John 14:31 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (KJV).
Clarity comes quickest to those who wait on the Lord. The busier people make themselves, the slower revelation comes to them. It is important to maintain a state of rest, so the mind is less cluttered with unimportant matters. By allowing God's peace to rule in our heart, we allow our mind to be at a state of rest, whereby it is easier to listen to His voice. By allowing Him to establish our thoughts, we will more readily allow His peace to rule in our heart under every circumstance, so that we may see more clearly.
Give yourself permission to be in a state of rest and walk in the fullness of peace. Do not hang on to the stronghold that says you can never walk in perfect peace at all times. The idea that you cannot have nor should have such peace is a lie. It is God's perfect will for you to have peace; otherwise, it would not be part of the Gospel message. Therefore, embrace it by walking in the Spirit. Galatians 5:22 tells us that part of the fruit of the Spirit is peace, which is also means it is part of our new nature. This kind of peace only comes with surrender. It cannot be self-generated. If you completely surrender your will to the Lord, His peace will have a place to rule in your heart. You will only have peace by submitting to the Holy Spirit.
There are times and seasons in our lives that the Lord uses to help conform us to the image of Jesus. In them, the Lord uses the circumstances that appear to be against us to help us learn how to have peace at all times. Times and seasons have shelf-lives, but His peace does not. As difficult as some circumstances may be, we must hold onto His all sufficient grace to endure such times and seasons, and learn how to remain in a perpetual state of peace. His grace is the ability to do what we cannot do on our own and His Spirit is the One Who will teach us how to walk in peace if we will listen.
It is also important to give yourself permission to be accepted. Rejecting the spirit of rejection is also a vital part of walking in peace. The enemy does all he can to get people to believe they are of no value to the Father. If they believe He does not love them, they will have difficulty trusting Him. Without trust, there is no peace. One of the wiles of the devil is using the rejection people have experienced against them. If those closest to a person reject them, it will make it all the easier to get them to believe God will also. In such instances, people become works orientated in that they begin to try to earn a Love that cannot be earned. Unfortunately, some have come from households where they had to perform to be validated as valuable member of the family. Rejections says, "You will never be accepted and you will never be okay." That means that no matter what a person does, as far as he or she is concerned, it will never be good enough. There is no peace in that, nor is there any rest. The reason Jesus died for you is because the Father does indeed love you! If you believe in Jesus, believe His Word, for His Word is true. 1John 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us (KJV).
Being "okay" should never be considered in relation to human standards. Those standards are unstable and ever changing because man is corrupt and unstable. Human thought is below God's thoughts, therefore, it can never be the Standard. Being double-minded means trying to live by two different sets of rules. It leads to a very unstable way of life, which neglects the peace of God. As long as you try to operate under both standards, you will never maintain perfect peace.
When you embrace God's acceptance, everything will fall into proper place. In this, you will be okay with being accepted or rejected by man. Those who reject God will reject His children as well. Those who love Him will love you. Do not base acceptance upon the decisions others make concerning Him. As you embrace His acceptance, you will be more able to walk in perpetual peace and be in a state of rest.
A number of people generate their own anxiety. This is the result of the misuse of their imagination. The imagination is the God-given place of creativity and revelation. This is where we are able to see visions and birth inventive ideas. It serves as a blank canvass where architects develop their blue prints before they put them on paper. There is much potential found in there. In one sense, the imagination is neutral in that it can be used for either good or evil. Unfortunately, what God gives us for good can also be twisted for evil. The enemy of our soul seeks our destruction and employs many methods against us. Our imagination is the one thing he likes to use as a weapon if we allow him access.
In relation to anxiety, experience and perception greatly influence our imaginations. We filter so many things through our experiences and belief systems. We can even teach ourselves to be fearful by the things we take in. As long as people make the world their primary input, anxiety will have an easier time making its way in through their imaginations. For example, some love horror movies. They are addicted to the exhilaration of the adrenalin rush. They watch movies that make evil more powerful than good, then they wonder why the devil seems bigger than God. Some love watching bad news or listening to anything negative. They take their cues form the world on how to react to negativity, even to the point that they embrace fear as a friend. In fact, they come to expect anxiety as the normal part of life.
Some households are infested with anxiety. Family members are taught to be nervous at a young age. They are instructed to believe everything has a negative result. It is so normal to be anxious that if they see a person is peaceful in bad situations, he or she is weird or some kind of lunatic. They believe the responsible thing to do is to be anxious for their loved ones. If they do not feel some sort of dread when loved ones go through bad times, they don’t love them. Those who come from that background sometimes struggle with positive creativity. They may have brilliant ideas, but they are afraid to try them. Anxiety cripples their capacity to move forward. The idea of being free of anxiety looks like a science fiction movie on their mind’s big screen.
If God called us to peace, why would anyone embrace fear and anxiety? If a person loves anxiety more than peace, they are going to have fun being with the God of peace. Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you (KJV). Some need to change their input. Do not expect to live a life of peace while embracing the things of the world. Romans 12:2 clearly states, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (KJV). Do not be frustrated if you decide the world’s view of life is greater than God’s and you cannot find peace.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love (KJV).
Perfect love and anxiety cannot coexist, for perfect love casts out fear. Anxiety is a form of fear and has nothing to do with the new nature. A question to ask our selves when facing anxiety is: “From which position am I approaching the circumstance I am in that causes me to feel anxious?” The old nature invites anxiety and embraces fear. It offers no real peace. At best, it offers self-preservation, which is inward focused. The old nature looks within for its resources, which in part, is based on pride. The new nature looks to God while maintaining a humble posture. In Christ Jesus we are seated in heavenly places (see Ephesians 2:6). Our citizenship is in heaven. Guess what, anxiety does not exist there! Ideally, a believer should never experience anxiety, but it still happens. However, as we mature in the Lord, it should happen less and less, with shorter periods in each moment. We should learn to quickly enter into peace should there be such an occurrence. Perhaps, we can mature to the point where we never have an anxious moment again. How do we approach anxiety?
When anxiety knocks at our door, we must realize that we do not have to let it in. God’s grace enables us to keep the door shut. In fact, His grace repels anxiety. Anxious moments afford us the opportunity to receive strength from on High, for His strength is made perfect in our weakness (see 2Corinthians 12:9). Does that mean we have to be anxious in order for Him to be strong in us? Absolutely not! It means we approach life from the standpoint of humility. Instead of taking things on ourselves, we rely on God. Since Jesus made us more than conquerors (see Romans 8:37), we should view every obstacle we face from the standpoint of success. John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (KJV). We have the victory in Christ Jesus before we even face our trials. He made the provision for our circumstances long before we even existed. Jesus told us that even in the thick of it, we can have perfect peace.
People often say that the opposite of fear is faith. To a large degree that is true, but the True opposite is Love. As already stated in our opening verse, “Perfect faith casts out fear.” Without love, faith will not operate in our lives because faith works by love (see Galatians 5:6). That means having faith may not be the issue in relation to fear and anxiety. The issue is love. As we surrender to the Holy Spirit, perfect love will manifest as well as faith. Guess what else manifests. Peace! Love, faith and peace are part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). It is part of our new nature. So, when anxiety tries to make its way into your heart, take a deep breath and surrender to the Holy Spirit. Who or what you surrender to will be the one you serve. If you yield to fear, it will rule in your heart. If you yield to the Lord, He will rule in your heart (see Romans 6:16). Because of the grace given to us, we have the ability to let either fear or the Lord rule over us. One of the lies of the enemy is that you cannot stop fear from entering into your heart. Furthermore, he would have you to believe that once anxiety grips your heart it will maintain that grip unto the day you die. Grace says differently! 1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all (KJV). Since God is Light, darkness cannot dwell in His presence. Fear and anxiety are from the kingdom of darkness, and have no business in our hearts. If the Lord dwells in us, what place does darkness have?
Romans 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (KJV). When facing difficulties, instead of running to people for solutions, run to Abba (Daddy). He absolutely loves you and has your best interest at heart. Remember, God is Love, which means the more you have of Him the less anxiety has of you. The Father gives peaceful solutions. In His love for us, He is not anxious for our wellbeing, and neither should we. Philippians 4:6-7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (KJV).
2 Corinthians 5:21 For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (KJV).
The moment we lose sight of the righteousness of Jesus being our righteousness, and count our works as things that make us “good Christians,” we move into self-righteousness. When we attribute goodness to ourselves, we vacate the life found in grace and have become self-deceived. Forgetting that our gifts and abilities come from the Father through Jesus Christ is dangerous territory indeed. We cannot define righteousness and holiness by human reasoning. We must allow God to define them for us.
If we define righteousness and what it means to live as a Christian, our standards will be lower than what it truly means. Nonetheless, those standards lead to bondage as no one can live up to them. That includes the ones who set them. When others fail to live up to those standards, judgment and self-righteousness will ensue. Beware of the attitude that says, “They don’t live like me, so they cannot truly love the Lord like I do.”
Some have mastered the art of self-righteousness to the point that they “know” other people’s hearts. Self-righteousness will always equate someone else’s actions to be who he is, while insisting one’s own failings do not display what is truly in his or her heart. We cannot presume to know what is in the heart of another apart from the revelation that comes from God. Furthermore, we cannot afford to lose sight of the purpose of discernment. If your thoughts are that of judgment, you are self-righteous.
We cannot add to the righteousness of Jesus; nevertheless, it is surprising how many try. It is not necessarily intentional; rather, they fall into traps that lead them to do just that without their awareness. One way that happens is that believers try to be their best and do their best for God. The unintended consequences are the traditions of men. Without realizing it, those traditions become stumbling blocks for others and take away from the relational aspect of their walk. For example, when there is some unwritten law about the way people are supposed to dress in order to come to church, they disenfranchise many. Whether it is the suits, ties, dresses and the way the hair is worn, or jeans and t-shirts in the name of freedom, either of these can be obstacles for people to navigate. Is “dressing our best for the King” really the best when others feel like they cannot participate because they do not have the appropriate attire? For some, owning the suit and dress is the difference between feeding their family and their family going hungry. At the same time, it almost feels like a sin for those with the “right clothes” to not dress up. Where’s the freedom in that? Similarly, some may feel out of place when others look down on them for dressing up. Keep in mind that outer appearances do not make people holy. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day wore the best attire, yet Jesus called them whitewashed sepulchers, filled with dead men’s bones. Nonetheless, those who do have the best clothing may be filled with the Spirit and absolutely love God with their whole being -even more than those who claim to be humble! As believers, we must learn to be all things to all people for the sake of the Kingdom. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some (KJV).
We must allow the Holy Spirit to be the Holy Spirit. When we place restraints on people, we actually restrain the Holy Spirit from doing the convicting when conviction is necessary. Placing believers under man-made laws pushes them away from grace. Yes, there are absolute Biblical principles we live by, but we cannot add to them or subtract from them. What is fine for one person to do may not be fine for another. Likewise, the reverse is true. For example, if the Lord leads a person to abstain from donuts, that person cannot impose the same thing on another. It is between the Lord and him. Obedience is the issue, not the act of avoiding donuts. We cannot impose our own customs on others because our individual relationships with God are unique.
It is one thing to lead by example in order to have others follow God Who dwells in us and quite another to have them follow us alone. The idea is to teach people to follow the Lord and hear His voice for themselves. Self-righteous people tend to lead others after themselves. They want to be known as holy; whether they are or not. We cannot make people behave or look like us; otherwise, we make ourselves gods to others. In short, self-righteousness does not lead people to God; it drives them away from Him.