Experiencing peace through trusting God and his will for his Kingdom

We exhibit the ultimate trust in God when we pray for God’s will to be done in our lives according to the needs of his Kingdom.

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of trust, and how we exhibit the ultimate trust in God when we sincerely pray for his will to be done in our lives according to the needs of his Kingdom. This alone provides a peace that passes understanding. In our study today, we will be reviewing how the teachings of both Yeshua and Paul can provide detailed actions that can help us to pattern our lives after the faithful lives of the early believers.

Let’s begin with understanding how Yeshua taught about priorities in the believer’s life. In the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua taught two ways that anxiety in life, caused by focusing on worldly needs, can be overcome.

The first way is to recognize spiritual priorities.

Matthew 6:31-33 – “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the nations seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Here we see that Yeshua is explaining how anxiety is the result of over-focus on self and selfish needs. By contrast, when becoming engaged with the things of God, personal problems and concerns tend to fade into the background. A commitment to the Kingdom of God helps to keep the correct perspective that allows balance in daily living. Recognizing that the needs of the Kingdom outweigh self-directed problems helps believers to remain productive and fruitful in walking with God. Looked at from the opposite perspective, when believers focus on their own problems to the exclusion of all other things, they are likely being unproductive and unfruitful in their spiritual walk. In this condition, they have allowed themselves to become self-absorbed and overly consumed with personal worry. 

It’s been said that the smallest of pebbles when held at arm’s length is of no consequence, but when brought to within inches of the eye can block all of our vision. If we view our personal problems as that pebble, then it is in our best interest to keep them at arm’s length by focusing on the Kingdom first, rather than keeping our problems close to the eye to the exclusion of everything else around us. The perspective Yeshua provides us can free us from self-absorption with our own issues.

The second way Yeshua teaches about overcoming anxiety, in addition to his teaching for us to stay focused on the Kingdom, is to focus on one day at a time. Each day has its own challenges, so just take the challenges you face one day at a time. 

Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

By maintaining a focus on the Kingdom, and taking one day at a time, Yeshua provides a practical two-step plan for overcoming anxieties that the rest of the world may be experiencing.

Further, Yeshua provides a demonstration of the outworking of this teaching from his experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. In his prayer to God regarding the trial and crucifixion he was about to undergo, he simply prays, “Not my will, but yours be done.” This is the prayer that demonstrates ultimate trust in God. When believers can fully consign themselves to God’s will, then their personal needs or situations become of little or no consequence. This is the outworking of his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about seeking first the Kingdom of God. Here, Yeshua is putting the needs of God’s Kingdom above his own.

People always say they want to know what God’s will is for their lives. Well, God’s will and the activities surrounding his Kingdom are one and the same. His will is that his Kingdom becomes visible through the faithful actions of his people living out his standards in their lives. When believers start praying in this way for God’s will to be done, they must remain open to seeking and recognizing what the needs are of his Kingdom in any given situation. This comes through consistently being in his word, receptive to his Torah, or instruction, in all things.

This is a solemn teaching for the mature believer. This is no surface admonition, but a commitment that can only come from the deepest recesses of spiritual insight and understanding. This teaching separates God’s true children from those who are only loosely affiliated with him. Only a true child of God can put aside all personal connections to remain devoted primarily to God and to his Messiah as Lord. Yeshua stated it this way:

Matthew 10:37-39 – Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 16:24-25 – Then Yeshua told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Mark 10:29-30 – Yeshua said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

This is what is required to walk in the way of God, and to follow the Messiah. This is putting God’s Kingdom first. In this state, there is no opportunity for selfish worry or anxiety. Worry is selfish; seeking the Kingdom and following Messiah is selfless.

In a moment, we will examine a famous teaching of the apostle Paul, and how he expands on this theme of selflessness with specific actions that he encouraged believers to follow in order to remain steadfast and experience the peace that comes from trusting in God.

Philippians 4:6-7 – Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Messiah Yeshua.

Before we dive in to an application of these words for believers today, we must always remember to keep the words we read in the original context as much as possible for us to receive the full benefit and understanding of what is being discussed. So, let’s look at the overall point of what Paul is trying to convey and who he his audience is.

First of all, this was a letter intended for a specific group of believers for a specific purpose.

Philippians 1:1, 9-11  …To all the saints in Messiah Yeshua who are at Philippi…it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Messiah, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Yeshua Messiah, to the glory and praise of God.

Paul is writing to encourage these believers who were residing in Philippi in the first century to excel in love, knowledge and discernment, that they would be pure and blameless for the day of Messiah, to God’s glory. The rest of his epistle is primarily focused on this encouragement toward fruitful actions of righteousness so they would be counted worthy of attaining the Kingdom of God at the appearing of the Messiah.

Continuing throughout the epistle, we can see there is this constant theme of holding fast, standing firm, not allowing themselves to fall from the faith that they had received.

3:16 – Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

4:1 – Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

This standing firm was to be based upon the hope of the immanent return of Messiah who would transform them into the heavenly Kingdom. If they could hold true to what they had already attained, then they would be able to remain steadfast in the faith until the day of Messiah. He then reiterates the immanence of this day of the Messiah, and how their focus on heavenly things (the Kingdom of God) would allow them to patiently await the Messiah when he was to come and transform them.

Philippians 3:20-21; 4:1 – But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Yeshua Messiah, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

So, against this backdrop of hope and standing firm comes the famous passage about the peace of God which passes all understanding. How we all would love to experience such peace! Here is where we find the source of that peace that Paul was teaching those Philippian believers about.

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 Messiah Yeshua.

Paul says to remove anxiety by prayer and thanksgiving in everything. This is the pattern of behaviors that instills peace that only God can provide. Paul’s instruction to the Philippian congregation is to pray and be grateful for everything. When we express ourselves and our thanks to God, we are recognizing him as the one who is ultimately in control of all things. This recognition is the basic foundation of our trust and faith in God to begin with. We are deferring to him as the ultimate authority in all aspects of life. We are allowing God to be God.

However, where we sometimes err is in thinking that if we pray about a situation, God will control the outcome to make us happy and content, fulfilling all of our desires. When we think this way, we are lapsing back into a selfish focus on worldly challenges we may be facing. But in this recognition of God’s ultimate authority in all things, we should ensure that our desires always fall under the category of trusting in his judgment for the outcome that is best for him and his Kingdom, not necessarily what we think we desire. Remember, Yeshua taught about seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, not selfish needs or ambitions. Our practical focus should remain on others. Paul reiterates this to the Philippian believers as well:

Philippians 2:2-5 – …complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was also in Messiah Yeshua…

And this is the crux of the issue that can plague us: separating our selfish desires from those things that fall in line with accomplishing God’s purpose for the continued growth of his Kingdom. As our spiritual maturity level grows, we can learn to focus on this “mind of Messiah” by thinking, praying, and acting more on the needs of others, or at least as much as our own needs.

And when we can learn to sincerely pray, as Yeshua did, “Not my will but yours be done” in everything we pray about, we then move into a place of faith and trust that God knows what’s best for us, regardless of what we may want for ourselves. Paul says that our hearts and minds can have peace “in Messiah Yeshua.” To be “in” the Messiah is to follow his ways, his teachings, and his example. When we do so by seeking first the Kingdom  of God and his will, our lives will bear the fruit of righteous actions that he desires for his people.

Yeshua taught the two most important things are to love God with heart, soul, and strength, and to love others as yourself. When our concerns for others become as natural as the care that we have for our own needs, then we are moving into a place of truly following the example of the Messiah, and the incomprehensible peace of God will stand guard over our hearts and minds.


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Alert and thankful prayer that overcomes temptation

The victory over a trial or temptation is through prayer and the strengthening of God through his holy Spirit.

Core of the Bible podcast #39 – Alert and thankful prayer that overcomes temptation

Today we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how vigilance in alert and thankful prayer is a primary method of overcoming temptation and accomplishing God’s will on earth.

Matthew 26:40-41. And he [Yeshua] came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Yeshua was speaking this to Peter for the specific purpose of admonishing him to stay alert with him while he was praying in Gethsemane. However, this has become a type of universal admonition regarding prayer to avoid temptation, and not without good reason.

Praying to avoid temptation was a key teaching within Yeshua’s template for prayer. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Based on the original word definitions, this can be expanded and paraphrased as “May we not be lead into adversity and hard testing; nevertheless, rescue us from anguish, harm, and all evil.”

Praying in this manner is a demonstration of vigilance. When praying to avoid temptation, 1) there is an awareness of the possibility of impending challenges and 2) there is also a recognition of God’s ability to provide assistance or escape.

The act of praying focuses the mind on the essential needs of the moment. This is necessary because vigilance also involves alertness and overcoming the distractions and limitations of fleshly influence. While our spirit may be willing, many times we become spiritually disoriented as worldly impulses (whether internal or external) overwhelm us.

Galatians 5:16-17 …walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Walking in the spirit includes a rich and abundant prayer life. Many believers, myself included, struggle to maintain a vital spiritual walk throughout the occurrences of each day.  It’s easy to push spiritual things into the background while we attempt to deal with the seemingly urgent issues we face each day. Consistently praying helps provide leverage over real fleshly distractions and desires, and allows us to truly walk in the Spirit.

Yeshua’s template, his model prayer for believers does include the phrase: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. This has been fertile soil for many commentators over the years to plant seeds for consideration in this question of overcoming temptation.

Benson Commentary

“And lead us not into temptation — the clause may be translated, Lead us not into temptation, but so as to deliver us from the evil, viz., either by removing the temptation, when it is too strong for us to withstand; or by mitigating its force, or by increasing our strength to resist it, as God shall see most for his glory. This correction of the translation, suggested by Macknight, is proposed on this ground; that to pray for an absolute freedom from temptation is to seek deliverance from the common lot of humanity, which is absurd; because temptations are wisely appointed by God for the exercise and improvement of piety and virtue in good men, and that others may be encouraged by the constancy and patience which they show in trials. Hence, instead of praying to be absolutely delivered from them, we are taught to rejoice when, by the divine appointment, we fall into them. See James 1.

James 1:2-4 – Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

This petition teaches us to preserve a sense of our own inability to repel and overcome temptation, and of the necessity of assistance from above, to enable us to stand in the evil day.”

As for myself, I have sometimes wondered if God purposely places us in trying situations so we will learn to reach out to him more frequently. This type of logic says that if we are in the habit of praying to him during regular times, perhaps we will not need to be disciplined in as many trying times.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

“And lead us not into temptation— There is some difficulty in the form of the petition, as it is certain that God does bring His people—as He did Abraham, and Christ Himself—into circumstances both fitted and designed to try them, or test the strength of their faith. Some meet this by regarding the petition as simply an humble expression of self-distrust and instinctive shrinking from danger; but this seems too weak. Others take it as a prayer against yielding to temptation, and so equivalent to a prayer for support and deliverance when we are tempted; but this seems to go beyond the precise thing intended. We incline to take it as a prayer against being drawn or sucked, of our own will, into temptation, to which the word here used seems to lend some countenance—”Introduce us not.” This view, while it does not put into our mouths a prayer against being tempted—which is more than the divine procedure would seem to warrant—does not, on the other hand, change the sense of the petition into one for support under temptation, which the words will hardly bear; but it gives us a subject for prayer, in regard to temptation, most definite, and of all others most needful. It was precisely this which Peter needed to ask, but did not ask, when—of his own accord, and in spite of difficulties—he pressed for entrance into the palace hall of the high priest, and where, once sucked into the scene and atmosphere of temptation, he fell so foully. And if so, does it not seem pretty clear that this was exactly what our Lord meant His disciples to pray against when He said in the garden—”Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”? (Mt 26:41).”

And to this I would add again, this idea of alertness in prayer means that we are spiritually aware of our situation and not just being carried along by our own desires. This is where we tend to fall into temptation: when we let our circumstances guide us instead of God’s good Counsel (through his Word and his Spirit) guiding us.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

“But deliver us from evil— As the expression “from evil” may be equally well rendered “from the evil one,” a number or superior critics think the devil is intended, especially from its following close upon the subject of “temptation.” But the comprehensive character of these brief petitions, and the place which this one occupies, as that on which all our desires die away, seems to us against so contracted a view of it. Nor can there be a reasonable doubt that the apostle, in some of the last sentences which he penned before he was brought forth to suffer for his Lord, alludes to this very petition in the language of calm assurance—”And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work (compare the Greek of the two passages), and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2Ti 4:18). The final petition, then, is only rightly grasped when regarded as a prayer for deliverance from all evil of whatever kind—not only from sin, but from all its consequences—fully and finally. Fitly, then, are our prayers ended with this. For what can we desire which this does not carry with it?”

Vincent’s Word Studies

“It is a mistake to define this word [temptation] as only solicitation to evil. It means trial of any kind, without reference to its moral quality. Thus, Genesis 22:1 (Sept.), “God did tempt Abraham;” “This he said to prove him” (John 6:6); Paul and Timothy assayed to go to Bithynia (Acts 16:7); “Examine yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Here, generally of all situations and circumstances which furnish an occasion for sin. We cannot pray God not to tempt us to sin, “for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).”

To my way of thinking while keeping an eye to the perspectives of these learned commentators, the thought here is that it is acceptable for us to pray to be kept from hard testing and temptation; Yeshua himself illustrated this prayer in Gethsemane:

Luke 22:41-42 – Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me ​– ​nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

As children of God, though we may need to suffer trials and temptations, things that God can use to try us and to refine us, we can still pray to be delivered safely through them. It’s ok to pray “Lord, if it is possible to avoid this trial, then please remove it from us. But if we must enter this trial, please strengthen us to remain pure and victorious over it.”

—–

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

I find it interesting that prayer is meant to be an activity in which our conscious awareness is alert and watchful. This implies that prayer is purposeful and intentional, not just something in which our rational thought is disengaged. In fact, it is just the opposite; as we can see in this selection of Scripture references, believers are encouraged to pray for very specific things at specific times:

Tenakh:

Num 21:7: “The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against Yahweh, and against you. Pray to Yahweh, that he take away the serpents from us.” Moses prayed for the people.”

Jeremiah 42:1-3 – Then all the commanders of the armies, along with Johanan son of Kareah, Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, approached the prophet Jeremiah and said, “May our petition come before you; pray to the LORD your God on our behalf, on behalf of this entire remnant (for few of us remain out of the many, as you can see with your own eyes), “that the LORD your God may tell us the way we should go and the thing we should do.”

Yeshua

Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, “

Matthew 6:9: “Pray like this:… “

Matthew 9:38: “Pray therefore that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into his harvest.””

Matthew 24:20: “Pray that your flight will not be in the winter, nor on a Sabbath, “

Mark 13:33: “Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is.”

Luke 10:2: “Then he said to them, “The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest, that he may send out laborers into his harvest. “

John 17:15: “I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. “

Apostles:

2 Corinthians 13:9: “For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. And this we also pray for, even your perfecting.”

Philippians 1:9: “This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment;”

2 Thessalonians 1:11: “To this end we also pray always for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire of goodness and work of faith, with power;”

2 Thessalonians 3:1: “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, even as also with you;”

James 5:14: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord…”

Throughout the Bible, prayer is exemplified as being enacted for intentional and specific purposes; most importantly, for the will of God to be accomplished on the earth. This strikes at the heart of the all-too-common practice of only praying for personal needs and wants.  While God does want us to trust him for everything, in the grand scheme of the Bible message, ultimately our personal needs and wants are and should be subjected to the larger scope of God’s kingdom and the establishment of his rule and reign in the hearts of people on this earth.

Remember in our Colossians passage, Paul encourages believer to pray with an alert mind (as we have just illustrated), but also with a thankful heart.

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Having a thankful heart means that one is in view of all of the ways that God has blessed them. If you are thankful for the provision of your home, you won’t be tempted to go into further debt for a shiny new one beyond your means. If you are thankful for the nutritious food that God has provided you for your sustenance, you will not be tempted to eat beyond what your body needs. If you are grateful for the friends and family you have, you won’t be tempted to go astray from your spouse or to put your family or friends at risk.

Thankfulness runs all through Paul’s epistle to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:9, 12 – For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, … giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

Colossians 2:6-7 – So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.

Colossians 3:15, 17 – And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. … And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Constant prayer and giving of thanks is a theme Paul also brings to the congregation in Thessalonica as well. In fact, he cements this as a cornerstone of believing practice in the accomplishment of God’s will.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 – pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah Yeshua.

If we are therefore praying in an alert fashion, that is, being aware of what we are praying and why we are praying, and we are doing so from a place of gratefulness and thankfulness for his provision in our lives, then we have a recipe for overcoming temptation.

This takes discipline and thoughtfulness. By intentionally praying for God to assist us when we are being challenged, this type of behavior can be changed. The victory over a trial or temptation is through prayer and the strengthening of God through his holy Spirit. How quickly it happens depends on how alert we remain and how diligent and thankful we are in prayer.

As we grow in this process, remaining steadfast in prayer to God keeps us focused and in communication with the One who is more than able to provide us the necessary strength to overcome any obstacles we may encounter.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.