A few weeks ago, I was watching a report on 60 Minutes. They were interviewing a pastor in the Syriac Christian Church in northern Iraq as he described the day that ISIS shut down his church and he had to flee for his life. He had only five minutes to grab what he could and leave for good. In the middle of the interview the pastor broke down and started weeping uncontrollably – not because he had to flee or that he nearly lost his life in the ordeal- but because of the things of God that he had to leave behind.
He was the keeper of the records. The Syriac Church is one of the oldest churches in the world having members in the original church of Antioch listed in the Book of Acts where we were first called Christians. His local church in Iraq had records, church history and bibles that were nearly 2000 years old. Some of them in language Jesus taught in. He was only able to save five books, and believed that the terrorist group had destroyed the rest. So he wept, for even though he was out of danger, this pastor was still troubled. He did not have peace about the decision he made.
Why am I focusing on a man who I have never met; crying over books I may never read? Because his weeping made me think. How often do we weep about the things of God? Do we really care about the things He cares about? Do our hearts break over the same things that break His heart? Are we focused on and weeping over the wrong things? Today we are going to study about something that hurts the heart of GOD. It hurts Him when we do not have peace.
Turn with me to the Gospel of John Chapter 14 verses 26 and 27. We meet Jesus in these verses during the Passover season, sharing His last meal with His disciples and giving His last lessons before the cross. The verses read 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. Within twenty-four hours of saying those words, Jesus’ body was in a tomb. Theses verses were a part of what Jesus wanted His followers to hold on to as He walked through His darkest hour – that He would give them His peace.
What He gave to them, He has also given to us. When the Son came into the world, it was not just so we might be redeemed by His sacrifice and have fullness of life. He also gave His life to restore our position in the family of GOD so that we would have full access to the privileges of son-ship. Yes sons, not sons and daughters. In 1 John 3, we are all called sons. (Now are we the sons of GOD….) It’s all about inheritance. In this time, sons inherited from fathers. Daughters became wives who inherited from their husbands. A daughter inherited from her father typically when there was an absence of sons. In the kingdom of GOD, we are all called sons. No one comes second. None of us disinherits the other.
So we who are His sons – His followers – we will reflect His DNA – the fruit of the spirit as found in Galatians chapter 5 - Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The more we walk in this journey of faith, the more we should begin to look like our Daddy. (I know it’s easier to say the fruit than it is to live them. There are many days when I look in the spiritual mirror and don’t see the resemblance that I should.)
But, Jesus looks like His Father. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and He wants us to look like Them. He wants us to have peace and share in the family resemblance.
What is peace? Peace is more than just a state of calm. The word for peace that Jesus would have used is Shalom - which has a more loaded meaning than the word we use.
According to Strong's Concordance (7965), Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. The general meaning of the root word is the entering into a state of wholeness and unity, a restored relationship. To give us, among other things, maturity, harmony, friendship, agreement, success and prosperity.
That is lot to say with just one word. Jesus confers us all of this when He gives us peace.
Shalom shares the same root word as Shulam, which means to be for paid in full. The words are cousins. To have all the blessings of Shalom they must first be paid for. Why does GOD hurt when we don’t have peace?; because He has paid for it. In Isaiah 53, we learn that “the chastisement of our peace was upon Jesus and by His stripes we are healed.” Shalom is a precious gift, paid for in blood, and we keep using the return policy.
How do we give our peace away? When we are troubled and fearful about how things will turn out. Jesus commanded His disciples (and us) to be neither troubled nor fearful. Fear is the enemy of peace. A troubled heart is the enemy of rest. These two snatch the health, fullness and restoration that GOD’s peace gives us. We become fearful and troubled when we try to straighten things out in our own strength.
As we have learned, Shalom is to have completeness in GOD - to rest and rely not just on Him but also in Him. We cannot be whole without Him. Shalom is a reflection of our trust in Him. True peace is you giving God permission to complete you and allowing Him to do it. We don’t have to fix anything. He does the perfecting - of our situation- and us Himself. We just have to let go and not block His work. Jesus told us His peace is different. His peace passes all understanding. It does not have an expiration date. It can’t good bad in the refrigerator. It won’t get freezer burn. It’s fresh every day. Just eat it. Let peace fill your belly.
When we let go and release our problem in His hands, The Holy Spirit can fill the empty places in us with peace. Moreover, once you have been filled, let no man rob you of your peace. Peace is too important – especially now - as the world and its system are in chaos. Sometimes it feels as if our homes, our communities, our world have been turned upside down. But, there is no need to fear! Our hope and our peace are in the One who has already overcome the world! As we both watch and pray, it is essential that we not lose our peace caught up in what we see. It’s temporary.
Now that you are peace filled; and recognize the trouble around you, it is time for us to start waging peace. I know we typically hear the phrase waging war. However, peace in Jesus’ time was a violent word, not a passive one. In Greek, peace means to obtain quietness by removing what seeks to distract and destroy you. Peace is a command- a directive. We see Jesus use it this way when He told to the storm, “Peace be still.” The winds hushed and the storm disappeared. But peace was also a command when He greeted the disciples. When Jesus said, “Peace be unto you,” He was stopping forces seen and unseen from encroaching upon and distracting His followers. He removed those forces out of the way. When He greeted them with Shalom, it was a command that silenced the chaos in their minds and lives. It hushed every distraction so that they could hear and discern. We see Him speak it after He has healed saying, “go in peace” sending the healed and delivered back home with wholeness of mind. Because Jesus is the Prince of Peace, He has the authority to command peace into a situation; and because you are His, so do you. It is one of the privileges of son-ship; what Daddy has you can have. Jesus looks like the Father. As Jesus is, so are we in this world. In this world, in this world. We don’t have to wait for the glory of His return to have true peace. We can have it right now.
Let no man, no force, rob you of your peace. Not only is peace a part of God’s DNA, it is a part of the armor we wear as Christians. Put on the whole armor of God and shod your feet with preparation of the gospel of peace. Wage peace. Speak Shalom into your day and allow the Holy Spirit to feed you the promises of the Father and through His word. Speak peace into the lives of those cannot speak it for themselves. Command peace through prayer as you walk through your neighborhood so that distractions can be removed, ears can be opened and salvation can take place in those homes. So many people in our lives cannot hear the voice of the Holy Spirit whispering to them because the chaos in their lives is too loud. They need peace. Bring His peace onto your job, into that committee meeting and even into the line at the grocery store. You have, through Christ, what many people do not even realize they need. If you want to give a gift in this season, give the gift that was given to you. Give Shalom.
In the days of the Old Testament tabernacle, the Father instructed that Aaron and his priestly descendents to bless His people in His name by speaking peace into their lives. That blessing is found in Numbers 6:24-26: YHWH bless you and keep you. YHWH make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. YHWH lift up His face upon you and give you SHALOM.
The Father has always desired that we have peace. We have to be willing to embrace His peace and share it.
When I was at EJA, my teacher taped a prayer on the corner of my desk that read “Lord grant me the serenity (the peace) to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” It was on my desk because I thought that I had to fix everything, and when I couldn’t solve the issue, I would freeze in fear. I know a little better now, and I am learning that I cannot fix anything on my own. It is the Almighty who does the fixing- the restoring. What I need to do is let go.
When we started this journey, I introduced you to a pastor who was weeping over an issue that he could not change. No matter how troubled he was, he could not alter the situation. He needed to let go and exchange his troubled heart for God’s peace. Is that you today? Are you hearing that there is something in your life that you need to let go? Or maybe you need the courage to speak peace into a situation? Or that you need take your hand off and allow God to change the hearts of those around you?