It has been a busy week around my office with much going on. But it has been a hectic week for many . . . . there is much pain and uncertainty in our world. There are people who are suffering deeply. There are relationships that are strained. There are debts that are feel like they will drown us. There are schedules, demands, deadlines hanging over our heads. In Macomb last week there was a high school graduation filled with tears due to classmates killed this week. In Texas there are people wondering how they will begin to rebuild after tornados destroyed everything. In hospital corridors in any hospital in the world families pace. Everywhere you turn there seems to be turmoil, heartache, and brokenness.
An extensive survey was conducted in the United States by a leading polling agency. Questionnaires were distributed to people of various ages and occupations. The key question was this: What are you looking for most in life? When the results were compiled, the analysts were surprised. Most of them had expected answers that would suggest materialistic goals, but the top three things that people wanted in life were love, joy, and peace. Isn’t it interesting that these are the very three things that are the first results of the Spirit Christ has sent for our lives.
Someone has said, If you speak to the pain in people’s life you will never lack for an audience. They are right and that’s what Jesus does in our text this morning. He makes a statement that speaks directly to our churning aching hearts. He speaks to us about what we really want most. He tells us we don’t have to see our lives fall to pieces . . . . He offers us the opportunity to enjoy His peace instead. Three questions I want to answer….. 1)What is this Peace?; 2) How is this peace manifested? 3) How can I get this peace?
What is this Peace?
It is something the world cannot give us
Do you remember the commercial where the woman was being bombarded on every side (by children, spouse, employer, the phone) and this woman looks into the camera and says “Calgon Take Me Away”. In the next scene she is laying in a bathtub surrounded by bubbles. This is the world’s answer to our cry for peace.
The world in which we live says to know peace we must either: go someplace (head to the Bahamas), buy something (a luxury car which shuts out the harshness of the world), or ingest something (get a prescription for a sedative). The peace that Jesus offers is different from the world’s peace. The world’s peace is temporary and external. The peace we crave and Jesus offers is more than that.
It is something that Only Jesus can give
Jesus tells us that it is HIS peace that He gives to us. He alone has the authority to extend this peace. It is unique to Him.
Christ’s peace adds something to life rather than subtracts something
We are used to thinking of peace as the absence of conflict, or the absence of stress, or the absence of worry. The peace that Jesus talks about is the Jewish concept of peace. Peace, or “Shalom”, includes the absence of churning and distress but it includes the presence of blessing. In fact, maybe we could go so far as to say that the absence of churning and distress is the RESULT of God’s blessing. Jesus is offering a peace that is a settled sense of well-being and security.
THE MANIFESTATIONS OF THIS PEACE
We have peace with God
In Romans 5:1 we read, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
Paul tells us that we have peace with God because we have been justified by faith. Fancy words but what do they mean? When we are “justified” we are pronounced “not guilty”, we are declared to be “good” in God’s eyes. Justification means we are declared to be unstained by sin. How is this possible? It’s possible because Christ paid for our sin and credited His goodness to our account. This is grace . . .an undeserved gift.
How do we become justified? We must have faith. What is faith? Faith, as we talked about last week is active belief . . . . it is a trust that reveals itself in action. True faith believes in Christ’s promise of eternal life enough to rest in Him for our eternal hope and follow Him in our daily living.
Do you understand what this means practically?
- Our past is dealt with. The sins of the past are forgiven. We are free from the stupidity and rebellion of the way we used to live.
- Our failures are overcome. We are set free from the failures of the past. Though the scars of the past may remain we are no longer held prisoner by the past.
- Our future is certain. We don’t have to fret about eternal life any more. Jesus says, “whoever believes in me WILL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.” Paul reminds us, “the he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6).
God makes it possible for us to know peace in the depth of our being; peace in our soul.
We have peace in difficult circumstances
Jesus tells us that He is superior to our circumstances.
Later in this final discourse of our Savior, Jesus says: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)
Jesus tells us that even though life has it’s irritations, He is superior and victorious to our conflicts. The world does not overcome Him . . . . He overcomes the world. Our Lord is not caught by surprise by the conflicts of our lives. He has authority and power over our circumstances.
The Bible tells us that our trials and difficulties are purposeful
Continuing in the Romans 5 passage, Paul wrote: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Peter wrote something similar, “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6,7)
In both these passages one thing is clear . . . for the child of God there are no “accidents”. The difficult things that come into our lives come for a reason . . . a good reason. We may not see that rhyme or reason but there is one.
Spurgeon said, “the Christian is content to take just what his Father sends him, knowing that his Father understands him better than he understands himself. He gives up the helm of his ship to the hand of a gracious God;” [Treasury of the Bible, p. 549]
In an evangelistic meeting in Ireland the speaker was explaining what it means to abide in Christ and to trust Him completely in every trial. Concluding his message, he repeated several times, “It means that in every circumstance you can keep on saying, ‘For this I have Jesus.'” The meeting was then opened for testimonies. The young lady who had been at the piano stood up and said, “I have to leave shortly so I’d like to be the first to testify. Just a few minutes ago I was handed this telegram. It reads, ‘Mother is very ill; take train home immediately.’ When I saw those words, I knew that tonight’s message was meant just for me. My heart looked up and said, ‘For this I have Jesus.’ Instantly a peace and strength flooded my soul.” After pausing a moment, she continued, “I have never traveled very far alone, but for this I have Jesus. And for all the strain and suspense that goes with the thought of Mother’s severe illness, I praise God that for this too I have Jesus.”
Three or four weeks later the evangelist received a letter from the same woman. It read , “Thank you again for the message you gave that day. Life has become an uninterrupted psalm of victory, for I have come to realize that no matter what life brings, for this I have Jesus.”
If you are struggling right now, I know this sounds trite. I know when things are falling apart it doesn’t help for someone to say, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be alright.” But please understand it is not me who is saying this . . . it is God! Your life is not hurtling aimlessly out of control . . .there is purpose in what is happening. Hang on.
I don’t know why a teenager dies less than a week before their graduation. I can’t imagine the pain of those parents. But what I do know is this . . . God will bring them through this time if they will let Him. He will see you through as well. Even in the midst of fierce trials you can know peace. For such difficult times as these we have Jesus.
We’ve heard the testimony time and time again. Someone was in a terrible time of trial and they asked for prayer. They then report that as people began to pray they sensed a peace and strength sweep over them. They were able to stop worrying and start resting. That’s the peace Jesus offers.
We have peace with each other
The peace of the Lord is a peace that restores relationships. All throughout the New Testament we see barriers lift between people: Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female. We are continually urged to maintain (not create) the peace with others. I think there is a logical reason why we know peace with each other through Christ.
First we understand that we are all in the same boat. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot overcome circumstances by our strength alone. We are all in need of grace and mercy. We are all beggars showing others beggars where to find break. There are no race, gender or class barriers in Heaven.
Second, We belong to the same family . We are made ONE body in Christ. We are brothers and sisters in the family of God. It is imperative that we work out our differences. It is necessary for us to forgive and to listen. We are family.
Thirdly, we are heading to the same goal. Each of us in the family of God is moving toward Heaven. We each are seeking to glorify Him in our lives. We are not competing with each other we are working with each other.
C.S. Lewis points out that we are all headed for glory. He suggests that this realization alone should change the way we relate to one another.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. . . . Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also glory Himself is truly hidden. [Lewis, The Weight of Glory p. 14,15]
How Do We Get This Peace?
You must turn to the source of peace
This peace is not found in Meditation, Drugs, Achievements. The peace you yearn for is something that can only be found in Christ.
It may be that the very reason you are here today (or the very reason you read this) is because you know that you need something for your life. Things are getting out of control. You know there is an emptiness . . . you know you need something.
Dear friend, what you need is not something it is SOMEONE. You are looking for Jesus. He is the one who can put your hungry soul at rest. Do you understand that Jesus came to earth in order to free you from sin? Do you understand that it was because of you that He died? Do you understand that His sacrifice can open the door of eternal life to you? If so, are you willing to act in faith? Are you willing to entrust yourself to Him? Will you believe Him for eternity and trust Him in the present? If so, peace is yours.
When you feel the churning as a believer one of several things is usually true.
- You are being assaulted by one of the Devil’s forces. Satan will work hard to disrupt our peace. There is nothing more powerful than a calm saint in trying times. Satan wants to keep you churning. He wants you to doubt God’s promises. Child of the King, remember . . . Satan can afflict you but He cannot defeat you! Claim the victory! Stand in Christ! Resist Him faithfully. Your peace will return.
- You are engaged in a sin. There is nothing that will rob us of peace faster than turning our backs on the Giver of peace. Every time we do what is outside of God’s will we turn our backs on our source of peace. Friend, let me be direct: turn from your sin and come back to the Father.
- You have a faulty view of God. This is where most of our churning comes from. We forget the nature of God . . . we forget or distort the truth. In the early years of school children are taught how to react if their clothes catch on fire . . . they are to STOP, DROP, AND ROLL. Maybe a similar thing needs to be applied to believers. When you find anxiety building and your peace is leaving you it is important that you STOP, RECALL AND REST. Remind yourself that God is Sovereign (He is in control). Remember that He Loves You (He has your best interest at heart). Remember that He never, ever makes a mistake. (And He is not going to make one with you.) Re-align your theology and rest in His arms.
You see, we don’t have to live our life constantly feeling like we are falling or being torn into little pieces. We don’t have to escape to the bathroom or hide in some faraway place . . . .what we need is to place our hand in the nail scarred hand of Jesus. We need to look to Him when the times are overwhelming , the future is uncertain, or we feel lost. . . .and if you look carefully you will see in His eyes: a love, understanding, confidence and strength that will set your anxious heart at rest.