I Am My Peace Thief!
I love to give my study groups visuals to prompt their thoughts about the lesson throughout the week. This past week in my Nashville study, I gave them water guns and told them to place them where their “peace thieves” tend to show up. Is it in the middle of the night when you wake up with fears and concerns? I encouraged them to set the gun on their nightstand where they could see it, be reminded to quit tolerating the thief, and to start praying instead. Is it as you are driving and getting stuck in traffic or hearing the news go from bad to worse? Look at that gun in the cup holder, quit tolerating the thief, and “shift gears!” You get the idea. The water guns were intended to “trigger” their resolve to quit tolerating their peace thieves.
But a day into the week, a close friend of mine called to say that she was filling her water gun with water and shooting herself with it! She decided that she was her own worst peace thief! And how often is that the case? We can be going merrily along our way when BAM, peace thieves surround us and we are the only one in the room!
Here’s the challenge: Each of us, depending on our backgrounds, personalities, our life experiences, life situations, or choices - have patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that are inconsistent with God’s Truth. Every single one of us does. That means that we have HABITS of thinking and feeling that need to be broken in order to consistently enjoy peace. Here are a few examples of our flawed thinking:
“If I don’t, it won’t. It’s all up to me.”
“If I forgive them, they get away with it.”
“I don’t deserve to be happy.”
“God could never forgive what I’ve done.”
“It is impossible.”
“God doesn’t care, and He’s busy with more important stuff.”
ALL LIES. All thoughts and feelings that are inconsistent with God’s Truth. The Bible refers to these mental and emotional habits as strongholds. And over the past 10 years, we have become somewhat familiar with the term “stronghold” in the news reports of our progress and lack of progress in Afghanistan and Iraq. A stronghold is a protected area in which an army or person takes a stand or retreats back to. It is a secured, guarded area.
The Bible teaches that we can have strongholds in our minds and hearts that prevent the truth of God’s Word from getting into those areas of our lives. Generally, I believe that we have built them in an attempt to protect ourselves or to provide for ourselves. Because of sin, we arrive to planet Earth hardwired with deficiencies. I’ve talked to many people that have said, “I don’t remember ever not being insecure.” “I have always been fearful or discontent.” “I have never felt worthy.”
Other times, it happens in our formative years. Our families were dysfunctional and we got the message very quickly that it was up to us – to protect, provide, and care for ourselves. Perhaps we made bad choices along the way, and we collected shame, regret, and guilt. It may have been others that made the bad choices and we picked up anger and bitterness.
Are you getting the picture? Life happens and we build strongholds or habits to protect and provide for ourselves. They are patterns of thinking and feeling that are inconsistent with what God says, but we tend to retreat back to them.
But here’s the thing: the strongholds in our minds and hearts keep us captive rather than protecting us or providing for us, and they systematically rob us of our peace. The very things we depend on to protect us are, in reality, the things destroying us!! And God wants to expel these lies through the truth of His Word. He wants to set us free to enjoy all that He has for us as His children in this lifetime, and He knows that can only happen as we start giving our strongholds to Him.
Have you noticed that we all tend to struggle with the same things over and over again? If you are a worrier, you tend to worry. If you struggle with shame or regret, you tend to struggle with shame and regret. If you are insecure, you tend to be insecure. If you are a control freak, you tend to be a control freak. If you are angry, you tend to be angry. If you are fearful, you are fearful. It shouldn’t be surprising that we retreat to the same things over and over again - because they are our strongholds! And it’s time that we say, “enough.”
God has given His children weapons to destroy these habits of thinking and feeling. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” Verse 5 says that we can take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to the truth of God. We can take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to truth. As God’s children, we are not at the mercy of our thoughts and feelings. It is high time that we quit allowing ourselves to retreat back to the lies that we have used to protect and provide for ourselves, and started FILLING our minds and hearts with the truth of God’s Word. Do not miss that it says that our weapons have divine power. Our God fights for us if we allow Him to. Let’s identify the lies that we’ve been hiding behind and replace them with truth. If you don’t know what they are, ask God. And when we sense ourselves retreating back to the lie, let’s commit to repeating this process. It will not happen by accident, but we will never regret that we allowed God to demolish a stronghold. Freedom and peace wait just on the other side of those walls.
*Devotional taken from Peace That Passes, available for a brief time on a store link for $15.
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