In the midst of the present turmoil and distress, do you dream about an “ordered life”? Is it still an option for the Christian believer? It IS! Absolutely. Now as much as—or more than—ever.
What is an ordered life? What makes the “order”?
It is the spirit of the heart under the control of God’s law. Life CAN be peaceful. Life CAN be orderly, even when all around is distress. How?
Let the distress stay outside. In our hearts (and homes) we can have peace if we have learned the Psalmist’s secret of quiet enjoyment:
Psalm 119:165 165Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble.
What is his secret? It is love for the law of God—its direction, its restrictions, its walls and boundaries! That is what makes the peace!
The same insight comes from Isaiah the Prophet:
Isaiah 26:3 3You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
A mind fixed, focused, stayed, not wandering to everything around.
We wonder how anyone could live with perpetual disorder, strife and anxiety.
Yet, professing the high calling of Christ, we may be surprised to learn how disorderly our uncontrolled emotions or passions make our lives appear to God! How much BETTER our lives could be if… if… if we had the controls that Jesus practiced. Certainly He was not roiled by the strife around Him. The turmoil didn’t get IN because He didn’t LET it in. His mind was focused on preaching the Kingdom, teaching His disciples, and doing the will of His Father.
A lot of strife and turmoil comes from within. Isn’t this what Jesus said? Think about the turmoil that comes with the 13 evils Jesus described. They are right within us naturally. We need to be reminded of their ugliness to be on guard against them.
Mark 7:21–23 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
No flattery here—these evil things come “from within.” We can’t blame the culture, or the pandemic, or our situation for these things. The ESV is even clearer:
Mark 7:21–23 (ESV) 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
If we could keep this awareness and watch, if we changed those little selfish ways; if we didn’t expect in others what we lack in ourselves!
But the little things pop up so quickly. And any evil makes for spiritual disorder. Maybe it is only little things, but little words, little insults, little feelings can make life totally disarranged. James comes right to the point: they are all the “wisdom from beneath.” Let’s get the fullest benefit by reading it from the ESV:
James 3:14–18 (ESV) 14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
Notice the warning: evil brings DISORDER.
Only a comment to another, but how easily it may hinder the buoyant spirit of another’s early hour resolve and unfit them for the perfect control they were working to keep through the difficulties of the day.
It takes mighty spiritual strength to maintain an ordered life, a life which gladly bends in obedience to the divine principles of the Word and never goes to pieces in an ordeal.
That is the power we get when we enthrone the wisdom from above in our heart!
17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
What a beautiful picture! Here is the law of God controlling, giving us that “wisdom from above.” And look at the qualities it brings: “pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits.”
And there is more: the harvest:
18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
First the seed to plant, and grow, and then the harvest of peace!
The sweetness of Christian virtue, combined with growth in righteousness, yields the beauty of peace.
Paul confirmed the source: our inner “thought-life.”
Romans 8:6 6For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
The spiritually ordered MIND brings “life and peace.”
Romans 8:13 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Even more, the spiritual mind brings LIFE—future life.
What is an ordered life?
No outbursts of fleshly, selfish feelings, no petty disturbances, no ruffled feelings, no angry outbursts.
Such a life is ruled by an enlarged heart, a heart made greater by the breadth of God’s wisdom. Such a life has vision broader than could ever be known to the natural mind. With the mind of Christ dominating, we can meet a wave of trial as a challenge and not be shaken.
Whatever happens, the order of our life need not be upset. Not that it will be unchallenged, but the disturber need not get inside.
Plans may be disrupted for hours, or days, or years.
We may not be able to do what we would choose.
Those near us may seem to hinder instead of help.
We cannot understand their unconcern.
Our well-planned time schedule may be turned inside out.
But through it all the ordered life maintains control and equilibrium. Like a well-built sea vessel, it sails smoothly on through the storms of life, when lesser vessels are capsized.
The secret is holding ourselves inside the boundaries of God’s law. Yes, HOLDING control … even when things are pressing. It is the secret to peace. Proverbs says it well:
Proverbs 3:1–2 1My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; 2For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you.
Remember… don’t forget. Just a little outburst of impatience, a perverse instinct, a feeling of impurity can throw our life out of order. How very disorderly we appear to God when we insist on things going our way!
The apostle Paul gave excellent advice when he wrote,
2 Timothy 2:22–24 22Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient
1- FLEE the youthful lusts and PURSUE faith, love, peace.
2- AVOID disputes that generate strife.
3- DON’T QUARREL with anyone. If there is a tendency to quarrel, DROP it!
4- BE GENTLE to all.
5- TEACH—by your example in being PATIENT!
The result will be PEACE!
Peace that comes through a well-ordered spiritual life.
Peace that comes by walking ever more closely in the gentle, quiet way of God.
Look closely and honestly, and you will see that our carnal mind makes the strife. When this is conquered and the little irritations no longer mar our peace, we will enjoy a depth of beauty in our lives unknown before. Stress will be minimized, and beauty of peace will permeate our whole being.
This is not a dream, or a luxury, but a command.
Hebrews 12:14–15 14Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
It is the result of PEACE plus HOLINESS.
Then our ordered lives will confess the beauty of God’s peace—peace now, and perfect, eternal peace in the LIFE to come!