Article by: JOYCE MEYER
Peace…one of the most important and precious gifts that God has made available to us through Jesus Christ. For the first four decades of my life, I lived a life without peace, and I can tell you from firsthand experience it was miserable.
But over the last two decades, I have learned how to make some practical, Spirit-led changes in my life that have resulted in me being able to enjoy greater levels of peace than ever before.
The Bible teaches us in 1 Peter 3:11 that you and I are to search for peace (harmony; undisturbedness from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts) and seek it eagerly. Do not merely desire peaceful relations with God, with your fellowmen, and with yourself, but pursue, go after them!
So the three areas we are to pursue and go after peace is in our relationship with God, others, and ourselves. I want to take a few moments and focus on pursuing peace with ourselves. There are actually seven personal “Peace Keepers” that I cover in my new book, In Pursuit of Peace. But for now, I want to focus on two specific ones: not rushing and avoiding financial pressure.
I think you’d agree with me that most of society is constantly in a hurry, including many of us. Rushing around to get from one activity to the next has become a disease of epidemic proportions. Hurry creates stress, and stress is the root cause of many diseases. Therefore, we must avoid giving place to a “hurry-up” spirit so that we cut off stress before it can develop.
Change Your Mindset
Just like any other behavior, rushing begins in our mind — it starts with a wrong thought pattern like, “I have to hurry up and get this done…I’ve got a million things to do and not enough hours in the day to do it.”
It’s thoughts like these that establish our pace for a day, a week, or a lifetime of rushing. This mindset pressures us and sets the stage for stress to develop.
In order to overcome thoughts like these, we need to purposely think thoughts such as, “I have all the time to do whatever I need to do…I don’t have to rush or hurry.”
Healthy thoughts like these become even more powerful when we speak them out of our mouths. If you have a habit of hurrying through life, I encourage you to start setting your mind and mouth in the right direction first thing every morning.
Live with Margin
Another thing you and I can do to avoid rushing is to live our lives with margin. To live with margin means to leave room on both sides of planned events or commitments to take care of unexpected things that come up. It is very unrealistic to plan one appointment or task right behind another and leave no time in between, yet many of us often do it. One unplanned phone call, an accident on the freeway, or misplaced car keys then throws our entire day into a whirlwind.
Let me give you an example. There was a time when every day at my office seemed extremely rushed. I rushed in and raced through my numerous appointments. It’s sad, but I think I made most of the people I met with felt as if I could hardly wait for them to leave. I was constantly behind, and by the time I went home in the evenings, I was totally worn out and frustrated.
Then I learned the principle of adding margin to my life. I told my secretary to ask each person how much time they felt they needed to meet with me, and then to add 10 to 15 minutes to each appointment. This margin would make up for any unexpected things that came up during the meeting, and if we didn’t use the margin, it would be an extra blessing.
So now, instead of planning everything down to the second like I used to, I leave myself a margin of time and usually have time left over. I can’t tell you how much of a blessing this has been in my life.
Know Your Limits
Being overcommitted is another major cause of living a hurried life of no peace. There is no way that you and I can be involved with everything and remain calm, cool, and collected (see 2 Timothy 4:5). Yes, the Bible does say we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us, but this doesn’t mean we can do everything we would like to do or that everyone else would like us to do. It means we can do everything that God wants us to do. God has not called us to do everything, nor has He called us to fill every need we hear about. What He calls us to do, He gives us the grace to do — this includes the gifts and talents as well as the energy, resources, and peace we need to accomplish the task.
To a great degree, the world applauds being overcommitted. They consider a person who is busy all the time a great success. However, this is not true with God. I believe an overcommitted life is a life out of balance and out of control. And a life out of balance is an open door for the destroyer (see 1 Peter 5:8)
Usually the thing that suffers the most in a “busy” person’s life is their relationships. According to James Dobson, overcommitment is the number one killer of marriages. Think about it. What is the point in having children if they are going to be strangers to us? Why be married if we have no time and attention to share with our spouse? God doesn’t want us to give our family the “scraps” of our time and attention and give our best to everyone else. He wants us to prioritize our time appropriately —putting Him first, family second, job third, ministry fourth, and so on.
Avoid Being Overcommitted
To avoid being overcommitted we must first learn to regularly review our commitments. Not everything that seems good is actually God’s will for us to do. I have found that very often something good is the enemy of what God knows is best. The commitments that are producing good fruit (fulfillment, joy, and peace), we should hold on to. Commitments that are producing bad fruit (being consistently worn out, frustrated, aggravated, drained, and absent of peace), we should let go of.
Second, we need to learn to check with God before making new commitments, and then learn to say “no” to the ones we shouldn’t be involved with. Saying “no” is easier for some than others, but we can all learn how.
We don’t need to be afraid or feel condemned to say no to things that take our time and produce very few positive results. All we need to do is go to God and get His direction. If we have an inner peace and a gentle leading to be involved with something, we can move forward and commit to it. If we’re feeling pushed or pressured (or even condemned about not doing something), we should stay put and not commit.
I encourage you to slow down and take time to evaluate your involvements. God did not create us to live our lives hurrying and rushing around from one thing to the next — we were not made to exist under constant pressure and stress. He created us to live in peace.
Avoid Financial Pressure
Being in debt and not having enough money to pay the debt is financial pressure. This is by far another one of the greatest peace stealers people face today.
According to a survey our ministry conducted some time ago, financial pressure is the number one problem many people are facing. It creates severe stress on individuals, marriages, and families that is crippling.
Now, I realize that some people are experiencing financial pressure through no fault of their own. However, a greater majority is feeling financial pressure as a result of a lack of wisdom and self-control.
Use Credit wisely
Of all the ways we can get into trouble financially, credit card debt is one of the easiest. If you’re like me, you probably receive several credit card offers in the mail every month. For those struggling in the area of spending, it is often hard to resist the plush pre-approved credit limits of a new bankcard. Credit cards offer an avenue of instant gratification, sometimes with no payment for six months to a year. The problem is, the bill always comes, and when it comes, the money is often not there.
Don’t get me wrong, using credit cards responsibly is not a problem, but when people charge things they don’t have the money to pay for, it becomes a problem. I call it spending tomorrow’s prosperity today. The sad thing is many people have closets full of things that they went in debt to own but they really don’t enjoy anymore. The world says, “Buy now and pay later,” but wisdom says, “Do now what you will be satisfied with later on.”
How can you get out from under credit card debt? If at all possible, stop using your cards — pay cash for what you absolutely need, and delay purchasing what you don’t need.
Most companies will work with people who are having financial difficulty — if the person is willing to do something. The point is, do what you can, even if that means sending in $10 a month. God will bless your sincere and diligent effort, but He won’t bless laziness or excuses.
You can also begin keeping a running total of what you have charged so that you are aware of your financial state at any given time. Losing track of what you owe can get you into trouble. Once your cards are paid off, strive to keep a negative balance, paying off what you charged on the card at the end of each month.
Take Steps to Freedom
If we are feeling financial pressure in any area, the first thing we need to ask ourselves is, “Did I do anything to contribute to the situation I’m in? Were my circumstances really beyond my control, or could I have avoided them through better choices?”
Being honest with ourselves and the Lord is the first step toward removing financial pressure. Spending more money than we have is just as much a sin as any other area of excess in our lives, and it too requires God’s forgiveness. If we have handled our finances poorly, we need to simply admit it to ourselves and to God, ask Him to forgive us, and yield to His direction to see the situation reversed.
If financial pressure is robbing you of peace, ask God for a specific plan to get out of debt. If your situation is severe, get some professional help. In most cases, getting in debt didn’t happen in a day or a week — it took place gradually.
Likewise, getting out of debt will more than likely take time, too. Yes, financial miracles can and do happen, and it is good to believe God to move miraculously. However, it is more likely that God will allow you to experience a time of leanness in order to help you develop self-control in the area of spending.
Follow God’s Guidelines for Giving
Don’t forget to render unto God what is His. Malachi 3:8-10 says that if we withhold our tithe (a tenth of our income) and offerings from God, we rob Him and bring a curse upon ourselves. But when we bring our tithe into His storehouse (the place where we are fed spiritually), we put ourselves in position to receive blessings from God that are so abundant we won’t have room enough to contain them.
Now, you may say, “I cannot afford to give my tithe. After all, I am in debt.”
I say you cannot afford not to do it. If you don’t, you will stay in debt. You may not be able to give the full tithe initially, but if you go to the Lord and ask Him for a plan to begin giving your tithe, He will give you an amount you can start giving, and then show you how to gradually increase it until you are giving it fully.
I pray this information is a blessing to you, and I pray you are able to apply it to your life and experience a greater degree of peace than ever before!
Joyce Meyer is one of the world’s leading practical Bible teachers, spreading God’s Word to billions of people around the globe. Joyce has taught on hundreds of subjects and authored over 70 books. Her television program is broadcast to more than two-thirds of the globe and her radio program is broadcast on over 430 stations worldwide. To learn more about Joyce’s ministry, books, and teachings, and to get information on her upcoming 2005 Women’s Conference, September 29 - October 1 in St. Louis, Missouri, visit her online at www.joycemeyer.org