Acquiring Peace In Unsettling Times

(By: Norm Rasmussen)

If the Apostle Paul was alive today, would the Holy Spirit use him to write these very same words to Christians that he wrote over 2,000 years ago?

"Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!"  (Philippians 4:4 NKJV)

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 4: 6-7)

Our answer should be a resounding: "YES!" 

As a matter of fact, it is my firm belief that these above scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul for Christians who were not only going through suffering and persecution of various sorts at that particular time, but for disciples of Jesus Christ that will be around right up to the return of Jesus Christ.  

Whatever one's position on the rapture and/or end-time tribulation is, I believe it is safe to assume there will always be people giving their lives to Jesus Christ prior to His second coming.  Perhaps more than ever before, newborn babes in Christ will then need to somehow obtain peace in a very, very fearful and troubling time.

Calvin Bergsma, from Georgetown Christian Fellowship, gave a message that I feel God wanted shared on the Internet, thus I'm basically just going to write as best as I can the message he delivered, plus add a few additional thoughts. It is a message ALL Christians can benefit from, I believe. (Here is an even more recent message Pastor Bergsma gave that ALL Christians need to allow the Holy Spirit to cement deeply into their heart:  Finding Peace In PerilousTimes to deal with the increasing stress that is covering this planet like a spreading cancer).

To gleam all that the Holy Spirit has given believers in Philippians 4:6-7, there are four words that can help us constantly stay on track to acquire and keep peace from God. These four words are:  THINKING - TALKING - THANKING - TRUSTING.  

Why these particular four words?  Because it is difficult to obtain God's peace available to us if we don't recognize their importance and stay engaged in them. 

1)  THINKING:  It is imperative that we guard our thought-lives. Satan is constantly attempting to manipulate what we think about. The New Testament Bible makes it abundantly plain that if we don't constantly strive to walk in the Spirit, our carnal mind will make assumptions and decisions that will be in conflict with the Holy Spirit. Satan knows full well that he has an extremely difficult task before him to try to manipulate a person's thoughts when someone is constantly walking in the Holy Spirit.  

2)  TALKING:  The New Testament Bible also makes it abundantly clear that we are constantly to be talking to God. Prayer is talking to God, and listening to what God has to say to us. In any meaningful relationship, two-way communication is imperative.

3)  THANKING:  God full well knows that thankless Christians are ripe for Satan to sift like wheat. Thankless Christians are so much easier to deceive and manipulate when they do not daily engage in being thankful to God. Of all the weapons God has given born again Christians - outside of prayer and God's holy Word - the weapon of 'thanksgiving' is right near the top of most important to receive God's maximized protection and blessing, and peace in the midst of one's storm. Being thankful to God is a mind-set. It is a mental discipline that one must work very diligently at DAILY before it becomes a part of who we are in Christ.  

4)  TRUSTING:  People who operate in thanklessness tend to have greater difficultly in trusting God. People who operate in thanklessness tend to view prayer as only one-sided: 'Listen UP, God!  Here is what I want you to do for me!'  There is nothing wrong with making requests to God. His Word clearly says we are to do so. But, people who don't work diligently at trying to hear what God has to say about a matter before they just start telling God what they think He should do on their behalf will never have a very confident prayer life.  

When we read in the Old Testament about the journey of the Jewish people, when God led them out of Egypt to enter their own promise land, many began to complain about their situation. They became discontent in their circumstances. What they did not realize in their complaining is that they were opening the door wide open for the judgment of God to fall upon them. The results of that judgment was that they died in the desert, never entering the promise land.

My wife, Kathleen, and I minister in prison (as this is being written). If there is any place a Christian could grow discontent, become bitter and resentful, begin to quietly have mind-battles going on inside their head with God, prison has to be the place. I tell prisoners over and over that they must EXCEL at being thankful to God about the environment they are in, because if they don't, God may very well keep them locked behind bars much longer than what need be. They can ask God to release them early; they can trust God to release them from prison early, but God most likely will not answer their prayer the way they would like Him to answer it if they don't engage in the spiritual discipline of being thankful.  

If one greatly struggles in practicing this crucially important spiritual discipline of THANKSGIVING, they need to seek God for wisdom and understanding in how to begin doing so. It is the function of the Holy Spirit to help us learn everything God desires that we learn, wherever we find ourselves. Prisoners who become disciples of Jesus Christ need not see themselves in prison only because they broke the law. They can thank God for being put there to learn everything God wants them to learn. They can thank God that He can use them in that environment to help win others to Jesus Christ. Wherever we find ourselves with other people, that is our mission field. We don't have to go to a third world country to be a 'missionary.' Wherever people are, and wherever we find ourselves around people, God wants us to realize that is our mission field. If we don't see/view it that way, a prisoner may spend a lot more frustrated years behind bars than need be.  

Anyone can get upset at God for the circumstances they find themselves in. Anyone can get upset when God doesn't answer their prayers the way they would like God to answer them. Anyone can get upset at God when they step out in faith and trust God for something specific, only to come to a place where they feel it was a total waste to trust the way they had been trusting. The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I'm convinced that God does not bless thankless Christians, not very often anyway.  

God the Father is looking for thankful followers of Jesus Christ. If you've ever wondered fully why 'narrow is the way to eternal life, yet broad is the way to eternal destruction', the person who scoffs at what God accomplished for them - by dying on the cross and taking their punishment when He didn't have to - is in God's eyes the most THANKLESS person on the face of planet earth.  

I'm fully convinced that God will allow us to constantly be in a mental state of frustration to different degrees in our relationship with Him until we begin to actively engage in the daily discipline of thanksgiving. It has only taken me about 25 years roughly of being a Christian to begin to fully realize this, so don't beat up on yourself if you haven't done so well in practicing being thankful.  

One cannot possibly engage in being thankful unless they THINK correctly. Satan will constantly try to manipulate you into thinking that you are the world's greatest fool for being thankful to God, especially in the midst of a turbulent storm in your life. When trials are upon us, around us, over us, has us hemmed in on every side, the wisest thing we can do is stay thankful. Nothing will bring us through that trial faster with the least amount of pain than being thankful to God. God can end our trial in a moment's time, but He seldom does until we learn what He wants us to learn, yet I'm fully convinced that we will be KEPT from many more painful trials simply because we took the preemptive battle strategy of being thankful, daily - moment by moment.

And NO ... God isn't asking His people to be thankful for the evil that has come against them, or the evil that is in this world. What God does want us being thankful for when evil seeks to devour us is that in the ultimate plan God has for each of our lives, He is somehow going to use that trial of evil for our ultimate good. Romans 8:28-29 is our scripture for claiming such.  

Now this is something that totally baffles our human reasoning, yet it is clearly a Biblical principle. When evil is blowing its ugly breath our way and we are innocent of any wrongdoing in the sight of God (in other words, our disobedience to God is not what may have brought on the demonic attack), we can thank God that we are found worthy to suffer for the cause of Christ. God says we can even glory in it. Suffering unjustly simply because they chose to identify with Jesus Christ was something the early church found reason to thank God for when there really was nothing they could do to escape that suffering (trial). I suspect many of those who did so may have had a greater revelation that holding up under suffering unjustly was something God would reward him or her for in eternity. This brief writing lends strong credibility to the possibility:  Looking At Certain Suffering From God's Perspective.

This much we can learn from the Bible. God clearly demonstrates that He blesses thankful people far more than He blesses thankless people. Thankless people become a habitation of demons much faster than people who are thankful, and because that is so, it would only make logical sense to me anyway, that the Holy Spirit would rather hang around thankful people instead of gripers and complainers and the cynical. In this evil world, the wise Christian does NOT take lightly the importance of not insulting (hence, grieving - possibly even quenching) the Holy Spirit in their lives. Each of us need all the help we can get from the Holy Spirit to deal with the evil we come up against daily, and will continue to come up against until our time is done here on Earth. 

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.  - Ephesians 4:30-32.

If you read in the Bible the words Jesus spoke while on earth, it is no coincidence that He constantly was thanking the Father when he prayed to Him. Jesus full-well knew that to have the full blessing of God the Father, it cannot be obtained without clearly demonstrating to the Father that we are thankful.

God isn't obligated to hear our prayers, let alone answer them, the way I see it. That He clearly has revealed to us in the Bible that He wants us constantly talking with Him is a HUGE reason to thank Him before we even start talking to Him!  

God gave each of us the opportunity to live on this planet for at least one reason: To learn the importance of being thankful. Satan and the angels that got thrown out of heaven lacked one very important spiritual trait, or quality: They grew to be thankless.  

Some people find themselves in the most painful places imaginable, questioning why in the world would God allow them to be in that place. The sooner they learn that it really makes little difference WHY, but rather, God can always allow their situation to get even MORE painful, if they don't learn one incredibly important thing: The wisdom of being thankful.  

This bears repeating: Thankless people have the most difficult time trusting God.  Folks - evil is growing leaps and bounds across the face of this planet, as if I'm telling you something you didn't already know. None of us fully know just how much suffering and persecution and hardship we will be facing a year from now, or perhaps months or weeks from now. Learning to be thankful to God cannot be put off until tomorrow. To walk in any dimension of peace and trust in God as evil spreads across this globe prior to Christ's return ' we cannot by-pass being thankful. It is an absolute MUST. 

Rejoicing always in the Lord, as we are admonished to do constantly in Philippians 4:4, does not necessarily mean pain is going to be taken away from us. What it does do for us, however, is help us to stay thankful, and most likely receive grace and strength from God to handle the pain. No matter how much we try to muster up the ability to rejoice always in the Lord, it is not obtainable without being thankful. Being thankful and rejoicing go hand in hand. They are necessary spiritual disciples the wise Christian engages in, because they realize that their ability to trust God for protection and provision diminishes quickly if they allow thanksgiving and rejoicing to slip in their lives. Also - Thanksgiving and rejoicing are two HUGE spiritual weapons God has given us to help resist the devil influencing our thinking (Which I believe is one of the most important reasons why God tells us to 'rejoice always' and constantly give Him thanks.)

I don't claim to have mastered the ability to rejoice in the Lord always, but I believe that the more I learn and practice rejoicing in the Lord, the more equipped I'll be to not only hear God speak to me when He decides to speak to me, but sufficient faith may also be imparted to me as well to step right out of a trial I'm in the midst of. Remember, the Apostle Peter was enabled to walk on TOP of the raging sea for a short while, when he stepped out of the boat. Yet fear gripped him as he began to doubt, and instead of staying focused on God's ability to supernaturally enable him to remain above the raging sea, he allowed his natural thinking to take over, which is all that was needed to get him to sink in fright.

If Peter had kept saying out loud, over and over, as he walked on the water while staying focused on Jesus:  'Thank you, Jesus!  Praise you, Jesus!  Thank you, Jesus!  Praise you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!' ' the Holy Spirit would not have allowed doubt and fear to come upon him like it did, and he would have been able to stay on top of the water with Jesus. Faith is nurtured and sustained when we keep our eyes on God, and God alone.  How do we keep our eyes on God so that our adverse circumstances don't distract us like they did Peter? Staying in a constant state of thanksgiving and praise to our Lord and Savior, and constantly speaking forth the promises in God's Word that apply to our situation(s). 

TIP:  Don't twist the scriptures to try to make them work for your perceived need. God doesn't honor us standing on scripture and praying scripture that is taken out of context -- its intended meaning and intended application misapplied.

Thus the practical way God has given us to keep our eyes upon Jesus (who happens to be God!) and not focusing on our doubts - worry - discouragement, fears, negatives, that will cause us to 'sink' like Peter did, is to praise and give thanks to our heavenly Father and Jesus constantly with our mouth, and more importantly ... in our mind. The more you give thanks and praise to God mentally, the more difficult it will be for Satan to manipulate your thoughts.  Peter's thoughts were manipulated. I fully believe the reason the Holy Spirit recorded the event of Peter walking on water and then sinking is to reveal to born again believers just how energized demonic powers are in attempting to manipulate our thoughts. The more we allow him to manipulate our thoughts, our faith and trust in God will diminish.  God is dead (alive!) serious about His people being diligently engaged in 'taking EVERY (emphasis mine) thought captive to the obedience of Christ.'  (See: 2 Cor. 10:5).  

I'm willing to wager that unless one strives to learn how to constantly stay thankful to God and engages in it on a regular basis, that person most likely will not be of the group of Christians who God is addressing in Revelation 3:10, if they are alive at that time:

"Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth."

A logical question one might ask is:  'Persevere in WHAT?' Could it be God is in part addressing the issue of being thankful? Being determined NOW - having the mindset NOW - that you and I WILL persevere without complaining and becoming angry and bitter inside ... in being thankful in every situation to God that we might find ourselves in before we are ushered into glory?  I believe that is what God is primarily addressing in Revelation 3:10.

Of course, I also believe God is talking about persevering in strict obedience to His Word without compromise, and persevering in trusting God to continue to meet one's essential needs in the face of mounting stress, suffering and most likely increased persecution of various sorts.

[A little side-take here:  Peter didn't step out of the boat to walk on water until Jesus commanded Him to do so. Observe in Revelation 3:10 that God is COMMANDING His people to persevere under great stress and hardship.  If they continue to do so, He promises He will rescue them from the hour of trial that which shall come upon the whole earth, just as He did Peter when Peter began to sink].

A time is surely coming when the mark of the beast will be given, as spoken of in Revelation 13:16-17. If you are alive on this planet at that time, will you have the confidence in God to say 'No!' to taking the mark, even if it means not being able to buy and sell anything, which includes food? Now is the time to know what you would do if you should have to make that decision. Just remember, if God supplied the people of Israel manna from heaven daily to sustain them, He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. His power has never ceased, nor will it ever. He can provide food any way He decides, and He can surely translate us to safety if we continue to do WHAT? Persevere in what pleases the Holy Spirit in accordance with God's holy Word, and His rhema Word when/if He delivers one to us.

As I write this, it happens to be October 1, 2008. Financial turbulence is global. Desperate measures are being put into place. Already there is talk about revamping our global financial system because fear and panic realizes Band-Aids are being put on Band-Aids to try to keep the financial system from totally unraveling. People who know what they are talking about soberly realize that stress is only going to increase for most people. Things could accelerate at several different levels that most don't want to even think about. If Christians don't learn to rejoice now ... today ... it is only going to get much more difficult as each month passes to learn how, from here on out. 

We are told in Thessalonians that "a great falling away" (See: 2 Thes. 2:3) will happen prior to the return of Jesus for His Bride, the Church. Many have felt, as I do, that most likely fear and worry and hardship will cause many Christians to grow cold in their hearts' toward Jesus, and most likely many will fall completely away from Christianity, simply because they failed to learn the crucial importance of being thankful IN all things, and FOR all things - DAILY.  

Dear reader ... it can't be screamed any louder: To survive spiritually ... learning how to be thankful in the midst of hardship is NOT optional to maintain your personal relationship with Jesus Christ from here on out. 

"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  (1 Thes. 5:16-18).  

"Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," (Ephesians 5:20).

I feel the leading if the Holy Spirit to say AGAIN:  The above scriptures are WEAPONS, saints -- wise mental attitude adjusters, if you will -- that God has given us to deal with stress and hardship.  

Thank you, heavenly Father, for whatever you allow to come my way from this moment forward.  I ask that by the help of Your Spirit, I begin to excel in thanksgiving and rejoicing, and trusting in You more than ever before!

Dear Reader - are you at peace with God? If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. You can even have that assurance RIGHT NOW! Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God? We plead with you...please don't make such a tragic mistake. 

To get to know God, to be at peace with God, to have your sins forgiven, to make certain heaven will be your home for eternity, to make certain that you are in right-standing with God right now ... please click here to help you understand the importance of being reconciled to God. What you do about being reconciled to God will determine where you will spend eternity, precious one. Your decision to be reconciled to God is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life, because in Christ, it is impossible to put a value on the worth of your soul in light of eternity.


JESUS DID IT! and...


Remember:  All that we do in this life comes back to our God-given purpose which is to serve and glorify God. The money and assets we accumulate, the fame and power we've attained or seek to attain - all of the things of this nature will one day pass away, but those lives of others we impact for Jesus Christ will last for eternity, and we will be rewarded for the part we helped play by impacting those lives ... for eternity. (Matthew 6:19-20 is our assurance)