Once upon a time in a land far away, (that’s the way all good stories begin), there was a man who was deeply troubled. He was a brilliant man. A man with a wonderful wife, precious children, good health, and a great job. The man’s troubled soul resulted not from family turmoil or financial pressure, not from deep, dark-sided sin or an angry mob in pursuit. The man’s troubled soul reverberated throughout his body because he was unable to find rest, peace in his heart. He had traveled the world looking for a place of serenity and solace. He had reclined on sandy beaches, taken in the beauty of the Swiss Alps, gazed at glassy glaciers, and stood in awe on the African plain. No matter where he traveled, no matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried, the man never arrived at the place of peace, serenity, and rest.

As time rolled on the man became more and more desperate to find peace. He searched and searched for a miracle cure. He contacted a “spiritual adviser” who he heard could put him in touch with the “spirit world” where his restless soul could finally rest secure. No rest was found. He hired a personal trainer who promised to bring harmony to the man’s body, mind, and soul. He woke up with a weary mind, a tired body, and a soul that raced within him like an Olympic athlete. The man’s desperation continued to grow. He checked in to a retreat center which promised mental and emotional strengthening, but he didn’t find serenity. They taught him how to center his subconscious, release his past, and live for the present. He followed their instructions to the letter, but his soul remained restless.

The man confided in a co-worker who told him that he just needed a good woman to help him release his tension so he indulged himself and ended up more empty than before his escapade. Finally, one day the man crossed paths with a preacher who told him that his problem was that the world was evil, despicable, and depraved. If he was ever going to find rest for his searching soul he was going to have to abandon the world and take up the life of an ascetic. He would have to deprive himself of everything worldly, fill his days with contemplation, and work his way to God. The man, in desperation, sold everything he had, quit his job, and moved to the mountains where the air was crisp, the songs of the birds were clear, and the breeze echoed throughout the canyon.

At first he felt a quiet calmness fall over him, but slowly the calmness was replaced with chaos as his mind was flooded with questions of what he had done, of those he had left behind, and of the loneliness that lingered. The draining daily routine of his old life was now replaced with the rigorous routine of meditation, reflection, and contemplation. The restlessness he had experienced before was once again his closest companion. The man had replaced the weariness of work with the rigors of religion, but peace continued to hover somewhere just outside his grasp.

Frustrated with isolation the man began to get out more and meet the other people who lived on the mountain. He ran into person after person who had left their routines to take up residence on the side of the mountain for the same reasons he had made his home there. They had all grown weary of the routines, the loss of meaning in everyday life, the demands, and the seeming thankless throngs that surrounded them—so they left. They left to find something more, something else, and something new. The man, dangling in desperation by a thread asked, “What have you found?” Dejectedly, one-by-one, each person hung their head and said, “I’m still looking.”

There was one little old man who lived in the neighborhood that he saw walking early of a morning and late in the evening. He planned to intercept his walk one night. When he did, the two began to talk. Eventually he asked the same question he had asked the other residents. The old man smiled and said, “I too came here to get away. I came here to find meaning for my life and peace for my soul. I came here to get away from humanity, the people who seemed to constantly drag me down. I walked every mountain stream, I watched every star in the sky, and I avoided every man and woman on the mountain in hopes of finding peace.” The man said, “Well, you must have found it. You speak unlike any of the others I’ve talked to. You hold your head high instead of resting it in your hands.” The old man said, “I did find peace, but it wasn’t anywhere that I looked.” The man said, “What do you mean?” The old man responded, “I’ve found the peace I’ve always longed for, but it was not in getting away—it was in getting in touch. God spoke to my heart one day through the prophet Isaiah and said, ‘Tom, I will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is set on Me. (Isaiah 26:3) Now go and share my peace with those who are searching for it.’ I still live on the mountain, but every day I leave this place and go down to the valley below where the maddening crowd dashes about trying to find purpose for their lives and rest for their souls. Finding the peace you have been searching for is really quite easy—get in touch with the God who loves you and allow Him to use you to bind up the lives that have become unraveled in their search for peace.”

The words of the wise old man still hold true in our day today my friends. I have come to the conclusion that the business man, traveler, ascetic is not the only one among us who is trying to get to the place of peace. I am not so naive to believe that if you conducted a Newsweek poll of the American people that a whopping 99% of the people polled would say that they are searching for peace for their weary, restless souls, but I am convinced that is what we are looking for even though we may not be aware of it.

The search for peace, serenity, a quietness of our souls in the chaos of existence causes us to explore all kinds of avenues where we think peace, fulfillment, and contentment might be found.

Solomon, the man whom the Bible says was the wisest man who ever lived, searched for serenity. He tried everything to find peace for his weary, troubled soul. Some kind of meaning for his life, but it wasn’t to be found. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. If sex was the answer to finding serenity for our souls then Solomon would have stood and sang, “It is well with my soul!” He didn’t. Solomon had more money than Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey combined, but money couldn’t buy him rest for his troubled soul. Solomon had land, but he had no rest. He had fame, but was unfamiliar with serenity. He had religion, but religion could not do the trick. Solomon was so desperate that he sat down and wrote in his journal, which we know as the Book of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities, everything is vanity.” It was Solomon’s way of saying, “Life has no meaning, no purpose, no peace.” Solomon searched high and low and came up wanting.

Many years ago the popular rock and roll band U2 sang a song called, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The song became one of U2’s biggest hits. I got to see them in concert a few years ago and Bono had a whole stadium of 60,000 people singing,

I have climbed highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
I have run I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire. This burning desire
I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I’m still running
You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame, of my shame
You know I believed it
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

How many of us can echo those same words? We’ve searched high and low looking for peace for our wandering souls and it seems that everywhere we search we come up empty.

Kurt Cobain was the lead singer for the platinum album producing popular group Nirvana. Kurt had money, fame, gold albums, and popularity, but Kurt took a gun and ended his life. Just before he killed himself Kurt sat down and wrote a note to his wife, Courtney Love. In the note he wrote, “There’s a great empty hole in my heart.”

In August of 1976, Brad Delp and his buddies released their debut album. It was called Boston. The album sold 17 million copies and Boston became the biggest hit in Rock and Roll. It is the second largest selling debut album in U.S. history. The album remained on the Billboard Charts for 132 weeks. They sold more than 31 million albums during their heyday and released songs like “More Than A Feeling,” “Don’t Look Back,” and “Amanda.” Songs that are still played every day on Classic Rock radio stations.

The band has released albums and toured off and on for the past thirty years. In early 2007 they were planning their next tour when on March 9, Brad Delp was found dead at his home in New Hampshire. Brad was 55 years old. He had experienced fame, he had lots of money, and was living a life that many only dream of living, but it wasn’t enough for Brad.

He sealed his bathroom, lit two charcoal grills, wrote a note, and laid his head down on a pillow and died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The note that Brad had pinned to his shirt read, “Mr. Brad Delp: I am a lonely soul.”

Fame is desired by many, but there have been enough famous people who have ended their own lives that surely we now know that fame does not foster peace. Lots of money, tons of money, is desired by the masses, but there have been enough rich people who have ended their own lives that surely we now know that money doesn’t bring peace.

When we find peace fleeting and our daily lives pressing us at every turn we tend to want to escape. We want to try and find some place different than where we are, some place that might bring us the longed for peace that we so desperately desire.

We can learn a great lesson from the wise old man we heard from earlier. The peace and quietness of God does not reside on some mountain range or on some beach, but rather it is found in the presence of the Lord. You may be thinking, “Well, that’s fine Mike, but where do I find God?” Good question. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 139,

7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7-12 NIV)

The question is not where I can find God. The Psalmist tells us that we can’t escape God’s presence. The real question is, “If God’s presence is so pervasive, if we can’t escape the merciful gaze of our Master, why does God’s peace seem to evade our restless souls?” Another good question!

There are multiplied millions of Christians in America today. I don’t dispute that fact, but the fact of the matter is that most Christians have rarely if ever experienced the rest for their souls that God promises. I want to share with you today what I have learned about how you and I can come to know God’s peace in a real and lasting way.

Experiencing the peace of God is a two-fold process. The first part of the process in finding peace for our restless souls is to set our minds on Almighty God. Not in passing, not throwing up a prayer of desperation, not reading God’s Word like a speed reader, not meditating on His majesty only when we have stained glass in front of us, but continually setting our minds on God. We can have the mindset of the old spiritual, “Woke up this morning with my mind staid on Jesus!” We can wake up with our minds staid on Jesus, work with our minds staid on Jesus, wash the dishes with our minds staid on Jesus, fold the clothes with our minds staid on Jesus, fulfill our commitments with our minds staid on Jesus, and even go to bed with our minds staid on Jesus!

How can we keep our minds staid on Jesus? It’s not enough to simply say, “Just do it!” You need to help me learn how to rest in the peace of the Savior. Let me challenge you to do something this week. Every morning when you wake up, first thing, before you brush your teeth or eat your breakfast, tell the Father how much you love Him, thank Him for waking you up in your right mind, kiss Him “good morning” with words of gratitude for a brand new day, and ask Him to allow you walk with Him through the day. During the day rid yourself of the things that just take up space and time and fill that space with reminders of the presence of the Lord. Listen to the Bible, godly music, or some spiritual food for thought in your car instead of some talk show. Keep the Lord before you as you go through your day. In the evening, when you go to relax, relax in the arms of the Savior. Read His love letter to you instead of turning on the television. Talk with Him instead of calling a friend just to fill time. Go to bed with a prayer of thanksgiving on your lips. I will promise you that if you will diligently give yourself to this discipline for a week you will come back next Sunday having experienced a different reality during the week.

The second aspect of finding the peace of God for our weary souls is found when we carry God’s peace, His quiet calmness, to those whose lives have become unraveled in their search for peace. There was a song that came out many years ago that made a deep impression on me when I was a new believer. It goes like this:

I love to sing and I love to pray,
Worship the Lord most every day.
I go to the temple, and I just want to stay
To hide from the hustle of the world and its ways.
And I’d love to live on a mountain top,
Fellowshipping with the Lord.
I’d love to stand on a mountain top,
‘Cause I love to feel my spirit soar….
But I’ve got to come down
From the mountain top
To the people in the valley below;
Or they’ll never know
That they can go
To the mountain of the Lord.

We all want those mountain top experiences with the Lord. We want those times of quiet rest, those times when we are totally removed from the world and all of its noise while we bask in the quiet presence of the Lord. I’ve experienced those times and I pray you have also, but the truth of the matter is this: God desires to draw near to us and for us to experience His peace in the flow of real life, everyday life. Let me explain to you what I mean.

Jesus’ life was frantic and frenzied, but Jesus was never frazzled. There were sick people who needed to feel His touch, there were Pharisees who wanted to silence Him, there were lessons He needed to pass on to those who would continue His ministry after He was gone, but Jesus never buckled. We are mistaken if we think, “Boy, if I had only lived in the time of Jesus when things were much slower and folks had time to just relax, I could have really known peace.” There has never been such a time this side of the Fall my friend.

In Luke’s Gospel we read how on the Sabbath, the “day of rest” mind you, Jesus was being harassed for gathering grain to eat in a field. The religious folks said, “What do you think you are doing? You aren’t to work on the Sabbath.” Within a week’s time they were back at it again, this time harassing Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath, the day of rest. These two troubling situations which took place on two consecutive Sabbaths do not even cover the maddening demands of the sick, demon possessed, broken hearted, and lonely folks who were constantly pulling at Jesus. Luke tells us in Luke 6,

12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. 17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. (Luke 6:12-19 NIV)

Jesus knew the mad dash of life. He knew the demands on His time. He knew the expectations of those surrounding Him. Jesus knew that to experience the peace of God in the midst of a chaotic world, He needed to get alone with God. Jesus knew Isaiah’s words were true when he wrote, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3 NIV)

Jesus spent those quiet times alone with the Father so that He could spend quiet times in the chaos of everyday life. The good news for you and me is that we can know that same quiet rest. The Psalmist wrote,

7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, (Psalm 16:7-9 NIV)

Even in the midst of the most perilous times we can know the peace of God if we will keep our minds fixed on Him; His unshakable promises to His people, His undying love, His majestic power, His ability to make a way where there is no way. Once again the Psalmist wrote,

48 I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees. 49 Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. 50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:48-50 NIV)

The hymn writer wrote, “There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God!” Near to the heart of God! Near to the heart of God! There is no other place where quiet rest resides. It’s not in power, it’s not in isolation, it’s not in traveling the world, it’s not in unbridled sexual passion, but it’s near to the heart of God!

What you will find my friend is that when you draw near to the heart of God and He fills you with His quiet rest, He will turn you around and send you out to bind up the lives of those who are frazzled and coming apart at the seams. Jesus went up on the mountain, but He came down. He came down to touch your life and mine. He came down to lift us up. He came down to bind up the hearts of the broken hearted. He left the mountain for the messed up lives down below.

Many are here this morning who have been searching for that place of quiet rest. Everybody’s trying to get there my friend. Many are misguided, looking for peace in all the wrong places, but this morning you have heard the Truth and He wants to set you free. Will you leave the chaos of your frazzled life for a new life of rest in Christ? Will you leave your desires to retire to some remote corner of the planet so that you might draw near to the heart of God and allow Him to send you back into the maddening rush with a restful heart? Will you walk into the arms of the Master or will you simply continue to walk, searching frantically for peace and rest in this world that does not know the answer to your question?

Jesus told His disciples, “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.” (John 14:27 NIV) Will you allow the Prince of Peace to give you what you’ve been longing for this day?

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 17, 2011

Real Peace in a Really Chaotic World
Isaiah 26:3