Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pursuing Peace: Part III

Read:
Many times it is greatly beneficial to view the lives of others who have pursued and reached the same goal that we ourselves are seeking. Although I could tell stories of many who are wonderful examples of peace and trust, I choose to tell the story of three: the Apostle Paul, Horatio G. Spafford, and Corrie ten Boom. After pondering on Paul's life, one would have to infer that he was the largest oxymoron that ever walked around. He journeyed from encouraging and practicing persecution of Christians21 to being one of, if not the, largest figurehead of the Early Church. Being a Pharisee, Paul probably lived in a nice house, enjoyed fine food, and was naturally a part of one of the largest social and religious circles of Israel. After receiving a vision from Christ, becoming blind, and being healed, Paul was converted to Christianity.22 While traveling to various cities in Palestine and Asia Minor, Paul preached the Gospel, wrote letters to churches that would become doctrine of the Church, and was beaten and thrown into prison numerous times. Some Bible scholars have stated that the city sewage ran through the prison in which Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians. Yet, he was able to write the electrifying words 'joy' or 'rejoice, some 16 times! He was also able to advise, "Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus...Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am. I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare of going without and being in want. I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency]...And my God will liberally supply(fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."23 Additionally please consider the following, "And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ's] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always]."24, and, "Now may the Lord of peace Himself grant you His peace (the peace of His kingdom) at all times and in all ways[under all circumstances and conditions, whatever comes]. The Lord [be] with you all."25
Clearly, much can be learned from this great man of God.

"Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation."26 Horatio G. Spafford discovered this from living it out. A Chicago man his business was flourishing, he had four beautiful daughters, and life appeared to hold auspicious promises for the future. Unexpectedly, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 engulfed his business in flames. Because of this, Spafford decided to start over in England and sent his wife and daughters to travel on before him. Tragically, he received a telegram from his wife which simply read, "Saved alone." The daughters had drowned. While on the ship bound for England Mr. Spafford discovered God's peace and penned the now familiar words, "When peace like a river attendeth my way/ When sorrows like sea billows roll/ Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say/ It is well... with my soul/..Though Satan buffet/ Though trials should come/ Let this blest assurance control/ That Christ has regarded my helpless estate/ And hath shed His own blood for my soul/..."27 Truly, to be able to compose that so soon after such tragedies alludes to true faith, trust, and peace in God. Afterwards, Horatio and his wife even went to Jerusalem and formed a mission to aid and serve the poor. Named the 'American Colony' it later became the basis for-the-Jerusalem, the Nobel prize winning novel by Selma Lagerlof. May we also learn to rejoice and have peace in our sufferings.

"Happiness does not depend on our surroundings; it's what we make inside of ourselves." Indeed these mother's word's would become very true to Corrie Ten Boom when her surroundings would consist of forced hard labor, little food, fleas, and thin dresses, which is hardly what you would consider a peaceful and happy place. Many have heard of the enduring story of how Corrie Ten Boom survived and made a difference in the Nazi Concentration Camps, but few know that the impact of her father, and even the legacy of her grandfather and great-grandfather, was what carried her through. When Corrie was a little girl, on a trip to Amsterdam, she asked her Papa about a word she didn't understand that she had read in school. Knowing that his little girl wasn't ready to understand the word he told her to pick up his suitcase, which was filled with watches and watch parts. She tried and replied with," I can't it's too heavy!" Papa answered, "Yes, and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way Corrie with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you." Corrie later wrote that she was,"...satisfied, more than satisfied-wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all hard questions-for now I was content to leave them in my father's keeping."28 Later she would learn to leave them in her Heavenly Father's keeping as well. After going to visit and comfort a poor family whose baby had died the night before, little Corrie became afraid of someone in her family dying also. When her father came upstairs that night to tuck her in, Corrie began crying and told him her fear. He answered, "Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?" Corrie replied, "Why, just before we get on the train." Papa said, "Exactly. And our wise father in heaven knows when we're going to need things to. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes for some of us will have to die you will look into your heart and find the strength you will need-just in time."29 Because of this lesson, when in a Nazi camp she found out that her beloved Papa had died in prison, and when her sister died from the harsh conditions of the concentration camp, Corrie did find the peace and strength she needed. Corrie Ten Boom became a celebrated author and speaker, telling others about where happiness, peace, and strength, can be found.

For those living in this world, day, and age peace can be unearthed in the bosom of Christ. No amount of peace treaties, relief organizations, security measures, or UN policies will ever bring about genuine and incontrovertible peace. Peace is only found where the discoverer trusts and surrenders all to Christ. Truly only then will there be that, "Peace which passeth all understanding." 30 When you are, "...Reconciled back to the...Father...by means of the blood of His cross," and daily surrendering your life to Him, ultimately there is peace. Preading of peace models such as, Paul, Horatio G. Spafford, and Corrie Ten Boom, provides encouragement and consolation that you can have peace. Peace is dying. Peace is trusting. Peace is surrenduring. Pursuing peace is pursuing Christ.


Bibliography:

21 Acts 7:58, 8:1-3, 9:1-2
22 Acts 9:3-21
23 Philippians 4:6-7,11-13,19 Amplified Bible
24 Colossians 3:15 Amplified Bible
25II Thessalonians 3:16 Amplified Bible
26 Romans 5:3-4
27 "It is Well With My Soul" by Horatio Gates Spafford, 1873
28 The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom p. 26-27
29 Ibid p. 28-29
30 Philippians 4:6
All Scriptures taken from the Amplified Bible, 1987, Zondervan Corporation, or King James Version (KJV)

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