesis 4: 7

God’s opportunity for a second chance went unheeded! Cain was on a path of doing things his own way right to the end, refusing to humble himself before God or others.

Balaam

Balaam was a recognized diviner or prophet who clearly heard from God. The king of Moab was willing to pay him a hefty sum of money if he would curse Israel. Balaam’s words could not be bought! Seven times he spoke blessing on God’s people and cursed their enemies. Certainly not what the king of Moab was wanting to hear! (Numbers 22 – 24)

“Balak’s anger burned against Balaam.
He struck his hands together and said…
“…leave at once and go home!
I said I would reward you handsomely,
but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded.”
…Then Balaam got up and returned home, and Balak went his own way.”
Numbers 24: 10, 11, 25

Greed Gorilla

  • Greed – At first glance, it appears Balaam was God’s voice of the hour. However, Balaam’s heart and eyes were on the reward. He was not about to miss out. Jude says he “rushed for profit“!

“…followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor,
who loved to earn money by doing wrong.”
2 Peter 2:15″

  • Perverted Gift – Balaam used his reputation as diviner and his spiritual gift for personal reward and advancement. He devised a plan to wound and destroy God’s chosen people.

“…There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam,
who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin
so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.”
Revelation 2:14

Korah

How can someone be so right yet so wrong?

“The whole community is holy,
every one of them and the LORD is with them..”
Numbers 16:3

Yes God’s directive was “be holy as I am holy.” Right precept with a wrong attitude!

  • Envious – There grew in Korah and those he lead a desire to possession a level of leadership that belonged to others. They failed to realize leadership isn’t self-appointed!

“In the camp they grew envious of Moses and of Aaron,
who was consecrated to the LORD.”
Psalms 106:16

  • Insolent – NIV version says, “they became insolent“. This rude and arrogant lack of respect didn’t happen overnight. It was a walk down an ever darkening tunnel.

Defiance Horse

  • Defiance of Authority

We will not come!….you also want to lord it over us?
Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land
flowing with milk and honey…”
Numbers 16: 12-14

  • Rebellion – Polluted with slander and critical judgments, Korah’s attitude birthed only one thing – outright rebellion. It infected his entire household and neighbourhood!

Our Words

Jude was addressing a problem with false teachers that infiltrated the group. Teachers teach through words and actions.

Words are powerful containing both life and death,

“The tongue can bring death or life;
those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”
Proverbs 18:21

All three men confirmed with their mouths what was in their hearts. Through their mouths came death!

Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, calls us to better. He calls us to words and conduct flooded with “mercy, peace and love.”

Mercy, Peace and Love
(Picture from Pinterest – Kindness Matters)

Mercy, Peace and Love

Jude answers the how question for us. We find mercy, peace and love in one place!

“…by building yourselves us in your most holy faith
and pray in the Holy Spirit,
keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy
of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”
(vs 20-21)

Today is a new day! A day of placing ourselves into His faithful hands.

The hands of His great mercy,
His indescribable peace,
and His incomprehensible love.

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Related Posts:

Is there a Wrong Way to do The Right Thing? Attitude Makes All The Difference

How to Finish Well No Matter Where We Start From

Beatitudes – Encouragement and Instruction for Every Circumstance!

 

 

What To Do When The Answer is “No”

When the Answer is No

My most difficult times, and yet the best of seasons, is when God’s answer is “no”. What should our response be in those moments of prayer when the answer is, “no”?

This morning I read of someone of faith who received such an answer.

His heart was right,
motivational clean
vision correct
finances in place
detailed plans divinely inspired!

And the answer remained the same,

“You are not to build a house for my Name…”
I Chronicles 22:8

Blueprints

Then God gave his reason for the “no”. God always has good reason when “no” is a far better than “yes”. He is not mean or cruel; even in his “no” there is always love and mercy.

“I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the LORD…” (14) “Great pains” groan the words. We have all painfully

pushed forward against the unmovable
bandaged broken knees and wounded hearts
pushed back tears of agony and rejection
pressed down frustration and disappointment.

Few have not suffered for the sake of others or the cross. Mine pain a shadow of others; others miniature mine. All of us have paid pain’s price to move forward, if but even at tiny step.

The Trend

In the “no” came an incredible opportunity for David! He could stand at open window and breathe deep of the refreshing scent of no’s grace or follow the trend of others:

  • turn your face to the wall and plead with God like Hezekiah
  • go back to bed, get angry, sulk and pledge a hunger strike like Ahab
  • throw in the towel and hope for death like Elijah

Hitting a Brick Wall

I could go on because the bible is full of illustrations of raw humanity in the face of disappointing “nos”.

Seeing God’s Perspective

David opened his eyes enough to see things from heaven’s point of view. Not easy in our upside down thinking! David chose to say, “Yes” to God’s, “No!”

“Yes, Solomon is the one!” echoed David to the heart and will of God, “Solomon will do what I will not.” Why? Because Solomon was

“a man of peace and rest” (9)
in relationship with The Father (10)
walked in God ordained authority (10)
had discretion and understanding (12)
obedient to the law (13)
strong and courageous (13)

Sounds like an excellent candidate to me! Wouldn’t we all love to be surrounded by women and men with this kind of supreme character? Good choice God!

Sometimes it is only in hindsight that we see what a great decision God’s “no” has been in our lives! It is at that point that our reluctant “yes” becomes a very thankful “yes”.

Pass It On

So David came into wholehearted agreement with the will of God blessing his son

in prayer(11)
with direction (12)
in financial resources (14)
with labourers (15)
commissioning his work (16)
commanding leaders to support him (17)

Silver & Gold

In every feasible way David gave Solomon the instruction, the authority and resources to walk out the vision. He held nothing back! What was his, with open arms, he gives liberally to his son. Then he throws the biggest commissioning party ever; the whole nation celebrates the “no” over one life with a profound and joyous “yes”!(Check it out in I Chronicles 29.)

Final Word

“Now devote your heart and soul to seeking
the LORD your God.
Begin to build….”
I Chronicles 22:19

In my mind’s eye, I see this father hugging his son and placing a firm pat on his back, “You can do! Go for it!”

Reminds me of another Leader hundreds of years later,

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible,
but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26

And the tradition carried on! We see it again with Paul and Timothy, with Barnabas and Mark, Priscilla and Aquilla with Apollos. It is God’s intention for us to join others younger in the faith, or not fully mature in their understanding – equipping, motivating, encouraging and enabling them to go higher and further than us!

What a joy it is; a joy that reflects God’s heart! It is what He is doing in us all!

Remember

David didn’t waste vision or passion; he passed it on, even when God’s answer was, “No!”

Solomon built the temple and experienced the reward on the back of his father’s faithfulness. Without his father support would he have achieved such personal success?

May we always remember those who have paved the way for us

breaking through glass ceilings
breaking down walls of resistance
fighting unseen countless battles on our behalf
at the cost of personal sacrifice and risk
praying for a generation that would follow

What beautiful and powerful illustration of generational synergy because of God’s “No!”

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When the Answer is “No”

Lord, I thank You for saying “No”.
What do you want me to learn here?
What can I only see in You through this closed door?
May I have heaven’s perspective
I set aside disappointment and discouragement.
Show me the sons and daughters
I can invest my life in.
You mercy towards me is outrageous!
How loving you are!

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More on prayer here:

Intercession – Releasing The Power of The Cross Through Prayer

Prayer – A Personal Invitation None Should Refuse