Summary: Peace is what God wants for us, no matter what is happening around us.
“Knowing Peace”…Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
“How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man? How many seas must a white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand? Yes an’ how many times must those cannonballs fly, before they’re forever banned? The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
In the turbulent 60’s I spent a lot of time in coffee houses at the Jersey Shore, singing the folksongs of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, and Peter, Paul & Mary--songs that cried out for peace in troubled times. Most of the songs I sang pointed out the lack of peace, but offered few answers.
Dylan wrote “The Times They Are A-changin”, but not much has changed. We still live in a war-torn, troubled world. Until Christ returns there will be wars and rumors of wars. The only thing that’s changed is our vocabulary. We have new, fearful words: Al Qaeda, suicide bombing, dirty bombs, Taliban, jihad, anthrax, SARS, homeland security, and high alert. These are anxious days.
As one who has seen war, one thing I have learned is that the absence of war does not bring about peace. Neither does material prosperity. We seek peace, yet we fail in our efforts to attain peace, until we encounter the Source of peace. To reject the peace God offers is to embrace despair.
A policeman walking his beat spotted a man perched on a girder of a bridge, preparing to leap to his death. “Come down!” the policeman cried, but the man on the bridge refused. The policeman asked, “Are you having problems at home? Financial difficulties?” and the man said “No--I’m troubled by the world situation.” The policeman convinced the man to come down and they’d talk about it. He agreed, and they sat and discussed the world’s problems…then an hour later they both jumped off the bridge!
Life can bring us to despair; to combat hopelessness, we need to know what peace is and how to get it!
I recently read through the book of Job, and if there was ever someone with troubles, it was poor Job. Yet in spite of his pain, Job was able to confidently declare, “I know that my Redeemer lives…I know that after this body has decayed, I will see God.” Job didn’t understand why he’d been dealt such a difficult life, but he was assured that he belonged to God.
Where does true peace come from? From the God of peace. Jesus tells us, “In Me you will have peace; in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In the ancient Hebrew language the word used is shalom. In Israel it is a greeting, “Shalom Aleichem”, “Peace be with you.” In Arabic it’s Salaam Aleichem.” It’s too bad the Jews and Arabs can’t say this to each other. Shalom refers to the state of integrity, harmony, serenity and completeness within a person’s life. Peace is not merely the absence of struggle but the abiding presence of calm.
When we trust in God, the Holy Spirit places in us a sense of peace and confidence, which Paul describes as a “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22). Unbelievers may enjoy a comfortable life, but the most they can attain is a false sense of security. Jesus told His followers, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” People may try to anesthetize their pain, but they have to eventually face life and eternity.
People lack peace because they seek the wrong source. Isaiah warns us, “Why spend your money on that which doesn’t satisfy?” (ch 55). Jesus told about a man who figured his wealth would buy him peace, and he could take life easy…but God said to him, “You fool--this very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:19-20). You can buy sleep in a drugstore, but only God can give you peace. True rest is found in knowing God. Psalm 4:8 says, “I will lie down in peace and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.”
Why do some believers lack peace? A defiled or weak conscience can cause unrest, due to either guilt over sin or from neglecting the disciplines of the Christian life. Puritan Thomas Watson observed, “Slacken the strings of a violin, the music is spoiled; as Christians slack in their duty, they spoil the sweet music of peace in their souls; as the fire goes out, the peace cools.”
Over 20 years ago a married couple, concerned about the threat of war, decided to carefully research the safest place on earth to which they could retire. They studied and traveled. Finally they found THE PLACE. And on Christmas they sent their pastor a card from their new home–in the Falkland Islands–just prior to the war between Argentina and England in the early 1980’s! Where can we go to find peace?