Using Peaceful Times to Grow

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4) 

Consider a time of crisis or significant change in your life. How did (or do) you spend your time? Were you consumed with organizing details, contacting people for help, finding a plumber, an electrician, or a builder, hiring health workers, doing pre-op medical appointments, looking for rehab services, trying to figure out why your child is failing in school or not talking to you, working on your marriage, or getting an animal to a vet quickly? These things all could threaten our security; they either hinder our relationship with God or strengthen it. But peace is meant to strengthen the peace and security we have with Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah gives us an example to follow in life, to think first of God and then think of everything in relationship to him. In Isaiah 1-2, we have a hint about God’s complaint against his people: they have been treated as the most privileged with all the advantages of royal descendants, yet they have forsaken God and “they have despised the Holy One of Israel” (1:4). After punishing Israel for their apostasy and accepting their repentance stimulated by the prophets who proclaimed his love for them, the Lord will give them peace and return them to their land.* But Israel did not use her external order well, and we are guilty of the same. We squander God’s provision of quietness in our lives frequently. I wonder if we just don’t know what to do with it. 

Paul wrote to Timothy, about two thousand years ago, to pray for the leaders and to “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:2-4) Here we have an implied connection between a quiet, peaceful life and godliness with dignity, along with salvation in Christ. Now, Paul probably means that the character or temperament of a person who is dignified and godly will be peaceful, even in the midst of intense activity. Perhaps this was in contrast to the false teachers in the church, who were stirring up controversies. I think it’s reasonable, though, to make the application that a quiet life stimulates meditation, reflection, and prayer. One of the reasons I choose to write is the positive effect of the quiet around me, that helps me to turn down the noise of the world and ramp up thoughts of God and his work in my relationships, activities, and circumstances. When TV and music are off, no one is calling me, I can think—even if I am exercising or swimming—I can think. 

Paul wrote to the Philippians to think about particular things, which would help them draw near to the Lord of peace. “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9) I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to think at all in a store, with the TV going, or even in the middle of a conversation, let alone with the quality of thought Paul has described in this passage. Rather, I am like the droopy flowers in my garden right now that are waterlogged from too many days of rain and not enough sun. Over-stimulation wearies me and makes me want to do nothing—just zone out in front of the TV, a good book, or Prime Video. Then there are the crises that drain us entirely of our ability to think appropriately.

Physical or emotional danger or threats to our security will have us running around, figuratively or literally, to fix the problem or find a way out of trouble. I imagine this may be what Ezekiel was referring to in his prophecy of chapter 34, during Israel’s tumultuous exile. God will “banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.” He would cause the earth to “yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them.” The Lord would rescue them from danger, to “dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid…And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God. And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 34:25-31) The last two verses speak to the purpose of the external peace God will provide—to know him as their God, their Shepherd who cares for them. God will break their yoke, reminding us that Christ has broken our yoke to sin; we are free to enjoy his external and internal peace. He has done it so that all will know him. We are sheep, though, who like extremes, and too much quiet and lack of stimulation might have the opposite effect of drying up our thoughts, like writer’s block. We become blasé and blind to what the Lord is doing because we have withdrawn. Rather than consider this a peaceful time, it becomes boring and restrictive; we act like patients in the hospital who can’t get out to enjoy a spring day or a meal in a restaurant with friends, not to mention doing any meaningful work or ministry. 

Having devoted our lives to Christ means interacting with the world, but not to the extent that we become saturated with the world’s values or priorities. The gospel turns worldly thinking upside down. Recalling Paul’s admonition to the Philippian Christians, what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise is not the newest fashion, the latest version of the iPhone, or the most recent inside scoop on Washington politics. The things and people that strengthen our faith, that make it possible to help others practically and who encourage us to grow spiritually will satisfy these criteria. We can share about a TV show if it sharpens our discernment, or talk about the song lyrics of a new hit if they help us to appreciate God’s providence and Christ’s wisdom. As a matter of fact, I recently heard a song on the radio while driving by Meredith Andrews, titled “Soar.” The words helped me to think about this piece. “Here I remind myself what You said over me, Here I remind my soul who You are. You said You won’t relent Won’t let go, won’t forget, Every promise You have whispered to my heart. As I wait, As I wait on You I’m gonna run and not grow weary, I’m gonna walk and not grow faint,  Rise up on wings like eagles, To soar.”

Are you missing quiet times by always having something stimulating your senses? Are you over-working? Do you have too much quiet that is disturbing and not peaceful? How might you have and use your peace to draw close to the Lord more deliberately and effectively? How can you soar spiritually with Christ?

* ESV Study Bible Notes, Intro to Isaiah, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

May 8, 2019  

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