11/24/T – At Peace, Strengthened in Hope

1 Kings 11:29-12:19; Acts 9:26-35; Psalms 131:1-132:9; Proverbs 28:12-13

NT: “So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.” (‭‭Acts‬ ‭9:31‬ ‭CSB)

The fledgling church did not exist within a peaceful environment. The followers of the way continued suffering persecution from the Jewish leadership. True, Saul had converted and was now preaching Jesus and defending the gospel – but everywhere he went, the Jews tried to take his life. So threatened was he, that  the apostles had him sent away to his home town of Tarsus – for his safety and the safety of his fellow believers. Yet, in all that turmoil and adversity, the regional church had peace and was strengthened. How was that possible? They lived in the fear of the Lord and were encouraged by the Holy Spirit. Despite the constant attacks, instead of decreasing, the church continued to increase in numbers – because of their peace that passed all understanding. While we now live in uncertain and challenging times, we aren’t experiencing (in America, at least) the kind of persecution that the early church faced. Are we at peace? From what I can see through posts on social media, we are not. Are we living in the fear of the Lord and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, or are we living in the fear of what could happen to us and the discouragement that comes from the events around us? Of all people, the church of Jesus Christ should be the most at peace, yet it seems that we are the most wrought up. We need to trust the Lord with all the things that are out of our control, and focus our eyes on following the word, will, and ways of Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith… and allow His Holy Spirit to encourage us along the way. If we do that, we will be strengthened, and this challenging time will become our finest hour.

Psalms: “Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I do not get involved with things too great or too wondrous for me. Instead, I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like a weaned child. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forever.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭131:1-3‬ ‭CSB)

Newly weaned children are not typically children at peace. In the name of maturing, they find themselves at an uncomfortable crossroads of sorts. Gone are the carefree and soothing days of being held by their mother as they satisfy their hunger with the warm milk from their mother’s breast. They have to begin the process of becoming individuals. They have to learn how to seek and find comfort and peace instead of always being comforted. As king, David faced many uncomfortable challenges. In order to grow and mature in the Lord, he had to leave behind the comfortable and embrace the uncomfortable. He had to leave behind the peaceful mornings in the pasture with his sheep to serve in King Saul’s courts. He had to transition from defending his sheep from a lion to defending an army from a giant. He had to leave behind the days of leading a company of soldiers to leading a nation. All the while, he was keenly aware of his own weaknesses and shortcomings. Instead of striving in the flesh and getting in way over his head, he focused on what was his to do: trust in the Lord and obey His word. The impossible things that were before him, he gave over to the Lord to handle. He learned to find peace through the hope that he had in the Lord of Hosts, the Lord God Almighty, who was always faithful to his word. Church… don’t try to force your way into things and get in way over your head. Put your hope in the Lord, both now and forever. Focus on following the Lord Jesus and trust Him with the improbable and impossible. If you do that, you will be strengthened, grow in maturity, and be at peace.

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