Episode 1. A Life of Peace
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Christmas is all about peace – it’s God’s declaration of peace towards us, after our rebellion against Him. But what does that actually mean, here and now, two thousand years on from that very …
Christmas is all about peace – it’s God’s declaration of peace towards us, after our rebellion against Him. But what does that actually mean, here and now, two thousand years on from that very first Christmas.
Time with God
It is fantastic to be with you again this week. Over the last three weeks on the program, I guess leading up towards Christmas we’ve been looking at living a life of peace because Christmas is God’s declaration of peace. When you and I turned our backs on God and walked away and did our own thing and do stupid and silly things as we’ve done in our lives we declared war on God and what we deserved was God’s anger, what we deserve was God’s judgement. And we’ve been looking at the Book of Ezekiel for the last few weeks and seeing how exactly that befell the nation of Israel when they rejected their God, but God had a peace plan and God’s plan for peace is Christmas, Jesus Christ, His own Son.
This week on the program we’re going to finish this series off by looking at what it actually means to live that life of peace; and for me there are three key things. We have to make a decision for peace, a decision, a deliberate choice to have peace and that involves spending time with God, getting right with God and relying on God. So, are you ready? We’re going to dive into Gods word and just see what God has for us because I truly believe God’s plan for you is to live a life of peace.
There’s one thing that being marriage teaches you is that you can’t have any peace between husband and wife unless you spend time together, enjoying each other, that’s why God invented intimacy. We go along through life together, husband and wife and our ups and downs and bumps and bruises and stresses and strains but when we spend time together, when we have fun together, when we do special things together and talk and just work through issues, that builds the relationship and we get so close as husband and wife that when those pressures come, when those tensions come, they don’t affect us because the relationship is in place and the same, exactly the same, is true in our relationship with God.
We need to spend time with God. I have plenty of stresses and strains in my life, people sometimes look at me and go, “Well, must be a pretty easy life really, recording the radio programs.”
But that’s not the half of it, doing this ministry gig is a tough gig, it all just doesn’t happen. Hundreds of stations and the relationships with those and all our blessed supporters and friends and our relationships and communications with those, our finances, our staff and the rapid growth and managing that growth, there are tensions, there are strains, it’s hard work and in the middle of all of that, for me, the highest calling on my life, from God, is to do what I’m doing right now and I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’m no good in God’s hands if I’m some screaming nervous wreck.
I need peace to be used of God to bless you, I need joy, I need that quiet assurance amidst the pressures of life. There’s only one place where I’ve found that, in my quiet times with the Lord, early in the morning when the rest of the world’s asleep. On those days when I take that time, 30 minutes, 40 minutes maybe even an hour, just to spend time with Him, I have a quiet assurance and a peace.
Jesus knew that, He was the Son of God and He was doing this ministry tour and preaching tour through Galilee and He’d just been casting out demons and healing people, He must have been tired. This is what it says in Mark, chapter 1, verse 35:
And in the morning, very early whilst it was still dark, He got up and went out to a deserted place and there He prayed and all the people came looking for Him and said, “Where are you? We’re all looking for you.” It would have been very easy for Jesus to say, “Well, you know, I’m busy. I’ve got too much to do; I haven’t got time to pray.” And we kid ourselves if we think that we can live a life of peace without spending time with Jesus. Jesus, when He walked on this earth, was a man of prayer. He spent time with God for guidance and peace and power.
The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter, chapter 3, verse 11 says this,
Seek peace and pursue it.
In other words, get deliberate about having peace in our lives. What’s life like, day by day, every step of the way when we can walk in the quiet assurance of peace? Inside, how do you feel? It’s awesome isn’t it? And outside, how effective and capable are we when inside we have this wonderful peace?
But on the other hand, compare that to those days when we’re a screaming blubber of jelly, all over the place like a cork in the ocean driven by a storm. Inside you feel terrible, outside you just can’t do what you want to do. It’s a no brainer, we need peace. We all have trials, we all have temptations, we all feel like we’re the only ones, we feel lonely.
But it happens to all of us, I have mine, you have yours and sometimes we get so busy that we think we don’t have time to spend with God and that is nuts, I’m sorry but it is. If we want peace we have to pursue it, in other words, to run swiftly after it. That’s what that word means that Peter uses, to run swiftly after it in order to catch it, to press into it. A deliberate decision, “well, I don’t have any peace in my life.” What are you doing about it? “Mm, nothing. I just want peace.” Well let’s get a revelation today, the rest of the world isn’t going to give us peace, it’s just not going to flop into our laps, in fact, the opposite is true. The world wants to rob us of peace.
The true, deep, abiding, restful, joyful, delightful peace only happens in one place, with Jesus and we have to make a decision to pursue it and that means making time with Him every day. It’s not a guilt trip, it’s not some sort of rule, it’s just plain common sense. Time to talk with Him, time to rest with Him, maybe it’s on the train on the way to work, maybe it’s very early like me, maybe it’s a half an hour after dinner, whatever. Time to offload our burdens onto Jesus, time to get into God’s word, to listen to radio programs or teaching CD’s or to read a good book, just to spend time with God, a quiet time alone and little by little, day after day, week after week, month after month, God builds in us the most wondrous sense of peace. If we’re going to live our lives we have to choose peace, we have to seek it out, we have to pursue it and for me the biggest part of that is spending my time, quality time, the best time that I have in the day, with Him.
Right With God
The second part of that, for me, which we’re going to look at is just getting right with God. Have you ever had that situation where there’s someone you really care about and you’ve had an argument, you know you do something stupid to hurt them and there’s a fight and the more you fight the harder it gets to make up because the more entrenched you get and then there’s like a cold war happening that can go on for an hour or a day or weeks. You know what I’m talking about, we’ve all been there. Our stupid pride stops us from making peace and saying, “Sorry” and all the time there’s this coldness and silence even though we really care about this other person.
The worse thing about that is that there’s no peace, there can never be peace until we set things right and the same is true with our relationship with God, unless WE set things right in our relationship with Him there can never be any peace.
As I was saying just before and as we’ve been talking about over the last few weeks, our rebellion is a war against God and Jesus is God’s peace plan, the Christmas present at that first Christmas is God’s peace through His Son, Jesus Christ but in order to experience that peace, a peace that goes beyond anything we can ever understand, we have to accept the gift, we have to turn away from the things that we know are wrong.
1 Peter, chapter 3, verse 11, we talked about earlier, actually says this in its fullness:
Turn away from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it.
Isn’t it interesting that both of those things are in the one verse:
Turn away from evil and do good.
Seek peace and pursue it.
So many people’s lives are in turmoil, they try and deny it, ‘”I’m feeling unsettled so I’ll just go and spend some more money on my credit card.” Wake up; there’s no peace in that, if we go back to that argument we were talking about before there’s only one way to get peace in that relationship, it’s to set things right, it’s to apologise, it’s to reconcile, it’s to hold each other close AND to stop doing the thing that caused the argument in the first place. You know why our sin robs us of our peace? Because it’s an argument with God, it’s me saying, “I know better than God and I’m going to turn my back on Him and I’m going to do it the way I want to do instead of the way God wants me to do.”
When we look at that first Christmas present, Jesus the Son of God who pays the price for our sin, God opens the door to God, through forgiveness through Jesus otherwise we’d have to take the punishment of the Law because God is a just God and the great news is Jesus takes that punishment for us. So, why don’t people just go and make peace with God? What holds us back? Fear? Pride? A sense that ‘if I go to God maybe He’ll make me give up something I don’t want to give up. Maybe He’ll make me a missionary out in whoop whoop?’
That’s a big one, having to give up things that we don’t want to give up but to turn away from evil and do good, I’ll have to give up the evil things and my experience is that God never asks us to give things up unless they’re no good for us, dishonesty, back biting, making money a god, making possessions a god in our lives. Sure, those old habits die hard but when we give them up, as we progressively walk with Jesus day by day and His Spirit works in us and we give those things up, we get peace because He sets us free from those things.
We try and serve those little gods in our lives and they’re like tyrants, they’re like chains around our hearts but God sets us free from those and as far as becoming a missionary, if you had told me 12 years ago when I became a Christian that I’d leave my lucrative consulting career and be doing what I’m doing now on a ministers salary and depending on donations of good willed people to the ministry, I would have said you’re nuts, I would have run a million miles but God takes us and He changes us and He gives us a heart to do the things He calls us to do.
If we want peace we have to take a deliberate decision to chase after it and to press into it and that means turning away from evil and doing good. Seeking after peace and pursuing it. Sometimes we live in so much turmoil we’ve forgotten what we’re missing out on. Have you ever been in that situation where you’ve been working long hard hours and you finally stop and go on a holiday, by a beach, and all of a sudden you realise how the lack of balance has been ruining our lives. It’s the same with a lack of peace, we can get so accustomed to the turmoil and the stress and the upset that they become a way of life.
So many people, even people who believe in Jesus have forgotten what peace is because we just get used to the dung heap. Today, just let me say this, God has a plan for your life and it’s a plan for peace and a plan for joy and amidst the circumstances of your life. Peace is fantastic, peace is awesome but if we keep rebelling against God we’re not going to have that peace. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. What is it in your life that is evil? What are the old habits dying hard?
God, I confess, I accept responsibility and I know they’re wrong and I turn away from them. I know Lord that this habit is going to die hard and so I ask your Holy Spirit to come into me, will you change me? And Lord, as you’re doing that I’m just going to put my eyes on You, I’m going to look at You, I’m going to trust in You, I want to have a relationship with You because Lord, I just believe that you want to change me and give me peace, in Jesus name.
Relying on God
This week on the program we’re looking at living out the life of peace, the peace that Jesus came to purchase for you and for me. Earlier in the program we looked at the fact that we need to spend time with God, precious wonderful time during which He just builds that sense of peace and well being in our hearts. We need to get right with God, when Jesus came, He was born at Christmas, He died at Easter, He rose again, He opened the door to peace but we have to walk through that peace and that involves turning away from evil and doing good, seeking after peace and pursuing it, a deliberate decision to repent from evil.
If you find those old fashioned words and you think, “oh come on Berni, get out of here.” I’m sorry. God is calling us to repent from evil and to do good and to walk in love. Spending time with God, turning away from evil and seeking peace and now, let’s talk about the last one we’re going to talk about today, learning to rely on God.
Life is full of uncertainties and risks, our health, our finances, our relationships, who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow and how things can turn out? I remember some years ago getting up one morning to go to work and it was just like every other morning until I burned myself, on my face and my chest, with boiling water. It can happen, it happened so quickly and all that uncertainty can mount up inside us into real pressures and fears.
Over the last few weeks on the program we’ve deliberately been talking about peace, you see I have this crazy idea that God has a plan for our lives and that plan is to give us peace and joy in the midst of the circumstances of our lives, exactly what’s going on in our lives now.
Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow? God does and maybe, just maybe He’s created things the way He has with all the risks and all the uncertainties so that we’ll learn to rely on Him. There are some things in our lives that we can control directly, some of my actions I can control, some of the things I do, some of the ways I spend my money I can control but actually the things that I can control in my life are fairly small. I can’t control you, I can’t control how you react to me.
Just outside that little circle of control is a bigger circle, it’s like a circle of influence and that’s something we can grow. As you and I build a relationship of trust we increase the extent to which we can influence each other and that’s good, influence is based on trust and you can achieve a whole bunch of things through influence that you can’t achieve through control but we have a much bigger circle and it’s called our circle of interest, it’s huge.
Now, a whole bunch of things we can’t control or influence in those areas. The past is one. We can’t change the past. Our health is one, some things I can control and influence by my diet, my exercise but there’s a whole bunch of other areas that we can’t. I can’t stop myself from getting cancer tomorrow. The companies we work for, their strategy, their priority, their retrenchment policy. Our safety, we have some control over that but what about the drunken driver just around the corner on the road on the next bend, we can’t control them.
Today and tomorrow are full of risks, I remember when I stepped out of my secure consulting career into this ministry, it’s a faith ministry, it was a risk but God’s plan is to give us peace in the midst of that risk. Peace is trusting in the sovereignty and the love of God. One of my favourite Scripture verses, in fact I have this on my desk in my study in a small frame, is Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 5 and 6. It says this:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.
Trust in God with all your heart, with everything you are. We want to rely on what we can see, we want to rely on what we can understand, we want to rely on the here and now but there are so many things we can’t control. Instead in everything we do, everything we say, everything we think, everything we hope and dream for, put God first. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and here’s the promise, “He WILL direct our paths.”
God is a good God; God is a God of grace. The way that the world looks at life is, “it’s all up to me; I have to make it happen, if I don’t make it happen, I won’t. My destiny is in my own hands.” Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s all up to God and I’m going to honour Him, me and my household, we’re going to honour God with everything we are, with everything we have, with every hope and dream, I’m still going to do my best but I’m going to trust in God. God knows all, He sees all, today, tomorrow, next week, next year, He knows it all and that’s where my peace is.
When we began these programs in February 2005, I just felt God’s call, it was a huge risk. I resigned from my job, we started recording programs, we spent the money, we invested and no station had decided to take our programs and today, 350 stations in 80 countries are airing these programs, hundreds of thousands of people are listening to these programs. Sure it was hard work, sure we had to do things but I can’t make that sort of thing happen. We step out, we follow His call, we honour Him with our decisions and we trust that He’s in it. We had opposition, we always have opposition when we step out for God but then we want to spend so much time worrying and being afraid and waking up in the middle of the night that there’s no peace in it, there’s no joy in it. Life is full of risks, either we think we have to do it all or we trust in God to do it for us. Jesus put it this way:Therefore I tell you, don’t worry about your life, what you’re going to eat or what you’re going to drink or about your body, what you’re going to wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, they don’t sow, they don’t reap, they don’t gather into barns and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than them? And can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your lifespan?
So why do you worry about clothing? Look at the lilies of the field, how they grow, they don’t toil, they don’t spin, I’ll tell you though even Solomon in all his glory wasn’t clothed like one of these but if God clothes the grass or the field which is alive today and gone tomorrow like this, won’t He do much more for you? Therefore don’t worry saying, what am I going to eat? What am I going to drink? What am I going to wear? Because people who don’t believe in God are the ones who strive for all those things but your Heavenly Father sees all your needs. First, strive for the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you.
Just look at your life for a moment, what are the things you’re worrying about? The risks and the fears, other people, money, job, what to do with your life, future health? Do you want peace? Do you want real peace? Then hand those things over to God. We don’t need a whole bunch of faith, we never have enough faith to follow Gods call, there’s always a bit of an edge to these things.
Each time we hand something over to God and we trust Him and we do the things that He wants us to do and we see how He comes through, our faith grows and then we’re ready for the next challenge and the next thing and it’s always bigger and it’s always harder and it’s always scarier and it always requires more faith. I often have to do things afraid, I guess if I didn’t I wouldn’t need faith and as time goes by God uses us in the most amazing ways. God has a plan, it’s a plan for peace for your life and for my life. Will we walk in that plan? Are we going to spend some time with God everyday and drink in His peace? Are we going to get our lives right with God and honour Him? Are we going to learn to rely on God? Come on, how much do you want peace?