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Priceless Peace

By Nick McDowell


Something just wasn’t feeling right.  It was frustrating.  My wife and I had just taken a visit to Dayton, Ohio to look at an opening at a church that would provide a new opportunity for us in a new place.  It wasn’t that we didn’t like where we were at, but we could sense that our time at that church, in that particular ministry position, was coming to an end.


On the drive back we talked about the new challenges that would await us.  We felt like it would be a good fit.  The initial conversations had been good.  No red flags and long-term potential.  While we had left it with their leadership that we would all pray about it for the next week, it felt like a foregone conclusion.


Feeling unsettled...

The next morning was Sunday morning and we were worshipping back at our current church. In the middle of the service, I suddenly felt it…unsettled.  Have you had that feeling before? That deep-down, I-know-something’s-not-right, uncomfortable, I-can’t-relax, feeling?It had nothing to do with the service, but I just knew it was God disrupting my gameplan.  Speaking to my wife a little later, she felt the same way during the service.  We knew what we had to do.  Actually pray about it.  No assumptions, just allowing God to move and lead and guide and trusting Him to direct our path.  I would have no peace until we did exactly that.


We put such a high price on power, talent, wealth, influence, and success in our world today. It’s understandable.  The individuals who have one or more of these things end up being the “beautiful” people of the world.  They are admired, adored, modeled after, and dare-I-say…worshipped.  To those of us “peasant” on-lookers, it appears on the surface as if these individuals have it all.  How could they be depressed, unhappy, or have anything to complain about? We often wish we could trade places with them. 


The tragic reality is that many of the “beautiful” people of the world are just as miserable as billions of others in this world.  You can look up the data yourself.  Whether it is suicide rates, mental health, addictions, or feelings of loneliness, the data is continuing to point to the overwhelming fact that we are a world that is broken, un-well and unsettled. It doesn’t matter if you “have-it-all” or not.  What so many people are lacking in this world is PEACE.



When you hear the word “peace”, what comes to mind?  Is it a slight breeze on your face while sitting on a deserted beach?  Is it sitting by a campfire in a remote mountain cabin?  For most people, peace is what we think of when we can be removed from conflict, experience solitude, or get some rest. But this isn’t the peace that I’m talking about.  We can experience peace in these contexts, but it’s one thing to get away from the conflicts that are outside ourselves and another to deal with the conflicts within us. 


One of my favorite sets of books (and movies) is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  In Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation Fellowship of the Ring, we see Boromir in a conversation with Aragorn.  They had just been through a terrible ordeal and were finally in the well-protected elvish realm of Lothlorien.  They could finally rest and relax.  And yet Boromir confesses to Aragorn that he will find no peace there.  It is then that he shares the burdens weighing on him.  His father’s rule is failing.  He feels the weight of his father’s expectations. The responsibilities for his family and his people.  Peace from the outside, but not peace within.


And that is what continues to weigh our world down.  We keep reaching after the next thing, the next achievement, worrying about being good enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, attractive enough, or successful enough.  Trying to be worthy.  Trying to prove we are worth it.  Trying to seek a purpose.  And unless we look to the right source, we will continue to spin our wheels until the day we die…with no peace.

The great teacher Solomon, a man who certainly would have been viewed in today’s world as one of the “beautiful” people, writes


12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.


~ Ecclesiastes 1:12-14 ~


This man who had attained great wealth, influence, and power shares how meaningless the things humanity pursues can be. It should cause us to pause.  This great man spends countless pages writing about the futility of life and it honestly can make you pretty cynical if you’re not careful!  His ending thankfully brings some clarity and resolution to an “uncomfortable” book:


13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.


~ Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ~


We can try chasing after the winds of wealth, status, fame, and power, but it will not provide us peace within.  There are people who don’t even realize or believe that peace within can even be achieved.  A real, lasting, peace…no matter the circumstances or the struggle.  It is priceless.  We can experience that kind of peace, but it only comes through a right relationship with God.  


And that is where humanity continues to run into a brick wall.  It’s the brick wall of our own sinful selves.  We might recognize our brokenness and need for peace, but we want it on our own terms.  We still want to hold on to the many things in this world…the very things that weigh us down.  The world gives us some things, but it cannot give us the things that truly matter.  For us to receive those things, it requires trust and submission to someone more powerful, more righteous, more holy than we could ever be.


It was around 2,000 years ago that Jesus held one last teaching session with His disciples.  John records this in his gospel (chapters 13-16) and in John 14:27 Jesus tells His disciples this:


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.


The disciples did not realize at the time that they would soon have to endure 3 days of heart wrenching loss and hopelessness, believing Jesus to have been put to death for all of time.  But it is what we celebrate this very week, honoring Jesus’ sacrifice and celebrating His resurrection, that changed things forever.  Jesus conquered death and sin and through a faithful and obedient relationship with Him we too can be conquerors...AND experience real, lasting, peace within.



Jesus does not give us a peace dependent on life’s circumstances.  He never promises His disciples easy lives, riches, or comfort.  He does promise His people forgiveness from sins, eternal life with Him, that He’ll be with us always, and that when we follow His teachings, we can withstand the storms of this life.  We are no longer defined by our past, but by the Christ who died for us.  That gives us peace. When we put our faith in Christ, even if things are tough, we can go from 'something's not right' to 'it's going to be okay.'

 

When things are challenging financially, we can trust that God will provide. 

Peace


When life seems to be falling apart, we can know that our eternal hope is in Christ. 

Peace


When we’re made to feel worthless or used by the world, God reminds us that we’re made in His image.

Peace


When we’re persecuted because of Christ’s name, we’re reminded that He sees us and we’ve an eternal reward awaiting us in heaven.

Peace


When one career path ends, we can know God has another purpose for us for the glory of His Kingdom.

Peace


…and when a young pastor is told “no” by a church he was excited to go to, he knows that God simply has something different for him and his family. 

Peace

 

It’s at that different church that I have written this blog, at peace with where God has me and at peace with whatever the future may hold.


And that is priceless.


 

This Easter weekend, may we remember the reason we can experience the amazing gift of peace.


The empty tomb. HE IS RISEN!

May His peace rest on you this day.

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