Finding Peace

“I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

Stressed? Anxious? Frustrated? Lost? Worried? Afraid? Chaotic? Busy? Tired?

In the past week have you used any of these words to describe your life?

What about the word “Peace”?  How often have you described your day, your week, your life, as “peaceful,” “calm,” “contented”?

We long for peace, we hunger for it, but nothing in this world can offer it.  We may know a momentary cessation of hostilities, but not an abiding peace. The vacation can only last so long, and you’re guaranteed to have a double load of work to do when you get back.  Just when you’ve paid all the bills and balanced the checkbook, you know they’ve already printed next months bills.  Don’t even try to turn the TV on; every five minutes there’s a new something to be afraid of.

Boy, aren’t I just a ray of sunshine?

Jesus, in His upper room discourse, reminds us all that in this life we will have tribulation.  We have been warned.  There will be sorrow (John 16:20).  There will be struggles (Heb 12:4).  If the world rejected Him, how will it treat those who follow Him (John 15:20)?  We are called to take up our cross (Matt 16:24).  When slapped, are are to turn the other cheek (Matt 5:39).  As our hearts break for the lost, we will carry their burden before the Lord in prayer (Rom 9:1-3).  As we strive for faithfulness we will wrestle with temptation and battle to put to death the old man (Col 3:5-17).  We will suffer the fiery arrows of the enemy, we will face the opposition of the principalities and powers (Eph 6:10-18).  Yes, indeed, all this world has to offer is tribulation.

But we are not to take what the world gives.  We have a greater gift, the gift of Christ’s peace.

What is this peace?

The peace of Christ is this:

  • In Christ we have peace with God because we have been reconciled through His blood.
  • In Christ we have peace with one another, the dividing wall of hostility has been broken down.
  • In Christ we have peace through our Sovereign King who reigns over His people.
  • In Christ we have peace as our eternal security is guaranteed.

Jesus has come that we might have peace, a peace that endures, a peace that overcomes, a peace that does not waver.

Why then, do we seldom enjoy that peace? Why are we not filled with peace and joy in believing?  While by no means a complete list, here are some thoughts:

Sometimes we don’t experience the peace of Christ because we are the cause of our own tribulation.  There are times when we don’t stumble into sin, we dive in headfirst.  We flirt with the flames of temptation, only to get burned by the fires of sin. We hold on to envy, anger, and our selfish desires and become the drama that we sought to avoid.  There can be no peace when we take hold of sin.

Sometimes we don’t experience the peace of Christ because we are slow to faith and do not believe His promises.  Doubts and despair are a disastrous combination, because they cause us to fix our eyes on the problems rather than the solution. When the waves are crashing around us, we look to the sea rather than Christ who has called us to walk with Him (Matt 14:30).  We become practical atheists, we say we believe that Jesus has promised us peace, but we act like we are on our own.

Sometimes we don’t experience the peace of Christ because we don’t think His promise applies to our particular situation. When we tell ourselves that this thing we are facing is beyond Christ’s control, or too small for Christ to care about, what are we saying about our Savior?  We forget that He is One who can “sympathize with us in our weakness… [because He] has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15).  How does the old hymn go?

Oh what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer.

So how do we return to the peace of Christ?  His sermon in Mark 1:15 says it best, “Repent and believe in the gospel.”

Repent: Turn from your sin and to the Lord.  Remember, when our hearts condemn us, “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19). To find peace we must turn from that which causes the strife, and rest in the grace of Christ.

And Believe: Christ has overcome all things. He has overcome, He is victorious. His victory is over every sin, every power, every dominion.  There is nothing that He has not conquered.  Abraham Kuyper once wrote, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” He has indeed overcome all things, so believe and rest in His peace to strengthen and comfort you in all things.

May the grace, and peace, of Christ rule in your hearts!

SDG

Broken People Do Broken Things

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

“Broken people do broken things.”

I first heard this nugget of wisdom form a funeral home director.  He and I were riding in the hearse to a graveside service after having left the funeral home and a family that was fighting with each other.  I don’t remember why they were fighting (probably something to do with inheritance), but I was visibly shaken and the director could tell.  I remember asking why they couldn’t get past their difference for at least an hour and be civil with one another during the service, and that’s when he said it, “Broken people do broken things.”

I don’t think he meant it to excuse their behavior, but perhaps to change my perspective on the world.  The world is full of broken people.  Some have managed to put a good spin on their brokenness, their sins are the acceptable kind that are given a wink by society.  For others, their brokenness is clear for everyone to see, and often that brokenness is worn as a “red badge of courage.”

Hasn’t the brokenness of the world reared its ugly head this week?  Over the weekend we heard of ISIS having beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians , and this just after the news of the death of Kayla Mueller, the burning of the Jordanian pilot, their names added to a very long list of victims of horrible terror . (I read just this morning of another report that ISIS had burned to death another 45  people in an Iraqi town.) There was the shooting rampage in Denmark, the foiled terror plans in Canada, the murder of three students at the University of Connecticut.  Add to that the horrible news coming from Lennox, SD, where I’ll soon be moving, of a gunman who shot two people and then killed himself – all because of an argument over a delivery.

It’s all the kind of thing that makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning.

I make no effort to make sense of senseless violence. You cannot explain or rationalize brutality like this. Sometimes, all it feels you can do is throw up your hands, keep your head down, and resign yourself to the fact that “lost people do lost things.”

But that is not the Christian message.

I don’t purport to have all the answers regarding evil and it’s place in the world.  I must leave that discussion to better minds than mine.  But I do believe that our faith has something important to say in the midst of such atrocities.

First, we must realize that evil is real, and we live in a fallen world.  Since Adam’s fall, all the world has been subjected to futility, and creation itself awaits the revealing of the sons of God in which it too will be released from its bondage to corruption (see Romans 8).  Suffering and violence, natural disasters and wars, these are symptoms of a greater sickness, namely, we live in world that subjected to corruption because of man’s sin and rebellion from God.

Second, I believe Scripture teaches that God has a purpose in everything, including the evil we face in this life.  Often it is hard to see and difficult to understand – and we may never find in this life the ultimate meaning that is hidden in the heart of sorrow, disappointment, and grief.  But we remember the words of Joseph to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen 50:20).  Even more, we see God’s providence working even in the death of Jesus Christ, who was holy and without sin, the greatest tragedy ever committed on the face of the earth, and yet through His death and resurrection, we find the salvation of all who would call upon His name (Acts 3:13-16).

Finally, we must remember, evil does not have the last word.  Though their powers may flare and cause us to tremble, though

this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear for, God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

We abound in hope, even in the face of evil, tragedy, and loss. We abound in hope because we know that because Christ has been raised in victory over death, those whose lives are hidden in Him have received that victory as well.  We know that no matter what we face, even if we are handed over for tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or the sword, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us…” and nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:31-39).

In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Christ has overcome!  Therefore, in good times and in bad, let us look to Him that we may be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [our] labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).

SDG