Summary: A sermon about "peace" being one part of the Fruit of the Spirit [our Christian character].
My beautiful wife has become hooked on the cable television show Shalom in the Home. It is what I call a Jewish version of the Dr. Phil Show. The difference is that Dr. Phil’s program is more of a talk show format where Rabbi Shmuley uses a hand’s on approach and gets his hands dirty by being directly involved with either a person’s own state of affairs or the struggle between interpersonal relationship’s. The ultimate goal of both shows is the issue of peace.
Many times when we think of peace, we think of the word that the Jewish people use: "Shalom," which we think as its definition being that of peace. But its real meaning is "order and well-being." So when they say “Shalom,” what they’re really declaring is “In your life may you have order and well-being,” or “May you have a valid perception of security,” or “May you have a genuine awareness of a solid foundation underneath your feet.”
We need to understand that authentic peace is a byproduct of obedience to God and an assurance that he is in control of your and my life. And both of those ingredients must be there for us to have a sense of peace.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture about peace is one found within Isaiah’s pro-phecy: "I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way that you should go." And listen to this statement: "If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea."
Now, just take a moment with me as I emphasize some of the phrases found in this pas-sage. God says through the prophet Isaiah; "I’m the Lord your God." Do you and I really understand that statement? If so, then listen to the promises attached to that knowledge; "who teaches you." The Lord our God instructs us into what is the best for us. And then, "who directs you." In other words, He teaches us, he directs us in the way that we should go. If we follow his wisdom and we obey his guidelines, then he says we’ll have, "peace" that will be "like a river." I’m sure that’s where the lyrics come from in the hymn I Have Peace Like a River. God goes on by declaring that "We’ll have peace like a river and our righteousness will be like the waves of the sea."
In this same passage of Scripture God talks about the fact that there is no peace for the wicked. So the peace that I feel like talking to you about today, is the peace that Paul talks about, which is part of the fruit of the spirit in your and my life, is a direct result of being obedient to God and giving him complete control of our lives. It gives us an awareness of self-assurance. Let me illustrate.
In the Old Testament is the story of Gideon. We pick up the story where Gideon is in the winepress, threshing wheat. He’s in hiding because the enemy, the Philistines, have constantly, for several years now during the harvest season, come in and plundered the land of Israel. So here’s Gideon. He’s hoping to get enough wheat together for some flour for bread for his family without the Philistines coming and taking it away from him. And all of a sudden, intersecting this story appears God. He finds Gideon in his hiding place and says to him, "Oh, Gideon, man of valor." It’s kind of amusing. God looks at Gideon and calls him a man of valor, of courage, and of course what is he doing? He’s hiding.
God gazes at Gideon and says, "I would like you to be the leader of the children of Israel." And God expresses to Gideon that he wants him to do battle. Now, what’s fascinating is that at the end of this dialogue with God, Gideon erects an altar to Jehovah Shalom. In other words, he constructs an altar to the God of peace. Now, isn’t this out of the ordinary? Here Gideon, in apprehension because of a larger oppressive enemy, is about to go and do combat against that rival, and he makes a sacrifice to the God of peace.
How can Gideon make a sacrifice to the God of peace when there’s all sort of tension around him? When he is confronting an awful gloomy episode in his life, where he’s going to set out to do warfare, where there’s going to be all manner of antagonism, how can Gideon make an altar to the God of peace in that condition? Very simple; you see, Gideon understands Jehovah Shalom. He understands godly serenity. What it means is that one has a sense of refuge, a rationality of direction, and a sensible rational of the presence of God in the midst of tension, turmoil, hostility, and battle. The peace that God assures you and me is not a peace deficient of difficulty. What he promises is, to locate us in the midst of our mess, our struggle, our gloomy days, and stroll into our inner being and speak peace to our spirit: Even while everything around us is unraveling and becoming disconnected. That’s the peace that God promises.