PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
If peace could be packaged and marketed sales would be phenomenal because mankind seeks some miracle-formula for peace. Testifying to that is United States drug consumption that annually soars into billions of dollars. Millions are spent on tranquilizers alone–pills furnishing a false sense of security. People have become so dependent on stimulants and tranquilizers that without them they would wind up in hospitals or worse yet institutions where they would be force-fed more pills and undergo psycho-therapy.
When you interact with society you discover why there’s alcoholism, pill-popping, needle-poking, and vast sums of money spent on drugs. People lack peace. They’re churning with turmoil and seeking tranquility. But the world’s offer can’t calm their inner storm. There’s a tremendous difference between tranquility and serenity. Tranquility describes a temporary condition generally arising from external assistance. Serenity, however, is an assumed state of being un-induced by externals; it’s a disposition claimed from within the heart. The person living with an abiding peace has an envied and invaluable gift from God. Have you ever known someone whose inner disposition calmly transcended life’s chaos? They possessed a composure no matter what the turbulence?
(Illustration) Jim and Joanna Harriman knew such an individual. They were a typical American couple with two children, a mortgaged home, modern conveniences (purchased by credit), and barely enough money to scrape from paycheck to paycheck. Jim was an accomplished advertising executive but with enormous indebtedness they struggled and always felt drained. Their only solution was to rent the guest room. After advertising a young carpenter named Joshua responded and the Harriman’s let him move in. He was a hit with the children, brought them toys, never interfered with family disputes, and promptly repaired whatever needed attention. . . . What was most unusual about Joshua was an abiding calm that influenced everyone. Even family arguments diminished. Leaving for work and returning he greeted the family with the Jewish expression, “Shalom.” One Saturday while playing with the kids, Janet darted into the street after a ball. Joshua saw everything instantly unfold and scrambled to throw her from an oncoming automobile. Janet tumbled to safety but Joshua was fatally struck. Jim rushed to his limp body, raised his head from the asphalt, and under the hovering cloud of death heard his last word: “Shalom.” Even in death Joshua was strangely serene.
How does somebody live like that? Do you drape yourself with a robe, nestle into a monastery, and chant hymns? Do you become an isolationist or a hermit? Jesus didn’t suggest any such alternative. All He commanded contradicted those lifestyles. He commanded outgoing lifestyle:
- He commissioned the twelve apostles to invade society.
He authorized the seventy elders to evangelize the ten region of Galilee known as the Decapolis.
From the Mount of Olives He commanded the 500 disciples to infiltrate the globe.
And He commanded all Believers to take the Gospel “to all creation.”
But His promise was: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” And there’s the answer: Going with Christ. The person intimately knowing and internalizing Christ enjoys a serenity no tranquilizer can furnish.
(Transition) The first point I want to impress is an exclamation: Peace is possible!
I. Peace Is Possible
The peace that’s possible doesn’t resemble worldly peace. That’s a cheap substitute for the genuine, always falling short of its promises:
Men sign “Peace Pacts” and “Peace Treaties” that are nullified before the ink dries.
We send soldiers to foreign soil in the name of peace while America’s streets are menaced with thugs and fraught with fear.
We forbid municipalities from displaying manger scenes of the “Prince of Peace” but permit the National Endowment of Arts to picture Him jabbing Himself with a hypodermic.
We outlaw saying grace at public schools but promote the unnerving risk of State-sponsored gambling.
The world’s offer of peace, however it’s packaged, is vacuous and unfulfilling. These are the end-times and Satan is staging matters for the Antichrist. One of the Antichrist’s chief ploys is offering a pretentious peace treaty. He’ll appear as a peace-maker but the man of deceit is a peace-breaker. Look at the stark difference between this Antichrist peace-breaker and the genuine Christ, Peace-Keeper.
I believe the Jewish Rabbis that live during the Tribulation will use this passage to recognize the mistake of rejecting their Messiah 2000 years ago. They’ll realize Jesus would never break covenant with His people. We have a faithful God!
(Definition) Let’s discuss the type peace Scripture says is possible. It comes from that Old Testament word Shalom that Joshua enjoyed using. It has a wide range of meaning, describing the absence of hostility and the lack of discord, to physical health, material prosperity, and mental soundness. It regarded one’s general well-being. For example:
When Hebrews invoked “Shalom” as a greeting or benediction they were saying: “May God’s complete blessings surround you; May His Covenant-provisions be yours; May your home and land enjoy repose; May you conquer your enemies.”
The New Testament embraces the Old Testament concept of “Shalom” but adds the higher spiritual dimension appearing through Jesus. The purpose for Christ’s incarnation was to restore our wrecked relationship with God. Real peace is only realized when by faith we accept Christ’s reconciling, healing work.
Paul made the spiritual application when he said, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Not through externals, not through philosophy, not through the false hope of society evolving into nirvana. Real peace is found only at the Cross. And the peace Calvary offers helps conquer all worldly woes. It makes us adequate to handle life.
We can’t escape war, disorder, famine, pain, sickness, injustice, or maligning until Jesus returns to establish His eternal Kingdom of Peace. Then the ‘lion will lie with the lamb’, the nations will disarm, you can clear the medicine chest, and dismiss the attorney. Peace, internalized from Calvary, conquers worldly woes. Think about it, Everywhere Jesus traveled people tried to stone, apprehend, or discredit Him. He even warned us of the difficulties redounding to discipleship when he said: ‘I came to send a sword even into one’s household.’ Devotion to Christ creates a constant outward struggle, but there’s God’s inner peace to sustain us.
Jesus and the Apostles repeatedly provided concrete assurance for peace. That’s why it’s employed 108 times in the New Testament; It’s available for any and every circumstance:
- Mark 9:50 says it’s available as we interact with the world. Jesus said:
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
In the Galilee when the storms rose to meet Jesus He rose to meet the storms and calmed them with the words: “Peace, be still.”
On the Emmaus road He comforted the travelers that were shocked by His presence with the words: “Peace be with you” (LUK 24:36).
In John 20:21 when the Apostles prepared to launch their ministry Jesus said: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
And in the face of persecution when the disciples cowered in fear Jesus calmed them with the words: “Peace be with you” (JOH 20:27).
For any place or situation He said in John 16:33: “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.”
And then Isaiah 32:17 prophesied these words about Jesus: “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.”
Peace is our heritage!
(Transition) The Bible says peace is possible, but how? Point two indicates, Peace is possible through a person.
II. Peace Is Possible Through A Person
(Illustration) The October `95 issue of Reader’s Digest illustrated it well in its story of Sister Mary Catherine who died and went to Heaven. Saint Peter met her and asked if she had any regrets. She told him she always wanted to travel but her religious devotion had prevented the opportunity. Because of her faithfulness Peter gave her twenty-four hours to visit anywhere on earth. Precisely twenty-four hours later the phone rang: “Hello, Saint Peter, this is Sister Catherine. I’m in Rome visiting the Vatican and have just met the Pope.” Peter recognized the vibrancy in her voice and gave her another day. Twenty-four hours later she promptly phoned again: “Saint Peter, this is Sister Catherine. I’m in Paris. I’ve lighted candles at Notre Dame and scaled the Eiffel Tower. Would it be possible to have just one more day?” Peter consented. Three weeks later Peter’s phone rang: “Hi Pete, this is Cat–I’ve found a place called Bourbon Street down here in N’Awlins.”
The premier way to obtain peace is to fully identify with Christ. He offers the ultimate rest and serenity. The problem is we’re intimately acquainted with things that can incite precisely the antithesis of peace. We depend on corporations that expend and terminate us; We trust in uncertain riches; Although interpersonal relationships are necessary we discover friends can disappoint and even betray us. All these things create apprehension if we inordinately depend on them.
Listen folks, The world can’t formulate or package peace; It comes through a person. Think about it, What do we expect from the world? The corporate structure will eventually collapse; The ratrace is exhausting and doesn’t lead anywhere; Pleasures are only momentary; Only Jesus genuinely satisfies. That’s why Isaiah 57:20 says: “the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. (21) “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” Peace isn’t found in a place, pleasures, or position, it’s found in a Person–Jesus. And His peace doesn’t remotely resemble the world’s, it comes through a relationship.
(Illustration) Some years back I ministered to a suicidal young lady whose family attended my Church but she rarely attended. Everything she relied on was associated with the world. In a moment of disillusionment, when her boyfriend broke their engagement, she swallowed a handful of broken razors and a bottle of medicine. A Spirit-filled doctor that attended my Church operated on her but gave her little chance of survival. He operated and plucked the blades, extracted as much medicine as possible from her stomach, and she recovered. When I later asked why she reacted so foolishly she replied: “I just went crazy.” In her moment of panic she wasn’t intimately reliant on the One able to assuage her fears.
- That’s why Jesus said in John 16:33:
“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.”
Isaiah called Him the “Prince of Peace” when he said: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6).
Isaiah 26:12 says: “LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.”
Isaiah 53:5 says: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Peace is embodied in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, and that’s why Paul spoke of “being in Christ” and ‘Christ being in Him.’ It only comes by developing a vibrant relationship with Him.
(Illustration) Sometime back I befriended a man that was about as miserable as anyone I’ve known. He professed salvation but indulged in an assortment of habits that were terribly sinful. He smoked marijuana and overindulged in alcohol. He attended Church about once weekly and occasionally poured out his heart in repentance, but during the week, when he needed a high, he turned to his vices. In ministering to him I quickly discovered he was saddled with guilt. Even though he argued “once saved always saved” he questioned his salvation. He depended on artificial stimulants to satisfy him rather than Christ’s living presence and power. Even though he made an occasional pit-stop at the Church altar it wasn’t enough to sustain him.
(Example) Folks, here’s a caveat: Do you know what “Gatorade Athleticism” is? It’s when a thirsty athlete runs to sideline for a swig of Gatorade to recharge his electrolytes and return to action. There’s no such thing as “Gatorade Christianity.” That is, when someone periodically staggers into God’s presence, takes a swig of Jesus, recharges their spiritual electrolytes, and returns to the rat race. You can’t survive on a periodic swig of Jesus. You need daily gulps from the “river of life.” That’s when peace and satisfaction comes.
(Transition) Thirdly, Peace is acquired by practicing peace.
III. Peace is Possible by Practice
Football, baseball, and soccer teams practice. Practice sharpens skills. And the more practice the better the performance. Professional coaches consider practice so important that they levy heavy fines on players for tardiness or absence from practice.
(Illustration) In high school I played trumpet in the band. And I enjoyed it enough to take trumpeting seriously. I took a daily band class, attended afternoon rehearsals, then took the trumpet home and practiced more. My parents were nearly deafened by my incessant blasting. But all the practicing brought a measure of success. I was privileged to play in the marching band, stage band, compete in national competition, and eventually seated first trumpet, first chair in the school band. But how do you practice peace? Let me suggest several ways:
1. Peace is practiced through prayer. Many people make prayer an emergency cord that’s only pulled at the height of danger, but it shouldn’t be. Especially since God links prayer with peace. Paul connected them with his prescription for peace in Philippians 4:6: “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.”
(Example) Amazingly, a 1995 Harvard University study concluded that prayer, of all things, positively affects circumstances. It helps people cope with stress and even recover from illnesses.
God provided prayer to help conquer fear, worry, and difficulties. Pray! And don’t forget to “pray in the Spirit.” Isaiah 28:11 says: “. . . with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, (12) to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose.” There’s a definite correlation between peace and the Holy Spirit’s assistance in your prayer-life.
2. Peace is practiced by understanding God’s nature. There’s wonderful peace that comes from intimately acquainting yourself with God. The eminent theologian J.I. Packer suggested in his book that we must come to terms with knowing God. Sometimes Churches display the marquee saying: “Know God know peace, no God no peace.” That’s why it’s important to understand God’s marvelous nature.
- In Deuteronomy 7:9 Moses commanded Israel to get acquainted with Jehovah when he conveyed the message:
“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.”
God said in Jeremiah 9:23: “This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, (24) but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.”
It was customary for Hebrews to borrow from the meaning of God’s Name and nature and invoke them upon their family and friends. And “Jehovah Shalom” was a designation God revealed to Israel.
If you want an infusion of peace, get acquainted with God. When you’re enlightened to His: Infinite love, absolute goodness, amazing grace, and abundant mercy it creates an atmosphere for peace. There’s comfort for any situation because you know He’s in control and working everything for your good. He becomes “the eye of the storm,” the place in a hurricane that’s peaceful despite surrounding upheaval and destruction.
3. Peace is practiced by recognizing you can’t control every circumstance. As our Example Jesus didn’t try controlling every circumstance. He committed Calvary to the Father’s will. When the Apostle’s were ready to fight the Priests and soldiers coming to arrest Him Jesus said there were more than 72,000 angels poised to rescue Him should He beckon (MAT 26:53). Although writhing in agony from the Cross He wouldn’t yield to the Pharisee’s taunting to, “save Himself.”
Some trials aren’t designed for physical deliverance. The “way of escape” may be through spiritual faithfulness. You can’t control others insulting you. You can’t control every accident or misfortune. You can’t always control layoffs. But you can control relying on God’s faithfulness and goodness to see you through.
4. Peace is practiced by quiet meditation. Slow down, get off the treadmill, quietly relax, and listen to the Spirit’s gentle voice. Make that a daily exercise.
In truth, peace has been packaged. Packaged in sinless flesh and presented in the form of God’s only begotten Son.
Endnote 1, Adapted from Reader’s Digest and New Orleans tour guide.