Dear St. Paul Family,
What did you get for Christmas? What are your New Year’s resolutions? Most of us have either asked or been asked these questions over the last few weeks. Christmas and the new year bring times with friends and family, the promise of a checked off Christmas list, and the chance for a fresh start in a new year. As the happiness of giving and receiving gifts fades away, we go about setting resolutions and plans for a successful new year. The holidays are also the culmination of a busy year. End of year deadlines, traveling, and planning, which often don’t lend themselves to a sense of “peace on earth” in our lives.
It is all too easy for our primary focus to concentrate on external things to bring us satisfaction. We can focus on obtaining new possessions, setting new goals, or blame external circumstances for a lack of internal peace and contentment. We think that a fresh set of socks from grandma for Christmas, more time at the gym next year, or finally answering that last work email, will be the missing piece in the puzzle. In our human condition, we tend to look for new possessions, accomplishments, relationships, political or social causes to bring us that sense of peace and fulfillment. For myself it was finally going on a long-awaited vacation, sitting on a beach with perfect surroundings and no work or responsibilities, but still anxious, full of worries, and discontent on the inside. These goals and possessions can all be worthy pursuits, but will always fail to bring lasting peace when pursued on their own.
One of God’s greatest gifts, that we often fail to realize, is His promise of peace and rest. Philippians 4:6-7,“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” For the Philippians this message came at a time when they were suffering discrimination and persecution. Remarkably, these early Christians were renowned for their peace despite these horrible external circumstances and lack of material possessions. Philippians 4:12, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Could the same God that gave the Philippians the promise of peace in the face of persecution and poverty, give us peace today in the face of a buzzing iPhone, a 24-hour news cycle, a career change, or the death of a loved one? As Paul the Apostle stated, it is neither the removal or obtaining of possessions that brings contentment, but rather our trust in God’s promise of peace and rest.
In this new year find some quiet time with God. Find a moment to put down the phone and step away from the constant noise and information. What are your worries, fears and anxieties? Are you at peace when it is just you, your thoughts, and God? 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Evan Hein, Elder