THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
There are so many different aspects of “Peace” in the Bible and we will be looking at these in our housegroup meetings. But, for now we will be focusing on just one aspect – the peace that we so desire in our hearts in the midst of the chaos and uncertainties of life.
PAUL AND SILAS HAVE PEACE IN PRISON
My thoughts turn back to the seismic events in that prison in Philippi (Acts 16: 16-34). And again I ask what it was that so impressed the jailor that he wanted to hear the Gospel. And I realise that he must have been totally confused by the singing that he was hearing coming from that cell. It made no natural sense! These men (Paul and Silas) should have been terrified – quaking with fear. This was the normal reaction to being thrown into prison. Why weren’t they afraid?
I believe that the jailor saw an incredible peace dropping from them, a peace that passed all understanding, a peace that should not have been there … a peace that he wanted – relief from all the fears that naturally beset the human soul.
It was a peace that showed they were not afraid of him and what he could do to them; a peace that showed they were not afraid of the authorities who placed them there; a peace that showed they had no fear of death; a peace that showed (through their singing) that they were right with God, right with themselves and right with the world; a peace that he did not have – a peace that he so wanted.
A peace that we want – right now!
DON’T “BEAT YOURSELF UP” IF YOU ARE FEELING AFRAID
We read stories of the “giants of faith” like Paul and Silas and we think that we cannot be very good Christians ourselves when we are feeling so much fear, so often, and seem to be no different from the rest of the world who are without Christ.
Here are some alarming statistics of the prevalence of fear in our society – where fear is seen as being subdivided into “worry” (things constantly playing on our mind and keeping us awake), which leads to “anxiety” – a deeper dread of things being wrong now and going wrong in the future and of not being able to deal with it, which leads to panic – an immediate emotional response to the terror of not being able to cope right now:
In 2013, there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK.
In England women are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders as men.
The one-week prevalence of generalised anxiety in England is 6.6%
“Anxiety UK” provide the following current information:
“Anxiety disorders are very common. In a survey covering Great Britain, 1 in 6 adults had experienced some form of ‘neurotic health problem’ in the previous week. The most common neurotic disorders were anxiety and depressive disorders. More than 1 in 10 people are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in their life. An estimated 13% of the adult population will develop a specific form of anxiety known as a phobia at some point in their life… At present 40% of disability worldwide is due to depression and anxiety. The most recent Psychiatric Morbidity Survey indicates that there are some 6 million people in the UK (approximately 3 million with depression as their primary problem and 3 million with an anxiety disorder)”
…and this is just the RECORDED or DIAGNOSED figures.
We “beat ourselves up” because we seem to be no different from a world without Christ – we confess that we are:
- afraid of the dark
- afraid of spiders
- afraid of the health needs that we have been diagnosed with
- afraid of dying
- afraid of losing our job
- afraid of not being able to pay our bills
- afraid of being unloved and lonely
- afraid of our boss, or our wife!
- afraid of our future
Here’s the encouragement: the Bible is full of “heroes” who are afraid – we don’t have to be ashamed any longer. Let’s look at just one – Gideon:
GIDEON, HIS FEAR, AND THE PROMISE OF GOD THAT CHANGED IT ALL
‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites…Peace! Do not be afraid.’ Judges 6:16, 23 NIV
“The name Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord our peace, was discovered by Gideon when God told him to lead Israel against the Midianites – a position he felt was far beyond his capacity. ‘How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest…and I am the least in my family’ (v. 15 NIV 2011 Edition). Here’s how the Lord responded: ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites…Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.’ A frightened Gideon believed God and before the battle was even fought or the victory won, by faith he saw the peace already secured. So he built an altar to Jehovah-Shalom, ‘the Lord is peace!’ We often assume we’ll only have peace when our situation changes. Then like Gideon we learn that inward peace doesn’t depend on altering our outward circumstances; it depends on believing God is with you and experiencing His inner peace.” (quoted from “Word for Today” – 6th September 2018)
Now, if one of the mightiest followers of God could start from a position of fear then there is hope for us. The important thing is not that he was afraid but that he trusted in God and found peace – a peace that changed everything.
When the Bible says – so many times – “do not fear” it is not a condemnation but rather an encouragement – as if God is saying to us “you are afraid about so many things – but you don’t need to be any longer” What a promise!
WHERE DOES THIS PEACE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES COME FROM?
We now see a new Name of God: Jehovah Shalom – “I am the God of Peace” – but how do we get this peace that changes us and that is within us in all the ups and downs of life?
Jesus tells us directly. As He neared the end of His time here on earth He spoke to His disciples, preparing them for the time when He would send them the Holy Spirit to be with them forever. And speaking of the presence of the Spirit in us He concludes:
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)
That’s it! As simple as that. It is the promise from Jesus Himself that He will give us the gift of peace.
THE GIFT AND THE FRUIT
And when we have this wonderful peace in our hearts, a gift of the Spirit, in all circumstances, then it will begin to show itself in our lives to all that see us – just like fruit appearing on a tree. And this “fruit” of peace is to drop from us onto them and make this same seismic change in them as the peace on Paul and Silas made on the Philippian jailer.
Peace SHOWS that we have the Spirit in us, that we are Children of God, and should make the beholder want to have what we have.
BUT WHAT IS THE KEY TO RECEIVING THIS GIFT OF PEACE?
- Get right with God: you won’t have this Peace until the Holy Spirit comes to live with you – and this won’t happen till you give your life to God
- But, after this you have to choose to walk with God. Again, the mantra is that of Matthew 6:33 “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”. The next verse finds Jesus telling His disciples that they therefore have no need to worry – because putting God first in your life will allow the Holy Spirit to move through you with His peace.
- Know and “hold on” to the Truth of God’s Promises. Listen to the very last words that Jesus ever spoke to His disciples: “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:20). When we BELIEVE this promise then we know that He IS with us – so we have no need to worry; that He has the best in mind for us – so we have no need to worry; that He will always look after us – so we have no need to worry.
THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER
Being His disciple, following Him daily, trusting in His promise that He will always be with us will give us:
the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
This is peace – not fear – in whatever circumstances of life we find ourselves in. This will give us peace in our hearts at all times – and this peace will grow like fruit and be greatly desired by all who see us.
There is no doubt that you will go through times of great trial. When you do seek God and ask His peace to continue to fill you. Pastor Samuel Lamb spent over 21 years in Chinese prisons for his faith and for setting up house churches – to which hungry people flocked in their thousands. Asked what kept him going in prison he said it was the hymns he composed and the Bible verses he had memorised – one of the most significant for him being:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6-7)
And so we hear it again. This is what I want! This is what YOU want!
Do YOU need to do something about this today? Will YOU turn to God, follow in His footsteps, submit yourself to His control and trust in His promise to be with you always?
Find peace – and let it develop in you like luscious fruit on a tree.