Like many people, my thoughts recently have been centred around the upcoming anniversary of the end of the First World War.
To mark the occasion, I am spending a couple of weeks preaching a series I have called “The Peace of God”. My talk yesterday focussed on a well-known verse from Isaiah 2;
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
(Isaiah 2 vs. 4)
I speculated on how impossible this vision appears. When peace is political, it breaks down. Nobody really wins a war, there are always casualties and the world is never the same for those who return.
Of course, Isaiah is speaking in a prophetic sense. He looks forward to a time when God’s kingdom is fully established. When God’s reign of justice, peace and joy is fully acknowledged. But, I asked, is it possible that to some extent we can find peace in this troubled world?
The Bible has lots to say about peace.
But it’s clear that peace is not just the absence of war. Neither is it peacefulness in the sense of being untroubled. Peace, in the Biblical sense, means being in a right relationship with God, with other individuals and with wider society.
“Shalom” is the Hebrew word we often associate with peace. It is often used as a greeting, trips off the tongue. I remember when I had the privilege of visiting Israel and being stopped at a military check point by armed soldiers. They wandered through our party with the word “shalom”. Seeing their weapons, it didn’t look like “shalom” to me, I was feeling distinctly nervous!
I have heard many people use the word “holistic” and that is what “shalom” truly is. It means being set right. Complete and whole.
When Isaiah speaks these words of prophecy, he does so at a time of time of incredible disruption, fear and impending war and so, it looks to be absolutely impossible.
I have read the stories of people celebrating the start of the first world war. The great adventure they were embarking on and the stark reality of what they encountered. I wonder, was there a longing for swords into plough shares spears into pruning hooks or, did it all seem like an impossible dream?
In our day, in our time war from our point of view looks very different now. Maybe world war 1 shaped our thinking in some way. Maybe the media with its instant communication and 24-hour coverage, I wonder can these words really come true?
If I am honest about it, I look at words like that and I look at the state the world is in I think surely, it is impossible isn’t it?
But, we have a God who specializes in the impossible!
For many of us the question is, how in this world can I find peace?
One of the most powerful ways that this world robs us of peace is that it gets us to take our focus away from God and onto our problems, our struggles. The more we look at them the bigger they become. The bigger they become the harder it is to find peace. So, what we have to learn to do is to take our eyes off the problems and start looking to God
There is a poster you might have seen that goes like this;
No God, no peace
Know God, know peace
It may seem a twee way of saying it but, it is absolutely true. What I have come to realise over the years is that there is a reason why Jesus told His disciples to
seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
(Matthew 6 vs. 33)
It’s about knowing God and about knowing His peace. Let me tell you what happened to me.
Monday is always sermon writing day in my office. I had an idea floating around in my head and I was desperate to get it down on paper.
I went into the office started hammering away. I spent hours trying to get the thoughts down on paper but, nothing seemed to flow. Sentences didn’t fit or work. By the end of two hours’ solid work all I had was a blank sheet of paper!
I got cross with God.
The harder I tried the less I seemed to be able to think
As I flicked through the Bible a passage leapt out at me Psalm 46 vs. 10 which says;
Be still and know
That I am God
(Psalm 46 vs. 10)
I felt God nudge me and say “put it aside and come and be with me.” I did. I put the preparation to one side and I went to the sofa in my office and I just sat in God’s presence.
I said nothing
He said nothing
But as I sat I became so aware of His presence with me, it was incredible. I felt, what I can only describe as, an overwhelming sense of peace.
The work was still there, it still needed to be done but, when I returned to it, there was a real feeling of peace. With this sense of peace, the work got done.
We all face competing demands in life. There is so much that demands our attention, and I wonder how often we reflect that in our prayer lives?
Okay God I am ready, let’s get to it
Here is my list for today
Our prayer is about needs and words and less about just being with God. Chris Chapman in his book “Earthed in God” writes;
Prayer is more than this: it is the deliberate engagement in the formation of relationship
I believe many of us have lost the art of being still. We have lost the art of being still in God’s presence
Once we are still and we begin to grasp the fact that we are in the presence of God. We let go of our self-centred priorities. We actually let Him Be God, then we begin that journey into the peace that passes all understanding.
To experience peace, real lasting peace we have to get to know God
No God, no peace
Know God, know peace
Friends, that is the very real choice we have to make