Our apologies, due to technical difficulties, we were unable to create an audio recording of the sermon.
The story goes that there was a young man who’d never flown in a plane before. Being a bit of a worrywart and concerned about the possibility of the plane crashing he was stuck because he needed to get across the country for a job interview. He bites the bullet and buys a ticket. He gets to the airport with lots of time to spare but the weather looks bad—ominous even. He doesn’t want to back out but considers a silver lining. He goes on line and for a $100 premium buys a $100,000 life insurance policy—a little peace of mind (kind of like the thinking that goes: “if I bring an umbrella it won’t rain”.) That settled, he decides to go to the food court and Chinese strikes his fancy. All is well until he opens the fortune cookie, which reads: “your recent investment will pay big dividends.” Worry and stress can eat up our peace. In the Scripture today Jesus says “my peace I give to you, not as the world gives peace though, in fact it’s a peace that the world can’t understand.”
Read John 14: 15-27
What are things that rob us of peace? Worry and stress come to mind. Some of us are more inclined to worry—which is really simply fear of bad outcomes. We see the world through “glass half-filled” eyes. We run through “what if” scenarios that can drive us crazy with fear. Now, don’t get me wrong, imagining what could happen and seeking to change things to reduce the probability of those things happening, is good planning. But worrying about things that we can’t change just leads to an ulcer. The American pastor Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the serenity prayer, which has helped me many times: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”.
Stress also can take away our peace. We often live very stressed out lives. Too much stress is a bad thing. But the idea of stress is good. The textbook definition of stress runs something like this: a force applied to an object to move it or change its shape. The right amount of stress on a violin string produces a beautiful clear note. Blowing air into a balloon beyond its capacity will make it burst. Having peace in our lives does NOT mean just coasting along and doing nothing—as though our goal might be to have a completely stress free life. It also doesn’t mean being “worry free” if being worry free means that we ignore possible poor outcomes—as the saying goes “proper preparation prevents poor performance”.
Concerning our text then, what are the things that Jesus is addressing that relate to worry and stress for the disciples? Jesus is preparing them for his death and departure to heaven. Jesus knew that the time was at hand, God had put all things under his power, knowing that he had come from the Father, he was now returning to the Father. So he said “let not your hearts be troubled”. Jesus knows 1) that his disciples will be scattered and persecuted (a big stress) and also 2) that they were sad because of all the talk of his death (worrisome). It’s understandable that the disciples were afraid and worried.
In the midst of this impending stress and fear Jesus speaks truth to them. I will not leave you as orphans! An orphan is alone in the world, a child whose parents have either died or are in some other way completely out of the picture. But Jesus assures his disciples that they are beloved children and that in fact he will not leave them. I will give you MY Spirit! I have to go because if I don’t then the Spirit won’t come. I promise you that in fact my departure is a good thing: you will actually get more of me than less! Because, by my Spirit I will be in each of you (He is with you now but soon he will be in you! Verse 17) The Scriptures refer to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Adoption. The proof that we are not orphaned, that we are indeed beloved adopted children is that he puts the seal of the Spirit in our lives. We know we are his because the Spirit bears witness in our hearts that we are his—that Spirit that enables us to cry “Abba, Father”.
Then Jesus says “My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives peace do I give it unto you”. The peace of the world is a pretense (an empty promise), because it is based on circumstances. Like the opening song from Oklahoma: “oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way!”…..until it’s NOT. Colossians 2:8 says “see to it that no one takes you captive by empty philosophies and deceit base on human reasoning rather than on Christ”. The world promises a certain type of peace but it’s empty and in the end a dumpster fire (a calamitous and unmanaged situation). The peace Jesus offers is a calm assurance by faith that He is working all things for his glory and our good.
How do I get this peace? Take the words of Jesus: you believe in God—believe also in me! Jesus is the peace of God. Through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have peace with God. Hear the gospel—we have been reconciled to God through the atonement of Christ. We have nothing to fear, no condemnation. We stand before the Father as beloved children. Not cringing in his divine presence but rather running to him—he with open arms—he holding us. Paul puts it this way in Romans 5:1 Therefore since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Once I have God’s peace, how do I keep the peace of God? He holds on to us and we hold on to him through faith, prayer and discipleship in community. First through faith, Christ holds on to us and we hold on to him. Like the child who says “daddy swing me swing me, and the dad says ‘hold on’” knowing all the while that the dad is holding our arms, more than we are holding his arms. Second, through prayer. The Scriptures says that we have peace in our hearts and minds through prayer. Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing! But in every circumstance, through prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends human understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Third, through discipleship and fellowship, in the context of the family of God. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:2-3 “…with all humility and gentleness with patience, bearing with one another in love, make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”
My prayer for Providence and for each one of us is that we would believe the gospel, being rooted and ground in Christ through prayer and fellowship with God’s people. And God’s promise is that he will give us his peace. In a real way we do that by being connected—connected in small groups, Bible study and prayer meetings.
Here’s a very real application of the words of Jesus concerning peace to Providence. Tonight the elders have called a prayer meeting to discern our future together. We have this opportunity but it’s kinda scary. Will we be able to use this facility if we buy it? Can we even afford it? Talk about stress and worry! But through prayer and the Spirit’s guidance we believe this “where God leads he will also provide”. Come let’s pray and discern God’s good work for us.