“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27-28a
John 13-17 are five chapters of sayings and events in Jesus’ last few hours before His arrest. These chapters are a fascinating study. In a sense they are Jesus’ “last words.” We may suppose they are the most important things He was trying to get across to a bewildered, disappointed, and frightened group of disciples. If you are bewildered, disappointed, and frightened, these words are for you.
A theme in these chapters is peace, and the scripture for this week’s GraceWaves is a good example. In it, Jesus highlighted our greatest need and where that need can be met.
Suppose Jesus was sitting across from you right now. What do you most need to hear from Him? What single word could He speak that most centrally addresses your deepest need? Wouldn’t that word be “peace?” Imagine your relief if Jesus appeared to you and said, “peace.” That’s what you need. Peace.
We are all trying to create a spiritual equilibrium which will still the multiple disturbances around and in us. We want an answer to the deep questions of purpose that keep us awake at night. We long for hope that quiets our fears.
Jesus knows precisely what we need, and that is why He said, “Peace I give to you.”
I’ve tried to give myself peace. It doesn’t work. My peace begins in my mind, an undisciplined and dangerous neighborhood in which to reside. In it, I can multiply fear and misery. In it, I can focus on the one driver that cut me off in traffic and forget about the three that let me into traffic. I can magnify misery and omit gratitude. I am not good at giving myself peace.
I doubt I’m alone in this, but let me be confessional and invite you to come along. My mind can tell me some crazy things. Problems come in all sizes. Some are big, others small. I have found that most people handle the big problems better than the little ones. Personally, the tigers and bears are not as much trouble to me as the gnats. The daily gnats steal my peace more than the occasional big beast of a problem. I cannot give myself peace.
Neither can the world. I won’t dispute for a moment that I can derive some peace from the world around me. The beauty of nature, the joy of family and friends, the satisfaction of good run to the Final Four for my Wildcats all give me pleasure. There is nothing wrong with that. But this is not peace in the biblical sense. It is more akin to happiness which is connected entirely to events and circumstances. When events and circumstances align with my expectations I am happy. Nothing wrong with that.
The problem comes when the events do not line up to please me. What do I do then? Typically I focus on changing the event, or the person, to align with my expectations. That is a recipe for disaster! It is an illusion and even idolatry. I’m not here to change anyone. I’m here to serve.
That brings us back to Jesus words. I can’t give myself peace and neither can the world. Jesus can, but only when I stop trying so hard to get it on my own. The fact is, my “self” gets in the way of Jesus’ peace consistently. That’s why denial of self is the first step in following Jesus and enjoying the abundant life He wants us to have.
The most concrete way we can move self out of the way is to look for ways to help someone else. Think of the difference between two simple prayers: “God help me” and “God give me someone to help.” The second prayer is the pathway to peace.
God has given you a choice today. You can seek peace wherever and however you wish. You can strive and struggle for it. Or you can turn to Jesus, move in the simple rhythms of His grace, help someone else, and find in Him the peace you really wanted.
Dr. Terry Ellis
June 29, 2014