Summary: God delivers his people from anxiety through faith in the work of his Son.
My uncle had cancer surgery Friday. The prognosis is not good; the disease has spread.
Since I cannot receive any Social Security or Medicare, I have a retirement account. So far this year, it has lost $7,204.55, 30% of its value.
This week a pastor sent me this note about what was going on in his life: “I lost hearing in my right ear three weeks ago (and gained a constant ringing). Two week ago, an ear specialist put me on steroids to see if there would be some healing. He said that I had an injured nerve. One of the side effects of the steroids is that it can lower your immune system and I have developed a small infection in my finger that seems to be spreading. So, tomorrow, I have to go to the doctor to have that looked at in the morning, and then in the afternoon, I meet with the ear specialist. I am guessing he will want me to have an MRI as there is a chance I have a benign tumor that is causing the problems. So, if you would pray. My spirits are good, and I trust God in all this. The hard thing for me is going to the doctors and taking the time to deal with this stuff.”
Trials and tribulations strike from coiled behind different rocks, but all can make us wonder if God is on the throne. They tempt us to doubt whether there is a designer with a good plan. They frighten us, make us anxious, trouble our hearts. We may not even want to trust God and keep our spirits up.
The men chosen by the Lord as his witnesses and the future leaders for the church are about to face great difficulties. Until now, when a problem arose, they went to Jesus. For example, when they could not heal a young boy, an argument developed and tempers rose. Then Jesus arrived and drove out the demon and healed the boy. Another time there was not enough food for everyone: “What do we do?” they asked. Then Jesus blessed the bread and miraculously fed the multitude.
But now he is leaving, and they are anxious: “To whom will we turn when troubles abound?” Earlier (in John 14.1), Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He returns to that theme in the paragraph we are reading this morning. [Read John 14.25-31. Pray.]
The letter read: “Dear Abby, I have found the secret to inner peace and I want to share it will all your readers. The secret is to finish the things you start. Today alone I finished two bags of potato chips, a chocolate pie, a bottle of wine and a box of candy. I feel better already.”
Though it may make you feel better, this is not what the Lord promises. But he does promise. In fact, peace is a promised effect, or result, of knowing God and having him truly working in our lives. Galatians 5.22: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
In our church (denomination) we put some of the Bible’s most significant teachings in question and answer form to help us teach ourselves and our children. One of those questions asks: “What are the benefits which in this life accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification? Answer: The benefits which in this life accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are: assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, and increase and perseverance in grace to the end” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, #36).
In other words, peace can flow into our lives as a result of salvation. Jesus taught that in John 14, so it is our topic this morning. To get there, I think we must first…
1. We Must Recognize and Reject False Peace
Note well what Jesus says in the middle of verse 27: “Not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14.27b).
Jesus clearly contrasts his gift with the world’s. The world offers a form of peace, and by alerting us to that fact, Jesus is asking us to recognize false “peace” and reject it. (This is a pattern throughout the Bible – before we “put on” the new, we must “put off” the old.) So what false peaces tempt us in such a way as to keep us from the peace of God?
The one I mentioned in the opening illustration is a little silly, but it is real. Losing one’s anxieties in an excess of alcohol or dessert is a common form of temporary peace.