Be honest with God in prayer and you will experience peace.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Doing alright? Well, I’m fine, thank you. Happy in the Lord. It’s very early in the morning where I am and it’s just barely getting light. I do these broadcasts often in the early morning hours because I know many of you listen at that time of the day. And I sort of like to feel like you do. You know there’s nothing worse than somebody who doesn’t understand how you are feeling, who shouts at you either in an irritatingly cheerful way or a syrupy, sad way, or whatever it may be.
So I roll out of bed while it is still dark and come into my office on the ground floor of this house – here in Pocono Mountains, Tannersville, PA – and I sort of feel like I am with you then, those of you who listen in the early morning hours. I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t make any difference, but it does for me anyhow. I sort of feel like I’m with you.
Now we’re reading in the very first verse of Thessalonians 1. Paul signs his name first. Always nice when people sign their letters. Some of the most critical letters I’ve ever gotten were anonymous letters that would be signed, simply, “a friend.” You know, they spelled “skunk” with three C’s and “lousy” with two S’s. Nice when people sign their letters. Yes it is. Paul did. Paul and Silas and Timothy writing “unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
That’s where we were the last time we got together. I was commenting on the fact that the viability of any local church depends upon its dynamic relationship to Jesus Christ. The viability – that means the quality of life, the ability to survive – the viability of any local church depends upon its dynamic, powerful relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, which is why we gather God’s people together now and then for prayer, for revival, when the blessed Holy Spirit of God will convict us of our sins and our needs, and then meet those needs with the precious presence of God in our lives.
Social reform always follows spiritual renewal. You know that, I guess, don’t you? I think just this moment of a crusade that was held by some faithful. The brothers up in – I think it was in Saskatchewan – one of those Canadian provinces, in any case. And I read the account of it some three or four years ago now. The details are not quite sharp in my mind, but I do remember one thing: as these folk labored and preached the gospel, God began to convict people, and they got under conviction and then were saved of the things they needed to straighten up. So there was a whole wave of folk who came to the various department stores, returning things they’d stolen, or arranging to pay for merchandise that they had shoplifted, and there was all sort of restitution made as the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ was preached.
You’re familiar with the, what happened in the old days, when an evangelist would come to a town out in the frontier areas where the saloons were open day and night and sin was rampant, and he would preach the gospel and many would be converted, and the saloon keepers and the brothel keepers would rise up in anger and say “You’re ruining our business!” See, the way to ruin the devil’s business and the way to keep the church together is not to have another committee appointed, but to seek God.
Get down on your face before God and seek Him for His touch and His power, and you’ll find that many of the problems in the local church are eliminated when God gives His people a new touch. And you can say the church, the “First Baptist Church of I Will Arise,” is in God and in Christ, and we’re drawing life from our Blessed Lord through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
Following out that same theme, we go on into the closing words of verse 1. He says “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The order is always the same – you must experience God’s grace, and then you experience His wonderful peace. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (This from Isaiah.)
You come into the New Testament and you find that God’s grace is offered to us in Christ. “By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
The grace of God creates a different style of life and a different standard of conduct because that is what God has planned. You do good things not to be saved but because you are saved, and by the same token, you enjoy God’s peace once you’ve been to Cavalry and have had sins forgiven and God’s righteousness given to you; what the Bible calls “justification.”
God gives His righteousness freely to you because of Jesus. So Paul can say therefore being justified by faith, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, for where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” That’s the first step. Don’t expect that you’re going to have God’s peace about anything until you’ve been to Calvary and experienced His grace. Forgiving grace, cleansing grace, transforming grace, grace to endure, and grace to give of yourself. Grace. God’s grace. Then you will know something of His peace because things are right with you and God.
Long as you’re arguing with God about something, there isn’t much peace in your heart. The Bible says “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” If you don’t agree with God about things, then, you see, there isn’t much chance of His peace being in your heart. But how do you get to this point where you agree with Him? You get on your face and you pray, and you get honest before God.
I often have pondered over the fact that it takes awhile in this manner of praying before my own heart begins to level with God. Have you found that out? When I get down to pray I’m praying sincerely. I don’t mean I’m playing at it, but when I get down to pray I find that I tend to put the best face on the matter that I happen to be describing to God at the time, but if I wait awhile and pray some more and wait on God, by and by, I start to tell God the truth. And when I do that, then His peace comes into my heart.
I think the best personal illustration of that that I can remember came when I was pondering whether or not to take one of five different job opportunities that were mine back in 1961. There was another church that was calling me. There was an opportunity to represent a quasi-religious political campaign that was calculated to change things at the grassroots and so on. There was a sales manager position open. All sorts of things. And in the group of possibilities, there was an offer to become the President of the college in Briarcliff Manor, New York. And that was the last one that I wanted to consider.
There were a number of difficulties that I saw; one of which, as I was heading the list, that I wasn’t trained as academician. I was trained as a minister, and I had been in youth work for years, and now I had some experience in Christian publishing – five years of it as vice-president and distribution manager of Scripture Press. So I could tell a credit from a debit without opening the middle drawer, as you accountants say. But I wasn’t trained as academician, and I was suspicious of all the problems that I would face, not knowing what to do. So I put that last on the list, and so I prayed “Oh, Lord guide me. Oh, Lord guide me.”
Finally, one day as I was praying, there was burst of honesty and I said “Oh, God, I don’t have to be successful and I don’t have to, I don’t have to be anything. I just have to do what You want, and if You want me to go to the college, I will.” And at that point, I have to tell you, I found peace in my heart. When you agree with God about a matter… See, grace and peace. When His grace touches your life and obedience becomes the standard of your conduct and before that of your decisions, then you find peace. And so that’s why Paul said, “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” and as a result “the peace of God, that passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
I found peace that day as I said, “Oh, God, I’ll do whatever You say,” and that was it. And in that began 23 years of working as president of the college. Now they call me chancellor, which I think means “he’s no longer president, but we like to have his help now and then.” And I’m so grateful that that relationship includes being able to minister to you on the radio. Oh, that’s the best thing I know – being able to open the Word of God and talk with you, my precious friend.
So anyway, I had to pray, and I prayed and I prayed and I prayed until I got honest with God, and when I got honest with God, His grace touched me and I had His peace in my heart. Now, all of that grew out of those few words, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Listen, get on your knees before God and wait there before Him until He speaks peace to your heart. And that will come, beloved, when your heart says “yes” on whatever issue you and God are dealing with at the time. Want to try that today? I can assure you it works, because whatever I tell you, I’ve been there. Bless your heart.
Father God today, oh, may we be in agreement with Thy Will and enjoy Thy grace and Thy peace, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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