May 14,2024

Good afternoon Church family, 

This past week’s sermon was one that I could speak like a true prophet. Here’s what I mean. God would often make prophets become what they preached. For instance, Hosea was told to marry a prostitute and show faithfulness to her amidst her continued infidelity to him. Why? So that Hosea could feel what God felt as He loved unfaithful Israel. 

Rest assured (in case you were sleeping or not present), I did not preach on Hosea this past Sunday. I preached on anxiety and fear and the peace that Jesus offers amidst our troubled hearts (John 14:27). And for various reasons, this was an anxious week for me. So I had to really wrestle with God’s word to me and to us. And wrestle, I did! I wrestled with the peace that Jesus gives me in the midst of fear, and like any wrestling match, I could really feel both the peace that Jesus offers me, but also the allusive nature of peace as it continued to slip out of my grip and get away, while fear seemed to pin me down! And then I got away, grabbed onto Christ’s peace only to get pinned down by anxiety again. And on and on that cycle went. 

Maybe you’ve felt this way too about the peace that Jesus offers you. You shouldn’t feel anxious or fearful, and you know it because Jesus gives you a peace that is not dependent on circumstances and transcends all understanding! Yet, you still feel anxious. 

I hope that you heard in Sunday’s sermon that the peace that Jesus offers us is a wave of relief and tranquility that sooths our emotions and fears. It is deeply felt and very obvious. It is real. But while Jesus lacks no ability to give the perfect peace to us, and it is always available to us, yet we have a part to play in it too. We must lay ahold of Christ’s peace through: 

  1. Joy in Jesus (Philippians 4:4, John 14:28)- You can’t rejoice in Jesus and be afraid & anxious at the same time!
  1. Faith in Jesus’ presence (Phil.  4:5, John 14:29) – all anxiety is the result of a lack of faith (Matt. 6:30).
  1. Prayer (Philippians 4:6) 
  1. Focus on Jesus (Isaiah 26:3)

On the 4th point, it’s very hard for me to keep my eyes on Jesus. Like Peter who walks on water until he takes his eyes off of Jesus and onto the scary wind, and then he sinks (Matt. 14:28-33), so it is with me. I’ll be walking above my tempestuous situation as I ‘stay my mind” on Jesus (Isaiah 26:3), but then a wind gust kicks up, I get distracted by the waves rocking around me, and I start sinking but then cry, “Lord save me!” (Matt. 14:30), and He reaches out His arm to pick me up out of my fear just as He was right there beside me the whole time. And then Jesus says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). 

There is so much parallel between that story and what Jesus says in John 14. John 14 is all about the presence of the Holy Spirit remaining with the disciples (& us). God is truly with us. And when we get afraid, we are afraid in His presence. And the reoccurring consolation for scared people in the Bible is “fear not, for I am with you.” So when we are scared, it’s because we don’t believe that God is with us or that He’s enough. And that is the equivalent to deviating our focus and our mind off of the Lord as Isaiah 26:3 says. “He keeps him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him.” 

If you don’t stay focused on Jesus, then you will forfeit the peace that is yours in Christ. 

As I’ve delt with this battle for peace all week long, I’ve realized why this peace promise is so difficult to feel at all times: 

  1. My joy is not completely in Jesus (14:28),
  2. I don’t love Jesus as I ought (14:28),
  3. I don’t believe that His presence is enough (14:29),
  4. I get distracted & my mind turns from Him (Isaiah 26:3),
  5. I’m not thankful (Philippians 4:6 says that we are to pray with thanksgiving in order to receive the peace of Christ.)

Put all that together, and my lack of peace is completely on me. There are so many problems that I have when I’m lacking Christ’s peace.

But if you can summarize one discipline that will help you retain the peace of God that Jesus offers you, it’s this: 

  1. Meditating on Scripture and praying it back to God (Eph. 6:17-18!). 

When you meditate on Scripture, you are welding the “sword of the Spirit” (Heb. 4:12 & Eph. 6:18) for spiritual combat according to Eph. 6. There is a real war in our hearts and in the heavenly realm for the peace that Jesus gives us. Satan would love to steal your peace (not peace with God, for that’s not possible, but your peace of God, the feeling). So how do you combat that? Take up the sword of the Spirit, meditate on God’s Word. That is the real application of Isaiah 26:3, “staying your mind on the Lord to receive His perfect peace.”

So you can see why this promise of peace from Christ is so difficult. It literally involves a mind that is constantly always focused on Christ and His Word. And in this world, EVERYTHING would distract you from that. 

For those of you who have some worries and anxieties, take heart, Jesus has told us how to combat them. He has equipped you with peace that transcends all understanding & told you what to do to continually receive and keep that.  But here’s the real icing on the cake in my opinion: 

In John 14, it is so clear that Jesus understands that you will worry and get fearful. This is normal. You are his “little child” (John 13:33), and little children get scared easily EVEN in the presence of their parent (I’ve witnessed this many times). Jesus understands this and He’s here not to “give guilt to you fearful anxious soul” but “give peace to you in the midst of your troublesome fear” (john 14:27). 

That at least takes away one layer of anxiety for me. I don’t have to be fearful that Jesus will condemn me for my fear! He will encourage me and help me through the Holy Spirit in the midst of my fear. He will offer me peace and His peace will ‘guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). That is a great comfort to me! God gives so much grace in our anxiety! 

Below you will find a song that I think perfectly explains this peace that Jesus offers amidst tribulation (John 16:33), a mixture of emotions while Christ’s peace dominates. 

May we as Jesus’ little children, experience His peace at all times in every way (2 Thess. 3:16). 

With love and peace in Christ, 

Aaron

From Pastor Aaron

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