PEACE. The angels appeared to the shepherds and said “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). The picture above is a pretty good representation of my idea of peace. Sun…sand…warm water…and a chair. No worries. No struggles. No calendars or agendas. Just peace. We have this idea that peace is what we would have if all of our problems were taken away or set aside. We have this idea that we should have peace. The problem is that we don’t live in the picture above…our lives look more like this:
So what were the angels thinking!? They said that peace had come, yet our world and our lives certainly don’t look like the serene picture of the beach! Later, in John 14:27, Jesus says, “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.” It is tempting to look at life and say that the angels and Jesus must have been wrong, but I have found that when I’m in a situation like this it is best to take God at His Word and see where I may be wrong.
Jesus’ statement contains an important point – “I do not give to you as the world gives.” Is it possible that our idea of peace is according to the way the “world gives” peace? As I thought about this for the sermon, two things came to mind about the way the world says to get peace.
First, the world says that peace comes from being CARE FREE. By this I mean that the world says that if we can just overcome our cares to the point where we are free from them then we will get peace. If we could check everything off of our to do list, get enough money in the bank, get that certain title or promotion, or ___________________ (insert your own standard here!) then you would have peace. So we work…and work….and work in the hopes that we will gain or get to peace, but it always seems just out of our reach. Why is this? The writer of Ecclesiastes says these things are meaningless. That’s not to say they don’t have their place and aren’t important at all, but they are worthless when it comes to finding purpose and peace in life. Peace is not found by conquering all of our cares until we are free from them.
So since that doesn’t work, the world offers another alternative for getting peace – being CARE-LESS. This is the attitude of apathy – the person who looks at the struggles in their life and the lives of those around them and simply doesn’t care. Maybe the less we care about the problems the more peace we can have, right? I referred to this as the Hot Air Balloon method of dealing with life’s difficulties. Sure, you can hop in and fly over your troubles for awhile, but sooner or later that balloon has to come back down. The world offers all sorts of methods to help with the CARE-LESS mentality. There’s alchohol and drugs to numb the pain. There’s entertainment to distract you from your problems. There’s being judgmental and critical of others so you don’t think your problems are that bad. And, if all else fails, there is just straight up apathy. The bliss that comes from walking through life not caring about anything (I call this the adolescent method of dealing with problems). As long as you don’t have to think about your problems you’ll be OK, right? Wrong.
Our problems are very real and there are real issues at stake and real consequences to face. Romans 1:18-23 says this:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
We have a very real problem and it is called sin. We have “claimed to be wise” and have set ourselves in the place of God when it comes to deciding what is right and wrong and how the world should operate. We have chosen to worship the stuff of this world – technology, entertainment, jobs, money, success, power, image, reputation, etc. – instead of worshiping the God who created us and loves us.
We can’t overcome our sin by working harder and we can’t get away from it by just ignoring it. The world can’t give peace and all of our efforts to seek peace according to the world’s ways just end up making us more restless and hungry for peace. It is a vicious cycle.
Peace comes from knowing that you are CARED FOR. Jesus’ words in John 14:27 are interesting – especially because of the bigger subject he is talking about. He is nearing the end of his time on earth with his disciples and knows that he will be crucified, rise from the dead, and then return to heaven. He is giving them final instructions about the difficult times they will go through and he says this:
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 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 14:25-27).
What exactly is He promising them? How exactly is He giving them peace? He is giving them the Holy Spirit – the presence of God – to be with them always! This is how Jesus gives peace – He gives us HIMSELF because, as Micah 5:5 foretold, “he will be their peace.” Jesus doesn’t give us a path to peace or steps to peace. He gives us himself who IS OUR PEACE. He gives us himself by being born in a manger and living in this messy, sinful, and pain filled world. He gives us himself by dying on the cross to overcome the greatest problem that we have – our sin. He gives us himself by rising from the dead and promising eternal life to all who will believe in him. And he gives us himself by giving us God’s presence in our lives – the Holy Spirit – who leads us and guides us according to God’s will and God’s Word.
To know Jesus is to know peace. He is our peace. It is accomplished. Done. Bought and paid for. Peace is our present reality even in the craziness of our lives. We have peace if, and only if, we have Jesus. We don’t need to seek peace, we need to trust Jesus to be our peace. We don’t need to work for peace, we need to get to know Jesus better who is our peace.
One last thing. When flight attendants give instructions they always talk about what to do if you are traveling with a child and the air masks drop from the ceiling. You should first put your mask on first and then help the child. Why? Because someone who is struggling for air is of little help to anyone else. We have a lot of Christians that are struggling for peace. We are so busy grasping at one thing after another in the hopes of gaining peace that we are too busy to help those around us. But what if we could understand that we already have peace. The mask is already on our face and we could breathe deeply if we only knew. If we could trust that we already have peace in Jesus, then we are free to quit flailing around and start helping others to find Jesus and to know the peace he gives. Because he has promised what we still need to hear: ” 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).
May we know and trust the Peace of Jesus this Christmas season and always.