Living in Narnia

Saturday, January 31, 2004

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Phil 4:6-7

What is this peace of God, and why does it surpass all understanding? Very appealing, but sounds kind of abstract too. But all of us were meant to have it.

This peace of God must be understood in its context in the passage. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God..." The peace of God is the peace that comes with knowing that God is in control of everything, and having brought all our requests to Him, all our sorrows, all our worries, all our pains, all our uncertainties-we rest completely assured and certain that God is in control, and that He is working for good.

And why does it surpass all understanding? One way to look at it is that in the midst of things which may be going wrong all over the place, we can still have an unshakeable peace, and this is a peace that even people who have everything in this world do not have. How, despite our fallen human nature and our tendency to doubt and worry, God can teach us to trust and have this kind of peace is truly amazing. Another way to also look at it is that this is a kind of peace that we can never find by ourselves, a kind of peace that once we have experienced, we cannot recreate, a kind of peace that we can never construct with anything that is external, or for the matter anything that is not of God. It is the peace of God, it comes from God and God alone. Only in following Him wholeheartedly and learning to trust Him wholeheartedly can we ever receive this peace.

We may ask, how come so often we do not receive this peace? The key again lies in the passage- "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God..." It is not because God doesn't want to give us the peace, it is because we have not become anxious for nothing, we have not come before Him with prayer and thanksgiving, we have not sincerely brought our requests before Him. Perhaps we only pay lip service; but deep within our hearts we have not really let go. And that is why we cannot receive the peace. I realise that I receive this peace so very rarely in my life because I have not really let go of everything; and when this peace finally comes, it is amazing. Yes it is not easy to trust like that at all, but God can teach you and help you to trust. It will be a struggle at the start, but the important thing is starting; once we are on the road, and we begin to see more and more of God's goodness and the way He works all things for good, it becomes easier and easier to trust. I pray that you may receive this peace in your life.

Paul faced many challenges and difficulties in his life. "To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now." 1 Cor. 4:11-13. But yet He had this peace that he wrote about in Philippians. "We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" 2 Cor 4:8-9.

Phil 4:6-7 was not meant to give us the idea that we can come before God with anything we want for ourselves and He will give them to us. It was meant to reassure us that as we live our lives for Him, as we make Him our ultimate purpose, and as we suffer in the process, we can bring all our requests and needs and desires before Him, and He will give us His peace and the reassurance that He is in control of everything. And may I add here that more than just the peace He gives, He also truly works out all things for good as He uses us for His purposes, and those who put their trust and hope in Him are never disappointed, only amazed. I must share more about this another time...

We serve a truly amazing God.

"Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on a mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, 'Truly, You are the Son of God.'" Matt. 14:22-33

Are you going through a storm in your life? Are the winds and rain of this world shaking your boat endlessly, why you huddle fearfully in the middle, drenched and shivering, wondering why this is happening to you? And you cry out, "Lord, why is this happening to me? Please save me!"

It is our natural human response to cry out that way. No one likes to suffer, most of all for reasons that we do not understand. And it is very natural for us to ask God why on earth He placed the storm there in the first place, and to ask Him to take the storm away. But we forget that our amazing God is not limited by circumstances; the circumstances are under His control. If we really believe that He is a good and sovereign God, then we know that He places the storm there for a reason. What that reason is, we will discover in time, but we know that is for good.

Jesus sent the disciples out, immediately, Matthew emphasizes, into the lake on a boat. Whether the storm was His intention or not, and whether He intended for the disciples to be caught in it or not, we do not know, we will never be able to tell. But that does not really matter at all, because what difference does a storm make to our all-powerful God who can walk on water? What does it matter how strong the winds and rain are to our God who can calm the storm at His wish? "And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased." Thinking about our lives, what does it matter how bad or terrible our circumstances may seem to our God who is in control or every circumstance in our life? What does it matter how much we are struggling or suffering to a God who can just walk right into our lives and make everything right?

The power of God is not in question, it is for certain. What is in doubt here is our faith. What is our response like in the midst of the storm? And here this lesson is strengthened by Peter's experience. He got his wish to walk on water, and he was actually able to! With the power of Jesus. But what happened? "But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" He began to doubt! He saw the terrible circumstances around him and began to doubt, even though he had experienced the power of Jesus. Isn't that so typical of us as well? If any of us were in Peter's shoes I doubt we would have done much better. The Lord says to us "Come", just like He said to Peter that stormy night, and yet we doubt and fail to trust. We experience the power of God in our lives, and still when the storms come we refuse to trust, refuse to submit. I think it is worthwhile for us to remember that Peter eventually began to sink not because Jesus was not able to make him walk on water; he sank because he failed to trust.

When Jesus got into the boat and the wind ceased, "those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, 'Truly, You are the Son of God." I have experienced quite a few storms in my life, some worse than others, but by the grace of God I have had the joy of seeing Him walk right into the storm and calm it, and then afterwards say to me, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" Truly, I was so foolish to doubt.

We cannot control the storms like Jesus can, but one thing we can do is to gradually change our response. We know that all things work for good to those who love God and to those who are the called according to His purpose; we know that when a storm comes it is for a reason. And one reason is definitely to strengthen our faith. It is not in our nature to trust; but we can learn gradually, as we see more and more of God, to trust Him even in the midst of the storm, with the perspective that He is working through all things for good, to accomplish His glorious purposes for us and through us, and to just hang on in faith. This is where real tough faith is built, the kind of faith that Jesus wants. Those who follow Christ and profess to be His disciples will definitely experience these storms in life; He promises it. What will your response be?

"O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Just came back from a long long run with my brother... phew! Ran to Orchard Road and back. Haven't run so far in ages; I'm thankful I was able to reach home!

As I was plodding along, lungs heaving and legs aching, I was thinking to myself, this is so much like life isn't it. We are all runners in this long race that God has given us. At time we are deeply inspired from within and put on a powerful energetic burst. At other times we stop for a long well-deserved break to catch our breath and recuperate. At times people around us smile at us, encourage us or give us a drink, and we find new strength to press on. At times our energy has been nearly sapped dry and the most we can do is just force our screaming legs to push on, the only thing on our minds the next rest point or next drink. At some times we seem to be on cruise control, just gliding along and enjoying the beautiful scenery and fresh air around us. And at some times we catch a checkpoint in sight and with a sudden rush of adrenaline coursing through our veins we burst forward, the fatigue and agony forgotten.

On this race of life God does not expect us to be supermen, for he did not create us so. He does not expect us to run every bit of the race at top speed with the wind blowing through our hair and our legs vigorously pumping away. He understands that as mere weak humans we go through seasons in life, seasons like those I have described above. Some seasons we are strong, some seasons we are weak. Some seasons we are inspired and motivates, other seasons we are tired and jaded. But through it all God only expects one thing of us-

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." Heb 12:1-2

No matter what the season, all God wants us to do is to run with endurance, not giving up, never looking back, but just pressing on. He is the author and finisher of our faith; as long as we just hang in there and never give up, He will carry us through and bring us over the finishing. Wherever you are on the race of life, press on. The finishing line may be far away, but you WILL be there someday.