Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, February 3-4, 2024
“Peace that You Will Never Comprehend”
Phil 4:4-7 Eph 2:12-22, John 20:20-22- “Peace Be With You”
Rev. Mike Paulison – Ascension Lutheran Church, Littleton, Colorado
“There are just some problems that only God can fix..There will be some moments that just don’t make sense..I have seen it happen time and time again..There is just some problems that only God can fix..There’s just some battles flesh and blood can’t win..There will be some moments that just don’t make sense…There are just some problems only God can fix..” Song lyrics- Maverick Music “God Problems”
This year these words have resonated with my heart. You ever try to get peace while people you love are living in the midst of hell? You ever try to get peace when you are making decisions that may effect if other people may live or die? This year I have had more sleepless nights and nights full of prayer than maybe any other time in my life and ministry.
What do you do when your pain seems like it might be bigger than your faith? What happens when you are not resilient anymore? What do you do when your circumstances are bigger than you?
We are living in a time when peace seems like a passing commodity. Russia is still waging war in the Ukraine. People are displaced as refugees. Thousands, including men who did not want to fight for Russia, are dead. The Middle East has erupted. Yes, many Israelites are either dead or kidnapped, and as of right now we don’t know their fate. But there are some innocent Palestinian who have also died or lost all. Thus, creating more refugees. Haiti has bene overrun by gangs. The world has declared it a disaster. The country has pleaded for help. No one has come. If you watch the news or even just read the headlines on your phone. There is no peace.
How about the places not highlighted on the news? There is Yemen. After more than seven years, the protracted conflict in Yemen has led to one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, with more than 20 million Yemenis in need of assistance and suffering from inadequate food, health care, and infrastructure. How about Venezuela? The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela was triggered by the economic collapse that began in 2014. Economic deterioration in Venezuela has driven the largest external displacement in Latin America’s recent history. The United Nations says that 6.8 million people have left—more than have fled any other country except Syria and Ukraine. Hyperinflation has caused the price of food and other basic goods to soar. Water, fuel and medicine are in short supply and power outages are common.In the Congo Over 100 armed groups fight for control in eastern Congo, fueling a crisis that has lasted for decades. Then there is Somalia which is facing an unprecedented drought and hunger crisis. People have already lost their lives to starvation, and the country is on the brink of famine.
There is no peace in the world, and if you listen to the news it steals the peace in our hearts. Look at our own country. People truly despise each other, some in the name of Christianity. You long for Christmas season where there always seems to be a be a respite from the division.
When Paul first wrote these words they were delivered to the Philippians. They were words they needed to hear: food and the necessities of life for them were in short supply, persecutions and prison was an ongoing part of their lives for their commitment to Christ. In addition to this they had the same daily concerns that have: our children, our marriages, our relationships, safety, employment concerns, school concerns, health concerns, etc.
Paul, himself is writing this from a prison cell. He had concerns for his own safety. In the midst of this the Sprit of God burdens Paul’s heart to commit these words to ink and parchement.
The command of the scriptures is to not let worry run our lives. The command of the scriptures here is to not let fear, worry, and anxiety be the umbrella that we live under.
Martin Luther. He once said, “I have held many things in my hands, and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”
The peace of God is not something that is generated from within us. It is not a product of our own efforts or a result of our own achievements. It is not something we can manufacture or manipulate. It is, in fact, a divine gift, a heavenly endowment that comes directly from God Himself. This is the first and most fundamental point we must understand about the peace of God: it is sourced in God Himself. You will not find it searching after anything else in your life.. (Simple side note- If you are here today and you are not a baptized child of God. I don’t know how you get peace in your current situation without coming into relationship with the living God. You have to yield your life to Christ. You can search for it every where else, but this peace is only sourced through Jesus flowing from the heart of God , and the power of God’s Spirit coming into your life. You have to give up trying to make it through life without Jesus)
Two Times in my life more than any others where I received peace that did not make sense.
- 2016- Going off Grid. Threat on my life. James was afraid I was going to be poisoned.
- This year- God’s Garden surrounded by gunfire. Waiting for the right moment to send the kids out…Still get stopped and threatened three times by gangs. (Harder than the first)
This year my whole physical system was a mess. I was in the emergency room 3 x’s in four months. Blood coming out of my stools. Pain that doubled me over (once at Ron’s house) I have had every test imaginable. They can’t find anything. It was stress ripping me up inside….
Proverbs 18:10 reads, “The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (NIV) The righteous run in to find refuge. (slide)
The peace of God is not dependent on our circumstances or our feelings. It is not contingent on our performance or our worthiness. It is not subject to the whims of our world or the fluctuations of our emotions. It is rooted and grounded in the unchanging nature of God Himself. (slide)
Illustration- conversation with Jeff Bjork- “You want to hear what I think? You aren’t going to like it? You aren’t God. “ You can’t control whether people live or die.
In those two illustrations above, there came a point where the original words to the song I first quoted echoed in my heart.
“There are just some problems that only God can fix..There will be some moments that just don’t make sense..I have seen it happen time and tie m again..There is just some problems that only God can fix..There’s just some battles flesh and blood can’t win..There will be some moments that just don’t make sense…There are just some problems sonly God can fix..” Song lyrics- Maverick Music “God Problems”
It is said, “When I came to the end of myself..You come to the beginning of God.”.
Many times when hardship comes, we have our own plans for how to handle it. We have plan A, B, C, D, and E. And after we have exhausted all of those, we find ourselves in that place where we say, “If God doesn’t come through for me, it is over with. This is horrible.” But actually, it is not horrible, because it is an opportunity for God to show His glory. When times are tough, we have a built in instinct to become dependent upon God for strength that is needed. It is obvious that so many of us are growing weary in these dark days of oppression that we live. Struggles surround us at every corner and it is hard to stave off the growing fears of uncertainty. We were told in the Scripture that these times would come and test the faithful, but how do we keep standing when the ground is trembling and darkness is filling the sky?
Fear is a tool that the enemy uses to take our focus from the truth. (Slide)This kind of discouraging spirit comes straight from ..hell. ..Paul is saying, You have to see your discouragement for what it really is! Its a demonic weapon an arrow that Satan shoots at you from his quiver to get you to doubt yourself. He knows he can’t tempt you to turn away from Jesus. So he swamps you with vicious lies to make you think you’ll never be good enough to serve Christ. He wants to get you so downcast that you’ll want to throw in the towel!
A.W. Tozer said, “The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.” (https://rootofdavid.blogspot.com/2016/02/when-we-come-to-end-of-ourselves-we.html)
The Bible describes God as the “God of peace” (Romans 15:33). This is not just a title or a descriptor. It is a statement of His character and His essence. God is peace. He embodies it. He emanates it. He is the source of it. This means that the peace of God is not just a feeling or a state of mind. It is a reflection of the very heart of God. It is a manifestation of His presence in our lives.
A deep, lasting peace that can withstand the storms of life: It is a peace that can calm our fears, soothe our anxieties, and give us rest in the midst of turmoil. It is a peace that can guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, as Philippians 4:7 tells us.
Picture a fortress, strong and impregnable, protecting a city from external threats. God’s peace acts as the guardian of our hearts and minds, shielding them from the anxieties and fears of this world.
Jesus said multiple times to His disciples, “Peace be with you” It is a standard Hebrew greeting (shalom aleichem) ..The peace of God offered in the scriptures can only be had in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus—being called the Prince of Peace. Jesus the one who gives the Holy Spirit to his children, producing in them the fruit of peace.
Consider holy week. Start with Good Friday where the world shattered and fell apart as an innocent man was ridiculed, beaten and chastised…A humble man that carried a cross on his back, all the while knowing his fate. It was anything but peaceful for those involved. Yet, it was the very path to peace with God and eternal peace in or hearts.
Scripture reads that Jesus is our peace. (Eph. 2:14-22).. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
We have to, in the midst of strife and fear, run into the strong tower that is the name of God. There , and only there will you find rest., forgiveness of your sins, and the balm of His grace for your soul. There you have to be willing to let go of control, which is a fearful thing. You have to stop attempting to manipulate ethe outcome. You have to hold on to that God is still sovereign. He is still seated on His throne. He will not yield it to another. Jesus’ death destroyed death. His resurrection triumphed over the enemies of your soul. No matter how dark it gets the face of God will always radiant light. It will always bring peace.
If you are in the midst of a struggle right now, and your heart is in chaos, God has a gift for you. There is a peace that God has that will guard, protect and strengthen your heart. Stop fighting. Rest. Lean into Him. Know that according to Is 58 God has your back. Rest. He is big enough Do you know that the One who hung the stars can stop your fear? Run to Him.
The peace that Jesus gives taps into the patient loving heart of or Father. There is a place you can get to that Jesus stills your heart and soul, in order that you do not get swallowed up by the circumstances you are facing. They are never bigger than God.
(Here is a video on how we are doing right now at Mission Experience…if possible)
Not by power..Not by Might..But power the power of the Spirit of the Living God..