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Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Footnote to the Peace that Passeth Understanding

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 NIV). 

A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33 NIV). 

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:42-44).

How many times with great envy have I looked at an accomplished quarterback pulling back to throw a pass. Despite intense mounting pressure from the opposing defense, he moves with focus and grace surveying the field for the most appropriate pass receiver. I know full well what a scatter-brain and bundle of nerves I would be in such a situation. In my mind there is no doubt but that I am watching a master quarterback in action epitomizing for the world to see what “grace under pressure” looks like.

In viewing my own painful distress under pressure, I recall my Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane where in anguish he sweat “great drops of blood.” He let the situation “get to him” and I can identify with him because of it.

The dilemma for Christians is that though we have an eye on eternity, nevertheless we cannot shake the realization that the short run can be very painful. Thus, without losing faith we still undergo fear. Today I was talking with a dear friend at work who is tackling a new job assignment. Only those familiar with the gargantuan pressures that an office environment can bestow fully appreciate her situation—she has literally taken notebooks of notes detailing her new responsibilities. At lunch she asked me for a Scripture passage to give her peace. Big help I was, I could only think of Jesus in anguish sweating great drops of blood.

I must conclude that God wants us to be earnest players. Being an earnest player sometimes means that we simply cannot avoid being “on edge.” Otherwise, we wouldn’t be earnest players. In a sense, the only way we can be completely tranquil is to not give a damn about what happens—to not be an earnest player intent on accomplishing a worthy goal.

Therefore, what I must do sometime is to find a Super Bowl quarterback and have a little chat with him. After I told him I noticed that he played with complete absence of stress, I greatly suspect he would look at me with wonder as to how anyone could be so hopelessly out of touch with reality. Utter lack of stress and tranquility simply do not reside on the road to achieving the Super Bowl ring. The peace that transcends all understanding does not eliminate fear or pain, it simply makes it (and us) meaningful in the broad sweep of events.

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