During this time of year, we run around like crazy attending parties, hosting friends and family, decorating, baking, wrapping and shopping, and we are worked into a frenzy by the time Christmas actually gets here. In almost every store, we witness the words “PEACE” on Christmas cards, banners hanging from the ceiling, wrapping paper and coffee mugs, but in reality, there is none of it to be found in our lives. Will you imagine with me for a moment Jesus standing in front of you today and handing you a beautifully wrapped gift box? He affectionately says, “This is from Me just for you.” And then, can you imagine if we politely thanked our Lord and tossed His gift under the tree! We like to think that we would never have such gall; yet every day Jesus offers us His gift of peace, and we summarily dismiss it.
This problem is not new. In fact, the disciples were offered this same gift of peace but struggled to receive it as well. In the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus was preparing His followers for the trouble ahead, and He said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1) Jesus knew that the battle the disciples would face was more than they could handle, so He warned them: Don’t let your hearts get troubled. Let me stop here because this statement leads me to believe that we have a choice. We can let our hearts get troubled, or we cannot let our hearts get troubled. How is this possible! When trouble comes, do I really have a choice whether or not to let my heart get troubled? Jesus knew that the disciples would face an intense battle when He was led away, and He warned them to keep their hearts fixed on Him, trusting in Him. Jesus knew that the disciples’ hearts would want to follow the trouble, follow the fear and follow the uncertainty, but He quickly supplied the answer: Trust in Me. Instead of following our thoughts or feelings down a terrible path of fear, stress and worry, we are to turn our thoughts to Jesus and trust in Him.
In response to Jesus’ directive, the disciples responded much in the same way as we do now, with many questions. But here was Jesus’ answer: “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) Jesus hands them a gift that will keep them from being troubled or afraid—His gift of peace. And He offers that same gift to us today. If we keep reading in John 14, we will discover that Jesus’ gift of peace comes through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Jesus knows that we cannot stop our hearts from being troubled, so He gave us a supernatural gift, the Holy Spirit, who will keep us in perfect peace. As I studied this passage more, I decided to write down some of the attributes of the Holy Spirit to help me understand and trust more. According to the Bible, look at some of the qualities of the Holy Spirit:
•Comforter—one who soothes, consoles, reassures •Counselor—one who advises, gives direction •Helper—one who provides what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need •Intercessor—one who petitions on behalf of someone in difficulty •Advocate—one who speaks in defense of a person •Strengthener—one who gives strength to or makes stronger •Standby—one who can be relied upon •Spirit of Truth—one who speaks truth and exposes lies •Teacher—one who gives instruction •Spirit of Power—one who supplies with supernatural power
The Holy Spirit, who lives in us as Christians, provides each one of these gifts directly to us. If our heart is troubled because the holidays are a difficult reminder of those we have lost, then we can have peace because the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. He will soothe our soul and reassure us that we are not alone. Although we will still miss our loved ones, we can have peace because God is with us. If our heart is troubled because we are financially strapped, then we can have peace because the Holy Spirit is Counselor and Helper. He will give us wisdom to make the right decisions and will help us where we have need. If our heart is troubled because one of our loved ones does not know Jesus, then we can have peace because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Power. We can ask that He supernaturally impact our unsaved friends and family members so that they may see Jesus. Regardless of the trouble facing our heart, the Holy Spirit provides the answer so that we may have peace.
Jesus has personally wrapped a gift of peace just for you, complete with ribbon and sparkling paper. What will you do with His gift? Today is the day to take a moment and receive. Read over the characteristics of the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help you in whatever area you have need. Our Savior loves to give, and He wants you to walk through this season proudly displaying and sharing His wonderful gift of peace.
"I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You."
To Receive Monthly Devotionals,
This is the season for giving, and though it is better to give than to receive, I will confess that I do enjoy receiving on occasion. I love those little gifts made from popsicle sticks, glue and glitter that my boys used to make for me, or the sweet gifts my husband gives where I knew he has had to trudge through the masses at overcrowded department stores, pore through the horrors of earrings and bracelets, and then wait in eternal lines just to pick out something he thinks I will like. And then there are the precious gifts from my brother who knows I love the Dallas Cowboys or my mom who knows I love everything silver. However, as wonderful as each one of those gifts are, there is a particularly priceless gift that our wonderful Savior has given us that I think we leave unopened under the tree—His gift of peace.
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” The Greek word for thankful in verse 6 comes from the word which is literally translated a “mindful of favors.” God began teaching me that if I will fill my mind (and my mouth) with thanks for His favors, my life would change dramatically. And it did.
As most of you know, a little over two years ago my husband of twenty-nine years had a heart attack, and this was about the same time that God was teaching me about thankfulness. Little did I know that God would use this practice as a lifeline for me during this difficult time. I recently wrote about it in my book, Worry, Keep Out! Here is an excerpt…
A friend of mine recommended a book entitled One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp, and this book opened my eyes to my lack of gratitude. In her book, the author challenges the reader to make a thankfulness list of one thousand entries, and I decided to take the leap. Now I truly considered myself a grateful person, thinking I practiced gratitude regularly, but I was astonished at my lack of appreciation for the daily gifts God had given me. The first fifty gifts or so were not too difficult to number, but then I found myself laboring. Each morning I racked my brain trying to find unique favors for which to be thankful, but I was coming up empty. The problem was not in the lack of gifts God had bestowed on me but in my lack of ability to see them. My vision of gratefulness was narrow and restricted, as though I was viewing the Grand Canyon through a straw. Of course, I was thankful for my husband and my children, for my friends and family, for a reliable car and a comfortable home, but my sight of the grace of God was small and limited. This is when God revolutionized my entire way of thinking, and in the process transformed me into a new person. He introduced me to new joy and incredible favor through thankfulness.
Each and every morning the very first thing I did (after coffee, of course) was to find the favors of God surrounding me. #7—Music that connects me to You, Jesus, #20—Ability to run on the treadmill, # 52—Fuzzy boots and a warm electric blanket. The more I looked, the more I found. #78—A quiet morning, #82—Laughter with my husband over silliness, #88—Helping me understand a peace which passes all understanding, #89—Multiplying my time when I have so much to do. And then #90 hit. #90—Thank You for Chris, You saved his life today. This was the day Chris had a heart attack.
On a fairly normal Saturday evening, Chris and I had enjoyed dinner with some friends and then headed back home. Chris was not feeling right, but being the guy he is, he just tried to tough through it. After an hour of discomfort, he suddenly stood up and declared that we needed to go to the urgent care. Never before has my husband responded in such a manner, so I knew something was gravely wrong. Hurriedly, we made our way to the emergency clinic near our house, where the attending physician promptly notified us that Chris was having a heart attack. Emergency vehicles were alerted, and he was quickly rushed to the closest hospital. Alone and frightened, I tried to find my ailing husband in an overcrowded emergency room on a frenetic Saturday night. “God, where are You? I cannot see You, and I desperately need You.” My thoughts were chaotic and numb at the same time, and I could barely form my words. A sweet nurse must have seen the look in my eyes, and she gently pulled me into the hallway.
“Who are you looking for, hon?” she probed.
“M-m-my h-h-husband,” I stammered.
“Give me his name, and I’ll get you right to him.”
Within minutes, she ushered me to his bedside, where medical professionals were hovering, hooking up tubes, adjusting machines and buzzing around. I stood there paralyzed. “God, where are You? I really need You, and I can’t find You.” Decisions needed to be made immediately; forms need to be signed; and authorizations needed to be given. My brain was not functioning properly, and the man who had always stepped in when I could not was lying on a table getting ready to be wheeled into surgery. He looked so frail for the first time in our marriage, and I felt lost. Bright lights were bearing down, and the smell of sterilized instruments filled the air, as I stood silently by his bedside. Seconds later, the orderlies rolled him out of my sight, and I was once again left alone. The attendant showed me to a private waiting room for heart patients. Staring blankly in this dimly lit room, I wanted to pray, but I could not form the words. I wanted to tell God what I needed, but everything in me was numb. All I wanted was to feel God’s arms around me, assuring me that everything was going to be okay. “God, are You here?” Unexpectedly, I remembered the gratitude training through which God had been leading me over the past few weeks. Although I did not recognize at the time that I had been in training, I suddenly realized in a small, quiet waiting room that God had been preparing me for this moment. God lovingly whispered to my soul, “I am here, and I have taught you how to find me.” With tears filling my eyes, I began to softly utter, “Thank You for the urgent care being so close to the house.” “Thank You for Dr. Bailey who acted so quickly.” “Thank You for having the cardiologist in the room next door when Chris arrived.” “Thank You for the sweet ER worker who led me to see Chris.” And as the words of thankfulness stumbled through my lips, the fog began to lift from my mind. “I think I see You, Father.” I continued, “Thank You that our kids are close and on their way to the hospital.” “Thank You that we were not out of the country like we were supposed to be on this day.” “Thank You for this quiet room to gather my thoughts.” The more evidence I gathered of God’s gifts surrounding me, the more readily I could see my heavenly Father surrounding me. “You are here, Father. I see You.” God had been teaching me to see Him by seeing His hand at work, but I had been so limited in my perspective. However, now, when I needed to see Him most, He helped me to find Him in thankfulness. In seeing His presence working all around me, I could see Him. We were still in a ferocious storm, and I could feel the wind and waves beating on every side. But God demonstrated to me through His provisions that He was taking care of Chris and of me. Although I could not see exactly how God was helping Chris in the operating room, seeing God’s faithfulness in these little ways helped me believe Him for the bigger things.
Within a couple of hours, the doctor entered the waiting room with the most wonderful news: Chris was going to be okay. At this point, I could have given the tenth leper a run for his money in my thankfulness to God. There were tears, then loud praises and then moments on my knees in silence, prostrate before my Savior. And though Chris’ healing was the most celebrated event and the one for which I am most grateful, the lessons I learned for finding thankfulness in the middle of my storm have proven to be invaluable. Since that time, this principle of thankfulness has helped me to find God during many, many storms. When I feel like my world is falling apart and God is not fixing the problem, worry tries to make me focus on the problem and believe I have been abandoned, but thankfulness turns my focus back to God and helps me see His hand at work all around me. When I see His gifts, I see Him more clearly, peace is restored and faith is increased.
Thankfulness turns our eyes away from ourselves and our problems and turns them towards God. In Him, we find peace. This Thanksgiving as you are filling your mouths with the wonderful tastes of the season, take a little time and scoop out a big helping of gratitude to go along with it.
"I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You."
To Receive Monthly Devotionals,
November is one of my favorite months because fall is in full swing, and Thanksgiving is so close I can almost taste it. This is also the month we place a little more focus on the things for which we are thankful. Since we will soon be filling our mouths with homemade cornbread dressing, delicious mashed potatoes (the more lumps the better), and pumpkin everything, I thought we should also practice filling our mouths with thanks.
A couple of years ago God brought thankfulness, or should I say my lack of thankfulness, front and center in my life, and He literally transformed my life through this simple concept. In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul writes, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, thank him for all he has done.