First Mennonite Church
August 5, 2018
Peace Begins By Having Peace with God
Texts: John 14:27; Romans 8:31-39
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . . (Gal. 5:22a).
A World in Need of Peace.
We live in a world in need of peace, which reflects the state of restlessness and anxiety in the human heart. But in order to understand how extremely important God’s gift of peace is in our lives, let us take a glimpse of what disquiets our mind and spirit. Let us just start with yourself and myself. Why was I born having the features I have? Obviously, I got them from the genes of my mother and my father. Could I have control over how, when and where I was born? No; not at all! And many people, like you and me, are born in a way that our culture would call, “normal.” We, who acquired the ability to speak a language, who can hear, who can see the world, and who can reason with our brain, and feel with our hands, are called “normal people.” But unfortunately, not everyone is born “normal” according to the above cultural definitions. Some were born with physical deformities or mental impairments that obviously are beyond the control of those who were born with such conditions. We had control over neither the social or cultural circumstance into which we were born. Some were born into wealth, while others into extreme poverty. Some were born into social conditions that allow them to flourish in life, while others into conditions that thwart their potential from developing. Simply put, there are fundamental aspects of our life of which we do not have the least control. Therefore, in just the way we were born or for the conditions we were born into might be enough reasons we may not be at peace with ourselves. But again, we do not have control over those things.
We do not have control over the lives of others, even of those we so dearly love. Parents constantly worry about their children’s future lives, relationships, and about the decisions their children will make. In the end, parents do not have control over their children’s lives. Yet, because we as parents care so much for the wellbeing of our children, we worry sometimes.
But besides the circumstances of our birth and the genetics of our physical makeup, there are greater external forces that are also beyond our control. The word “terror” and its derivative “terrorist” are representative of everything contrary to peace. Every time there is a violent act committed, we hold our breaths almost always expecting to hear it was the act of a terrorist. Being aware of how often these incidents have occurred, we all live in constant fear. We all live longing for every kind of assurance that those acts of violence will not happen again. We all have a longing for peace. But terrorist acts are not the only reason our world longs for peace. There are all kinds of wars going on around the world. There are armed conflicts, culture wars, trade wars, war of words between opposing ideological sides, and so on. And again, all these kinds of wars prove how elusive peace is.
The enemies of peace are many. First and foremost is fear. The inability to have control over the future leads to a feeling of insecurity. What will become of today’s generation that seems unable to live without technology? Will the polarizing social trends ever come to an end? Will there be a time when living harmoniously will be the goal of our society? The direction and speed with which society is being transformed is increasingly worrisome. The unpredictability of the forces of nature can be a reason for anxiety. This week, there are more than 20 wildfires burning here in California. On the East Coast, there is flooding. Today we are fine, but sickness and danger are always lurking in the dark. We do not know what will happen tomorrow with our lives, and that can bring a sense of anxiety and insecurity.
There are so many reasons why peace is hard to achieve or be experienced. Every source of anxiety, from the personal to the societal, every reason for distress disquiets and makes restless our mind and eats away whatever degree of peace we might have. Peace is hard to acquire. Peace is hard to experience. For that reason, God’s promise of peace is of supreme importance for us. The peace of God in our lives is evidence of our utmost trust in the Almighty God. When we trust our lives in God’s hands we experience his peace. Faith in God in essence means we give over to God our desire for control, control of our lives, our future, and everything. Psalms 46:1-3 reads:
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore will we not fear, though the earth do change,
And though the mountains be shaken into the heart of the seas;
3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains tremble with the swelling thereof.
Biblical definition of Peace
The Hebrew word “Shalom” refers to a condition of life from which also flows a state of being. The meaning of peace in the Hebrew worldview does not simply mean the absence of hostility and violence. Peace means holistic wellbeing, reconciliation, fulfillment, soundness, agreement, friendship, general success and prosperity. Peace means total wellbeing of the person as well as of the community. Peace is also the absence of violence (1Kings 4:24-25; Proverbs 16:7)
In the New Testament the word for peace is eirene. Interestingly, every time the New Testament writers used the word they did so with the Hebrew definition in mind. Eirene literally means “to bring together what was separated, to reconcile, to make whole again. Eirene also means inner contentment and serenity that comes from living a full life.
Peace Begins by Being at Peace with God
How do we begin to experience God’s peace? The promise of Jesus of giving us his peace begins by being at peace with God. Romans five, verses one and two, read: 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 boast in the hope of the glory of God. Every aspect of peace begins by being at peace with God. Peace with God can only be experienced when we acknowledge the condition of our relationship with God. In Romans five, verse 10, Paul describes the state of our relationship with God as that of being enemies of God. By being enemies of God, the human heart is not only indifferent to the interests of God, but is actively against God’s will. The unredeemed human heart is constantly trying to avoid and silence the voice of God reaching it. But upon receiving Christ’s lordship over our lives, upon having our sins washed away in his blood, we have peace with God. Being at peace with God sets us on our way to experiencing the other aspects of God’s peace.
Receiving the Peace of God
Our text in John is about Jesus’ gift of peace to his disciples and to us. 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. When everything is going well in life, anyone can have a sense of peace. When our health is fine, when our children are doing well and behaving somewhat well, we have peace in our heart. But even the unbeliever would have peace in those circumstances. The difference in having the peace of God becomes obvious when the circumstances are not favorable to us. That was the context in which Jesus spoke these words
to his disciples. Jesus was announcing his departure to his disciples. What was more troubling was that his separation from them would be as the result of Jesus being arrested and consequently killed. Yet the one who would sustain his disciples is the coming Advocate whom Jesus would send after he had been gone. The Spirit of God would give the disciples the peace of God even in the midst of every troubling moment. Peace from God comes in knowing that God is always present in our lives. We are not alone. We can live confidently in spite of our inability to have control over our future and over our health. That is what Paul speaks about in Philippians. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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).
The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ. Christ’s peace is like a watchman. The peace of Christ will guard our hearts from fear, anxiety, and restlessness.
In 2012 the Tippett family answered God’s call to plant a new church and moved to Colorado where they soon after had to evacuate their home due to the Waldo Canyon Fire. It was that same summer that Kara Tippett was diagnosed with an aggressive kind of breast cancer. Despite having started the treatment for the cancer, Kara put her whole heart into growing and developing the new community that would become Westside Church, reaching out to others and teaching by example how to love and care for people well and sacrificially.
Her well known blog, Mundane Faithfulness, where she originally posted about motherhood and living in kindness, became a blog about looking for God’s grace to show up even in the hardest, messiest, ugliest places. . . . Her self-described “mundane” life appeared anything but mundane to her readers who inevitably fell in love with her inviting, joyful personality and her love for and trust in Jesus. Readers were attracted to her honesty, vulnerability, sense of humor, and simple faith. She never hesitated to share the hard moments, but she always pointed her readers—and herself—back to Jesus.
As the cancer spread, Kara courageously embraced her situation, trusting in a Sovereign God. She believed that cancer was not the point, but Jesus was; how she responded and trusted Christ in the midst of this hard circumstance was where she would find grace.
In her book, The Hardest Peace, Kara wrote:
My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping. But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well. By degrees doing both, living and dying, as I have moments left to live. I get to draw my people close, kiss them and tenderly speak love over their lives. I get to pray into eternity my hopes and fears for the moments of my loves. I get to laugh and cry and wonder over Heaven. I do not feel like I have the courage for this journey, but I have Jesus—and He will provide. He has given me so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude, that wondering over His love, will cover us all. And it will carry us—carry us in ways we cannot comprehend.
The peace of God gives strength when we are weak. The peace of God quiets our heart when there is every reason to be restless. The peace of God gives assurance when everything seems insecure. The peace of God is what liberates our heart from its pursuit of having control. Peace is a precious gift God gives us in exchange when we surrender our lives to him. The fruit of the Spirit is peace. Let us receive this gift by allowing the Spirit of God to take over our lives. Amen!