Following is an English transcript of the message from this morning.
We are now coming into the last quarter of the year. Two thousand twenty will be known in the history books as the year of Covid-19. Most of us likely thought that it would be only a short while before things returned to normal, yet here we are with many countries still in quarantine and with thousands of people continuing to die from this virus.
Over thirty-three million cases have been reported worldwide and one million deaths. Of course, there have been many more cases not reported. Even within my own group of friends, I know a number of people who had all the symptoms, but who chose not to get tested for whatever reason. This virus has been compared to the flu, but the reported number of deaths is over three times more than the flu, and that number continues to rise.
In some countries, they have been out of quarantine for a while, but now winter is coming, and cases are rising again. Some places are considering another lockdown. While in certain countries, they are throwing off safety measures, assuming that if they talk tough enough, the virus will leave them alone. In fact, there are many people who believe this virus is a hoax of some sort. I know one man who talked rather loudly about how it was all fake–but then he got the virus. Now he has nothing to say.
What this all tells me is that people do not know what to do or to think. We are used to being in control of our lives. Even when problems come up, we can still stand strong and fight the problem and take control of our lives. But now there is this invisible thing that is smaller than we can properly understand, and it can silently infect and kill millions of people, despite mankind’s supposed technological advancements.
Conspiracy theories are everywhere. Everyone is absolutely certain that this country or that country purposefully started the virus as a sort of war. Or they are absolutely certain that this is a unified approach to kill off most of the weak population to make room for the rich and strong. Or they are sure that it only affects old people; while others are declaring it only affects children. Or they are total evidence that this virus isn’t even real. Who is right?
All of these theories again point to fear and mistrust. These ideas do not make peace. The fact is that we are completely out of control. Humans are less than helpless against even the smallest thing. How helpless would we be against something truly terrible?
People are afraid, terribly afraid. But some people say they aren’t afraid; in fact, they belittle those who are afraid. They aren’t afraid, but they are angry and antagonistic. People are taking sides and fighting against each other, slamming one another in private, in public, and on social media. This is not a peaceful time.
Peace. What is peace? Peace is freedom from thoughts of fear, disturbance, oppression, negative emotions, and so on. Peace is quiet tranquility. Peace is harmony and agreement. Peace is something every person wants.
But where does peace come from? There are, of course, different degrees of peace. You can have peace between you and one person but have fights with another person. Peace comes from safety and confidence, from assurance that everything will be okay.
True peace, deep peace, peace that lasts, that peace only comes from the God of peace. While we can find temporary peace or peace for certain situations, that will not last. It is only surface level. But God’s peace that He gives to His children passes all understanding. The peace we find in other ways depends on circumstances. If things are going well, or we are in control, we can have peace. But when things become difficult or impossible, that peace disappears.
God’s peace is not dependent on circumstances. That’s one way that it is beyond understanding. Even when things are terrible, God’s peace lasts. For example, over the years since Jesus came, God’s people have been persecuted and killed. There are countless testimonies of believers maintaining their peace and joy, even to the point of being burned alive. That is incredible peace.
But again, where does that peace come from? How can I find it? And how can it last? Let’s find some answers from the Bible.
“Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.”
Psalms 119:165 NLT
“My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart. If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying. Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation. Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”
Proverbs 3:1-6 NLT
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
Isaiah 26:3 NLT
““Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”
Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
John 14:1-3, 5-7, 23-27 NLT
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.””
John 16:33 NLT
Last week we read in Isaiah 9 that one name for Jesus is the Prince of Peace. His ultimate purpose was to provide a way for peace between God and man. And that is the essence of peace. To have lasting peace in your heart, you must be at peace with God. There is only one way to be at peace with God, and that is to love, trust, and obey Jesus completely.
There is no fear in loving Jesus. In all of these things around us–sickness, fighting, hunger, separation, war, death–there is great fear for people. But for the believer, there is no fear. We do not fear what man can do to us because we know all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. Not even death holds fear for us because death has been defeated by the Lord Jesus. Now, death serves merely as a doorway from this life of trouble to eternal bliss with God in heaven.
So, where does peace come from? Peace comes from obedience to the Lord. And that obedience provides a deep confidence that nothing on this earth can shake. We can put our trust in Jesus and be forever safe in Him. It is only when we stray away from the Lord that we lose our peace.
However, for the unbelieving and disobedient, it is much different.
“Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.
Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption.
No one cares about being fair and honest. The people’s lawsuits are based on lies. They conceive evil deeds and then give birth to sin. They hatch deadly snakes and weave spiders’ webs. Whoever eats their eggs will die; whoever cracks them will hatch a viper. Their webs can’t be made into clothing, and nothing they do is productive.
All their activity is filled with sin, and violence is their trademark. Their feet run to do evil, and they rush to commit murder. They think only about sinning. Misery and destruction always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace or what it means to be just and good. They have mapped out crooked roads, and no one who follows them knows a moment’s peace.
So there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living. We look for light but find only darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark.
Among the living, we are like the dead. We growl like hungry bears; we moan like mournful doves. We look for justice, but it never comes. We look for rescue, but it is far away from us.
For our sins are piled up before God and testify against us. Yes, we know what sinners we are. We know we have rebelled and have denied the Lord. We have turned our backs on our God. We know how unfair and oppressive we have been, carefully planning our deceitful lies.”
Isaiah 59:1-13 NLT
Someone told me recently that he was afraid to die. He said all people are afraid to die, but I told him that wasn’t true. I told him that I am not afraid to die. Now, I must admit that I do not like pain. I shrink from the idea of suffering or hurting that may be part of dying, but I am not afraid to die. Truly, I look forward to the time God permits me to leave this life to be with Him. It is one of my greatest desires.
I think that man may have found it hard to believe, but it is certainly true. I love being with my family and friends, and I know God has much work for me to do while I am here, but I am excited about going home to be with the Father. This world is not my home. I am but a stranger and foreigner here.
That is a product of the peace that Jesus brings. In 1 John, it says that perfect love casts out fear because fear has torment. He who fears is not loving perfectly. I’ve found that to be true. The deeper my love for Jesus and the closer my friendship and devotion to Him, the deeper my peace. If I feel I am losing peace for whatever reason, it has always been because I have allowed myself or the world to become more important than my love for Jesus.
That may all sound like a lot of fluff, but it’s really very practical. Every believer needs daily, continual connection with the Lord. Likewise, we must be daily putting to death those desires that come from our sinful nature and the sinful nature of the world around us. And it’s not just those big things like murder and robbery, even a small, white lie will separate us from God because God is completely holy and true. There is no such thing as a little lie. Scripture says many times that all liars will be punished.
Those are just a few examples. To know the whole, you must learn to know the Lord personally. To do that, you must spend time every day reading the Bible and talking to God. Prayer is not just a way to ask for God’s help or forgiveness. He is waiting to talk to our hearts if we take the time to be with Him.
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.
You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.
Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.
Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.
For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.
Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”
Colossians 3:1-17 NLT
This section is packed with meaning. I chose to read it because it has so much about how we can find peace. Verse 15 speaks of the peace of God ruling in our hearts, and that is a perfect picture of it. As we submit ourselves completely to His rule, not making excuses for our little sins, we will find peace.
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:7-9 NLT
Peace is a lifestyle and a mindset. If you do not have peace, or if you had peace, but you find it slipping, consider what you are filling your mind and life with. If you are spending a lot of time on Facebook listening to all the conspiracy theories of the coronavirus, or if you are listening to those people in the news who are fighting against each other, don’t be surprised if you lose your peace. But when you set you affections on the things of Jesus, you may be surprised how deep your peace becomes.
“‘May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’”
Numbers 6:24-26 NLT