Pursue peace with all men…(Hebrews 12:14a)
I don’t think there have been any other five words in my life that have challenged me more than these. If God had left out the word “all” it would have had a whole different meaning in my life, but because of that one little word I have been challenged, stretched and changed in more ways than I could have ever imagine. And I am grateful. No, I would not want to relive these previous trials, but I am thankful for the change in my heart and I am thankful for the deeper relationship I now have with my Maker.
We all have been through times in our lives when we just butt heads with another person. It could be a family member, spouse, friend or just an acquaintance. This person could either just rub you wrong or just really irritate you. Maybe it goes a little deeper. I am sure we have all experienced that one person that each time you talk to them it brings out this hidden person inside you that normally you don’t even know exists. Words start flying out of your mouth, emotions go nuts and each interaction you have with them turns into a tornado ever increasing with strength the more and more you interact. It could be someone who has wounded you deeply, one who has broken your trust. Maybe it is someone who challenges you in ways that makes you feel defenseless or worthless. I don’t know what you have been through, but I am sure we have all been here before.
This past year I have had two situations that have left me mortally wounded (or so I thought and felt). I was struck down to my inner core. I questioned who I was and who I thought I was. I was terribly wounded and wanted desperately to form a fortress around my heart and walk away never to be wounded again. But then I remembered this verse in Hebrews and it stopped me dead in my tracks.
I cried out to God, “How in the world can I pursue peace with someone that has torn my heart to shreds and walked all over it without care? How was I to face them again, let alone be peaceful?”
It is interesting how God works. God is not surprised by anything. He knew these situations were going to come up in my life at this exact moment, so He did everything He could to make sure I was prepared for them. You see, three and a half years ago I had a friend go through a terrible offense. When it happened she had a choice, she could walk away and be done with the mess that was before her or she could lean on God heavily and purse peace.
When this occurred, I started seeking God and asking Him lots of questions. I didn’t know what to tell her, so I turned to the Word to find answers. God led me to Philippians 2 and Romans 12. For the next many months I pored over these chapters and asked God the hard questions. “You can’t be serious that we are just supposed to forgive them and then move on and love them! And not only are we supposed to love them but we are supposed to take delight in honoring them? We are supposed to bless them and never pay them back for the wrong they have done? On top of that I am not supposed to grumble and complain…that is a little much, right God??” But the more I sought answers the more these scriptures were confirmed. The more I believed these were the right steps of action to take when you are faced with a person that seems impossible to love. The more I studied the scriptures the more I realized it was going to be humanly impossible to live these out on my own. I knew if I was ever faced with one of these types of situation I would need God to change me in ways that I couldn’t even imagine.
So after that situation with my friend, I began slowly to examine how I interacted with others when they rubbed me wrong or caused the little hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. Was I responding with an attitude of peacemaking or was I only trying to do what was best for me? I came across an amazing book by John Bevere called the Bait of Satan. I firmly believe this is a book that EVERY person should read. I mean literally EVERYONE!!! If you have ever been offended by anyone, this book is for you. He does an excellent job of explaining why and how an offense occurs and then what steps you need to take to help you walk through the steps of healing and forgiveness, and then how to move to a place where you love the other person and want them blessed. It is extremely challenging but SO worth it!! I have gone through the book or DVD series 3 times now, and I gain so much wisdom each and every time.
God knew I would need to know these truths deep down in my heart so when the trials came I would be ready. I would love to say that when they came I breezed right through the different steps of overcoming an offense and did everything perfectly. Well, I didn’t. I sometimes allowed my flesh to rule and reign and I did say words that I later had to apologize for. But because I had taken the time to learn the lessons God wanted me to learn 2 years ago, I did have some victories. I was able to hold my tongue and not respond in a way that my flesh so deeply desired. I ran to the feet of Jesus more times than I can count, knowing that I could only get through this if He was guiding and directing my heart, mind and actions. I allowed God to change me. I allowed the truths in each situation to go deep into my heart. I allowed God to help me see the other person through His eyes and then, only then was I willing to extend peace to those around me.
“Pursue peace with all men.” That is our challenge, and it will change us forever! Are you willing to try it?
Mile 4 Challenge:
- Look at your list of weights. Is there a person listed that maybe you have an offense against? Is someone causing you a lot of pain and stress? On page seven of your journal write the words, “I can walk in Peace”
- Under the title just right a few words describing the situation or maybe just the person’s name. This week I want you to begin to pray about this situation. Ask God to open your eyes to see the situation/person through His eyes and not your own. Ask Him to begin to reveal things that you can do to make the situation better. Ask God to heal your heart and to give you the strength to trust Him to work it all out for your good. Ask Him for strength and joy as you begin this journey of reconciliation.
- Next week we will talk through Philippians 2 and Romans 12, but for this week lift the situation up to God in prayer.
- Prayer is so important! I have given you a lot of things to think about so far in this journey. I want you to make sure that you are spending enough time on each step to really hear from God and work through all that you need to work through. Each week I will continue to give homework, but I want you to do through them at the pace that God is leading you to. Don’t cheat yourself out of healing and wisdom that God wants to give you. If God leads you to stop or to explore on step farther than I go, please do. God knows exactly what you need!