Keeping the Peace
I want to begin tonight by getting a feel for where you are right now. I need you to use your imagination, to get a mental picture in your mind. You can close your eyes if it will help.
Scene # 1: Imagine a beautiful sunny, spring day, out near a lake. The temperature’s around 70, maybe a little warmer. If you enjoy fishing, imagine yourself out on a boat, or if you not, see yourself lounging in a rocking chair on a porch overlooking the lake. You just sit there soaking it all in, breathing a deep sigh of contentment. Everything is calm and serene. Can you see yourself there?
Scene # 2: Imagine yourself running through the forest near the lake, trying to find your way home. Lightning flashes, thunder booms, the temperature’s not much above freezing, and you’re chilled to the bone. The wind violently whips the trees, threatening to bring them down on you . You can’t be sure if you’re heading to safety or away from it. You pray a desperate prayer for God to save you. Can you see yourself?
Now: which of these scenes best describes your life right now?
Maybe your life is pretty peaceful: no major worries, nothing troubling you, no angry threatening clouds on the horizon. You and your loved ones are healthy and doing well, everybody is getting along, life is good. God is on His throne and all is right with the world.
Or maybe life is a little stormy: you’ve got things on your mind that worry you, keep you awake at night. Maybe there is conflict brewing between you and somebody else, perhaps somebody you love is having problems that you can’t fix. Maybe your life seems so chaotic: you were hoping things would settle down after Christmas into the New Year, but that hasn’t happened. You can’t remember the last time you really had a few minutes peace.
You and I want peace, and the good news is God wants you and I have to have peace. Not a temporary peace that comes and goes, but a peace that lasts, a peace that fills us on the inside no matter how stormy things get on the outside. But how do you hold on to your peace when the world around you is in turmoil? That’s what we’re going to talk about tonight as we hear Jesus speak through John 16:33.
A gentleman retires and buys a home near a junior high school. He spent the first few weeks in peace and quiet until the new school year began. The first afternoon 3 young boys come down his street, beating on every trash can they encounter. The crashing continues day after day, until finally the man decides to take action.
The next afternoon, he walks out to meet the boys as they bang their way down the street. He smiles and says, "You kids are having a lot of fun. I used to do the same thing when I was your age. Will you do me a favor? I'll give you each a dollar if you'll promise to come around every day and bang the cans." The boys are happy to oblige.
After a few days, the old-timer greets the kids with a sad smile on his face. "This economy is putting a big dent in my income. I’m sorry, but from now on I'll only be able to pay you 50 cents."
The noisemakers are obviously displeased, but they agree. A few days later, the retiree approaches them as they drum their way down the street. "Look boys," he says, "I haven't received my Social Security check yet, so I'm only able to give you 25 cents to beat the trashcans. Will that be okay?" "A lousy quarter?" the drum leader exclaims. "No way, mister. We quit!" And from that day on he enjoys peace and quiet.
If you’re smart enough and careful enough you can keep peace on the outside. But not always. but the real trick is how to get peace on the inside, a peace you can keep when everything around you is in going crazy. This is the kind of peace Jesus promises here.
This verse comes in the middle of Jesus’ discussion with His disciples just before He is arrested. He tells them they’re about to enter a storm. Everything they think they know is about to fall apart, everything they’ve been depending on is about to let them down, and Jesus, the Messiah they’ve given up everything to follow, is about to be killed. They’re upset, confused, frustrated, but Jesus tells them they can keep their peace in spite of the storm if they remember 3 simple things. The first thing to keep in mind to keep your peace is:
1. Peace comes through His Word. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you
may have peace…
There are those who bring peace just by speaking.
The mother who speaks peace to her child who’s hurting. Shh! It’s OK baby, it will be OK. Somehow in spite of the pain, mom’s voice calms the child down.
The doctor who enters the conference room and says I’ve got good news—the tumor is not cancerous. The worry drains away and the peace floods in.
There are times when all we need to do is hear the voice of someone who loves us, someone we trust, and our hearts are at peace. Jesus tells His disciples and us, that His Word can bring us peace.
Scan back through what Jesus tells His disciples on this night:
He tells them He will prepare a place for them and bring them to Him. (14:1-3)
He tells them whatever they ask for in His Name He will give them. (14:14)
He tells them He will send the Holy Spirit to live in them. (14:16-17)
He tells them He will give them lasting joy (15:11)
He tells them everything He’s saying can bring peace to their hearts because the words are words from Somebody Who loves them, Somebody they can trust. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace…
The words bring peace because of Who says them.
A stranger cannot speak peace to a hurting child like mom can. Why? Because mom is the one who loves the child, the one the child trusts.
Your brother-in-law can tell you until he’s blue in the face that lump they find is not dangerous, but your peace comes when the doctor speaks because you trust the doctor to know what he’s talking about.
Listening to Jesus speak to us through His Word brings peace to our hearts because we know He loves us and because we trust Him.
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
Psalm 119:165 Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble.
Here is the secret to inner peace in the midst of outer tribulation: listen to His Word and believe it. Believe what He says is true, that He loves you as much as the Bible says He does, believe He will do exactly what He says He will do. The more read and believe the Bible, the more peace you keep in your heart and mind.
The peace you are looking for is found in this book, as you listen and believe the voice of God. His Word helps you keep your peace.
2. Peace comes in spite of the tribulation. In the world you will have tribulation…
Ever so often I hear somebody jokingly say don’t pray for patience, because the Bible says
God uses tribulation to work patience. There are some problems with this approach.
First of all, the word patience in Romans 5:3 is not talking about patience like we think of it—it refers to perseverance, the virtue of keeping on when we’d rather quit. Tribulation helps us build up our perseverance, not just our patience.
Second of all, nowhere in that verse does the Bible tell us to pray for tribulation. You don’t need to pray for troubles, because Jesus tells us very clearly here tribulation is coming, whether you pray for it or not!
As Jesus says these words, He sees the coming tribulation of His disciples. There in the Garden of Gethsemane, they will discover that Judas, one of them, has betrayed the Master. When the soldiers come to arrest Him and they will all scatter in confusion. Peter will deny Him, the rest will go into hiding. For 3 days they will face the trial of thinking they’ve wasted the last 3 years, that the Man they thought was the Messiah was either a fraud or a fanatic. It will be the darkest hours of their lives.
Jesus sees many dark hours coming for you and I, many hours of troubles and trials. More than this, God uses these times of tribulation as tools to help us build up our perseverance in our faith.
But that doesn’t change the fact that tribulation is not easy.
None of us have any problem being at peace when everything around us is at peace. Back near the lake when the sun is shining and the scene is serene, it doesn’t take any effort to stay calm and tranquil. Even people who don’t even know Jesus can keep their peace there.
The miracle happens when the world is falling down around you and you keep your peace. On the outside you are running through the stormy forest, but on the inside, you are sitting on the lake, at peace with God, with others, with yourself.
That’s the way it is in a lot of relationships, isn’t it? You find out how strong your marriage is not through the good times, but through the bad times. Your friendship grows deeper not when everything is fine, but when everything falls to pieces. This is what forges the bonds that will stand the test of time and trouble. That’s why Paul and Barnabas tell the churches in
Acts 14:22 … We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus tells us to expect trouble, because it is coming as long as you live in this world. Our job is not to pray for tribulations or run from them—our job is to trust God to be in control, to never forget that in the strongest storm, Jesus is with you, and He will not let you sink.
Is it easy? Absolutely not. It is easy to talk about having peace in tribulation right now, but when it’s your child that’s breaking your heart or your body that’s racked with pain or your heart that is broken in two, you understand how hard it really is to keep your peace. That’s why it takes practice. You practice asking God for His peace during minor tribulations---a traffic jam, a broken water pipe, some minor inconvenience that usually sends you into a tizzy. Lord, help me receive Your peace in this tribulation. This is how we learn to practice what the Bible says
Romans 5:3 …glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance…
When a storm comes at sea, a ship turns to face the tempest. If the vessel allows the storm to hit its side, it will capsize. If it turns its back to the storm, the storm will drive it wherever the wind blows. Only in facing the storm is the ship safe.[i]
To keep your peace, you have to accept that in this world, you are going to always have tribulations. Avoid them if you can, but if you cannot, accept them as God’s will and trust Him to help you keep your peace in spite of them. And finally, Jesus says
3. Peace comes through His victory. …be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
From the day Jesus was born, the world wanted to destroy Him. From King Herod
slaughtering the baby boys in Bethlehem to the devil tempting Him in the wilderness to the chief priest and scribes and Pharisees plotting and scheming to get Him crucified, the world wanted Him dead and defeated. The world---the system and people who are enemies of God---did not want a Savior nor a King. If they could defeat Him they could be free to do as they pleased without interference.
But thank God, they failed. What death did to Jesus is nothing compared to what Jesus did to death. What the devil did to Jesus is nothing compared to what Jesus did to the devil. What the world did to Jesus is nothing compared to what Jesus will one day to in the world! Through His life, His death, His burial and His resurrection, He defeated the world once and ascended back to heaven, victorious. Jesus will one day return victorious return and bring peace that will never end.
But why should that give us peace? I can think of at least 3 reasons.
First of all, we know the war will not last forever. The tribulation of this world is real, but it is not eternal. The Prince of Peace will one day bring peace to all of us who trust Him.
Second of all, we know Who will win. In the heat of the battle, sometimes it feels like evil may have the upper hand, that injustice will triumph, that the devil will beat us. But the devil knows he is already a defeated foe. His attacks are the last acts of a desperate loser.
Thirdly, if you are a Christian, you are on the winning side. Jesus shares His victory over the world, over sin and death and hell. All of us whom the world labels losers will one day stand with our Savior and Lord and share His victory.
We can have peace now knowing that He has already won our victory over the world.
When He tells us everything will be OK we can believe Him. When He tells us your troubles and trials will soon be over we can believe Him. When He tells us because I have overcome, you will overcome too! We can believe Him. The peace He promises then can help us keep our peace now.
When you feel like this war will never end, feel like you’re not sure who will win, then turn your eyes from the battle around you and look up and hear your victorious Savior say be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!
Andrew Peterson tells about a song he wrote entitled The Queen of Iowa. It was written about a lady named Jody who lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 20 years ago while attending college, she was attacked by a man with AIDS. At the time Jody was engaged to a man who had been her sweetheart since grade school, a man who married her knowing she had AIDS, a man who has spent the last 20 years caring for his wife. Jody has gone through several surgeries, keeps a constant temperature of 103, and for long periods of time she is not conscious. But Andrew Peterson came to play a special bedside concert for Jody. When Peterson arrives, Jody is unresponsive, but her husband says he’s sure she can hear them because when he prays with her tears stream down her face. So as Peterson begins to play and sing, her eyes open for the first time in a week, and she begins to mouth words. The words are words of praise to God, about how good God is to her, about how He gives her peace, and he is just blown away.
Let me ask you to consider something—do you suppose if God can give peace to lady dying of AIDS in Iowa, that perhaps He could give peace to you and I in the midst of our troubles and trials?
We think that peace comes from the outside in, when in reality it comes from the inside out.- Warren Wiersbe
Jesus Christ can speak peace to you tonight, through His Word, no matter what troubles you. His victory can give you victory and peace, if you will hear Him and believe Him.
[i] Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).