“I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world." John 16:33
Deeply at peace. How wonderful does that sound? Especially at this time of year when retailers want us to be extremely agitated and overspend in the belief that things that moth and rust can destroy and thieves break in and steal will somehow fill the whole in our souls. Thus to have a December to remember, buy your loved one a Lexus, and never mind that it will depreciate considerably by December 26.
In our right minds, when we can step back from the retail clamors, we know that nothing from Wal-Mart or Jared is going to bring us deep peace. Though we still act like it. We know better! So why don’t we have deep peace?
Maybe it’s the undeniable fact that we market fear more than merchandise. Ironically, in a season where the words of the angel to the main characters was “fear not” we hear “Fear!” from our politicians, media markets, and even religious types. Fear motivates, there’s no doubt. But what a price it exacts! Embrace fear, and you sacrifice peace.
I have no deep theological insight to solve this fear problem. No exegetical trick is going to eliminate fear. The best answers to the most important questions are simple, and that surely is the case here.
First, we accept the fact we do live in a pretty frightening world. Eugene Peterson translated The Message, the version I quoted above for this verse. I love The Message, and I love this translation of this verse except for the word “difficulties.” In the Greek language, this word means to crush or press. The root word means “to break.” Algebra is difficult. A crummy workplace is difficult. But cancer crushes. Depression squeezes the life out of us. Losing a loved one breaks us.
Life isn’t just difficult, it’s sometimes brutally hard, unfair, will pummel you, and leave you broken. No amount of planning, faith, hard work, or anything else in our power can prevent that. Jesus said so. This world breaks us all. So quit screaming at the darkness. The sun goes down every day. Just accept it.
However, Jesus also said He has conquered the world. I believe that. He’s the Son of God. He wins. No doubt. That’s simple.
So why am I still so afraid sometimes?
Here’s the simple answer: fear is the precise opposite of trust. When I feel fear I’m implicitly lacking in trust. I’m essentially saying, “I don’t believe Jesus really conquered the world. He obviously left out a few things.” Then my peace dissipates like smoke in the wind.
The way back to peace is very simple, and is summed up in an old hymn. Most of you know the tune:
Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.
Just to take Him at His word.
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know “thus sayeth the Lord.”
Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him.
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.
Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus,
Oh, for grace to trust Him more.
The theme of the Second Sunday of Advent is peace, and the promise of God is that we can have peace in the middle of any whirlwind. The saints have long been trying to teach us that there’s really is a peace that passes all understanding. It’s a puzzling peace. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s real.
I want that peace, for in it I am unshakable and assured.
Let’s decide to take Jesus at His word this week. Deep peace is the real gift we need. We can have it if we simply say the words, sometimes repeatedly, “I trust You. I trust You. I trust You.”
Dr. Terry Ellis
December 6, 2015