The longing for peace is a universal desire. For the longest time we’ve heard talk about the possibility of world peace and yet each and every day we hear new news of conflicts breaking out all over the world. Wars between nations, cultural clashes, racial tension and division, and societal stress just seem to be woven into the fabric of humanity. Even if there came a time when all wars and conflicts ceased, there would still be countless people spanning the globe who looked in the mirror each morning and saw hopelessness and emptiness rather than serenity and peace staring back at them. Peace is such a peculiar idea isn’t it? How can something everyone longs for be so elusive and seemingly unattainable?
There is a lack of peace in our hearts and minds. There is a lack of peace in our homes, with our relationships with our family members. There is a lack of peace with our neighbors. There is a lack of peace with our co-workers. There is a lack of peace among classmates in our schools. There is a lack of peace in our churches. There is a lack of peace in the halls of government. Anyone who has watched the Republican or Democratic National Conventions can easily attest to that truth. Not only are the Republicans and Democrats at war with one another, but they are at war with themselves. Nations rise up against nation and peace is nowhere to be found. We live in a troubled world because we are troubled people. Yet, the longing for peace persists and will not cease. So what are we to do? How about instead of turning to the philosophers, politicians, and peace activists, let’s turn to the Word of God. Read along with me from John 14:27-31.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. “Come now; let us leave.” (John 14:27-31 NIVO)
This Scripture, like so many others that we have looked at in the Gospel of John, contains so many lessons for us. I want us to focus on the peace that Jesus speaks about in verse 27. In verse 27 we learn the peace Jesus promises is not like the peace the world gives. We also learn that this peace is given by Jesus, and even though He is going to be leaving His disciples soon, Jesus will leave His peace with His followers.
I’ve been thinking about the contrast Jesus points out for us, the contrast between the peace that Jesus offers and the peace offered by the world. The world, the popular culture, our best thinking has convinced us that if we can only get a good paying job then we’ll have peace. The world has convinced us that if we can take care of all of our bills with money left over for fun, trinkets, and toys then we’ll have peace. The world has convinced us that if we can raise children that are a positive reflection of our intelligence, success, athletic prowess, and charming personality then we’ll have peace. The world has convinced us that if we can only be free from health problems and relationship problems then we’ll have peace. Nothing could be further from the truth. The underlying idea of the peace the world has in mind is that our circumstances rob us of peace. For Jesus, the peace that He has to offer His followers, has nothing to do with our circumstances. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Turn with me to John 16:32-33. Jesus is now even closer to the Cross and yet He takes the time to share a very important truth with His disciples. Read along with me.
32 “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 “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.” (John 16:32-33 NIVO)
A time of distress is coming. A time when all of you will scattered. A time when I will be left alone by all of you all, but I’m never alone, my Father is with me. Jesus then states a universal truth: “In this world you will have trouble.” No question about it, in this world you will have trouble. Just this week, while I have been spending time studying and praying about Jesus’ peace and what the Lord was seeking to teach me, I’ve been surrounded by turmoil and strife and stress. A friend called who had just found out his mom probably has cancer and he was stressed. A pastor friend called who is experiencing a stressful relationship with members of the church Board. Another friend shared that his niece is in an abusive relationship. I went to see another friend who had just been released from the hospital. Another friend called about his buddies wife who needs to go to treatment for alcohol addiction and wanted my help. If all of us were to get together after worship and compile a list of the troubles that we, or those we know, are going through at this time it would fill a notebook.
Trouble will come, some time when you least expect them, and there is no avoiding them. “In this world you will have trouble…” Two weeks ago Connie and I left right after worship for a road trip to Colorado. We really didn’t have a schedule or a plan. We were going to go to Manitou Springs and then figure things out from there. The day we arrived in Colorado we had been out walking around when suddenly Connie got really sick and passed out on the sidewalk in Manitou Springs. It was scary. I couldn’t wake her up. I yelled, “I need help!” A young guy who was walking by immediately said, “I’m a paramedic. Is she breathing? Does she have a pulse?” I said, “I don’t know.” I grabbed her wrist to check her pulse. He couldn’t wake her up either so he rubbed his knuckles across her breastbone and Connie woke up. It was a long, drawn-out, scary ordeal, but by the time it was all over an ambulance, firetruck, and police were huddled up around Connie. She was severely dehydrated and suffering from altitude sickness. They gave her a bag of fluids, I took her back to our room, and I watched her while she slept to make sure she was still breathing. Did I mention to you that it was scary? It was scary! “In this world you will have trouble…”
We decided to stay there for another day to see how things were going to go. Tuesday was a good day, Connie seemed to be doing much better, so we decided to head out on Wednesday morning. Within an hour of hitting the road I hit a deer in our car. We were out in the middle of nowhere. I made some phone calls, a tow truck came to get us, and we ended up in Woodland Park, just 14 miles from Manitou Springs. We tried to rent a car and were told, “There’s not a rental this side of Denver.” “In this world you will have trouble…” I thought I was going to have to carry our luggage to some hotel, if only I knew where a hotel was located, when one of the guys at the autobody shop said he would give us a ride to a hotel. Long story short, we ended up getting a call from the same guy about 3 hours later letting us know that a lady had unexpectedly turned her car in early and we could have it if we wanted it. He said, “I have to let you know that it is a Toyota Yaris.” We were elated that it moved. I would have taken a flatbed truck if they would have offered it to me!
Connie and I had left Oklahoma City for a week of fun, relaxation, and spending time in God’s awesome creation, but three days in were clearly reminded, “In this world you will have trouble…” If you and I define “peace” as the absence of stress, trouble, and turmoil then we are setting ourselves up for a lifetime of disappointment. On the other hand, if we can understand what Jesus meant by “peace,” and appropriate His peace in our life, then we will learn that trials and stress most definitely come, but His peace will hold us and lead us through troubling times.
The Greek word which is translated, “peace,” is the word, “??????” (eirene), and it means, “a state of national tranquillity, exemption from the rage and havoc of war, peace between individuals, security, safety, prosperity.” The New American Standard Greek Lexicon defines “peace” as, “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” The word appears 89 times in the New Testament. I’m sure you recognized the broad range of definitions for this little Greek word. That’s because it is the Greek equivalent of the well known Hebrew word, “shalom.” One of the most important words in the Hebrew Bible is the word, “???????” (shalom.) It means, “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace, safety, soundness of body, contentment, quiet, and tranquility.” It is used 236 times in the Hebrew Bible. The important thing to remember is that “shalom” is one of the blessings that comes from a right relationship with God. This is important because the peace that Jesus is speaking and teaching about also comes from a right relationship with God. Real peace, lasting peace, authentic peace can only be acquired and experienced once we are made right with God. The good news for you and me is that God has already acted on behalf to make reconciliation possible for you and me. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Turn with me to Romans 5:1-2 and let’s read together.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NIVO)
God has provided the gift of reconciliation through Jesus’ death on the Cross in our place, but you have to receive the gift to experience the benefits of God’s action on your behalf. Let’s take a look at one more example. Turn with me to Colossians 1:19-22 and let’s read together.
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation– (Colossians 1:19-22 NIVO)
Did you notice? “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior…” That’s the bad news. Here comes the good news: “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Now that’s good news! God has acted on our behalf. He has torn down the wall that we have built because of our sin and rebellion. He has made a way for us to draw near to Him, walk with Him, and allow our lives to be guided and nurtured by His love and provision. This is the beginning of peace. There is no lasting, authentic peace until we have peace with God.
Real peace begins at the Cross, not in figuring out a way to be rid of our problems. That probably sounds strange to many of you. When we are troubled, when peace seems elusive, and our hearts and minds are troubled we think primarily, if not exclusively of figuring out a way to get rid of our problems. That type of thinking reminds me of a test that was given to patients in mental institutions in Europe many years ago to see if they were ready to be released. The staff had a room at the hospital with a sink in it and not much more. They would plug the drain, turn on the faucet, and allow the sink to fill to overflowing. A nurse would then take the patient to the room and give them a mop and a bucket to clean up the water. The nurse would leave the room for a few minutes before returning. When the nurse returned if the patient was mopping up the water then he knew the patient wasn’t ready to be released. The patients who walked into the room, turned off the faucet, and then began mopping up all of the water was a ready to be released. You see, the patients who walked into the room and began mopping up all of the water to clean up the mess were missing the source of the mess. The source of the mess was not the water on the floor, but the faucet that was pouring out more water than the sink could handle. Until the source was dealt with the mess would remain no matter how fast they mopped.
So many of us, look at our problems as the source of our problem, the reason why we lack peace, and nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble…” That is the given, the immovable object, the question is, “Now that I am experiencing trouble what should I do?” We’ve already talked about our need to be reconciled with God as our greatest need. Once we receive God’s gift of reconciliation by confessing our sin and receiving Jesus’ gift of forgiveness then we can begin to walk in the peace only He can give. I’ll give you a really clear pathway to experiencing His peace in the midst of the troubles of life if you will turn with me to Philippians 4:6-7.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIVO)
When Paul tells the folks in Philippi not to be anxious about anything, he is simply rephrasing what Jesus had said to His followers. Remember our Scripture for this morning? In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Earlier, in the very first verse of John 14, Jesus told His followers, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1 NIVO) The Greek work for “troubled” in both instances is the word, “???????” (tarasso) and it means, “to agitate, to stir up, to cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of mind, or disturb his equanimity.” Two times in the New Testament we read where Jesus was troubled. Turn with me to John 12:27. Jesus had the Cross in mind when He said,
27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. (John 12:27 NIVO)
The next instance occurred in the Upper Room as Jesus was sharing the Last Supper with His disciples. We read,
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” (Jn. 13:21 NIVO)
I share these examples from Jesus’ life with all of you because I’ve known some folks who have told me that since they became a follower of Jesus that they’ve been at total peace, they never fret, never doubt, never get stirred up or worry. What they are telling me is that they have experienced something that not even Jesus experienced and I’m not buying it. Troubles come and anxiety comes with them. Even though we are powerless to stop the troubles of life from coming, we are not powerless to stop anxiety from overwhelming and paralyzing us. It’s not a matter of getting tough or rising up, but it is a matter of handing over. Paul said, “Don’t be anxious about anything…but present your requests to God.” What is it that is causing you worry? Hand it over. Present it to God. Give it to God. If we will follow God’s prescription for dealing with our troubles then we will reap the benefit of His promise to us. What is His promise to us? I’m so glad you asked. Take a look at Philippians 4:7 with me.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 NIVO)
The peace of God. There’s that word again. The peace of God. What is it? Well, Paul says that it “transcends all understanding.” That means that you can’t weigh it in a laboratory, you can’t define it with a dictionary, and you can’t understand it by acquiring a post-graduate degree. God’s peace has to be experienced. Connie and I saw some incredible sights while we were on our vacation in the mountains of Colorado. I would take pictures and send them to our kids so they could see what we were seeing. Connie said, “You know there are some things that pictures can’t describe…you have to experience them for yourself.” That is so true. I’d heard about the Grand Canyon when I was young, but then one day I had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon. I stood on the edge at sunset and watched colors, the most gorgeous colors dance across the walls of the canyon. There’s is no way that I can adequately describe to you what I experienced…you would have to experience it for yourself. And that’s the way it is with God’s peace.
God’s peace transcends all understanding, but it’s not simply some esoteric, nebulous, nirvana-like state of consciousness. God’s peace actively works in the lives of His people who appropriate His precious gift. Paul tells us that God’s peace “will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” We have to take a minute to understand what “guard” means. The Greek word translated “guard” is “???????” (phroureo) and it means “to guard, protect by a military guard, either to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight.” Paul used the same word in his second letter to the church in Corinth. He wrote,
32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. (2 Corinthians 11:32 NIVO)
It is a military term used to convey the idea of soldiers who stand faithfully at their posts to guard and control all who would try to enter the city. Paul uses this word to let us know that when attacks come, and they will come, God’s peace will stand guard over our hearts and minds so they are not overcome by and taken hostage.
Stop and think about it. Our hearts and minds are the two battlefields where we suffer most in life. Our thoughts and emotions are so vulnerable. I’ve had my heart and mind attacked a thousand times, but I’ve learned to allow God’s peace to fight my battles. I remember when we first found out that Connie had cancer. My mind and my heart were a mess. They would take me to dark, dark places and I would get so depressed. I was allowing our circumstance to rob me of the peace of God. Then I began to utilize the promise of the peace of God. When the attacks would come, when I would think about the horrible things that could happen because of Connie’s cancer, I would stop and remember Philippians 4:6-7. I would speak to God about my battle. I would tell Him, “I’m going to trust You Lord wherever this takes us. I’m not going to allow fear to paralyze me. Guard my heart Lord. Reign in my mind Lord.” And each time an attack would come, each time dark thoughts would seek to overtake me, I would go to God’s Word, and cry out to Him for help.
How about you? Where do you go when the circumstances of life come crashing in on you? What do you do when fear and anxiety come like tornado ripping at your heart and mind? There are some of you who are here this morning who are suffering from a lack of peace this very morning. Some of you have even contemplated ended your suffering. You’ve thought you would be better off if you just ended it all. That’s not God’s will for you for my friend. God’s will is that your trouble would drive you into His arms of grace and mercy so that you might find comfort and experience the peace that only He can give. If you are not a follower of Jesus then you need to know that real peace, authentic peace, lasting peace is only possible on the other side of the Cross. Have you surrendered your life to Jesus Christ? Have you confessed your need for Him, for His saving grace, to lift you out of the pit of despair and reconcile you to the Father? If not, won’t you do that right now?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 31, 2016