Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
The Question: Where do we land?
During the course of this year, our devotional themes have gone like this...
1. Our joy comes from the Lord, because our following of Jesus is the single purpose of life.
2. God is a giver of good gifts, and our joy in God increases when we give as God does.
3. We have wounds of anger, fear, sadness, shame or more that can keep us from giving and receiving joy.
4. The only healer for our wounds is Jesus. We take our wounds to Jesus.
5. When we go to Jesus, we go with our real selves, completely honest before God.
6. We also take the needs of our brothers before Jesus as well, in prayer and petition.
7. Take time to think on what is good (humility, passion, unity, servanthood, thanksgiving...)
8. Then choose to act in ways that are good.
That's a lot of ground that we've covered. All from a simple two paragraphs from Paul's letter to the people of Philippi. So where does this all land? How do we wrap up this section?
The Word: Eirene (Shalom)
Before we answer the question, let me make one statement: The ideas we've covered this year are an ever continuing, ever deepening, ever more joyful cycle. The closer we get to Jesus, the more joy we find from his presence. But their will continually be wounds that get in the way, honest reasons to go to God in prayer for ourselves and others who need healing. There will continually be the need to think on life the way we want to live it, and then every day will be a new chance to act in that way. This is not something we just file away and then move on from. This is life.
But as we live this way, in the joy of the Lord and honestly with God, there is a result. Something does get developed. Both little paragraphs of the verse above end with it. It is peace.
Paul says it in two different and significant ways. The peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. And the God of peace will be with us. Protection and presence, all wrapped in peace.
The Greek word for peace is eirene. It means an absence of conflict, or literally an absence of war. But really, the New Testament writers come from a Hebrew background, and continually use it as a stand-in for a Hebrew word - shalom. Shalom is a richer tradition of peace that the Greek people didn't even have the word for. When Paul talks about peace here in these verses, he's referring to shalom.
Shalom is right relationship. It is when everything is in its right place. We have right relationship with God, recognizing God as our leader and provider, but also our dear and loved father. We have right relationship with one another, brother to brother (as far as tennis goes). We have right relationship with the events in our lives because of our relationships with God and others. I'm not worried that Landon is mad at me, because we are at peace. I'm not worried about an upcoming unknown (getting into college, playing in a tennis match) because I trust that God is taking care of the unknown. I'm not even worried what others think of me, because my affirmation is truly coming from being a child of God. Shalom is a deep peace that all things are well, that there is wholeness.
When we really put Jesus at the center, we will have our hearts and minds at rest. We will feel secure in ourselves because the God of love is protecting and working for us. And more than that, the God of love is right with us.
Think about that! Walk around in that truth! Ruminate on what that looks like for you. To know that God is working and has been working for our healing and wholeness? That fills me with sheer and savage joy!
So, what's that mean for tennis?
I want to make a list of things this season that have been true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Think about these things with gratefulness. Roll them over in your mind. Relive them. How do you feel?
- An Applebee's conversation about following Jesus being hard but good.
- Praying the lines, upperclassmen with the underclassmen.
- Making a pyramid on the seniors backs to remember that the best leaders are servants.
- Encouraging everyone to pray for their opponents as part of the prematch routine.
- Creating a monument of grass, rocks, tennis ball cans and zip ties to show how God dances around us with joy!
- Thinking about what it would look like to have Jesus walk through our day with us.
- Everyone gathered to watch the final matches together, whether Sol's amazing Elkhart Central match or Joel and Daniel's amazing NorthWood #6D match.
- Hans encouraging us to think about embracing passion, saying "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!"
- Eating with everyone at the Senior Night meal (homemade ice cream!)
- Lane's encouraging Facebook messages to tennis sophomores.
- Taking time to pray with some of you who were facing difficulties this season.
- Being complimented by an opposing coach at Wabash for our team spirit, encouragement and unity.
- Praying for Landon and Bryce as they suffered through injury.
- Joel shouting encouragement to the varsity players.
- Giving our wounds to God with a physical action, tossing a rock or kneeling down.
- Sharing senior verses and senior prayers on Senior Night.
- Our group hugs before every match.
- Our group reminder, "Every breath in is gratitude, every breath out get rid of fear."
I realize I am at peace. God has been accomplishing the work of the Spirit through us this season, putting us in right relationship with Jesus and with others. And because of that, I find myself rejoicing in the Lord! I pray that all of you are too! Can't wait to share more time with all of you, going again through this cycle of ever deepening relationship, and watching God give to us joy and peace.
The Song: Your Choice
Throughout the year, I've posted a song to ruminate on. I'll post one more. It's a song that fills me with peace and joy because of the wonder of what God has done for me. It's called "The Giving" and it was the song that was played as my wife walked down the aisle at our wedding.
But truly, you respond in song and worship as honestly as you can. This is what the season is about. Each one of us learning to respond to God as we are, coming to Jesus as we are, and letting the Spirit do God's work in us. Maybe your song is different than mine. But pick one that fills you with the joy of the LORD!