Peace of Mind
2 Corinthians 2:12-17
12 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 13 I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”
It's not just the uncertainty of the future that has us biting our nails. Each of us could list a dozen subjects that make it difficult for us to keep calm: a malignant tumor, aging parents, the MidEast, the president, a guilty conscience, an IRS audit, rebellious teenagers, transmission trouble, the Supreme Court.
If there ever was a time when we need the peace of God that passes understanding, it is now.
Paul began this passage by saying,
"I had no peace of mind."
That's surprising because we usually think of inner peace as a natural result of being a Christian.
But Paul admitted that during this period of his missionary journey, he did not have peace.
"When I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said gooo-by to them and went on to Macedonia" (2 Corinthians 2:12, 13).
Paul had expected his co-worker to bring news about the troubled Corinthian church.
Paul had sent a stem letter to that church, and now he wondered what their reaction would be.
When I'm away from my church on vacation, I think about it all the time. I call back in the afternoon on Sunday and ask,
"How did the service go?
Were there any responses to the invitation?
What was the attendance?
I do that even when things are going well at the church.
The Corinthian church was having serious problems, and Paul was trying to correct them from a distance. When Titus didn't arrive with the long-awaited report, Paul was so restless he couldn't stand it. He moved on to Macedonia for more information.
But Paul's anxiety was temporary. He quickly recovered his peace of mind because of his faith in God.
Christians experience pressure and anxiety like everybody else, but our faith in Christ should enable us to handle that stress and live lives that are predominantly serene.
A Grateful Heart
After he identified the pressures on him, Paul changed the pace of his thoughts, and his key word is thanks:
"Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ"
(2 Corinthians 2:14).
He was reflecting the same attitude he encouraged the Philippian Christians to have:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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” (Philippians 4:6, 7).
When you complain about your problems, you increase your anxiety.
When you praise God for His goodness, you increase your peace.
When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings-name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Most of us aren't very good at that.
Most of us are constant complainers.
Nobody has ever had it better,
yet we gripe continuously.
We think it's a mark sophistication to be critical or complaining, but it really is an indication of spiritual immaturity.
We complain to get attention or sympathy.
We think that it's harmless, but in reality it destroys our peace and arouses the wrath of God.
"Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused"
Some children decided to playa trick on Grandpa.
When he was asleep, they sprayed his moustache with bug spray. When he woke up, he sniffed and said,
"Something stinks in this room."
He went into the kitchen and said,
"The kitchen stinks."
He went outside and said, "The whole world stinks!"
It wasn't the world-Grandpa needed to clean up under his nose.
There's something wrong with us that we complain that the whole world stinks.
We don't like the schools,
we don't like our house,
we don't like our jobs,
we don't like our families.
It doesn't matter how good we have it we still find something to gripe about.
We eat some good food at a restaurant, but we go home complaining about the service or how drafty it was.
We are almost professional complainers.
If we got paid for it, we'd, be millionaires.
Two elderly women went to an orchestra concert.
On the way home, one asked the other, "How did you like it?"
The other woman said, "The way that first violinist blew his nose after
the first selection just ruined the entire evening for me." /
Some people miss the entire concert of life and focus in on the blowing of a nose.
That complaining mind etches dissatisfaction and unrest in our lives. We have done it so often it has become second nature to us.
Many of us have little peace because we praise so little and complain so much.
"I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed" (Psalm 77:3, KJV).
"Do everything without complaining" (Philippians 2:14).
If you don't learn anything else today, learn that verse.
"Do everything without complaining."
Read it aloud: "Do everything without complaining."
Now listen to yourself!
As soon as you catch yourself griping, stop it.
If you don't notice it, ask somebody close to you to help you.
He will be delighted to point it out!
And don't be angry with him when he reminds you you're complaining.
Don't excuse yourself and say, "That's just my nature. I don't mean anything by it. It's just harmless."
It is not harmless.
It is spoiling your peace of mind. It is making people around you miserable.
Find scores of things to thank God for.
Make yourself a little rule: "Every time I catch myself complaining,
I'm going to say, out loud, five things for which I'm grateful."
You'll discover the peace of God that transcends all understanding beginning to take place in your life.
In his excellent book, Money, Sex and Power, Richard Foster emphasizes that the essential attitude for contentment in dissatisfied America is gratitude, whether you have little or much.
He says, for example, when you wake up in the morning do you thank God for your night's sleep?
Or do you complain that you have to get up in the morning?
You might answer, "I can't thank God for my night's sleep, because I'm a poor sleeper."
If that thought has crossed your mind, you're the person God wants to deal with.
You're a complainer.
The Bible calls you a grumbler.
If you can't sleep, get up and walk around and thank God you can walk.
It really works. I challenge you -
I beg you - stop griping and start praising.
You don't have to be a Pollyanna and say, "There's nothing wrong in this world; it's all beautiful." Sometimes you have to identify and deal with a problem. But you can be thankful, you can be positive, and you can begin to experience the peace that passes understanding.
A Sense of Significance
"God ... leads us in a triumphal procession in Christ and through us .spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him"
(2 Corinthians 2:14).
We need to have the feeling that our lives count for something.
Paul knew his life mattered to God. He compared the Christian life to a Roman triumph, the victory parade given to a conquering general. It was like the ticker-tape parade given to honor sports, political, and military heroes today.
We're part of that victory parade.
Our commander-in-chief, Jesus Christ, came to foreign soil and completely defeated the enemy, Satan.
He claimed the spoils of battle, lost souls who had been in bondage to the devil. That's where believers are today, following in Christ's triumph. Our Heavenly Father has won, and we're glorying in His victory.
"We are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life"
(2 Corinthians 2:15, 16).
The crucial task of every Christian is to be a testimony for Christ.
To some, it's the aroma of life; to others, the aroma of death.
Have you ever noticed how different people will react differently to the same smell?
I love the smell of a locker room-it reminds me of Basket Ball.
A certain flower may remind you of a wedding; it might remind someone else of a funeral.
In the Roman triumph, the burning incense was the smell of celebration and life to the victorious army.
But to the chained captives marching to the arena in that parade, it was the stench of death.
In the same way, Paul said Christians living in the world are a sweet smell to those who are being saved, but a stench to those who are lost.
Genuine Christians love having other Christians around because it reminds them of salvation;
but the nonbeliever hates being around dedicated Christians because he's reminded of his sin and his responsibility.
To some, we have a smell of death; to the others, the fragrance of life.
You may never know how far your influence is spreading.
It's an awesome thing that your influence could determine somebody's eternal destiny.
But that's what gives life meaning and peace.
When you have a sense of meaning, you realize your life really counts for God. That gives you a sense of meaning and a sense of peace.
"Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit" (2 Corinthians 2:17).
That word peddle carries a dishonest connotation.
It was used of a wine merchant who diluted his product then sold it as pure.
Paul was saying, "We don't mix the pure truth of the Word of God with any human philosophy.
We don't water it down so it can be to our personal advantage and we can pad our own pockets."
There were all kinds of hucksters of the gospel in Paul's day, and their like are still with us today.
A preacher in the deep south told about a loud Pentecostal woman in his church. Every time she saw him, she shouted, "Oh Brother Bob, it's so good to be in the Spirit today. Hallelujah, praise Jesus, isn't God good? Praise the Lord!"
One day there came to his church a family from the right side of the tracks. They drove up in a Mercedes; they were dressed immaculately; everything about them gave evidence of wealth. So he tried to have a dignified conversation with them in the hallway after the service. Out of the corner of his eye he saw this Pentecostal woman coming.
He prayed, "Oh, Lord, you delivered Daniel from the lions' den and you delivered Jonah from the whale .... "
But she came anyway. "Oh, Brother Bob, it's so good to be in the Spirit today!" she began. "Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! I've got wonderful news to share with you-praise God!"
"Martha, can it wait until later?" he said.
"No, praise God, my rich uncle died and left me $200,OOO-and I'm going to give half of it to the church"
He said, "Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! Isn't God good? Praise the Lord!"
What about your motives?
Why do you say the things you say?
Why do you sing the songs you sing?
Paul said, "We don't peddle the Word of God for profit. Our motives are pure."
There's no peace if there's constant deception within you.
If you're always pretending, your conscience is going to bother you and there will be no peace.
I urge you to be honest, refuse to fake it, be up front, be transparent, be real. Then you can sleep at night.
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
and the world makes you king for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself
and see what that guy has to say.
For it isn't your father, mother or wife
whose judgment upon you must pass.
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life,
is the guy standing back from the glass.
He's the fellow to please,
never mind all the rest, for he's with you clear up to the end.
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
if the guy in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Homer and chisel a plum
and think you're a wonderful guy.
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
if you can't look him straight in the eye.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years
and get pats on the back as you pass.
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
if you've cheated the guy in the glass."
The word peace is used about 200 times in the Bible, and it's almost always linked with righteousness.
Righteousness almost always comes first.
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other, the psalmist said.
If there's no righteousness in your motive, there's no peace in your mind.
A Sure Destiny
Have you ever watched a tape-delayed broadcast of a ball game that you already knew your team had won?
You're so happy about the victory, you decide to stay up until 1:00 A.M. to watch the game.
Your whole attitude is different.
Your team might get ten points behind, but you don't mind.
You don't gripe about little things that happen.
You don't get disturbed.
You know in the end you're going to win-it's just a matter of how.
The great thing about being a Christian is that Christ has already won the victory.
He won it at the cross.
The book of Revelation tells us that, in the end, He's going to come in triumph.
We can know as Christians we have eternal life.
We know the outcome; we don't always know why there are detours or why there are problems, but we shouldn't be biting our nails and getting all uptight because we know in the end we're going to have the victory.
"Christ leads in triumph, we are being saved, and we are the fragrance of life," Paul said.
Only when we place our trust in Jesus Christ can we develop a thankful heart, a significant task, an authentic motive, and an eternal destiny that will give us the peace that passes understanding.