Monday, April 10, 2017

Do You Want Peace? Then Keep Silent and Get Out of Your Own Way

            HOLDING your peace. Keeping silent. Biting your tongue. Shutting up. Sometimes that’s all you have to do to have peace, and become a spectator to God’s power and salvation.

            Today we’re going to revisit a very popular, well-known story. Even if you’re not a Bible geek, you’ll know this one. It’s all about the Israelites, way back when they’re leaving Egypt after having been slaves for 400 hundred years. And even though I didn’t plan it this way, it is SO appropriate that this post come out today since Passover begins tonight! (Isn’t it just amazing the way God orchestrates these things!)
            Anyway, the events happen just after Passover has occurred, when firstborn sons in Egypt were struck down by the angel of death. But those who applied the blood of the lamb to their doorposts and lintels were passed over from the destruction; their sons were protected because they identified with and took refuge in Jehovah.
            The Israelites were vacating the land and life where they’d been brick-making slaves. Life had been horrid. They’d been crying out to God for years, and He has heard them and saved them. They’ve pilfered Egypt for spoils and are on their way to the Promised Land. Only God takes them to the Red Sea, and that’s where their “problem” begins. At least they see it as a problem.
            Pharaoh changes his mind about allowing them to leave, and he decides to pursue them with all of the horses, chariots, and warriors he can round up. He and his army take off after the Israelites as they walk through the desert. As the Israelites arrive at the Red Sea, they see, and undoubtedly hear, the pounding hoof beats of the pursuing Egyptians. The Israelites are terrified. And when you’re terrified, what do you usually do?
            Well, maybe you do what the Israelites did. They started complaining at the top of their lungs about their predicament. And the first person they laid blame to was Moses, who had led them down this path. (Actually, they forgot who did the actual leading.) Instantly, they lose all faith in Moses and start accusing him of dragging them out there to die. They start remembering the brick making and slavery as “the good old days” and tell Moses that it was better being a slave in Egypt than to die in the wilderness.

            We think we have short memories today. The Israelites didn’t seem to be much better. They act as though they didn’t have any choice in the matter, that Moses dragged them kicking and screaming into the wilderness. And they had just witnessed God perform ten mighty miracles through plagues that ripped across the land, killing livestock, poisoning the Egyptians’ main water source, and making life miserable and physically painful. And then the final blow—the death of the firstborn sons. Their memories are very short, indeed.
            FEAR overwhelmed them and drove them to complaining. They were so afraid and so angry with God and Moses that they forgot what God had just done for them—set them free—and the miracles He’d just performed. Like He was suddenly put out of the miracle-making business and couldn’t follow this thing through to do what He promised them He’d do.

            So what does Moses do? He tells them not to be afraid, to stand still, be quiet, and pull themselves together! And then watch what God’s going to accomplish for them. How He’s going to fight for them. Which means make the Egyptians disappear so they can go on their merry way, without worry, to the Promised Land. Moses wants them to switch their thinking from fear and worry to looking for and expecting the “great salvation God is about to work for you.”

            Have you ever been in a situation like that, where fear overcomes you to a point that all you can do is yell, argue, agitate, point fingers at someone, and act like all is lost? Does your fear lead you to:

~ Complain bitterly?
~ Point fingers at someone and blame them for your predicament?
~ Think about making a mental about-face and changing your mind about going forward and returning to the old, familiar life or behavior, even if it’s awful?

Or does your fear lead you to:
~ Pray and trust in God, await His response, and actually expect Him to move mightily on your behalf?


When fear strikes, there are steps we can take to overcome:

First, we need, as the Apostle Paul says, take every thought captive to the Lord Jesus Christ. He writes that in a passage where he’s talking about spiritual warfare, so make no mistake about it. This is a war for our minds and hearts. And war demands extreme defense and offensive measures, calculated—and practiced—responses. Give the thoughts to your Commander. Send that Urgent! memo to Him and let Him take care of them, and then resist with every ounce of energy you have against grabbing them back from Him.

Second, call to memory all of the promises God has made and fulfilled throughout the ages in the lives of His people, in your friends and family’s lives, in your life. Remind yourself of His faithfulness, His love for you, His desire for you to have a hope and purpose. His desire to do you good and not harm.

Third, turn your worry actions into prayer activity that includes thankfulness. Thank God for what He’s going to do on your behalf and expect great things from Him! It’s hard to worry about something when you’re being thankful, and prayer has a way of diffusing fear and agitation. It gives you the security that you are not alone and that Someone is listening. And praying aloud can tell your brain to take its thoughts another direction. That alone can change the entire chemical and physical reaction to the stressor. To not make God puny or human-sized. He’s BIG and GREAT and POWERFUL and LOVING!

Fourth, contact a good prayer warrior friend to join you in the emotional battle. Have them go to bat for you or with you. As Solomon puts it in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone…. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped” (The Message).
            If you don’t have that kind of friend handy, contact a Christian ministry that offers prayer support. Guideposts has a big prayer ministry. See their website or Facebook page. Food for the Poor takes prayer requests. Just look on a ministry’s website to see if they ask how they can pray for you. Ask around to see if anyone you know is on a prayer chain. I’m on a couple of email prayer chains, one of which is global. It’s a pleasure and honor to pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ, most of whom I have never met. Call a local church, or show up and ask someone to pray for you. Ask if they have Stephen Ministers who are trained to walk with you through issues. Look for a local chaplain group. They’re ready and willing to pray with you!

            And what’s another important thing to remember?
            Sometimes we just need to get out of our own way and let the Lord work on our behalf!


            May God bless you mightily this most holy of weeks!
            Have a blessed Resurrection Day!

            Until next week,

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

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