Several years ago on Canadian television an interviewer asked several people on the streets of downtown Winnipeg what they thought of the political performance of D’Arcy McGee as a cabinet minister. the interviewer neglected to mention that McGee died in the last century (April 7, 1868); so the passerby not unnaturally thought they were being asked about the performance of a current political figure. But only few admitted they did not have a clue who McGee was. Most replied with answers like these; “O, he’s all right, I guess–for a liberal”; or, “Terrible, just terrible. But he’s not as bad as—“; or, better yet, “I saw him the other night on television; but I haven’t really decided about him yet.” [The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus, D.A. Carson p.166]
There are a lot of things in life we “bluff” our way through.
- Someone calls on the phone and we don’t know who it is . . .so we make small talk while we try to figure out who we are talking to.
- We run into someone who greets us warmly but we can’t remember who they are. What do we do? We ask, “so, what are you doing now?” or “how long has it been?” hoping that those answers will give us a clue we can use.
- People ask, have you ever heard of “such and such” and we say, “I think I’ve heard the name but . . . don’t know much about the details. (When it truth we don’t know what they are talking about.)
- We were not paying attention to part of a conversation and now we’re being asked a question. Often we bluff our way through.
This can also happen in our spiritual endeavors.
- Sit in a class (or sanctuary) and nod understandingly even though we have no idea what is being said.
- We talk about intimacy with God because it sounds spiritual but we don’t really know what it is.
- We may talk about the importance of being a Christian . . . but we aren’t sure what that means
We tend to be bluffing when we talk about the peace of God. We talk about, preach about, and testify to the “peace that passes understanding” but spend a good portion of our lives churning, fretting, and working hard hoping to someday experience peace of any kind. So this morning our goal is to be honest. Our goal is to find the peace we have been searching for. I will share two Biblical truths from the text that are obvious but often missed, and then give four simple principles for opening the door to peace.
The Biblical Truths
First, we learn that life will have it’s difficulties. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Here’s an unclaimed promise if I ever heard one. Jesus tells us that it will not be easy living for Him in the world.
We all know that this is a marketing blunder on the part of the Savior. The way to get followers is not to tell them how tough it is going to be . . . you tell them the positives! You don’t tell them to “count the cost”, you tell them “they just have to believe” And Paul was no help . . . “all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12) Jesus was not concerned about marketing . . . He was concerned about the truth. He tells it like it is. And we need to listen.
Because of our reluctance to hear these words we have many dysfunctional believers. We have somehow come to believe that hard times come because of our LACK of faithfulness. When a difficulty comes into our lives what is the first question we ask? We say, “what have I done to deserve this?” We are convinced that a “good” Christian would not have the kinds of problems we are having.
We not only feel deficient . . .we become isolated. Because we feel struggle is not a part of the mature Christians’ life we find ourselves pretending things are going well . . .even when they aren’t. We put on our phoney smile, pretend to be on top of things and all the while we wonder: if our spouse is going to be there when we return; if the house is going to be foreclosed on; if our children are really doing drugs, if God could possibly love me after the most recent failure . . .and on and on.
We feel like failures, we isolate ourselves and then we preach this “fairy tale” gospel to others. The result is great disillusionment when trials come. People come to Christ thinking they won’t have any more problems. The problem comes and they conclude that the gospel “doesn’t work.”
We must hear what Jesus is saying . . . .life will be difficult at times. And it makes perfect sense if you think about it:
- Our values are different so the world is annoyed by us
- Our lives reveal the emptiness of those around us . . . . and they resent us
- We proclaim the need of a Savior in a fiercely independent world . . . they reject us
- We have taken our stand with Christ and the Devil is seeking to silence us
- Not only these things .. . but some of the best lessons are learned in the crucible
If you think about it, persecution, difficulty, hardship, and struggle are to be naturally expected in the life of a follower of Christ.
Our Confidence in Difficult Times is Based in Christ, Not Ourselves
Jesus is the only one who has what we are looking for. He is the only one who can turn our lives around. He alone is Savior.
Jesus is the only one who has overcome the world. He overcomes the world by:
- living a sinless life in a sin-saturated world
- showing His power over nature and disease
- standing up to His enemies without flinching
- going to the cross willingly as our substitute . . . to pay our debt to the Father
- rising from the dead and overcoming the world’s strongest weapon. . . the grave.
In the difficult time our strength is not found in what we do or have done. Our strength is in the Lord. John in one of his letters says it well: “greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world.” (1 Jn.4:4) Our peace is not anchored in our goodness, but His grace.
Applying the Truth
Once again we can find ourselves nodding with approval without ever grappling with the question: “Having known the truth . . . .how do I begin to apply it in my day to day life?” Let me give you four simple guidelines:
We must remember that we choose how we respond to our circumstances
We often say, “I can’t help the way I’m feeling.” But in reality that isn’t true. We decide how we are going to respond. Most of the time this choice is sub or semi-conscious. If we want to know God’s peace on a practical level we have to make the choice conscious. Notice that Jesus says, “TAKE Heart”. It is an imperative, a command. We must decide to respond with courage, strength and trust.
Let me give you an example. You’re sitting at the dinner table and the family is being silly (as I assume all families do), in the process someone gets caught unprepared and has milk come out their nose. You can respond in one of two ways: you can laugh or you can scold. Which do you choose? It depends doesn’t it? On some occasions you will laugh until you ache . . . at other times you will respond with disgust. What makes the difference? It all depends on what your frame of mind is at the time.
That’s my point: we must take control over our frame of mind. We can react with calm or we can react with panic. We can move forward in trust or shrivel in depression or anxiety. When facing the times of difficulty it is important that we respond with reason rather than emotion. We must make this decision a conscious one.
In the times of difficulty I believe it helps to remind yourself of the truth about God:
- God is in Control
- God is Good (He doesn’t make mistakes)
- God loves me in Christ
- God has promised to see me through whatever happens (Heb. 13:5; Romans 8: 28,37-39; Philippians 1:6, John 6:39; 1 Corinthians 10:13.)
The question we must ask ourselves is this: DO WE BELIEVE GOD? If we do we can relax in the confidence that things are under control. If we don’t, then we have serious problems.
Let me add a caution here. Sometimes this is not something we can do alone. Sometimes we do not think clearly. Sometimes we need the truth affirmed by others. Sometimes we need to let others remind us of God’s love through their actions. We don’t have to go it alone.
Peace is not about DOING more but about TRUSTING more completely
We are always prone to look for a formula. Even the counsel I just shared needs to be seen in light of the fact that peace comes from trusting . . . not from pushing the right buttons. When difficult times come we are prone to run FROM God rather than TO Him. We will become more frantic in our living or withdraw completely. Both responses are a move away from the Lord. Our best response in difficult time is to be quiet before Him and seek His perspective.
In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “You will keep him in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts you.”
First, you need to see that “perfect peace” in the Hebrew is really “peace peace”. It is peace underlined or peace to the highest degree. This peace comes to those whose mind is “steadfast”. The word “steadfast” means ‘to lean, to rest, to support’. If we put it together we find that supreme peace comes to the person who’s frame of mind is built on their trust in God. In chaotic times we must lean on Him more completely.
We worry and fret because we don’t really believe God when He says He will take care of us. Peace comes from our relationship not our activity.
Peace comes as a result of the truth . . . truth is not the result of peace
This may seem an irrelevant clarification but I think it is vitally important. In our quest to find peace we can make peace the primary goal. What happens is that we may begin to evaluate truth on the basis of our emotion rather than evaluating our emotions by the truth. We can get to the point (and many have) where they conclude that anything that brings them peace of any sort must be truth.
Let me give you some examples:
- the person who is “at peace” about leaving their mate
- the one who is “at peace” with their dishonest business practices
- the one who “sees nothing wrong” in the grudge they are holding
- the person who “doesn’t have a problem” with a couple living together outside marriage
- the person who justifies their drug usage by the “sense of calm” that comes over them
These people are measuring truth by experience instead of the other way around. It is possible to have a false peace. It is possible to have a peace because we have a deadened conscience and not because we are walking with God. This kind of peace is temporary and very destructive because it can lull us right into the gates of Hell!
We must look to the truth for our confidence . . . not our feelings. Steve Brown writes,
Have you ever heard those Christians who say they know God’s will because they ” feel peace ” about it? I don’t want to say that isn’t the way to know God’s will, but let me tell you about my experience. I have never felt peace about anything that was God’s will. In fact, the place of my greatest turmoil and conflict has often come when I was in God’s will. [No More Mr. Nice Guy!, Steve Brown p.77]
We must tell ourselves the truth and then the emotions will follow . . . . not the other way around.
The Place to Begin . . .
For the believer I’ve pointed out that for us to know God’s peace-peace we must
- Begin to be honest about the struggles of life
- think before we react . . . we can choose how we respond
- we need to rest rather than run
- seek truth rather than feeling. . .truth evaluates feelings . . . not visa versa
But for some the issue is even more basic. You cannot rest in the truth of the Gospel until you come to that point of acknowledging Christ as your forgiver and leader. You cannot know peace until you admit your failure. Your failure before others, but most of all before God.
Peace begins at the cross. When Jesus took God’s wrath for our sin, He made it possible for people who deserved judgment to be set free. That includes you. You cannot manufacture this peace. It comes out of a relationship with Jesus.
Do you have such a relationship? Have you stopped bluffing and admitted the need to be changed? Have you understood that Christ came to earth and died on the cross to pay for your rebellion? Do you understand that His resurrection is proof that the payment was sufficient? Are you willing to trust this Jesus for your eternal destiny and your present living. If so, tell Him this today. Give your life to Jesus and you will know what it means to have peace with God. Once you’ve made this first step, you are on the road to peace in every circumstance in life.
Steve Brown suggests that the reason God allows Christians and non-Christians to face many of the same trials is because He want to the world to be able to see the difference in how we respond. You know, Steve may be right. Does the world see the difference in you?