Summary: Are you at peace? Help listeners achieve the long-lasting gift of authentic peace in their hearts and minds.
“Give them a piece of your mind!” the man shouted as we passed in the hallway of the United States Capital. He knew I was on my way to speak to a group of leaders at a crucial time of acrimonious conflict. As I walked on, it hit me: that was exactly what I wanted to do. But then an inner Voice asked, “How will you spell piece? Piece or peace?” I was reminded that the great need in the people to whom I would speak was for profound peace that would enable peacemaking. I was resolved to share the secret of lasting, liberating peace.
Over fifty-five years of ministry, I have had to receive fresh peace in my own mind over and over again so that I could help people experience a peace of my mind. I really believe that nothing can happen through us unless it first happens to us.
The great need of our troubled time is for spiritual leaders who have authentic peace and can help others to receive it. That’s why this morning I have asked God to give me the gift of preaching in order to give you a peace of my mind.
It is in that spirit that I want to share some very personal questions. Audacious? Maybe. But if you and I could sit down and talk over a cup of coffee, these are questions I would like to ask you—and would like to have you ask me. I will try to answer them as honestly as I can and I encourage you to do the same. Here are four possible responses to the questions: never, seldom, frequently, consistently.
In your inner self, known only to you, are you at peace? Or are you filled with a jumble of distressing memories, unresolved grievances, unfinished plans, and frustrating disappointments? Are you at peace in your thinking? Never? Seldom? Frequently? Consistently?
What about your feelings? Do you feel at peace? Do you have a profound sense of serenity rooted in an unassailable security? Do you feel loved, forgiven, accepted as a unique, never to be repeated miracle of God?
Are you free of smouldering anger, nagging fears, self-incrimination? Never? Seldom? Frequently? Consistently?
What about the future? Are you at peace about knowing and doing God’s will? In your own prayerful conversation with Him have you become clear about your goals? Is your will surrendered in complete trust in the Lord? Never? Seldom? Frequently? Consistently?
Now what about your relationships? Do you ever allow others to rob you of inner peace? Do some present relationships remind you of troubling relationships of the past? Do some people bug the heaven out of you? Are you at peace in your relationships? Never? Seldom? Frequently? Consistently?
And what about circumstances? Do you remain calm in the face of trouble, crises, illness, tough times? Do circumstances interrupt the flow peace? Never, Seldom? Frequently? Consistently?
Finally, is your body at peace? Are you ever strained by stress, agitation, nervousness? Are you free from tension, churning stomach, tight muscles, tension, tiredness? Do you have a sense of calmness in your body? Never? Seldom? Frequently? Constantly?
I’d have to admit that not all my responses were, “constantly” or even “frequently.” But I want them to be! How about you?
Note that this inventory includes our whole being—mind, emotions, will, body, relationships and circumstances. That’s because true peace is a metonymy for wholeness—mental health, emotional stability, volitional integration and physical well being. Also note that it begins with the mind.
We hear a lot about “mindfulness” these days. It is a meditation-based treatment with foundations in Buddhism and yoga. It encourages people to focus on their breathing, their bodies, living in the present moment, how to overcome ruminating on the past, and how to be non-judgmental about their thoughts. There is nothing wrong
with good mental hygiene or meditation techniques, but the peace that will see us through the deep turbulence of our times is not programmed by mind control. True peace cannot be induced by drugs or patched into the fabric of our tissues like an electrode.
This morning I want to talk about what might be called Theo-centric, biblical mindfulness that is distinguished by supernatural peace. It is based on key Old and New Testament verses that reveal the only source of true and lasting peace.
There is only one source of the consistent peace that is the essence of biblical mindfulness. Throughout the Bible, language is stretched to distinquish God’s true peace from temporary, transitory peace. The Bible is clear: we can’t produce inner peace, but we can receive it.
That’s the secret of true peace revealed in Isaiah 26. The passage was written as a song for the people of God to sing in repentance and in return to the Lord. The people of Judah, and especially of Jerusalem, had abandoned the way of faith in God for dependence on foreign powers such as Aram, for collective strength and self-reliance. The result was neither political nor personal peace.