Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Monday, July 29, 2013

Cease Striving

He makes wars cease throughout the earth.  He shatters bows and cuts spears to pieces; He burns up the chariots. 
"Stop your fighting — and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth." - Psalm 46:9-10 (HCSB)

Every once in a while a particular translation while open up a new door on a familiar passage.  Almost every translation except Holman's says something like, "Be still and know that I am God ...", but in the context of the Lord making wars cease, the command to stop fighting does make sense.  The very accurate NASB is good, too, "Cease striving...".  One could say, "Be at peace."  Peace is a vital, essential concept in the Bible.  We should be at peace with God, have the peace of God, and, as much as possible, be at peace with one another.  I was talking to a Christian recently regarding a fairly important decision, and he talked about the necessity of having "peace about it."  All other signs aside, I would say that peace of mind and heart is the primary indication of the Holy Spirit having control in our lives.  

God urges us to stop fighting, and I think that applies as much to internal conflicts as to external.  His will for us is peace in every situation.  Conflict is meat and drink to the devil.  Ah, but aren't we supposed to be fighting for truth, justice, and the American way?  We are told to "fight the good fight of faith" certainly.  But what does the fight of faith involve?  Mainly it means struggling to stay in faith.  And what does faith provide?  Peace.  As contradictory as it sounds we really are fighting for peace. 

Even the well-known instructions for spiritual battle from Ephesians 6 center on standing, holding firmly to one's ground behind the shield of faith.  In other words, we can trust God despite the outward appearance of things.  Our "war" is to maintain that perspective, to recognize that none of the weaponry of the enemy can do us harm so long as we stand in faith and do not waver.  In the midst of the most intense conflict, in the most oppressive attacks, we may be at peace.  Peace through strength - not my strength but God's strength which is limitless. 

What about struggling against sin and imperfection in my own heart?  That struggle, too, can be won through ceasing to fight.  Sin and failure arise from my old nature, as the new nature received through Christ and the Cross is not capable of sin.  If I attempt to suppress sin, who is laying down suppressive fire?  The same one who did the sinning in the first place.  Again, victory is won by standing in Christ.  I confess and acknowledge my imperfections before God without any attempt at justifying what I have done.  And that is it.  I return to peace and resume my place in the line. 

If you think that's being too easy on the sinner, I would argue that, most of the time, failure comes from trying to operate like the world does, from over-thinking things, from trying to figure out what the future holds, from fear, from condemnation, from living in the past or getting dragged down by past sins and regrets -  i.e., from not being at peace in the present moment.  There is a difference between conviction and condemnation.  Conviction says humbly, I have failed.  Condemnation says hopelessly, I am a failure.  Conviction leads to a correction and deliverance.  Condemnation has never saved nor helped anybody. 

At the end of my time here, I would like to say with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."  We should not wait for the graveyard to rest in peace. 


robinstarfish said...

So very timely today as I've been running "be still and know that I am God" through my sieve pretty constantly for about 2 weeks now as I deal with a sudden host of issues. Methinks I strive too much.

Thanks for the perspective.

mushroom said...

All we are saying is give peace a chance. :)

I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that being agitated doesn't help me resolve anything. I almost feel guilty about having peace sometimes. It's weird.

robinstarfish said...

In this culture, peace is a thoughtcrime.