Growing in the Fruit of Peace

Several years ago, I read Elizabeth George’s book, “Loving God with all Your Mind.”  It was the first time I had read her work, and I was intrigued with the title.  It wasn’t the easiest read.  I had to take it in small bites, and it took me several months, but it was so worth the effort.

Growing in the Fruit of Peace

I had no idea how God was going to use that little book in my life in a very short while.  Ms. George shared about a period of time during which she had struggled with depression, and how loving God with her mind pulled her out of darkness and into precious hope.  Unknown to me, our own young daughter was developing serious anxiety, and it was this knowledge of how to love God with abandon, giving up our rights to worry, that provided a life line to pull our daughter back.

It is still fresh to me.  I cannot hold back the tears as I share this with you, but they are tears of thankfulness as I can tell you with full confidence that even in times of struggle, because struggle we all must, God is so very very good.

As Elizabeth George shared in her book, “A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit,”   Peace is the sacrifice of trust.

Ms. George points out that Peace is:

  • not a result of our worldly circumstances, but in the assurance that we have a right relationship with God.
  • not affected by daily challenges, but remains in the knowledge that our times are in God’s hands.
  • is not dependent on the conditions of our life, but upon knowing that God is all-sufficient.  He will supply our every need, according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19
  • It is “an inward repose and serenity of soul that indicates a heart at rest–regardless of our circumstances–as we place complete confidence in God minute by minute.”  He is continuously with us.  Psalm 139:7-12

Trusting God

Several years ago I met a Christian woman and song writer when she and her husband answered a Craig’s List ad and came to see the van we had for sale.  She and I ended up spending quite a bit of time visiting, and we stayed in touch through email for a long time after.  She asked me to be praying for their family, as her daughter was making what they felt were foolish choices, so I prayed.

Some months later she sent me an update.  “I had a dream,” she told me.  She and her husband were rowing frantically in a small boat with their daughter, as a storm blew and crashed upon them.  “But then,” she said, “it was like a camera in a movie panned back, and I could see that we were actually rowing inside a fish bowl.”  The bowl was being carried by the hands of God himself, and it was this very act–being carried–that caused the waves that they were struggling to row against.  Just knowing that God was in it brought her peace.

If God is carrying your boat, He is taking you to a better place.

You have to believe that.

You have to have confidence that He will not waste an iota of your struggle.  He will use it to draw you deeper with Him, to grow your faith, and open eyes to His glory.

If God is carrying your boat

Hes taking you to a better place

The word God uses for peace also means rest and tranquility~”of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.”`

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

Just like joy, and all 9 of the fruit of the Spirit, our peace is positional.  Because of Jesus’s work on the cross we have peace with God.  We are no longer enemies of God.  We are His beloved children.  Because of this, we can rely on all God’s promises, and we can be content in any and every circumstance.

The Secret to Experiencing Peace

In Philippians chapter 4, Paul tells us the secret to experiencing God’s peace.  We also continue to see how all 9 of the Fruit of the Spirit are to be present in a believer’s life, and are interdependent.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” verses 4-7

Did you catch that?  Loving God with all our hearts involves making the conscious choice not to wallow in unfavorable circumstances, but rather, to rejoice in the Lord.  Choose not to be anxious, but instead pray and tell God what you need, trusting in His ability and His desire to meet those needs.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” verse 8

Loving God with all our minds involves meditating on the right things.  How often does anxiety overtake us because we allow ourselves to dwell on the “what if’s”?  My daughter will tell you it is a slippery slope, once you allow yourself to visit there.  What about the “if only’s”?  How often do we lose our focus and take a ride on an emotional roller coaster because, like Lots wife, we look back longingly on the the past that is behind us, or allow the present opportunities to slip through our fingers because we’re dwelling on unrealistic hopes for the future?

All these things: the what if’s, the if only’s, the past, and the future are not “whatever is true.”  The past was true in it’s time, and the future is unknown to us.  Dwelling on them will not provide peace, but is likely to steal it away.

What we do know is that God has plans for us right now today.  He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him.  And He wants us to trust Him with all our hearts, leaning on His understanding, acknowledging Him (rejoicing in Him and trusting Him!) and He promises to make our paths straight… Proverbs 3:5,6

He has your back, no matter what storm you encounter.  He is the one carrying your boat.

 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.” verse 9

Paul is always saying that, isn’t he?  Follow my example because I’m following God, and God will be with you!

…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” verses 11-13

We quote that last part a lot, don’t we?  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Many times, we take it out of context.

Paul said he knew how to be content in ANY circumstance.  He knew how to get along with little, and he knew how to live with much.  The secret of being filled and going hungry… having an abundance and suffering in need!

How did he do it?  How did he go on through poverty, being stoned, being the recipient of hate talk, being ship wrecked, living under house arrest for many years, and eventually losing his life for the sake of Christ?  All the while, he remained content.  He knew God’s peace.

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Paul didn’t have to experience anxiety or worry, doubt or discouragement.  Jesus would empower him to stand firm through anything while experiencing contentment, and we can have this same confidence, because as verse 19 tells us,

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Sometimes we experience wonderful peace in our own storms, but watching our loved ones struggle, that can be harder.  Giving them to God can be a greater exercise in trust, and we need to hold our loved ones with open hands.  God loves them more than we do, and His plans for them are every bit as wonderful and good as the plans we know He has for us.

When our daughter was struggling the most, we did some practical things to help her.  I was able to provide her with Bach Flowers that were helpful for her emotional state.

We used accupressure to help remove the strain that the anxiety placed on her body, and in return, her anxiety was lessened.

But more than anything else, she memorized scripture, taped it up all around her bed, and recited it whenever she felt the temptation to allow her thoughts to go where she knew they shouldn’t.  Instead she reminded herself to love God with her mind and meditate on His truth.    

She continued to rejoice in the Lord, recording the good gifts He has placed in her life in her special notebook… 3 things she’s thankful for each day, and the record is well into the thousands today.

We talked about what God says is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise!

And we prayed, often, asking God to give her His peace.

Our daughter still sometimes experiences worry, but it is temporary because she knows where to go, and instead of being paralyzed by anxiety, she is freed by trust.  It was hard to understand, when we were in that difficult place with her, why she was going through that storm, but when I hear her talk about it today I believe God will someday use her to lead others to peace.  She is uniquely equipped to show true understanding and compassion to others.  God won’t waste her pain, and He won’t waste yours… He will bring it to good.

Praise God for giving us so many reasons to trust in Him, and for making contentment in any circumstance possible!

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you.  He will not leave (fail) you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6

“For I know the plans that I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’”  Jeremiah 29:11   God had just caused His people to be carried into Babylon for 70 of exile.  They were looking for deliverance and He told them to build houses and have families and make a life there—they were being disciplined for their good.

God is good.  His love for us endures forever.  He is faithful.  And not a single thing that will ever happen to us isn’t filtered through His loving hands first.  And everything that he allows, even the tough love, is for our ultimate good and for God’s glory.

Psalm 136 is the all about Giving Thanks to God.  “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For his lovingkindness is everlasting.  {His love endures forever.}

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Just as it is written, “For your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

 

The Fruit of Love

 

love fruit of the spirit photo

When our women’s group went through Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit,   LOVE is the one fruit about which I did not teach.  I was away at a class.  I heard all about h

ow our speaker that week is a gifted teacher!  What a blessing that we have such women as part of our fellowship!

Well, because I didn’t teach on this subject, I have really had to pray about what God would have me share here, not wanting to fail to address any of the Fruit of the Spirit in this online account.  The Bible has so much to say about Love.  Where in the world to begin?

Considering I wrote this post, lost it, and had to re-write it, it may be a miracle that I have anything to share at all! 😉  But seriously, to read more posts from the Fruit of the Spirit series, you can visit the devotional index here.

These are the notes I took while reading Elizabeth George’s book:

  1. To live out the Fruit of the Spirit requires a decision; love is an act of the will.  It’s during the most difficult seasons of our lives that we ourselves feel the need for love, and yet, it can be the most challenging time to show love toward others.  Only God can fill us with this kind of love and enable us to give it away!
  2. Love is action, not just words.  We are to back up our words with action.  “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  (1 John 3:18).  Consider the people God has placed in your life for you to love.
  3. Love reaches out to the lovely and the unlovely alike.  While God’s love is never deserved, it is for all of us.  As such, God’s Spirit enables Believers to do what Jesus commands: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” Luke 6:27.  He enables us to extend grace and love, unconditionally.
  4. We need God to help us love.  Loving the unlovely bears witness to what God can do with a person’s life, and it brings Him glory.  When we depend on God to love those who have hurt us, we bear His mark.  Those who are hardest to love are often the ones who need it most.
  5. Love Expects Nothing in Return.  In Luke 6:35-36, “ But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”.

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The nutshell version?  If you want to know how to love, spend time with the expert.

God is love.  It’s one of the first things we teach our children about God, and they quickly memorize those three little words.

If I wanted to share with you about the character of God, I might tell you that He is Good, Righteous, Just, Faithful, Merciful… and I could tell you that God is Loving (because He is), but again, that is His character.

To say that God is love carries an entirely different meaning.  It’s not just his character.  It’s who He is, and without Him there would be no love.  It’s pretty mind blowing.

1 John 4, verses 9 & 10, tells us that God showed us what true love was when He sent His son to be the atonement for our sin. The love of God was made “manifest” among us—Jesus, Emmanuel with us, so that we might have eternal life through Him.  By reaching out and meeting our need for a Savior, God set the example for how we should love one another.

1 John 4:16 tell us: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him”.

Verses 12-15 laid the ground work, by explaining that when we believe in this love God has for us because of the example He set, and put our trust in Jesus, we receive his Spirit.  This is how abiding happens.  This is how his love is made perfect in us; because His Spirit lives in us He fills us, and we can behave as He does.

I have a plaque that says, “Children learn what they live,”  and it is so true.  Children who grow up seeing kindness modeled, show kindness.  Those who experience generosity are eager to give.  When adults model patience with their children, those children show patience toward their younger siblings.  Those who experience comfort when they are hurt know how to give comfort. Unfortunately, the flip is true.  Studies show that when children are not shown comfort, they do not know how to show comfort, and can be uncomfortable with it later in life.

I have 8 children, from almost 2 all the way up to 19.  I learned early on, sometimes to my humor and sometimes to my embarrassment, how well my small children mirror my attitudes and behaviors.  If anyone was curious how I handled a 2 year old who misbehaved in the store, all they would have had to do is watch my first born little girl play with her doll and shopping cart.  There it was–in perfect replay. :/

Children mirror what they see. 2

There are times like today when the littlest one asked me for some chaga tea, and as I poured it into her cup she said, “Good job, good job,” in her almost two year old dialect.

Children mirror the experiences we give them, and we as believers are Children of God.  If we intentionally spend quality time with him, we’ll begin to mirror his character. The deeper we experience God’s love toward us, the more able we are to show the same love and compassion to others.

There is such a thing, Tozer wrote, as having a right opinion about God, but lacking the heart and attitude that He wants us to have toward Him.

Tozer believed that too many people have been misled to believe that if they’ve found God, they no longer need to seek Him.  As I read about how the churches in his day had replaced the simplicity of Christ with programs and activities that take up time and attention but don’t satisfy the longing of the heart for more of God, it’s hard to believe this book was written in the 50’s.  It sounds like he’s describing churches today: too much busy and not enough relationship.

God is always here with us, no matter where in the world HERE is to you and to me.  He is everywhere.  Yet He is still MANIFEST, Tozer taught, when we are aware of his presence, and when we surrender and cooperate with his will in our lives.  Spiritual responsiveness is the uncommon road.  It is increased by exercise and decreased by neglect. 

It’s when we neglect to pursue God that we fall off the path.  It happens far too easily.

Our passion for God can never be any greater than the fire He kindles in our spirit.  His Spirit has to draw us and enlighten us about who He is.  However, it’s our decision to reciprocate God’s desire for us to pursue Him that fans the flames of that fire.  We have to make the decision to follow after Him.

Have you heard the expression, “To know me is to love me”?

Ask Him to draw you; ask Him to kindle an ever greater passion for Him in your spirit.

Ask Him to sit with you and enlighten you about who He is.

Deliberately pursue Him.  The more you come to know Him, the more you will grow to love Him.  His character, His fruit of the Spirit will flower in your life, and you will grow to love what He loves more each day.

There’s not a one of us who has arrived.  In our humanity we fall down.  Sometimes we take a step backward, but lets get up and move forward again.  Someday we’ll be face to face with our Savior, and we will be completely and perfectly transformed into His likeness, truly!  It’s called glorification.  Until then, our help is in Him, and the glory is, really~one day at a time~ in the becoming.

Angel Eyes 2

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:12,13