Preaching: Brian Pikkaart
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5; Colossians 3:1-4, 15-17; Acts 2
God uses perspective to help shape and stretch us, individually and as the Body of Christ. As we reflect on our lives together in the local Church, through fellowship, prayer, the breaking of bread, and teaching of the Word, will you allow God to challenge your perspective? Will you accept His perspective of peace?
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The Gift Of Perspective
Our kids recently started playing a game where they use their thumb and index finger to try and measure the size of a distant object, typically a sibling’s head. With pinched fingers held up right in front of a squinted eye, they’ll say, “your head is only this big,” referring to the minuscule distance between their fingers. In a child-like way, they’re learning about perspective.
As adults we may think we’re too mature for such games, but do we ever stop growing in our perspective? Think about the impact certain events in life have on your perspective: graduating, attending your high school or college reunion, having one of your children get their driver’s license.
C.S. Lewis said, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?”
Or what happens to your perspective when you are forced to say goodbye to someone? We’ve all gone through it in one form or another. That family member you couldn’t get along with moves or passes away, and suddenly your eyes are opened to the many things you appreciated about them, things you wish you would have done, or perhaps regret saying. Or how about a tragedy, such as 9/11 or the Boston Bombing?
Our perspective improves, we gain clarity, life’s priorities are sifted, giving us a truer understanding of the importance of things. We begin looking for the good in others. We are suddenly able to overlook an offense more easily. And with the Psalmist, we realize the brevity of life and plead with God, “teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12).
In one of his letters to the Corinthian church, Paul writes about our change in perspective as we mature, until we ultimately gain that perfect, eternal perspective:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:11-12).
We start out seeing life through a squinted eye with pinched fingers, but as God allows new experiences in our lives, we realize our perspective has been only a dim reflection in a mirror.
But then listen to Paul’s conclusion to that passage:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
As our perspective turns heavenward, even the importance of these gifts in our lives gains focus and clarity until we realize the greatest among them is love.
My family and I are gaining something of that type of perspective right now. After calling Celebration Church our home for nearly 7 years, we are moving out of state and find ourselves needing to say goodbye. With that transition on the horizon, the past couple months have been filled with a growing clarity of the importance of the Church in our lives.
I’ve heard it said that changing jobs, moving, and having a baby are three of the most stressful things you can do in life. When we moved here, we decided to tackle all three simultaneously. Having served at our previous church in different capacities through some tough transition years, we were worn out, and figured we had earned a bit of rest at whatever new church we found upon moving. Surely we could find a larger church that would afford us some anonymity, allowing us to ease into serving again at our own pace. God knew better, and led us to a small church plant now named Celebration.
God wanted to challenge our perspective of the church in several ways. I want to share a few of them this morning, hopefully enriching your perspective, as we look at the challenges that God’s Word gives us regarding our life together here at Celebration. Perhaps there will even be a few reasons to celebrate, as well.
The first area where God challenged us was regarding living life in fellowship.
God does not desire that we show up on Sundays to take what we can out of a worship service, slip out the back as the final song is sung, and disappear into the privacy of our own lives.
That’s difficult in this area, where long commutes are the norm, and it seems there is barely time for family, let alone the church. Who wants to spend 3 hours commuting to and from work, and then a couple more so you can take the family to an evening church function?
But we are all part of the body of Christ, and we are called to live together in community. In 1 John we read how our bond in Christ leads to fellowship together:
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:3-4)
The Greek word translated here as fellowship is koinonia, and it’s talking about a close association between people, emphasizing what is common between them. In other passages that same word is translated as participation, sharing, contribution, gift.
And John continues:
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7)
Fellowship with one another should be an outpouring of our fellowship with God.
Fellowship is such an overused word within Christian circles today that its rich meaning has been diluted. That fellowship isn’t always potlucks and coffee hours, though those are a critical part, but more fully is an active participation, sharing, and giving in the lives of those within the body. Paul was continually instructing those within the church to be active in this type of fellowship. To the Thessalonians he wrote:
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
We are to admonish, encourage, help. To the Colossians he wrote:
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16 NASB)
To the Corinthians he wrote:
Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
That type of fellowship is not easy, and I know for me personally it does not come naturally. Life in community is messy. If God’s Word is repeatedly instructing us to admonish one another, that implies things aren’t well. Someone in the fellowship needs a reproof or reprimand. That’s not comfortable. Life in community is tiring, but God’s Word promises us that “whoever refreshes others will [themselves] be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25).
We frequently confess our faith together in the form of the Apostles Creed. Together we say we believe in “the communion of saints.” Have you taken time to consider what we’re professing there? The Heidelberg Catechism says, in part it means “that each member should consider it a duty to use [our] gifts readily and joyfully for the service and enrichment of the other members” (Q&A 55). Would you as easily recite the creed each week if it said, “I believe I have a duty to use my Christ-given treasures and gifts, readily and joyfully for the service and enrichment of the other members?”
That may seem a bit extreme, but the book of Romans says that “in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Rom. 12:5), and that we are to “be devoted to one another” (Rom. 12:10).
There are many of these facets of fellowship here. If you come here on Sundays to hear the preaching, but aren’t actively participating, sharing, ministering, then I submit to you that your perspective of the Church is too limited.
It is in that fellowship that we grow as a body. Cherish the calling to fellowship, treasure it.
Not only did God challenge us regarding fellowship, but He also challenged us regarding communion.
This seems like an odd one. The Lord’s Supper is pretty straight-forward, is it not?
I grew up in a tradition where communion was celebrated regularly, but not weekly. The bread and the cup were typically distributed to everyone at their seats, rather than everyone coming forward.
It was somewhat intimidating visiting Celebration for the first time. I’m sure on that particular Sunday we were more focused on figuring out the logistics of receiving communion than we were on the actual meaning of the sacrament, hoping not to make a spectacle of ourselves in front of the whole church. I still remember the lady who greeted us prior to the service, and made a point to come over to us as communion began to explain how the elements were served. Don’t ever underestimate the importance of making visitors feel welcome at the Lord’s table.
And yet, being intimidated was a childlike perspective. I was focusing on the differences in distribution rather than the solidarity of the sacrament.
The Apostle Paul tried to help the early church more fully understand communion. Listen to this passage from 1 Corinthians, paying particular attention to the word “participation”:
Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. (1 Corinthians 10:16)
That word participation comes from the same Greek word, koinonia, translated as fellowship in the verses we looked at earlier. In communion, we are having fellowship with God, and therefore with one another.
Communion is not simply a tradition within the church, it is a commandment from God: “… do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25). He has instructed us to share this meal, and have this fellowship with Him and each other, so that we may, “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Both times Paul discusses communion in his letter to the Corinthian church, it is in response to specific sins within the church, admonitions for things they were doing wrong. The remedy in each case was to more fully understand and celebrate the true meaning of communion, to grow in their perspective. In so doing, they would be in fellowship with God and each other, and be proclaiming the Gospel together through the sacrament until Christ comes again. Paul knew this would widen their perspective beyond their temporary differences.
I love the sport of soccer. In addition to the skill and endurance required, the speed and excitement of the game, I am often amazed that I can show up on a field with 10 complete strangers, and immediately begin playing as part of the team. Often we don’t even speak the same language, but without a word being said, we know where each of us should be making runs on the field, and are able to work together, simply because we have a common knowledge of the game and are unified in purpose.
And so it is with communion. When we come to the table together, we are unified through our membership in Christ. The liturgy may be slightly different, the method of distribution may be new to me, but through communion we are in fellowship with God, in fellowship with those around the table, and in fellowship with our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
I need not be intimidated. I now have a deeper appreciation for sharing this meal together than I did that first Sunday we visited Celebration. Appreciate the privilege of celebrating this sacrament every week here. Enjoy the fellowship of the meal with one another, and with God. Experience God’s grace through the bread and wine, and let it whet your appetite for the heavenly meal we will all share with Him one day.
God didn’t stop challenging us with only fellowship and communion, but also with prayer.
I confess I have long struggled with prayer. Sure, I prayed regularly, but was not convinced I was praying the right things, or in the right way. I felt inadequate praying alone, intimidated praying out loud, and terrified praying publicly.
God knew my weakness, my limited perception of prayer, and quite literally assaulted me with prayer here at Celebration. Every gathering becomes a house of prayer, whether it’s a personal visit in the home, a leadership meeting, a mid-week phone call, departing a soccer game, or conversations before and after the worship service on Sundays.
I am not a spontaneous person. Everyone knows that our God is a God of order and structure, a God of giving advanced notice, right?! The amount of impromptu praying within Celebration has been a challenge for me, but over the years it’s begun to dawn on me that my desire to always be prepared to pray, in any situation, was helping me to “pray continually,” as we’re instructed to do in 1 Thessalonians. They started as practice prayers I’d recite in my head so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself, and they’ve gradually become prayers I am continually offering in every situation. The daily living out of prayer has helped teach me the meaning of “pray continually.”
How often in Christian circles do you hear people promise to pray for one another? “I have a job interview next week.” “Oh, we will be praying for you!” I would piously declare. Even if I later remembered to pray, I passed over an opportunity to build fellowship and possibly witness. Here at Celebration we have been challenged not to promise to pray, but to stop and pray, right then and there. Not only has that radically changed my prayer life, but my relationships with others, as well. My wife and I are learning to pray with our children, allowing them to pray alongside us for struggles and needs within our family, and to praise God when those prayers are answered. What better way to equip them for life as they grow older.
Our family has prayed with complete strangers, with parents, with siblings, and with long-time friends whom we have never prayed with before (beyond saying grace at a meal). I have yet to regret stopping to pray with someone, and each time have felt a closer fellowship afterward.
That’s all well and good, but how do you know what to pray? When you don’t know what to say or how to pray, pray the scriptures. That is, use passages from the Bible to help shape and direct your prayers.
The Psalms are a great place to begin learning this approach, as many of them were written as prayers to God. Personalize them, and make them your prayer as you read them. David’s prayer in Psalm 25 is one I’m able to relate to often:
In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust…
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame….
Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
For the sake of your name, Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, Lord, is in you. (Psa. 25)
Who among us couldn’t pray those thoughts as our own, with integrity? The same is true for passages that praise God for who He is, and His faithfulness to us. By praying Scripture, our hearts are focused, and our desires are shaped to be in line with God’s will.
James 5:16 tells us we also need to pray for each other: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” We need to pray for one another, not only because we all have needs, but because when we pray for the needs of others, God changes our perspective of those whom we are praying for. As we pray these intercessory prayers, we begin to wrestle before God with their needs, struggles, and desires. Our eyes are opened to their situation, and God begins to change us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and martyr, killed in a Nazi concentration camp just 23 days before the Germans surrendered. He had a passion for the Body of Christ, and how we as the Church should live. He said:
Offering intercessory prayer means nothing other than Christians bringing one another into the presence of God, seeing each other under the cross of Jesus as poor human beings and sinners in need of grace. Then, everything about other people that repels me falls away. Then I see them in all their need, hardship, and distress. Their need and their sin become so heavy and oppressive to me that I feel as if they were my own, and I can do nothing else but bid: Lord, you yourself, you alone, deal with them according to your firmness and your goodness.
When we pray for other members of the Body, God uses those prayers to change our perspective, and our fellowship is protected and strengthened.
Does this mean I no longer get nervous about praying with others? Absolutely not, but my perspective has been stretched to the point I feel the Holy Spirit’s prompting to pray, and am learning to rely on His power to follow that leading each time.
Teaching of the Word
God wasn’t done stretching our perspective yet. In addition to fellowship, communion, and prayer, He also challenged us in the teaching of His Word.
It’s easy to look at the culture around us today and be depressed. I find myself looking for a quick fix to every ill and ailment, whether it be the loss of morals, the breakdown of the family, a casual disregard of God. Maybe if we convinced Hollywood to produce more wholesome movies; maybe if we elect a few more leaders who share our values; maybe if …
Each of those are worthwhile efforts, but I think there is a fundamental problem that underlies them all.
Chuck Swindoll, in his book Living the Proverbs, wrote, “Few things affect our world more detrimentally than ongoing biblical ignorance. At the same time, we cannot overestimate the positive impact of scriptural knowledge on a society.”
God has widened my perspective to see how imperative sound Scriptural teaching is within the Body. It’s not simply the culture “out there” in need of God’s Word, that is merely a symptom of the more fundamental problem. As Christians, we have taken for granted God’s Word, and in so doing, have lost our moral grounding.
That’s not to say we don’t acknowledge or reference or even study the Bible. But too often we do so on a superficial level. Biblica, a ministry that is promoting Bible engagement, cites three reasons for Biblical illiteracy among Christians today.
First, we fragment the Bible into little chunks. We yank out little snippets that fit our purposes, and personalize them for our context. Phillip Yancey apparently refers to these as “moral McNuggets.”
Second, we’ve lost the historical context of Scripture, so we either miss or misuse the purpose it was intended to communicate.
Third, we’ve stopped reading Scripture in community.
Each of those cause us to view the Bible through pinched fingers and squinted eyes. When we do that, we are missing much of what God is revealing to us through His word.
I am so grateful for the biblically-rooted teaching here at Celebration, as those shortcomings are continually combated through the reading and preaching of the Word every week. We are taught to view passages in context. Long-held beliefs not rooted in Scripture are openly challenged. The Bible is treated as a whole, showing continuity from the Old Testament to its fulfillment in the New. How many times haven’t we heard Pastor Toby start out a sermon by saying, “In order to understand this verse in the New Testament, we need to go back to Genesis?” And then he proceeds to walk through just about every book of the Bible as it builds to the original verse in question.
We need to personally know Scripture in order to discern sound doctrine and teaching (1 John 4:1). Scripture warns us that there will be false teachers (2 Peter 2:1). It’s easy to gloss over warnings in the Bible about heresies and false prophets. Those are the wackos that make you drink the kool-aid, and are huddled up in compounds, right? No, I’m convinced they are far more attractive, discrete, and prevalent.
One Sunday before we were part of Celebration Church, I was sick, my wife took our oldest child to a worship service at another church in this area while I stayed home. We had visited this church a number of times, and knew people who were members. By all appearances, it was a very successful church with thousands of people in attendance every week. But as the sermon was delivered that morning, she heard heresy being spoken from the pulpit. Scripture was used out of context and in some cases ignored, in order to dilute issues of salvation, making them more palatable to hear. How imperative it is for teaching that “correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Paul warned Timothy, that “… a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). How will you know if God’s Word is being preached or abused if you do not intimately know the Word? In Acts it talks about the believers in Berea who “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).
Guard yourself, and guard your families. Dig deep into Scripture. I challenge you each week to jot down every Scripture reference made during the sermon. Take time at home later that day to look up and read through each one. I think you’ll not only be amazed at the breadth of passages being used, but what better way to ensure you are being fed the Word of God, and not simply what your itching ears want to hear.
Learning Scripture is not simply an academic exercise. It is foundational for daily living. We talked earlier about fellowship, and read Colossians 3:16:
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16 NASB)
How did the instructions on fellowship begin? “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you …” The word of Christ comes first. We talked earlier about praying the Scriptures, in order to align our heart with God’s will. Scripture is foundational for your daily walk, in fellowship and prayer. Rick Warren, author, and pastor of the Saddleback Church says, “The single most powerful tool for getting God’s guidance and defeating temptation is memorized Scripture.” We need to know the Word for our daily life.
And that means not falling into the trap of thinking the teaching of the Word is limited to a sermon on Sunday mornings. We are to be studying, sharing, and struggling through the Word together throughout the week, as a congregation, in small groups, with our families, and individually.
God has used our time here to challenge my perspective on the teaching of Scripture. It’s not enough to sit back and simply be fed once a week during a sermon. We need to know the Word so intimately that we are able to discern the teaching, and “may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). I am nowhere near where I want to be in my knowledge of Scripture, but I pray none of us will ever be satisfied during our earthly lives, and that God will continue to place in us a deep thirst for His Word.
And so God has used our time here at Celebration to challenge our perspective in fellowship, communion, prayer, and teaching.
I don’t share these things with any sense of pride, for there are numerous ways in which I have fallen short in our time together. For that, I ask your forgiveness. With Paul, I can honestly say, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 2:12). But I thank God that through His grace he has challenged my perspective in these areas, areas that He knew needed to be stretched.
Open your Bibles with me for a moment to the book of Acts, the second chapter. This part of Acts might be a familiar passage to some of you, describing the first Pentecost. Peter is pleading with the crowd to repent, and in response thousands are baptized.
Starting at verse 42, the actions of the early church are described: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).
God has blessed this congregation with the same characteristics as the early church: a devotion to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. We may not have multiple services each weekend, or a fancy building of our own, though we might some day, but those are not the signs a healthy church. I submit to you a more accurate measurement is how faithful we are in the building up of the Body: in the teaching of the Word, true sacrificial fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer.
Perspective of Peace
So often the practical realities of building a church begin to supersede our focus on what really matters. Time spent in the Word is overshadowed by financial worries. Time spent in prayer becomes a wish list of needs. Fellowship opportunities become business gatherings. Communion becomes a study in logistics, as we try to serve everyone as efficiently as possible to keep the service short (especially on days when the music goes long).
When we focus on the daily challenges of building and leading a church, it’s easy to wonder how the church will grow, where the resources will come from, or who will be able to lead in various roles. The list of needs seems to be never-ending.
But when we dwell on such challenges rather than on the faithfulness of God, we are living with a pinched perspective. We are looking at where God has placed us with pinched fingers, a child-like view of our situation.
Scripture is replete with God’s command to not be afraid or discouraged. Proverbs reminds us, “Do not be anxious. Lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5-6). We are being reminded to widen our perspective beyond our current struggles, situation, or comprehension.
If we are faithful in teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer, God will use those to build up the Body, and equip us to go out and serve in love. Ephesians 4 explains:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:11-13)
And as we grow within the Church, our perspective begins to mature. Ephesians continues:
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph. 4:14-16)
That maturing and growing of the body requires our active participation. Did you hear the end? “… as each part does its work.”
One evening, Jesus sent the disciples out on a boat while He stayed behind to pray. It was not easy going, as the wind and the waves slowed their progress all night. Just before dawn, Jesus went out to meet them, walking on the water. Peter, always the one to jump in with both feet, as it were, said, “‘Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water’” (Matt. 14:48). “‘Come,’ [Jesus] said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him” (Matt. 14:28-31).
Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he looked at his situation with a pinched perspective, and began to sink. But while his eyes were focused on Christ, he was able to maintain a perspective of peace in the midst of the wind, and be used in a miraculous way by God.
To maintain a perspective of peace, we need to focus our eyes on Christ. Ephesians 2 says that, “[Christ] himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). The only way we will ever know this kind of peace is by accepting the gift of salvation Christ earned for us through the shedding of his blood on the cross, allowing us to be reconciled with God (Col. 1:20).
The New Testament is full of admonitions to the early church. They lived in the same generation as Christ, and already they had internal disputes, theological differences, and collapses into sin. Even the Apostle Paul was involved in disagreements about missions. So how did Paul encourage the early Church to grow in their fellowship? He challenged them to live with a perspective of peace. Philippians 4 starts with him making a plea to two believers to reconcile, immediately followed by:
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. (Phil. 4:4-9)
He reminded them of the protection that comes from God’s peace, and told them where to focus their minds, to “think about such things.” And again, it depends on our active participation: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”
As we’ve begun preparing to move, we’ve been researching a number of different moving companies. A couple weeks ago as we were driving down I-95, my wife commented, “Have you noticed how many moving trucks there are everywhere all of a sudden?” When we focus our attention on something, our eyes are opened and we are drawn to more of it. To maintain a perspective of peace, we need to “think about such things.”
The Colossians were instructed to do the same: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:1-2).
Scripture doesn’t ignore the difficulties that will come, but encourages us to “run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2). Elsewhere we are reminded, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Our Anglican order of worship helps us to focus our minds on Christ, our peace, does it not? How many times is peace mentioned in our weekly liturgy? In the Gloria at the beginning of the service we sing, “and peace to His people on earth.” There is time after the sermon called The Peace, where we greet one another saying, “The peace of the Lord be always with you. And also with you.” After communion, we pray together, “Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart.” We are dismissed at the end of the service, “Go in peace to love God and love life.”
We have no need to “despise the day of small things” (Zech. 4:10). Do not look at the work before us with pinched fingers, but keep the wider, eternal perspective. Accept the gift God has offered for a perspective of peace.
I close with a final charge from the Apostle Paul:
… acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)
And that, I believe, is truly something to celebrate.