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Jack Graham - Live in Prayer, Live in Peace

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    Jack Graham - Live in Prayer, Live in Peace
TOPICS: Not Ashamed, Prayer, Peace

Take your Bibles and turn with me to the book of Philippians in your New Testament, the fourth chapter; and I want to speak to you today on the subject, live in prayer equals to live in peace, to live in prayer is to live in peace. Prayer is the key to everything we need to be and do in life! Did you hear what I just said? Prayer is the key to everything we need to be and to do in life! And so the Apostle Paul as a part of his life and legacy gives us a passage in Philippians 4, verses 4 to 9 regarding how to experience God's peace and God's presence in times of struggle and personal pain and anguish and anxiety. You say, "Well it's easy for Paul to say. After all, he was an apostle".

Well, when Paul gave us these words inspired by the Holy Spirit, of course, he was not on a Mediterranean cruise on his way to Mikonos to hang out on the beach. No, he was in prison in Rome, and he was writing Christians at Philippi, who would experience persecution and pressure in their lives; and it was very real, these problems and these pressures. And so this is not Paul in the pulpit, this is Paul in prison! We know that there are prisons of other kinds. There are prisons of personal pain and suffering, and sickness. There is the bondage of bitterness. Some of you today are in a dark hole, a dungeon of depression. Some are behind walls of loneliness and isolation. Others are fettered by fear and you feel like you're chained by your circumstances.

Well, if that's you-and it's all of us at one time or another-listen to these words, beginning at verse 4: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication", just insert the word petition or asking there, "with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me", here's his life and legacy, "practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you".

Yes, we're to pray all the time about all things with thanksgiving in our hearts. Jesus said we are to pray and never give up. He said ask, seek and knock. A-S-K. Just ask. Literally, keep asking, keep knocking, keep seeking, and I will open doors and I will answer your prayer and I will meet you at the point of your need. Ask! Pray constantly, continually. Live in prayer and you will live in peace! How? Well, look at verses 4 and 5 you and see that if you live in peace and live in prayer, you therefore, should rejoice in the Lord's presence. You see it there? "Rejoice in the Lord always". And just in case you didn't get it the first time, "Again, I say, rejoice"! Jesus spoke of the fullness of joy. It's joy and joy and more joy! He said, "Let your reasonableness" - that's an interesting word. It can be gentleness or forbearance. It really speaks of your attitude.

Don't have an attitude of fighting and comparing and competing, but be reasonable in your actions and your attitude with people. One translation gave it, meet people halfway. Don't always be fighting and striving in your life. The source of so much war in the soul and the lack of peace is just, you know, problems in relationship. But he said "let your reasonableness be known to everyone (be gracious, be gentle; for he said,) the Lord (look at it) the Lord is at hand". It's true the Apostle Paul was in prison, but he wasn't there alone. He said, "The Lord is at hand". Now Jesus is coming, but this isn't talking about the Second Coming. This is talking about the current reality of His presence! That the Lord is at hand! Paul was saying the Lord is in here with me. He's right here. Jesus promised His presence through His Spirit.

Jesus said, Matthew 28:20, "I will be with you always". He said, Hebrews 13:5, "I will never ever leave you or forsake you". "The Lord is at hand". He's at your right hand. Isaiah 41:10 says "Fear not, for I am with you; don't be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will hold you with My right hand of righteousness". You're not alone. You're not isolated. You're not in a prison by yourself, but He is there with you. This is the reason that we can say I rejoice in all things; not in our circumstances, but in Christ Himself. Because of the faithful, loving presence of Jesus in our lives, no matter what, we can say I choose to rejoice because the Lord is with me! Jesus said in John 15:11 "These things I've spoken unto you that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be full". The joy that we have is continual; it is conspicuous. It ought to show up in our lives, our faces, our countenance. This joy is not only continual and conspicuous, it is complete, "that your joy may be full".

And so while our circumstances may not be joyful, and we're not happy all the time, we are happy in Him all the time because He has given us joy. I love Psalm 16:11, "I will show you the path of life, for in your presence, Lord, is fullness of joy and at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore". We get our joy, not in the pleasures of this world, not in trinkets, not in toys, not in entertainment, not in who wins the football game or who doesn't win the football game, because I guarantee your teams going to let you down one way or another. And we're not going to be riding just up and down on our emotions and our experiences in life, but we are in Christ and therefore, we are in His joy!

And here's what you need to do every day if you want to have peace, and that is to practice the living presence of Jesus in your life. That means He's real to you. He's at your hand. He's holding your hand. Paul said it. He said I'm in jail, but Jesus is in here with me. They could lock Paul up but they couldn't lock Jesus out! Jesus was in the jail. And Jesus is in the middle of your storm, walking on the waves. I remember the great story of the three Hebrew children Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and they refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar idolatrous image, and so they're threatened; they're going to be thrown into the fiery furnace. And they said, "Well, we're still not going to bow down. You can threaten us all you want, and we may burn, but we'll not bow down to this idol. You know, our God is able to deliver us, but if not, we're still going to obey God".

So they threw them in the fiery furnace. In fact they heated it up, heated it up, ten times hotter than usual. Throw those three boys in there! They were just teenagers. And they're standing in there. They're bound with ropes, fresh ropes, and the fire is heated up, and the only thing that burned were those ropes, the things that were holding them back or holding them in there, just incinerated. And Nebuchadnezzar looked in and said, "Didn't we just put those three boys in there"? "Right, there are three of them". "Then why is there a fourth one in there and He looks like the Son of God"? Because walking in that fire was the living presence of Jesus Himself! You see, Jesus doesn't always keep us out of the fire, but He will always get in the fire with us. He will always be present. Sometimes we get delivered out of the fire; other times we get delivered through the fire! But the promise of His presence is real if you know Him. "The Lord is at hand".

So rejoice in the Lord. Look, after, I'm in the middle of my sixth decade of life now, and through these years I have found the secret to strength. That's right. You know, this is how you stay young. I'm 64 now, proud to admit it. I don't feel 64; I feel about forty, thirty-five, with something wrong with me. The outer man, you know, something aches, something hurts, but outer person is decaying, but the inner person is being renewed everyday. How? Nehemiah 8:10, "The joy of the Lord is my strength"! And I'm here to tell you that because of this joy, I have strength today that I believe comes from God. I have the strength of God, the power of Jesus in my life. I've got as much energy as I ever had! It's not because of me; it's because of Him and His life and His love flowing through my life!

And I'm telling you any time I get down or if I'm tired. I'm maybe driving up here and I'm saying, "Man, I gotta preach this morning. I'm not quite with it". You know what I do? I start praising Jesus! I start worshiping Jesus! I start rejoicing in Jesus, rejoicing that my sins are forgiven, rejoicing that He's given me His word and His truth to guide me, rejoicing that I have a future and a hope with Him. I'm rejoicing and celebrating in the fact that the Spirit of God lives in me. I'm rejoicing and celebrating the fact that I've got a Christian family and friends who love me. I just start in and I start going forward, and praying, and He starts lifting my spirits, because the joy of the Lord is my strength. So I stand before you strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!

You say, well I'm not standing; I'm in bed, I'm sick, I can't even get out of the retirement home, or I can't get out of this hospital. "The joy of the Lord is your strength". And you may not have physical strength and you may be suffering, you may be hurting; you feel like you're in a prison of pain, but the joy of the Lord is your strength! Don't stop celebrating what Christ has done for you. Rejoice in the Lord! Because I'm telling you even if you die, it's only going to get better! Philippians 1:21, "To live is Christ, and to die is gain"! "What a friend we have in Jesus"! Secondly, you want peace in your life? Rest in the Lord's promise. Verse 6 is the prayer. He says, "Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything in prayer and petition, supplication".

You know, supplication, that's not a word you use very often today. I think I'm going to go and supplicate with my wife. You know, that's ask your wife something. "And with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God". Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything! Worry, fear, anxiety are toxic emotions that are so damaging! They're unhealthy; they're useless; never accomplished anything. Worry never solved a problem. Worry never dried a tear. It's like pouring sand in your automobile. In fact, the word worry comes from a German word which means to choke or to strangle. That's a word picture of what worry does to us. It is emotional strangulation. Worry, fear, anxiety will suffocate you and paralyze you! That's why Jesus clearly said, "Don't worry about anything"! We're commanded not to worry! It's useless, unnecessary, unhealthy, and, yes, it is unbelieving to worry!

Someone said, the beginning of worry is the end of faith. But the beginning of true faith is the end of worry. So don't worry about anything, but pray about everything. You say "Well, you know, my problems aren't all that big. I know it. I don't want to bother God with my little problems. You know, just my little stuff". Look, can you think of anything that's not little stuff to God Almighty? It's all little! Is there anything too hard for the Lord? Of course not! You can pray to Him about the big things and the little things, and we should. He even taught us to pray for daily bread, something as simple and basic as bread. Pray about that every day.

I heard about a missionary who met a lion one day. That lion was hungry and he prayed and asked the Lord to deliver him from the lion's mouth, and the Lord did protect him and save him. He went on his way and he got back to his hut and he went to bed, and he couldn't sleep, because there was a mosquito in the room buzzing around all night. It kept him awake the entire night. And he gets out of bed the next morning, bleary eyed, sleepless and he said the Holy Spirit seemed to say to me, "You asked the Father to deliver you from the lion, but you thought you could handle that mosquito yourself, didn't you"? No, we live in daily dependence upon the Lord for anything and everything. We trust Him; we rest in Him. Thirdly, reflect on the Lord's provision. You want peace? Reflect on His provision. Sometimes we just need a change of perspective. And that's why he says that we should begin thinking and praying with thanksgiving in our hearts. He said pray with thanksgiving in our hearts. Rejoice, rest and reflect upon the goodness of God in your life. Pray with gratitude! Pray with thanksgiving!

First Thessalonians 5:18 says "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you". Not because of all things, but in all things we can give thanks. Gratitude has been described as the healthiest of all human emotions. Think about it. If you live with a grateful heart, if you live with praise and thanksgiving to God, it counteracts any toxic negative emotion in your life! It elevates your spirit! Praise or gratitude has also been called the highest expression of faith. And we live with a spirit of gratitude, with a heart overflowing with gratitude to God when we worship Him and praise Him when we give thanks. In the root of the word thanksgiving is another word that's close, T-H-A-N-K, is the word think, the same root, think. And, therefore, when we stop to think and give thanks to God, it changes our perspective.

Psalm 68 and verse 19 says, "Blessed be the Lord", that's praise, worship, gratitude, "who daily bears us up! God is our salvation"! He's praising the Lord. And then he ends with a little Hebrew word which is Selah! "Bless the Lord! Praise the Lord! Selah"! You know what that means? Selah? That means think about it! Stop and think about that! That God has blessed us! And so when we stop to think, we give thanks, and when we give thanks at all times, then we receive God's peace. We receive the Lord's peace. Do you see it there in verse 7? "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts", literally, will guard your hearts, "and your minds in Christ Jesus". You say, "Well, I lost my peace". No, you didn't. Jesus keeps your peace. You can't lose your peace if Jesus is keeping it, if He's guarding it. We have the peace of God which he describes as over the top, supernaturally, unexplainably, awesomely great! It passes logic and understanding, this peace! You go through something and you can't even believe that you have such peace in your heart in spite of a storm that's blowing all around you!

You know, it's been said many times that peace is not the absence of the storm, but it's the presence of Jesus in the storm. He comes walking to us in the turbulence on the troubled seas of life. And so He gives us His peace, extraordinary peace. It's indescribable but it is unmistakable when you experience it. So you just need to stay in peace. Stay in the peace. Paul had guards around him at all times in this prison so he's looking at these guards and he's thinking, "You know, God's guarding me. God's keeping me. That's why I'm here". In the upper room on His way to the cross, Jesus said in John 14:27: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid". This is why we can say it is well, it is well with my soul. The world doesn't give it to us; the world can't take it away! You don't get this peace in a pill, in a bottle, in a syringe! You're a child of God and it is your legacy! When Jesus gave these words in the upper room it was in effect the legacy of our Lord to all of His followers. It is your legacy to live and die in peace!

Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in You". So Paul said you need to get your mind right! Get your mind on the Lord and things of the Lord! He says what is true and what is good and what is beautiful and what is pure and what is lovely and what is excellent and what is commendable and what is profitable, think on these things! Praise God through it all! Paul would tell us in another passage, take every thought in your mind captive. Because you know as the mind goes, so goes the man. "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he". So what you think about is what you become. Garbage in, garbage out! What are you thinking about? What's filling your mind in the moments when you are alone? Steady your life with the peace of God by thinking thoughts of faith and blessing and purity, meditating upon the Word of God.

Colossians 3:16 says "Let the Word of God dwell in you richly". This is why we counsel you constantly get the Word of God into your mind. Let is soak down into your soul. Let it saturate your spirit because the Word of God will give you life and health and strength! Did you know that there is health and life and blessing and hope in the Word of God? Get it in your life! Get the Word of God in your life! This is what Paul did. Therefore he was able to face his future with prayerful hope. And he had an uncertain future-he was facing execution, and ultimately would give his life in martyrdom for the Lord Jesus Christ.

But you know what? In prison he could see heaven from there! Ha! He didn't care! He could see the glory of Jesus from that place! And so he said, "I'm going to keep rejoicing! I'm going to keep resting! I'm going to keep giving thanks and reflecting on the blessings of God. I'm going to keep receiving God's peace"! And then he went on to say in verse 9. "Whatever you've learned, received, heard, seen in me-practice these things, do these things, and the God of peace will be with you". So on one hand, we have the peace of God which passes understanding, and on the other hand, we have the God of peace. We have the peace of God to guard us, to keep us! We have the God of peace to guide us! You got it all when it comes to God's peace. So you live in prayer; you live in peace.
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