(1 Corinthians 7:32-35)
As Christians we have been called to have peace. We are being trained by the Lord through the working of the Holy Spirit to be able to find peace and to hold onto it.
The ways of the Lord lead to peace when we apply His teachings in our lives. When we learn how to walk in the spirit we gain the ability to walk in the peace of the Lord. This is despite the trials, tribulations and troubles that will beset us, along with persecutions from the forces of evil that surround us.
When we learn these lessons and apply them, then we can indeed live without anxiety. And Paul here encourages us to be free from anxiety by making decisions that will take us down more peaceful paths rather than having to deal with all forms of anxiety.
We are told in other places that we need to seek peace. Note this scripture below.
10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” – (1 Peter 3:10-12)
In this verse Peter is quoting from Psalms 34, and we see in the section highlighted that we are instructed to “seek peace and pursue it.”
Peace will not automatically just come upon us. We need to chase after it and pursue it with vigorously.
But how do we seek and pursue peace? The key ways to do this are first to do as Paul recommends in this section of 1 Corinthians 7, which is to seek to restrain ourselves and refrain from going into situations that will lead to anxiety.
32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. – (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)
Now while he is talking about marriage and the fact that everyone who marries will have anxieties and stresses, it is also a principle Paul is showing to us. The principle is that if we want to avoid anxiety, then don't go into situations that will likely produce and promote anxiety.
Marriage is or can be anxious on many levels. There are the worries about pleasing your wife or husband, worries about children, worries about finances, feeding and clothing the family, issues with in-laws and the list goes on.
Paul knew that those who marry would have all of these types of issues and the anxieties that go along with them, so he was showing us that if we could live without marrying we would do better because we would not have these anxieties.
Paul was not anti-marriage as some people have presumed. In fact he goes on to say that it is good to marry, especially if the man or woman has strong desires for their partner or desires to have children. As far as Paul was concerned that was all fine. All he was saying in this section was that if people do marry they will certainly have anxieties and anxiety does not promote the ways of God.
This is a good question. Why should and do people suffer anxieties in marriage? Why is it that even long term Christians who are married to each other still have times of stress and anxiety in their marriage?
Quite simply it is because we are human and are not yet perfect in the Lord. We may have learned much about the walk we take in the gospel, but knowing something and applying it 24/7 is another matter. We are being perfected by the working of the Holy Spirit in us, but the journey to perfection is far from complete.
The time will come when we can and will live in perfect harmony with our marriage partners, as we will be in perfect harmony with Christ Jesus and God. But until that day there will be times of testing, times of stress and thus, times of anxiety.
And apart from the anxieties of marriage, simply living in this evil world is anxious as we await the coming of the Saviour to reign and restore the world to the perfection He intended when He created this world. When He removes all forms of evil and all evildoer a from this world, then we shall have perfect peace and no anxiety.
Until then we must learn how to walk in the spirit and apply the teachings of the gospel of peace in our lives to overcome the anxieties of this world.
Paul explains this principle even further saying that a married person has their interests divided and thus their entire devotion is not focussed on the Lord. And it is not just marriage that causes your interests to be dividing. Family, work, hobbies and other things can take away your full and complete devotion to Christ.
But again Paul shows that all he is saying is that he does not want us to go into situations that will cause us extra anxiety. Similarly he is not trying to lay any kind of restraint upon the people of God. Rather he is trying to promote good order to secure our full devotion to the Lord for our benefit.
How does this benefit us? Well simply put, when we have our minds focussed on the spirit and on the Lord, we are walking in harmony with Christ and we will find peace.
So any time you are considering a change, think it through and ask yourself, “Will this decision promote peace or anxiety in my life?” If it is likely that it will make you more anxious, and if it can be avoided, then choose the more peaceful path so you can focus on the Lord. If you can't avoid the issue, then be aware and ensure you put the matter to the Lord to guide you and keep you in his peace.
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