Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Gift of Peace

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.     John 14:27 NKJV

How do you greet another person in the course of your daily life?  Not just the people you may know, but those you don’t as well?  Do you smile and just nod your head or do you say something like ”good morning”, or “how are you” as you pass?  Many know that in Israel, or even among those of Jewish descent who may live elsewhere, the most common form of greeting is to say “shalom”, which is the Hebrew word for peace.  Of course, there are variants of this greeting but the use of the word shalom certainly implies not only a feeling towards another, but a reassurance as well.

Jews may have traditionally greeted one another shalom, but the origins of the use of that greeting are unclear.  Some rabbi’s have taught that it can be traced back to the greeting the servant of Joseph used towards his brothers in the Genesis account of their return to Egypt.  There we find that Joseph’s brothers were fearful that they were about to face harm because of the discovery that the money they had used to pay for the grain they bought in Egypt on their first visit.  In verse 23 of Genesis 43 we find that the servant of Joseph greets them with the word “shalom”, and tells them not to be afraid.

But he said, “Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.  Genesis 43:23  NKJV

In the passage from John we find that Jesus also use the word peace when talking to His disciples and again, just as in the case of Josephs’ brothers, the purpose is to reassure and deliver from fear.  Yet Jesus also says something revealing in this passage that I think bears note, and that is He makes it very clear that there are two kinds of peace in this world; the peace that comes from God, and the peace the world tries to offer.  To those who choose a relationship with the risen Lord, it appears that there is a completely different kind of peace available for our reassurance.

Most of us understand that the world's definition of peace is the absence of conflict. Two parties can disagree on anything, for any reason, but as long as there is no open warfare what you then have is called living in a state of peace. As I said, however, this is what the world calls peace. As believers though, shouldn't we should be more interested in what God calls peace instead of the world? Most would say yes but I think if we take a good look around it becomes apparent that within the church today, most believers are relying more on the world's definition of peace rather than on what our Lord had to say. 

We need not look too hard at the history of this world to come to the conclusion that true peace between men is not only temporary at best, but according to the Bible, unachievable in a permanent state.  This world is broken, and certainly the world has failed to produce someone who can fix it.  As a father, I enjoyed being seen by my daughters as the one who could fix anything.  Looking back, it would seem that if I had to define my role as a father, it would be something like a physical and emotional Mr.Fixit.  Whatever it was, Dad could fix it.  Well, most of the time anyway.  Just wait until Dad comes home and things will be put right, and there will be nothing to worry about.

I doubt I could count the number of times I got a call while at work about a crisis of some sort, (with three daughters there was always some sort of crisis) and my answer was always “just wait until I get home and I will take care of it”. In the passage from John, if you continue to read you find that Jesus provides an answer to why His peace is different from the peace the world offers, and why we need not be afraid, and believe it or not, it might sound familiar.

“You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I. “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.             John 14:28-29  NKJV

While the world continually fails to produce any sort of lasting peace, Jesus tells us we need not  be afraid because He is coming back, and when He does He will fix what is broken and bring about a peace that passes all understanding.  Bearing that in mind, when you look around at the world today and see the myriad of problems and conflicts that exist, do you wonder how the world is going to solve them or do you rest in the knowledge that Jesus has promised to return and set things right?  The peace that Jesus says He has given us comes from the knowledge that He lives inside of all who believe, and is coming back to take us home to be with Him forever.

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Colossians 3:15 NKJV

Notice the word rule. When I think about that I get the picture of a throne room and a ruler sitting on the throne. In the believers heart, God should be sitting on the throne ruling, but when we look around and begin to be fearful of what we see going on around us, are we really allowing Him to rule?  In order to enjoy peace while the world seemingly tumbles out of control, we must focus on the promises we have from Him and remind ourselves constantly of His soon return.  While that might seem difficult to do, the prophet Isaiah gives us the following instruction.

You will keep [him] in perfect peace, [Whose] mind [is] stayed [on You], Because he trusts in You.                  Isaiah 26:3 NKJV

Two points are made in this verse that helps us understand how we might begin to experience peace in our lives as God intended. The first thing we are told is that our minds should be “stayed” on Him. The Hebrew word for stayed is camak, which means to lean or rest upon, the result being we are supported by whatever it is we are leaning on. Now that might sound simple but in truth exactly how do we do that in a practical sense? Personally I try to look at it this way; when I made the decision to accept Christ into my heart, He did in fact come in. Therefore, it is no longer “I” or “me”, but “us” and “we”. 

Think of it this way; how often in the course of the day do you think of “I” and “me”? Most of us would have to say all the time. It's always about what I should do, or how does that affect me, what do I want to do, etc. Truth is, as believers it's now about the two of us. So to my way of thinking, having my mind “stayed” upon Him is to always think of us rather than me, and to consider how Jesus would respond and then adjust my attitude to reflect that. Secondly, this verse says that the result of having our minds stayed on Him is that we trust Him. The word translated to trust is batach which is actually a verb phrase which means to trust, have confidence in, and as a result be bold in our response. 

I’m not sure that I could honestly say that a day goes by without hearing someone talking about the state the world is in right now.  If not the economy, wars and rumors of wars, even the price of gas gives rise to questions about what in the world is going on.  Have you ever considered that what is going on is part of God’s plan in order to give His children a last opportunity to share the Gospel with an unbelieving world?  With all the concern and worry we see from others, we are given a wonderful chance to share why we can be at peace while this world spins out of control.

The next time someone asks you if you are worried about what is happening in the world today, simply tell them no, because Jesus has promised us He is coming back to fix this broken world.

Keep watching.