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FINDING PEACEGod's Promise of a Life Free from Regret, Anxiety, and Fear
By CHARLES STANLEY
THOMAS NELSON PUBLISHERSCopyright © 2007 Charles Stanley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWho's in Control?
Dr. Stanley, I can't rent you a car."
I understood the words the woman across the counter was saying to me, but I could hardly take in the full meaning of her statement.
"You can't?" I asked. "Why not?"
"I don't have a car to rent to you."
A sad fact emerged over the next few minutes. There was no car that any automobile rental agency could rent to me at that airport. I had planned this trip for weeks, getting everything in place-or so I thought. I had eagerly anticipated this time alone with God in the Great Northwest, photographing places of wonderful natural beauty. I had everything in order-except a car.
I took a cab to the hotel where thankfully, I had a reservation, and went directly to the hotel's restaurant to eat a bite and collect my thoughts. Staring at the pouring rain outside the restaurant's windows, I silently prayed God, You're in charge. He knew I didn't want to turn around and fly home. I felt very strongly that the Lord had given His full blessing to my taking this trip-I had been very much at peace as I had mapped out various routes and locations. Once again I reflected, God, You're in charge. I had no idea what to do, but I knew that God knew. I felt totally dependent on Him.
While I was sitting there, a couple of men came by, and one recognized me. They stopped to introduce themselves and talk for a while. One of them asked me what I was doing in Oregon, and I told them the story of what had happened. He quickly responded, "Don't worry about that! We have three cars, and I'd be happy for you to use one of them. It's in good shape. I'll have a car over here for you in forty-five minutes."
As promised, in less than an hour, the car was at the hotel-and it was a very nice car. I was blessed by this man's spontaneous generosity, I knew that God had sent him directly to me. I was thankful to him and even more grateful to God.
I had a fantastic time photographing there for a couple of days. At the end of the second day, I had the idea to set up my camera in plenty of time to get a good sunset shot from one particular spot along the Oregon coast. When I arrived at that location, which was fairly remote, I unloaded my photographic equipment. While I was standing by my car, I was approached by an elderly woman who recognized me, and we talked for a few moments. Then I transported my gear on foot to the particular vantage point I had selected. I took several photographs as the sun was setting, and then packed everything and started back to the car.
As I reached into my pocket for the car keys, I made a startling discovery ... no keys. I looked through my bags of camera equipment ... no keys. I thought, Did I lean over and drop those keys from my pocket while I was talking to that lady? I looked carefully around the outside of the car ... no keys. By this time, the sun was setting and it was starting to get dark. No one else was around. But for the first time, I noticed a fairly large sign at the edge of the parking lot that read, "Warning! Unsafe area. Do not remain here after dark."
Great! I thought. I'm alone. It's getting dark. And now I learn I'm in an unsafe area. It was at that moment I saw my keys dangling from the ignition inside the locked car. My heart momentarily sank and I thought, What a mistake to leave the keys in the car!
I prayed, "God, You know my location. You know the situation. You know what that sign says. You see my keys. You see me. I know You are 100 percent in charge of my life. I don't know what You are going to do, but I'm trusting You to help me."
I felt impressed to walk around the car and try all the door handles, which I had already done. This time, as I pulled on the back passenger-side door latch, to my great amazement it opened. All the other doors were locked tighter than a drum. But that one door opened. I retrieved the car keys, threw my equipment into the car, and drove back to my hotel, praising God all the way!
Two more great days of scenic beauty and photography passed and I found myself following a road next to a river that had a number of waterfalls. It was just about dawn as I entered this beautiful area, but the light wasn't exactly what I had envisioned. I checked my map and saw that Mount Hood was in that immediate area. It couldn't be seen from where I was along the river, but I had a hunch that if I would just follow a back road in a particular direction, I'd come to an area that would give me an open line of sight to the mountain.
Finally I rounded a bend and there it was, Mount Hood, with a field and trees in the foreground. Absolutely beautiful! I continued along the road, hoping for a small body of water that reflected the mountain. To my delight, a small lake soon appeared. I took several photographs, and then I got back in the car, intending to retrace my route, when I happened to notice the gas gauge. This was the first time that day I had looked at it. Unfortunately it was on empty.
I thought back over the route that I had taken to get to that point and realized that I hadn't seen a gas station all morning. For that matter, I had no idea even where I was! I had just been following the roads as I came to them, looking upward and ahead to try to spot the mountain and find a lake.
Again I prayed, "Dear Lord, You are in control." I was keenly aware that for the third time that week, I was in a desperate situation and only God could help me out of it!
About that time a big power-company truck drove up near where I was parked. The man got out, climbed up a pole, adjusted something there, and then came back down. I was waiting for him at the bottom of the pole. I said, "Sir, could you tell me where I might find a gas station?"
He said, "Go up this road about a quarter of a mile, turn left, and it's right there."
I had just enough gasoline to get there.
Had that power-company employee not stopped next to my car, my natural instinct would have been to go back down the roads I had been on, not to go farther down a road that seemed to lead to even greater isolation. I knew that once again God had provided for me in a unique way. Indeed, He was in control!
It seemed every time I turned around that week, I found myself in a position of begging God for mercy: "Here I am again, Lord. I need You. I belong to You. You are in control of my life. I'm trusting You."
That afternoon I returned to the river, and this time the light was perfect. I got some wonderful shots of those waterfalls. I realized that if I hadn't taken a slight "detour" that morning, I not only would have missed out on seeing the beauty of Mount Hood from a remote location, but I would have missed out on a major miracle of God's protection and provision. Those shots of the waterfalls were a reassurance from God-"See, I'm in control of all your steps, both the ones that seem to be filled with stress and the ones that are filled with pure peace and joy."
As I reflected on that experience, I realized that during that week I was never once afraid, anxious, or worried. I was a little upset with myself for not arranging for a rental car, for locking my keys in the car, and for not paying attention to the gas gauge. Given those mistakes, I was concerned about what I should do or not do, but each time I got into difficulty, I really wasn't afraid, anxious, or worried. Rather, I was aware that I had a big need that I couldn't solve on my own. I had to rely on the One who could solve the problems for me.
A God Bigger Than Our Challenges
Long ago I came to the total assurance that God loves me, God knows where I am every second of every day, and God is bigger than any problem life's circumstances can throw at me. I have complete confidence that God is able to take care of any situation and provide an answer to any question or problem-He has all the resources of the universe to draw upon in helping each one of us through any type of crisis if we will trust Him.
Based upon many challenging events in my life, I know with deep certainty that God is always in control. He will never leave me, turn His back on me, reject me, or withdraw His love from me. He delights in showing me again and again that He is the source of my strength, my provision, my protection, and my ultimate success in life. I have absolutely no doubt that God is in control of every second of my future.
Let me ask you today: Who's in control of your life?
Why do I ask? Because it is the crucial question anyone who is seeking peace must ask if they are to find what their hearts so desperately desire. Because God is in control of your life, and you have a strong, unshakable conviction on this matter, then and only then will you have the necessary foundation to experience what the Scriptures call "the peace that passes understanding."
Stop to think about it for a moment, The issue of control is so important in our lives:
If you are controlled by the particular situation you are facing, you can't have peace, because at any second that situation can spin out of control. Life's circumstances can change in a heartbeat.
If some evil power is in control, you're certainly in trouble.
If another person controls you or the circumstance in which you are involved, you may have peace for a while, but eventually that person may disappoint you and let you down in some way, and you can lose your peace.
If you are in control, you may appear to have the power to guarantee yourself a peaceful existence, but eventually you are going to make a mistake or something/someone will enter the picture to rearrange your circumstances, and before you know it, boom! Trouble with a capital T is at your door, and then you will find that your ability to create and control your own serenity was a mere illusion.
But what if God is in control of your life? With Him steering the ship, there's every reason to hope, every reason to feel confident, and every reason to move forward boldly in your life, expecting the best out of every experience.
Some people might ask, "How can God expect me to have peace in my heart when everywhere I turn I'm faced with greed, corruption, anger, terrorist threats, and other forms of evil?" Is it really possible to live in a society such as ours and have genuine peace in our hearts?
The need to answer that question has led me to write this book. Everywhere I turn, in a variety of ways and often with pent-up emotions, people express their need for peace, and they are unable to find it in the midst of a society that seems destined to self-destruct. There is an answer for you, friend. That answer has been so very well expressed in the words of a hymn written by a man who knew God was in control of all things. He found God's peace even in the tragic loss he experienced when his wife and daughters were drowned when their ship sank in the midst of a terrible storm. He wrote:
When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea-billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, "It is well, it is well with my soul." (Horatio G. Spafford, "It Is Well with My Soul")
In my experience and in the lives of thousands, yes, thousands of people who have crossed my path, that is the way life can be-peace in the midst of the storm. Let us look deeper to discover how to find this peace.
Excerpted from FINDING PEACE by CHARLES STANLEY Copyright © 2007 by Charles Stanley. Excerpted by permission.
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