Editorial Note: This letter was written before the passing of Dr. Charles F. Stanley on April 18, 2023. We at In Touch Ministries are committed to the mission of leading people worldwide into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and will continue to share Dr. Stanley’s teachings with you through these letters each month. Learn more about our plans for the future at intouch.org/next.
Have you ever had something stolen from you?
If so, you know the feeling of violation that follows. This happened to me once when someone broke into my car and stole my briefcase. The case itself wasn’t a great loss; it was old and worn. And I doubt the thief had any use at all for my Greek New Testament.
But there was something in that old briefcase that was very valuable to me.
It was the Bible my mother had given me. I’d been preaching from it for many years, and it was filled with marked passages and notes on how the Lord had spoken to me through His Word. I was grieved, and for months I felt like I’d lost my best friend.
Someone had intruded into my personal life and stolen the record of my history with the Lord.
There have been times in my life when I’ve suffered a different kind of loss, and that’s the loss of peace.
Sometimes I’ve been quick to blame the circumstances or other people, even though “assigning blame” was rarely helpful. And there are occasions when I’ve realized my peace wasn’t stolen—I gave it away by focusing on problems, or on people who weren’t peaceful themselves.
The truth is, every believer has been given peace with God. We’ve been reconciled to Him by grace through faith in the Lord’s death and resurrection.
And as those united with the Father, we’ve been given the incomparable peace of Jesus, Who said, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful” (John 14:27).
Knowing that you have Christ’s peace, perhaps you’re wondering why there are times when you don’t really feel it.
You might find yourself filled with anger, fear, or frustration instead. This side of heaven we’ll never have perfect peace in every situation. Some events may cause immediate and justifiable alarm.
But we don’t have to let distressing emotions continually hold us in their grip. There is a way to regain our peace, and Paul wrote about it in Philippians 4:6-9.
The first step to regain Christ’s peace is to cry out to our heavenly Father.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (v. 6). We’ve all prayed in ways that increase our anxiety by focusing on the situation instead of on the Lord.
Prayer that meditates on scriptural truths about His power and love is a far better approach. The fruit of such prayer will be “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension” and guards our hearts and minds (v. 7). The ultimate outcome is an increase in spiritual maturity, because your trust in the Lord has been strengthened.
The second step is to control our thoughts.
This is very important because how we think determines how we feel and what we do. Paul tells us exactly what to focus our minds on—whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (v. 8).
Now, if you look at that list, every one of these qualities describes God, His Word, and His ways.
When our minds are engaged in thoughts of the Lord, the dark situations that cause us anxiety are diminished.
And Christ’s peace fills us, no matter what the circumstances are.
But if we let our thoughts center on things that are not right or good, our trust in God is eroded, and emotions like anger, frustration, and anxiety will dominate us. We find ourselves tossed about like waves in a storm and begin to doubt that God loves us.
We may start to feel that He’s abandoned us—even though that’s impossible.
Then in desperation we may take matters into our own hands, trying to fix the circumstances to bring stability back into our lives. But God’s peace is a gift, not something we can manipulate. And the only way to receive it is to live in obedience to Him.
That brings us to the next step, which is both incredibly simple and a tremendous challenge: Do what God says.
“As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (v. 9). The word practice refers to continuous work.
Each time we read the Bible or hear a biblical sermon, we’re responsible for putting the principles we learn into practice. There is no way for a Christian to live in rebellion to God and still have His peace. Sin always brings turmoil.
If you’re waiting for the Lord to give you peace by fixing everything in your life that’s troublesome, you’ll never have it, because His peace has nothing to do with our circumstances.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was unjustly confined in a Roman prison. Yet there is not one word of anger, bitterness, fear, or anxiety in the letter. Instead, he spoke of joy or rejoicing 16 times. What incredible faith!
What’s truly remarkable is that the same peace Paul had that surpasses human comprehension is available to you if you’re willing to take the steps he’s given in his letter. And that is my prayer for you.
Christ has given you His peace. Will you take hold of it today?
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. This month, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, join me in thanking God for moms. May He give them all wisdom, peace, and strength to guide their children in godliness. And if you are a mom, I’d like to wish you a happy Mother’s Day. God bless you.