God’s Gift of Peace

Dr. Gary Glanville Sermon #2

God’s Gift of Peace

Hi everyone.  This is Dr. G coming to you almost live on Sunday, number 2, as we deal with the coronavirus, where church is not done inside a building anymore, but rather done creatively in new forms.  And one of those new forms I was wondering about deals with being outside one day when the temperatures warm up.  Q:  Could we ever do church outside in the open with fresh air all about us?  Or how about a version like the old drive-in movie theater where we all stay in our vehicles?  We’ll see what type of restrictions we have or don’t have in a few weeks, but it’s definitely something to think about. 

As we begin today, I have a groaner of a story to tell all of you that I hope at a minimum makes you smile.  I get emails from various folks, and one person sent me a bit of humor that I thought I would share with everyone today.  It’s a story about a couple, a husband – wife team, who have been married for a gazillion years and they share everything together.  So, for you younger couples out there just dating, listen up on how to share. 

The husband ordered one hamburger, one order of French fries and one drink. Then the older gentleman unwrapped the plain hamburger and carefully cut it in half. He placed one half in front of his wife and then proceeded to count out all of the French fries, dividing them equally into two piles and neatly placing one pile in front of his wife.

He took a sip of the drink, then his wife took a sip and set the cup down between them. As the husband began to eat his few bites of hamburger, the people around them were watching closely and whispering to one another.  The other guests in the restaurant were all thinking the same thing, ‘This poor couple can only afford one meal for the two of them.’  Somebody should do something.

At that very moment a younger man stood up and went to the table. He politely offered to buy another meal for the couple.  However, the older man explained they were just fine – they were used to sharing everything together.

            Now as the husband slowly ate his half of the meal, everyone began to notice his wife wasn’t eating her half at all, only taking a sip of the drink now and then.

            So, another person stepped forward and asked if they could please buy another meal for them.  This time the wife spoke up and said ‘No, thank you, we are used to sharing everything together.’

            And once again the wife did not touch her food.  So finally, a third person asked the question to the wife, why she was not eating, what was she waiting for?  She answered . . .‘HIS  TEETH!’

Now, that’s what I would call sharing don’t you agree?  So, to all of you young people dating out there just remember what sharing is really all about.

            I tell you that crazy story about sharing because I have some good news I want to share with all of you today.  And I start with an answer to prayer

I guess you could say I am the designated point person in our household to leave our quarantined quarters and venture out into the vast unknown and pick up any necessary grocery items.  Well, as many of you know, people went a little crazy initially grabbing certain items like all the toilet paper that existed on planet earth, leaving nothing behind but empty shelves like locust through a wheat field.

 So, this past week, one of my missions was to try to find some TP because it was getting a little lean for our family of six.  Well, I want you to know, I struck out.  I searched on my smart phone and all the websites indicated – out of stock.  I reached that point where I began talking to God a little bit more about all of this, saying Lord, I need You to help find this for my family.   

So, as I went to bed that night I prayed to God and asked the Lord to help me find some TP the next morning.  When I got up the next day, I prayed the same thing. 

Now I realize, someone listening to this might be wondering, why would you bother the King of the universe with something as ordinary as toilet paper?  God has more important things to deal with. And I understand what you’re saying.  But here’s the thing.  If I truly believe that God is my heavenly Father, Who cares about all of my needs and I can talk to Him about anything and everything, at all times and in all places, then why can’t I ask for simple things that pertain to my needs, that are important for my family’s well-being?  If your grandchild came up to you and said “Grandma, I’m thirsty, can I have something to drink?”  Would you not move heaven and earth for your grandchild and get them a drink?  Well, will not God our Father do the same for His children?

Back to my story.  That morning, I went to a Meijer store and just like all the other times before in all the stores I visited, the shelves were wiped clean.  No Kleenex tissue, no paper towel, no toilet paper. Nada. Nothing. Zippo.  End of story.  And if you have ever been to a Meijer store before, you know their grocery aisles are super long.  But then as I looked to the far end of the aisle, a man at that very moment turned the corner into the aisleway.  He was an employee of Meijer and was pushing a wheeled wooden flatbed cart filled with boxes.  I went up to him and asked him what was in the boxes.  And guess what he said?  Toilet paper.  The limit was five, I took two.  Why? Because I did not want to be greedy.  I knew other people just like me would be looking as well. 

What is the point of sharing this story?  The point is, if God cares enough to answer the prayer of a crazy minister to help him find something so simple as toilet paper, don’t you think God will help us get through this pandemic we’re all facing together?  I want you to hear dear ones we are not alone in this thing and we never have been. 

I am reminded of something Dr. Billy Graham wrote one time and I paraphrase:  If our heavenly Father could bring Jesus back from the dead, then God can certainly overcome whatever situation you and I might be facing right now.  Please hear me when I say, we are not alone. Oh, there might be days for you and I when it feels like we’re all alone, isolated from everyone.  But we are never alone, because.  God goes with us.

So where does that put you and me today?

My guess is, one of the biggest concerns on the minds of many people, beyond the health scare, deals with our economy, our personal income, our jobs, are we going to lose more and more as this thing extends longer and longer?  How do I pay for my rent or an automobile or utilities if I can’t work right now because I am supposed to hunker down and distance myself from others to stop the spread of this virus? 

Then, on top of all that…..

Emotionally, this whole thing is taking a toll on each of us, because we are worried about so many unknowns.  Life seems uncertain and scary when none of the experts can tell us exactly when this all ends and when we get to go back to normal.  What if we don’t find a vaccine right away?  What if we have to get use to a new way of living life, not just for weeks but for months?  Think about it.  None of us has ever dealt with anything like this before impacting 166 countries and territories all around the world.  Our leaders are doing their best, but they are only people.  They don’t know all of the answers.  How could they?  So instead of venting our anger on them, what we really need to do is to pray for them, because the weight of decision-making falls on their shoulders which impacts our lives and livelihood.

I was thinking historically what life must have been like 75 years ago at the end of World War II in 1945.  World War II was the deadliest war we’ve ever had.  It is estimated that anywhere from 70-85 million people died in World War II.  50-56 million soldiers and civilians were directly killed and 19-28 million other deaths resulted from disease and famine.  And that doesn’t even take into account the aftermath of those who survived the horrors of war (concentration camps/POWs) and grieving all the ones who were gone.  I mean, think about it.  How did people begin again when their homes and small businesses no longer existed from all of the bombings?  What revenue did they draw upon?  What bank could they go to?  There were no drive thru windows or credit card companies or insurable deposits like we have today.  Where did children live who were homeless and parentless? 

But somehow that generation survived and flourished and married and became our parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents.  And they dreamed of better days for all of us and we are their legacy and we will survive and flourish and raise our own families as well. 

Why do I believe that?  Because I believe that God goes with me always.  And I believe the cross of Christ demonstrates the depth of God’s love and care and willingness to show me how much I mean to Him.  Again, think about it.  You and I were on God’s mind before we were ever born, actually, before the foundation of the world.  And if God thought about us eons ago before there was an us, what makes us think God will stop thinking about us now and desert us in our time of need.  The Lord will walk with us through all the craziness of this disease and somehow, something will arise from all of this that God is going to do.  Something good will materialize as Romans 8:28 tells us.

Somehow, because of this experience, we will be better followers, more compassionate toward others, more grateful of simple things we take for granted, more understanding of true priorities- what really matters in life, more unified as a nation, more humbled by the fact we’ve never been in control, more willing to pray for our families and friends and those across the political aisle.  We will come to recognize how very fragile and sometimes short life can be on this side of heaven, while at the same time discovering God has a purpose and plan to use you and me to touch others for the kingdom of heaven.

I want to share with you something from Scripture that I believe can be of great help during troubling times.  I call it the gift of God’s peace.  For when God’s peace floods over you, you can rest easier, as the Holy Spirit will guard your heart and mind with God’s peace. 

I don’t know if you have ever seen any of the Iron Man or Avenger movies, but the character Tony Stark, is a brilliant individual who is very self-sufficient and it takes him a long time to figure out he can’t fix everything on his own.  He needs some outside help.   Well, in a similar way, we as believers need some outside help.  We can’t fix everything all by ourselves.  When there are major problems, we need a Helper, the Holy Spirit, Who wants to minister to each of us with God’s gift of peace, especially when life has taken a major twist and everything seems out of control. 

Jesus said this in John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”  Right before Jesus went to the cross, He told His chosen Apostles in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the      world.”

            When I refer to God’s peace, we really need to ask, what kind of peace are we talking about, because the word peace can describe many things? 

There is a personal peace involving good health and life followed by a peace of mind.  A relational peace dealing with harmony amongst friends and relatives.  Emotional and spiritual peace where guilt is removed and forgiveness granted.  Communal peace involving a nation, a local community or family.  Economic and political peace relating to prosperity and security.  We could define peace as the absence of war where we are at peace with our neighbors.  Or we could discuss religious peace, where we are at peace with God, ready for eternity.

            But Jesus referred to a peace that is different still.  A peace that He could give us unlike that of the world.  A peace that could assist our fears and worries and troubles.  You see, the world’s striving for peace is primarily external, a secular peace seeking for the wholeness of people in their social relations, both home and abroad.  However, Jesus offered a gift of peace through the Holy Spirit (that is, the Spirit of Christ), that went beyond human efforts, that penetrated the inside of an individual instead of the outside.  This particular peace granted by God’s gracious favor, would calm our hearts when the storms of life come crashing in. 

            An example of what I mean can be found in the north Atlantic, where icebergs are often seen in the wintertime.  Ships sailing the Atlantic, if not careful, can be caught in these winter storms.  Even 1,000-foot-long ships are no match for the mountainous waves.  How different with the icebergs.  They are defiant of the mighty waves which are hurled against them.  They do not bob or rock like the ships.  Why?  Because the lower part of the iceberg, 80-85%, lies below, hidden beneath the waves in the ocean deep where there is calm. 

            I believe the same can be said for the believer in Christ; for when our lives are hidden in God as our source of strength and guidance, and as we go deeper, the storms of life are powerless to take from us the peace and confident assurance we have in Christ.  God’s calming peace floods over you.

            Isn’t that what happened to the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts, chapter 27?  Paul, as a prisoner, is on a ship sailing to Rome with 275 others, but they encounter a terrible storm at sea, and all hope for salvation is gone.  For 14 nights they have been tossed about without taking any food, and Paul steps up to encourage all on the ship saying – God told me we will make it.  Paul possessed both the assurance and peace of God within.

            This is one of the reasons why I believe Jesus in Matthew 8:24 could sleep in the back of a fishing boat while a storm was raging and Jesus’ disciples thought they were going to drown.  Jesus was filled with God’s peace and had the assurance His Father was with Him, watching over Him.

Now please note, God’s gift of peace doesn’t necessarily change any of the external circumstances you’re going through. They can still exist.  What changes is your outlook, your mindset, your heart, your confident trust in God to get you through the storm itself because God has blessed you with His peace, reminding you, you are not alone.  And so, when you cast all of your cares and concerns unto the Lord like it says in Psalm 55:22 or 1 Peter 5:7, committing everything to God through prayer, this is when God can sustain you with His peace, a peace that surpasses all comprehension.

            One last story and a conclusion.  Billy D. Strayhorn, in his book What Difference Does It Make?, retells the true story of a black bear cub he watched on a TV nature show. 

            A female black bear gave birth to two cubs. One cub died right away. Three weeks later the mother died and the remaining cub was left to fend for itself. An orphaned cub in that condition is like a walking buffet for predators. And of course, the camera immediately showed a hungry-looking mountain lion.

            One day the orphan cub encountered a giant male black bear. The little cub cowered at the bear’s sheer mass. The larger bear peered around and seemed to realize that the mother bear wasn’t anywhere to be found. So, he gave the little cub a friendly nudge, adopting him at that moment.  From that point on the cub followed the large male wherever he went.  At the same time, the new step-dad bear proceeded to show the cub how to do manly bear things like grub for insects and how to catch fish and how to scratch his back against a tree.

            One day the two bears became separated. The cub began to cry and looked frantically for his new father, but couldn’t find him anywhere. The cub approached a stream where he had learned to fish and then something caught his attention. He looked up to see a mountain lion ready to pounce. That same mountain lion had stalked the cub for the entire show. There was no way that mountain lion would’ve gone for that cub with Papa bear around, but now this was its chance.

            The camera zoomed in on the cub. He automatically mimicked the posture of his adopted father when threatened. He stood on his hind legs and bared his teeth. Then, in the exactly the same way his new father would have done, this cub let loose a mighty growl that should have reverberated throughout the forest. But, instead, only a tiny bear cub squeak came out, hardly threatening or menacing at all.

            Then amazingly to everyone’s astonishment, the mountain lion lowered his head and ran off in the opposite direction.

            The camera panned back to the proud little cub still standing tall on his hind legs. And then all the viewers saw what that little cub could not.  A few yards behind him, at full, ferocious height, with white sharp teeth bared in a snarl, stood the large male bear. He had not made a sound, but he was there.

            And even though the cub couldn’t see his adoptive father, his protector stood guard. The little cub had a power available to him that he could not produce on his own. There was a greater power watching over him.

            Well, dear friends, there is a greater power watching over you and I with all of life’s uncontrollables.  And when we take a hold of that, and believe that, and trust in the fact we are not alone, God can grant us His gift of peace

            Hear again what Jesus said – 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.”             Let God’s peace minister to you today and every day.  Amen.