We have been discussing every Wednesday the radical transformation that happens when someone puts their faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have said that there is a supernatural inner-transformation that happens in the depths of our hearts that bubbles up and spills over into a changed life. This is what the Bible calls the “Fruit of the Spirit”, and each week we have been looking at a different fruit and examining what it looks like in the life of a Christian. This week we are looking at the fruit of “Peace”.
What is peace? Well, let me ask you this: What do you fear? What are you constantly worried about?
- It could be a fear of not measuring up, not being as good as you think you could be, missing out on opportunities because of failure.
- It could be a fear of being found out, exposed for who you really are, deep secrets being revealed.
- It could be a fear of not belonging, always feeling left out, never a part of the inner-circle.
- It could be a fear of losing the love or approval of someone who is deeply important to you
- It could just simply be a fear of dying.
Peace is the ability to stand in the presence of all of those fears and say “I’m going to be okay.” Peace is an inner certainty, calm and steadiness that comes from knowing that no matter what happens, I will be okay.
So, with that in your mind, I am going to read the passage that the teaching will be based on, and as I do, I’d like you to personalize the passage and think about your specific objects of worry or fear.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
– Psalm 46
Four things that we are going to look at out of the passage today are:
- What peace isn’t.
- What peace is
- The problem of Fear
- How to become peaceful
What peace isn’t
First off, this may be the fastest point I have made, but we see that having peace does not come from ideal circumstances, all the time. The psalmist speaks of remarkable difficulty occurring around him, mountains are trembling, the oceans are roaring, and the nations are tottering. The psalmist says, “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way.” The psalmist will not fear, even though it feels like the very ground is crumbling beneath his feet. That is remarkable. The world and everything around us teaches us that a peaceful life is entirely dependent upon good circumstances, and this Psalm is saying the opposite.
What peace is
Do you know what keeps a house warm in the winter and cool in the summer? Having an effective A/C or heating unit is definitely necessary, but unless a home is insulated well, the temperature in the house will be always changing. If your house isn’t insulated, and it is a hot July day, then your air-conditioning will be constantly working, but the cold-air will just seep out of the walls. But if you have a well insulated home, it will keep the hot air outside, and the cold air inside, with your air conditioner working half as hard. If you could think about the house as yourself, and the A/C as your heart, then the insulation is like the peace of God – it insulates you from the scorching trials of this world, keeping you safe and cool in the presence of God. If you don’t have the peace of God, your heart will be constantly striving to just keep its head above water.
The peace of God is not the removal of our greatest fears, but us being insulated from them by the peace of God, so we can endure our greatest fears and say “I’m going to be okay.”
The problem of fear
Did you know that the Bible actually commands us to fear? As contradictory as that may sound, it does. “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” (Prov. 19:23). Isn’t that strange? – the fear of the Lord leads to life, and when you find it, you can rest. Why would we be commanded to fear God? Isn’t God supposed to be a God of love? Well here’s why: what you fear reveals what you think has the greatest power over your life. When we fear something, we are saying that it is powerful – that’s why the bad guys in scary movies are never powerless, weenies – that wouldn’t be very scary. Now, we aren’t talking about being afraid of something the way I am afraid of something under my bed at night, but it is true that we fear what we think has power.
Or you could say that what you fear most reveals what controls you. If you fear losing people’s approval of you, then it will control your life; you will constantly be living the life that you think other people want. If you fear dying, it will control your life; you will always be anxious about something bad happening. If you fear being known or being vulnerable, you will never be able to open yourself to another or enjoy a deep relationship with anyone; it will control you.
And the Bible is saying that God must be the one you fear. He must be the one that you controls your life. Why? because He is the Creator of all, and is bigger and more awesome than anything else in existence. Listen to the psalmist describe God’s awesomeness, “[God] utters his voice, and the earth melts…”
Think about this: If the distance between the earth and the sun (93 million miles) was reduced to the thickness of a sheet of paper, the distance between the earth and the nearest star would be a stake of paper 70 feet high. The diameter of the galaxy would be a stack of paper 310 miles high. Yet the galaxy is nothing but a speck of dust in a whole universe and the Bible says that Jesus Christ holds the universe in his hand or with his pinky. (The Gospel and your Self, Tim Keller)
The Bible talks about when Jesus returns, He will rip the sky open, the mountains will melt like wax before Him, and the wicked will beg that boulders be heaped upon them to try and hide before Him. Scriptures say that every single person will be laid out before Him, confessing that He is Lord. This means that someday you will see everything that you were anxious and fearful of in your life flat on its face before the only One who deserves to be feared; every person that we have ever been intimidated by, every person that we have tried so desperately to earn their approval, every person that we have tried to impress will be on their face, trembling before God.
We do not fear other things in this life because they are not big and powerful, but because we are in the presence of One who is much bigger and much more powerful. And if you and I cannot stop fearing what people think of us, or what the future may hold, or whatever, then maybe we haven’t seen God for who He really is.
How to be peaceful
The last question that should be brimming up in your mind should be, “Okay Marc, I see that God is much more awesome and bigger than these other things, but that just makes me way more anxious and fearful!” And that is a completely accurate thought: if you are intimidated by the stares of other people, how much more terrifying will the gaze of a Holy God be? If you fear others finding out about some secret you have, how much more terrifying will it be to be before the One who knows all your secrets? How on earth is this supposed to bring us peace?
Well, in our passage we are told, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God.” This sounds oddly reminiscent of what God tells Moses during the Exodus. Moses has just led the people of God out of Egypt and is standing at the bank of the Red Sea when he hears that Pharaoh, who is filled with bitterness and rage, is now pursuing them with an army to slaughter all of the Israelites,
“When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord… And Moses said to the people, “Fear not,”
Now think about this, put yourself in their shoes: You are walking with your family, out in the middle of the desert, with no way to defend yourself, and no way of escape, when a group of highly-trained, warriors on chariots show up to systematically kill you and everyone you know. If there ever is a time to fear, that is the time – and Moses has the nerve to stand up and shout out to the people “Don’t be afraid!” Don’t be afraid? Are you kidding me? What could Moses be thinking to say something so crazy? Well, let’s look at what he says next,
“stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you need only be still.” – Ex. 14:10, 13-14
The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still. The Israelites feared the Egyptians – and Moses stands up and reminds them that there is One greater than all of Pharaoh’s chariots, and He fights for them. All of a sudden, all of God’s fearsome power, might and glory seem like wonderful things when we realize that He is not our adversary, but on our side. When you see that God is for you, not against you, then His command to “Be still” makes sense.
And look friends, the Israelites received a miraculous salvation that day – but you and I have received a better one.
The Israelites were saved from Pharaoh’s judgment, but their salvation was temporary – in eighty years, most of them would be dead, and then they would have to face a much scarier judgment, the ultimate judgment: God’s judgment. And if God, who is the biggest most powerful being in existence is angry with us, we will never have any reason to have peace. But thousands of years later, the night before Jesus Christ was nailed to a Cross, He was praying in the Garden of the Gethsemane. And the Bible tells us that Jesus was experiencing such an immense amount of anxiety and fear that the blood vessels in his forehead burst and he began to sweat out drops of blood. What was Jesus so afraid of, what was He so worried about? Judgment. The Father’s Judgment. On the Cross, all of the wrath and judgment of God, that we had deserved, was poured onto the only One who didn’t deserve it. And in the Garden, Jesus knew that was coming, so He was deeply afraid and consumed with anxiety.
But think about this friends: Jesus went to the Cross, and bore the judgment, your judgment, my judgment. Jesus threw Himself on the grenade of God’s wrath and judgment, and took the blow we deserved. Here is what that means: there is no more judgment for you. Not only that, but Scripture says not only are your sins forgiven, but you are not given the righteousness of Christ – you are treated like Christ is treated. So if you have put your faith in Christ, when you die and stand before the Father, and you are on your face trembling before His awesomeness and glory, knowing all of your sin you have committed – you will hear “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And you will enter into eternity with your Maker, in blissful, perfect union. You see, your biggest problem, sin and death, has been taken care of – and now, all of your other problems are nothing but flea bites in comparison. And that is how you get through all of the fears and anxieties and difficulties in this world, your remind yourself “My biggest problem is taken care of, this is a flea bite, I am going to be okay.”
And now, when we speak of the “fear of the Lord” it is only in reference to His awesomeness, and has nothing to do with judgment, because Jesus took it all away. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 418). And when you believe that, you will then be insulated with the peace of God that transcends all understanding.