‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ Romans 12:18 NIV
Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.’ (Matthew 5:9 NKJV) Notice, God promised to bless peacemakers, not peace lovers. There’s a difference. Peacemakers pay the price; peace lovers enjoy the benefits. Sometimes you’ve got to confront people before you can comfort them. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple because they were charging unfair exchange rates to those who bought lambs and turtle doves to offer as sacrifices to God. In most cases these were people who could least afford it, so Jesus decided to get involved. One of the names given to God is Jehovah-Shalom, ‘The Lord is our peace’(see Judges 6:24). ‘Shalom’ doesn’t denote the absence of trouble, but the peace of God in the midst of it. When we have an issue with someone, Jesus said we should take certain steps. First, go and try to resolve it privately. If that doesn’t work, take someone with you who can help. If that fails, take it to the church leadership. And if the person still refuses to be reconciled, then love them and leave them in God’s hands (see Matthew 18:15–17). It may not be a How-to-Win-Friends-and-Influence-People approach to conflict resolution, but it’s God’s way. Paul said, ‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ For example, Paul was willing to forego eating certain foods that were offensive to others (see 1 Corinthians 8:13), but he wasn’t willing to tolerate troublemakers in the church (see Romans 16:17). So you must know when to make waves, and when to make peace.
‘When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they lack wisdom.’ 2 Corinthians 10:12 AMP
If you’ve lost your joy in serving the Lord, maybe it’s because you’re comparing yourself to others and trying to be like them. Paul said, ‘Do your own work well… don’t compare yourself.’ (Galatians 6:4 CEV) Paul continually dealt with critics. And his response was always the same: avoid comparisons, resist exaggerations, and seek only God’s commendation. He refused to be distracted by criticism, or compare his ministry, or engage in fruitless debates. Author John Bunyan said if his life was fruitless it didn’t matter who praised him, and if it was fruitful it didn’t matter who criticized him.
Speaker and writer Anne Peterson adds: ‘Kill the dragons of comparison… When I see something that ruffles my feathers I pray for that person. It’s easier when I’m honest with God—He knows how I feel anyway. Then I begin to praise Him… I sing old hymns… they’re loaded with truths about the Lord. Instead of wondering when I’ll attain the thing I’m working towards, I dwell on the wonderful things God has already done. Contentment is available as long as we keep our eyes on the King of Kings.’ An unknown poet wrote: ‘The stick I made for measuring, I used almost every day. It helped me to compare myself with others on my way. I watched all those behind me, or further down the road, and I would readjust my pace or lighten up my load. The most important drawback with how I ran my race, was watching everything around—except my Saviour’s face!’
‘Don’t compare yourself.’ Galatians 6:4 CEV
Nothing will destroy your peace of mind faster than comparing. It shows a lack of understanding and makes you ‘behave unwisely’. (2 Corinthians 10:12 AMPC) Cain measured himself against his brother Abel, and it ended in murder. When the disciples compared notes to see who among them would suffer and who would be spared, Jesus told them, ‘That is not your business.’ (John 21:23 NCV) Observe:
(1) Comparisons can make you feel superior, which leads to pride. Remember the Pharisee who made a great show of thanking God because he was better than everybody else? (see Luke 18:11). Pride was Satan’s downfall; that’s why he loves it when you struggle in the same trap.
(2) Comparisons can make you feel inferior, which leads to low self-esteem and keeps you focused on yourself. You overlook the truth that ‘God doesn’t play favorites’ (Acts 10:34 GWT) and start believing He’s withholding things that are rightfully yours. Society creates a sense of entitlement; then Satan reminds you of all the people who’ve already attained what you want, which propels you further down the road to discontentment. Anne Peterson says: ‘Satan’s lies have a little truth mixed in, which makes them harder to recognize. We need to refute them by saturating ourselves with the truth… it’s only by learning the Scriptures that we can sort them out.’
(3) We attempt to bring God down to our level by comparing how He’s working now with how He worked in the past. Stop trying to figure God out, and trust Him! ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55:9 ESV) Instead of comparing, start using and appreciating what God has blessed you with.
‘He took the humble position.’ Philippians 2:7 NLT
Jerusalem was surrounded by walls, and one of the ways into it was through Valley Gate. When Nehemiah rebuilt the walls, we’re told: ‘The people… rebuilt Valley Gate.’ (Nehemiah 3:13 CEV) In the Christian life there has to be a place for both ‘mountaintop experiences’ and ‘valley experiences’. Let’s take another look at a well-known Scripture: ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles [that’s elevation]; they shall run, and not be weary [that’s acceleration], and they shall walk, and not faint [that’s duration].’ (Isaiah 40:31 KJV) And when you don’t have the strength to do any of these things, Paul says, ‘Having done all…stand.’ (Ephesians 6:13 KJV) There’s a season in your life for all these experiences and you must embrace it. The Bible says Jesus ‘took the humble position… Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor.’ (Philippians 2:7–9 NLT) Luke records that Jesus ‘took bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.’ (Luke 24:30 NKJV) Blessed and broken—that’s still God’s pattern. Why? So you can handle His blessings and remain humble. You’re in trouble when you’re more conscious of your image than of your need for God. That’s why He allows you to walk through situations that bring you to the place of utter dependence on Him. You have to be taken, blessed, and broken before you can be given away in service to others. In God’s Kingdom, the way up is down!
‘Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord.’ 2 Peter 3:18 KJV
There are two things that help determine personal growth:
(1) Your relationships. The Bible says, ‘Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?’ (Amos 3:3 NLT) The company you keep will lift you, level you, or lower you. A lady wrote this letter to an advice columnist: ‘In my last year of school my English teacher took an essay I’d written and torn it apart in front of the class. I was humiliated— I felt dumb. That was years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it.’ In a few short seconds, the wrong person diminished this woman’s sense of self-worth for a lifetime.
(2) Your reflections. When a Sunday school teacher asked a little girl, ‘Who made you?’ she replied, ‘God made part of me.’ The teacher asked, ‘What do you mean?’ The girl replied, ‘God made me little—and I grew the rest of myself.’ God holds us responsible for our personal growth. The psalmist wrote, ‘I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.’ (Psalm 119:99 NKJV) The word ‘meditation’means ‘reflective thinking’. Like a slow cooker, meditation allows your thoughts to slowly simmer until they’re done. Most of us would rather act than think. But as Socrates observed, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ Reflective thinking is uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. For instance, we have difficulty staying focused. We find the process dull, and we don’t particularly enjoy spending time reflecting on difficult issues. But if you don’t carve out time for reflection and meditation, you won’t mature. You won’t grow in the ‘grace and… knowledge’ you need to succeed. It’s that simple.
‘Take care not to do your good deeds publicly or before men, in order to be seen by them.’ Matthew 6:1 AMPC
Jesus reserved His harshest condemnation for those who did good deeds ‘in order to be seen’. He flipped on the spotlight and exposed every self-righteous mole and pimple. He called them hypocrites, the original Greek for ‘actor’. First-century actors wore masks. So a hypocrite is someone who puts on a mask, a false face, and performs for the applause of others. Jesus didn’t say, ‘Don’t do good works.’ Nor did He say, ‘Don’t let your good works be seen.’ We must do good works, and some of them must be seen in order to have an impact. So let’s be clear. To do a good thing is a good thing. To do good to be seen is not. In fact, to do a good thing to be seen is a serious offense. Here’s why. Hypocrisy turns people away from God. When God-seekers see singers strut like Las Vegas entertainers… when they hear the preacher—a man of slick words, dress, and hair—play to the crowd and exclude God… When church attendees dress to be seen and make much ado over their gifts and offerings… When people enter a church to see God yet they can’t see God because of the church, don’t think for a second that God doesn’t react. Jesus was clear on this issue: ‘When you do good deeds, don’t try to show off. If you do, you won’t get a reward from your Father in Heaven.’ (Matthew 6:1 CEV) Today let God be seen—not you.
‘The name of the city from that day shall be: The Lord is there.’ Ezekiel 48:35 NKJV
During Israel’s twenty-fifth year of captivity, Ezekiel the prophet received from God His name Jehovah-Shammah: The Lord is there. God described Israel’s future home, Jerusalem, saying, ‘And the name of the city…shall be, The Lord is there [Jehovah-Shammah].’ It applied not only to the Lord of the old covenant, but equally to Jesus, the Lord of the new covenant. His name, ‘Immanuel’, like Jehovah-Shammah, means ‘the Lord is with us’ (see Isaiah 7:14). And it means at all times, in all places, under all circumstances, and for all of us, God is ever available and ever present! David proclaimed: ‘I can never escape from Your Spirit! I can never get away from Your presence! If I go up to Heaven, You are there; if I go down to the grave, You are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me and Your strength will support me.’(Psalm 139:7–10 NLT) Do you remember how fear, loneliness, and helplessness disappeared when you were in your mum’s or dad’s presence? In Israel’s deepest despair God’s response was always, ‘I am with you.’ Those words guaranteed that their needs would always be met! And today God is saying to you, ‘I’m with you’, and ‘neither death, life, angels, demonic powers, present or future fears, height, depth, nor anything else in all creation will ever separate us’ (see Romans 8:38–39). That promise extends to all God’s redeemed children—reach out and grasp it.
‘This will be His name: “The Lord is our Righteousness.”’ Jeremiah 23:6 NLT
The name Jehovah-Tsidkenu: The Lord our righteousness, was given by God through Jeremiah, announcing the coming of Jesus the redeemer: ‘I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line… And this will be His name: “The Lord is our Righteousness.”’ (Jeremiah 23:5–6 NLT) Before Jesus came, our righteousness lay in our own efforts. ‘We will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the Lord our God has given us.’ (Deuteronomy 6:25 NLT) We absolutely failed that righteousness test! But ‘The Lord our righteousness’ became our solution. ‘For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’ (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV) Notice: it’s only ‘in Jesus’ that we ‘become the righteousness of God’! You’re not to try to do right so you can feel righteous before God or to generate a supply of good works to draw from when needed. You’re to draw continually from the ‘righteousness’ deposited in your account by Christ. It’s useless to look within yourself for humility, patience, kindness, love, etc. They’re not there! You must take them by faith from the supply stored up for you in Jesus. Guilty hearts can draw forgiveness, anxious spirits can draw peace, and weary souls can draw strength from Jehovah-Tsidkenu. You received salvation by faith alone. And in the same way, you must draw righteousness, and everything else you need, by faith in what God has accomplished and stored up for your use in Jesus, The Lord our righteousness!
‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites…Peace! Do not be afraid.’ Judges 6:16, 23 NIV
The name Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord our peace, was discovered by Gideon when God told him to lead Israel against the Midianites—a position he felt was far beyond his capacity. ‘How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest…and I am the least in my family.’ (Judges 6:15 NIV) Here’s how the Lord responded: ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites… Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.’ A frightened Gideon believed God and before the battle was even fought or the victory won, by faith he saw the peace already secured. So he built an altar to Jehovah-Shalom, ‘the Lord is peace’. We often assume we’ll only have peace when our situation changes. Then like Gideon we learn that inward peace doesn’t depend on altering our outward circumstances; it depends on believing God is with you and experiencing His inner peace. Jesus promises: ‘Peace I leave with you; My peace [inner, faith-based] I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives [outward, circumstantial]. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (John 14:27 NIV) However inadequate you may feel to face the challenges today, remember Christ’s words: ‘I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace… take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33 NIV) Notice: your job is to ‘take heart’, and trust Jehovah-Shalom to handle the rest!
‘Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.’ Exodus 14:13 KJV
Let’s continue with Jehovah-Nissi: The Lord my banner. Just because God fights your battles doesn’t mean you’re not involved. It’s not easy to hand control over to the Lord and let Him fight on your behalf. You may feel like you’re copping out, being irresponsible. You’re programmed to think, ‘Don’t just sit there—do something!’ You’re like a drowning man who can’t stop grabbling for his rescuer, thereby making his job almost impossible. In essence, you become your rescuer’s worst nightmare! The hardest part about the order to ‘stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord’ is that most of us mistake standing still for doing nothing. Fear says, ‘Do something—anything!’ Faith says, ‘Stand in faith. Let God do it!’ That’s about as far from doing nothing as you can get! It’s faith at its highest. ‘Why do I need armor if I’m not fighting?’ Paul says, ‘Put on the full armor of God, so… you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.’ (Ephesians 6:11 NIV) You’re to wear God’s armour—not yours. You’re to stand—not fight. ‘The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.’ (2 Corinthians 10:4 KJV) Our human methods get in God’s way. Natural powers are useless against spiritual forces. The grub of the dragonfly that lives at the bottom of the pond may be a finely developed, vigorous grub. But when it becomes a dragonfly, the strengths and abilities of its grub-life won’t help it to live an airborne life. Once you lived by effort, now you live by trusting in and relying on Jehovah-Nissi!