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

The Anxiety of Spiritual Forgetfulness

Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?
And do you not remember?

(Mark 8:18)

Why do we get so anxious about things?

Seriously, we stress, we panic, we fuss, we fret, over everything. We act as though the rising of the sun and the setting of the same depend upon our ability to get things done in a timely and orderly manner. When one thing starts to get out of our grasp, we freak out like the world is going to end. (And by “we,” I mean ME.) The Psalmist said it this way, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me” (Psalm 43:5).

I think the reason why we get this way, the reason I get this way, is forgetfulness.  It’s not that I forget that there is a God, I just forget that God’s promises, God’s power, God’s grace applies to every situation.  The rest of that verse from the Psalms says, “Why are you cast down… Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”  Being reminded of God’s salvation, of our hope in Him – there is no better cure for anxiety, stress, and panic.  “Be still and know that I am God” – that’s what God says to the panicky, the anxious, the worried.  Perhaps today we could write it:

Keep Calm
Carry On
God’s in Control

We need to be reminded of this. Frequently.

Let me illustrate this briefly.  As you all know I have accepted a new pastoral call, and will be moving to South Dakota soon.  Knowing that selling a house in a small town can sometimes take months, we put our house on the market in mid-February, hoping that we’d be able to sell it just before we needed to move.

We just sold our house in 1 week. We put a sign in the yard on a Monday, by Sunday we had a contract. We live in a small community in NW Iowa, so selling a house that quickly and for the price we wanted is pretty much unheard of, one might say, miraculous.  We were ecstatic.

But how did I respond?  I immediately began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to find a house to move into in our new community.  The market there doesn’t have too many listings, especially for a family of 6, within our price range.  I panicked.  What if we don’t find a house? How far will I have to commute? Will my family be homeless?

Wow!  Didn’t God just do something amazing? Did He not just show us His mighty hand? Won’t God, cannot God, do it again?

The Good News is, I’m not alone in this spiritual forgetfulness.

The Israelites, less than a week after walking through the Red Sea, complained that they couldn’t find water, and worried that God would let them die (Ex. 15:22-25).  Elijah, having just conquered 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, immediately ran into the wilderness and asked to die when Jezebel threatened to kill him (1 Kings 18-19). The disciples, having just witnessed Christ feeding 4000 people, started arguing amongst themselves because they forgot to bring along any bread (Mark 8:14-21).  They were in the boat with the One who had just fed 4,000 people; and yet they were worried because they forgot to bring along any bread!

I think that this is the fundamental reason why we stress, fret, and worry. We forget what God has done. We think that our problems are greater that God’s vision, our troubles are too much for Him to bear. We worry that God might just not be watching, might just not be able…

Oh weary heart, full of care, has God not shown His grace to be sufficient to meet your every need?  Has God not proven His faithfulness, time and again?  Has God not promised that “though weeping may tarry for the night, joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5)? Has God not promised to be your salvation, and that for those who love God all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28).

We need to remember, we need to be reminded, we need to keep this before us at all times.  Maybe that’s why Paul, in his encouragement to Timothy said, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (2 Tim 2:8). We need to constantly remember that He is risen, He is alive, He rules and reigns over us and for us, He holds all things in His hands.  All our anxious cares subside in the strength of His everlasting arms.

Why are you anxious, oh my soul? Why so disturbed? Hope in God, for He is your salvation.  He is your God!

Soli Deo Gloria