Tag Archives: Understanding

Peace on Earth 4

The “piece of cod that surpasses all understanding,” Swedes talk about is lutefisk.  It’s an apt description, but the whole thing is a pun from this bible verse:

 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:7)

Three questions:

  • What is the “peace of God?”
  • How does one attain it?
  • What does “surpasses all understanding” really mean?

The “peace of God” means a peace that is given to us by God, a kind of peace that is superior in all ways to what the world thinks of as peace.  It’s not an absence of conflict but a genuine wellness of soul which gives the wherewithal to go through seasons of strife without losing it.  That’s because it “guards our hearts” from going off into unproductive second guessing and “if only.”  Instead, it keeps our hearts and minds settled in Jesus.  That’s not some emotional trick.  We make our home in Christ, in His mindset and in His care.

This peace is given to us in response to our genuine prayers:

“…The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5b-7)

Mixing prayer requests with thanksgiving – real thankfulness – is a key to this kind of prayer and that kind of peace.  When we turn computer problems over to an expert, knowing he has the knowledge and skill to take care of it, we don’t waste time futilely trying to figure out how to fix it ourselves.  Same thing when we turn problems over to Almighty God, only so much better.

The phrase, “surpasses all understanding” probably means it is impossible to understand the peace that comes, much less to explain it logically.  But I suspect it also means the peace we receive is better than the understanding we yearn for in tough circumstances.  We cannot explain why God would allow this tragedy to have occurred but as we pray and, as He blesses our souls with peace, we discover that understanding why it has happened is not so important.  We have peace that comes from God, comes from knowing the God of sovereignty and grace, knowing He is on the case and somehow that is enough.  More than enough, it’s better.  It surpasses the mere desire to understand.

Hearing and Doing

Look for repeated words as you read the Bible.  Sometimes you will be rewarded with new insight  I learned that again as I read Jesus’ parable that begins in Luke 8:4 about the farmer who sowed seed. 

As Jesus explains the meaning of the parable, He uses the word, hear, repeatedly.  Those alongside the road who hear the Word of God have it snatched away by the devil and fail to believe.  Those who hear the Word and receive it in a superficial, emotional way soon fall away. Those who hear but are then consumed by riches and worries do not produce any fruit from it.  But those who hear with a good heart and hold it fast keep on bearing good fruit.

But wait; there’s more!  In what seems like an abrupt change of subject, Jesus talks about the futility of covering a lamp so it cannot be seen.  And then he says this:

Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”   (Luke 8:18)

Hmmm….   And then Jesus’ mother and brothers show up but can’t get to Him.  When Jesus hears about it, He says this:

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”  (Luke 8:21)

If you read through that whole section from verse 4 you will see several more times in which the word “hear” or “listen” (same original word) is used.  Apparently, it is all connected by what it means to truly “hear.” Hearing the Word of God makes no difference except for those who understand it, put it into practice, and spread it around.

The Trouble with Democrats… and Republicans

Next time you are arguing about politics (or anything else…) pay attention to what is going on in your mind when the other guy is speaking.  Most people spend that time putting together their next argument and mentally rehearsing it, while only halfheartedly listening to what is being said to them.  They may hear a word here and there, enough to get the gist of what they assume the other person is saying.  And when they get a chance to reply, the same thing happens in reverse.  Which is why arguments are rarely constructive.  Nobody is listening.

James, the brother of Jesus wrote this good advice:


My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,…” –  (James 1:19 (NIV84))

Real listening is more than registering noises in one’s ears.  Listening means attempting to truly understand the emotions and meanings being conveyed.  Real listening has not happened until you can restate what you heard, in your own words, to the other person’s satisfaction.  That last part is the key.  The idea is for them to look startled and relieved, with the realization that you really understood it, your really got it.  If you work for that to happen, before you state your positionthen you will have a better chance of being understood, too.  But as long as two people simply lob angry slogans at one another, without listening, not much is accomplished.

It seems to me that much of the hostility and divisiveness we experience in our culture could be reduced or even eliminated by the simple act of listening.  Real listening.  Give it a try and see if James wasn’t right.  Be quick to listen and slow to speak.  And slow to get angry, too…

“…for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”  –  (James 1:20 (NIV84)

Affair Protection

Is your marriage vulnerable?  Might one of you have an affair?  There is a very simple and yet powerful way to protect it.  It’s found in just one verse in the Book of James.  If you actually do what this says, you could “affair-proof” your marriage.  This verse is easy to understand but hard to remember to do because it runs contrary to human nature.

Here it is:

” My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19)

When you are in a conversation that is even slightly adversarial, while your partner is speaking, isn’t it true that you seem to listen, but are really thinking through how you are going to respond?  Coming up with some killer logic, so you can win the argument and emerge the victor?  That is what most people do. It’s human nature.

But if, instead, you put aside your own thoughts and rebuttals and actively try to understand what your partner really means and also how they really feel, you will be amazed at how it changes things.  If, before you respond with your own thoughts, you take a moment to make sure you really have understood your partner, understood him or her to their satisfaction, that one little move will really calm the storm.

But it gets better than that, especially in a marriage.  When people “fall in love” they spend a lot of time listening to one another and really trying to understand one another.  It’s a key ingredient in romance.  Think back to your first dates if you don’t believe me.  When a marriage goes stale, if one partner begins to listen – really listen – in an active and interested way, it’s amazing how quickly that one simple thing can begin to restore the lost romance.  It’s like maple syrup on pancakes.

Listening to really understand your partner is an effective way to “affair-proof” your marriage.  Most affairs do not begin with sex.  They begin with listening.  When someone seems really interested in you.  You know the old line: “My spouse doesn’t understand me…”  And it goes from there…

Marriage counselors charge $100 an hour – maybe more.  Apply James 1:19 and you can save a bunch of money.  Probably save your marriage, too.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.