The Prince Of Peace

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6.

Peace is something we all long for. It is one of humanity’s greatest needs and desires. We struggle with fear of the future, conflicts in relationships, financial stress, health problems and so much more. In this day and age when anxiety is at an all-time high, peace can seem like an impossible dream. Good thing God specializes in doing the impossible.

Jesus came as our Prince of Peace. He is the only reason we can truly live peacefully with God and others. The peace Jesus brings is one that is beyond comprehension. It is a peace that comes from knowing that God has everything well in hand, even when it doesn’t look like it. It is a sense of well-being, knowing you are perfectly safe in the middle of trials and storms because you have something to anchor you. It is knowing that you are a child of God and as a result are safe, loved, and receiving grace. This peace comes from knowing your identity is secure in Christ and your destiny is sure.

God gives us the blueprint for dealing with our fears. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”  We should not deal with fears on our own, but rather hand our fear over to God and He will do the rest. During the day, keep God foremost in your mind. Remember that He is with you wherever you go. Don’t let your fears influence you. Rather, build your faith.  I challenge you today, instead of worrying about what may happen, to begin to replace those fearful thoughts with scriptures of God’s promised protection. The next time you are faced with fear, make a decision to remain in the peace that God has already given you.

The peace that Jesus offers is perfect, lasting peace. The night before He died, Jesus promised His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27). He also said to them, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

Often, living a peace-filled life comes down to a choice. Choosing to rely on Him, choosing to trust Him no matter what, choosing to pray in all that we face, choosing not to be anxious, choosing to believe that He’s always with us and in control, and choosing to set our thoughts on the peace that only He can give.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Take some time to think back over your life. Do you notice any correlation between your submission to God and the peace that you have had? What is the peace that Jesus gives that is not like the world’s peace?

How Do We Handle Naysayers?

“Whatever you do you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there will always be someone to tell you that you are wrong.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Naysayers are everywhere. Sometimes they are in your home, they show up at work, they hide among your friends and they are usually in your family. They come in all sizes and all shapes. It is our job to notice it for what it is and remain committed to our dreams.

Nehemiah had been charged with the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He knew the task was not going to be easy. He was appointed by God for the challenge and started gathering the right people, placing them in strategic positions to rebuild the wall which would guard the unprotected city. The challenging task of rebuilding the wall takes form as each person is dedicated to a portion of the wall in a beautiful lesson of organized engineering design. Everything is running like a clock. Yet, when we turn to chapter 4, we find Sanballat and Tobiah the Ammonite angrily trying to discourage Nehemiah and his workmen from finishing their God-given task.

 Nehemiah 4:2-4 says, “…“What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”

They tried everything they could to get Nehemiah and his workers distracted. “The wall is weak!” “You are weak!” “It will take too long!” “Who do you think you are?” They went on and on, arguing against building the wall. If we took the time to reflect back on our life we could probably remember situation after situation when people tried to discourage us to do what needed to be done to fulfill God’s direction for our lives. Had we listened to naysayers along the way we may not be doing what God wants us to do. Likewise, had Nehemiah and his workmen listened to the naysayers, the work would have stopped and God’s task would not have been completed.  

There will always be opposition when we take a step of faith or run after a new challenge.  But the key to remember is this: Don’t let your critics distract you from God’s call. Don’t let yourself get lost in bitterness or resentment. Don’t let envy and jealousy of others keep you stuck.  Simply continue to move forward, remembering that when God puts you before a challenge – that challenge becomes God’s. God simply asks that you show up and trust Him – no matter how loudly the critics shout.  Move forward in faith and watch with amazement as God helps you overcome “even the most convincing naysayer.”

Has God given you a dream? Even if it looks impossible and some people in your life are saying you are nuts for doing it – do as Nehemiah and his workers did: keep on working until you finish the task.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Naysayers are a test: agree or disagree and why? 
  2. Why do you think people might want you to fail?  Share a time when someone predicted your failure and how you responded. 
  3. Read Nehemiah 4:4-5: How does Nehemiah’s prayer in these verses influence you? Why should praying be the first step when you experience ridicule, insults, or pain?

Ezra And His Dream

“He had arranged to leave Babylon on April 8, the first day of the new year, and he arrived at Jerusalem on August 4, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.” – Ezra 7:9-10. 

Ezra is the story of how God takes a defeated people and moves supernaturally to send them back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. Solomon’s temple was destroyed and laid in ruin for decades. God raised up a remnant to return to Israel. God moved the heart of the Persian King, Cyrus, to allow the Israelites in Babylon who desired to go back to Israel and rebuild the temple.

The Phrase in Ezra, “the hand of God” sums up what was happening. The Lord was in this return. It was part of His master plan. “This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him.” (Ezra 7:6) Ezra 5:5 says, “But because their God was watching over them, the leaders of the Jews were not prevented from building until a report was sent to Darius and he returned his decision.”

Ezra completed his journey, and the vulnerable exiles arrived safely in Jerusalem, according to “the good hand of his God upon him.” It is evident as you read the entire story that follows in chapters 7 and 8 that God’s blessing was upon Ezra. God’s care, provision, and protection were with Ezra and those returning to Judah with him. “Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.”  (Ezra 7:10)  

Ezra had first, prepared his heart. To set the heart is to determine, to devote, and to dedicate our whole being to something.  He sought the law of the Lord. To seek the Law of the Lord is to invest time and effort in studying the Bible. We seek to know the mind, the heart, and the ways of God through His Word. The hand of God was upon Ezra because he was determined to know and understand God’s Word. Ezra was committed to doing the Law of the Lord. James taught that to be a hearer of the Word without being a doer of the Word is to be self-deceived (James 1:22). The hand of God was upon Ezra because he was determined to obey God’s Law.

The story of Ezra with rebuilding the temple is an example of how obstacles can be overcome when God’s moving hand is behind His people. There is power when the “hand of God” is with His people. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Do we need the “hand of God” to fulfill our dreams?
  2. How do we go about rebuilding the temple of our lives? 

What Do We Do When We Face Barriers In Our Way?

“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.” – Helen Keller

We often live life under the illusion that everything depends on us or on those around us. But it doesn’t. Everything depends on God. But, each day there can be at least one barrier we face, and whatever it is, can come suddenly, without warning, and we’re faced with a decision. How do I handle this issue? Can I overcome this barrier with any degree of confidence? 

Seal training is intense. BUDS, which stands for Basic Underwater Demolition Seal Training is the most intense. During BUDS, you have to survive “one-hundred-ten hours without sleep.” You have to carry a log over your head for hours. Countless swims, endless runs, jumping out of planes, and then the “pool comp.” In “pool comp” you are put underwater with all your scuba gear on, the instructor yanks your regulator out of your mouth, he ties your air hose in knots, he mocks you constantly as you struggle for air. What your mind is naturally telling you at this point is simple: You are going to die, but if you want to pass “pool comp,” you have to calmly follow all protocol to pass. It’s not hard to see why there’s a 94 percent attrition rate. Those who pass had to overcome some seemingly impossible barriers.  

We can survive the obstacles even when life is hard. Of course, we can throw in the towel and never attempt anything—but God expects us to take control of our own lives and trust Him. It can be hard to put into practice, but all negative experiences are opportunities to learn and take control of our own lives. Have you listened to many of the stories of people that have become successful in life? Usually, they came from humble beginnings, and, against all odds, they overcame their situations. 

We all, at times, experience circumstances that create obstacles that block our ability to believe what God has promised in His word. James 1:6-7 says, “But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

God has called each of us into service. You will have failures, obstacles, rejection, disappointment, hindrances, difficulties, and refusal. Don’t let anything stop you from becoming the person God created you to be.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How do you anticipate the barriers you may face when planning? 
  2. How do we better trust God to overcome those barriers?