Thursday, March 19, 2009

Unworldly Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

                        John 14.27 

In Preparation

John 14 finds Jesus and the disciples at a very delicate moment in their relationship. After forsaking everything they’ve known to follow Christ, the disciples are about to hear Jesus will soon leave them to complete His work on Earth and rejoin His Father in Heaven. He begins with a comforting, yet oddly ominous statement. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14.1) Before any of them has a chance to ask where this comes from, Jesus informs them of His imminent departure, assuring them He plans to return one day and gather His followers so they “also will be where I am.” (v3)

Although Jesus has hinted at His eventual physical separation from the disciples several times, the urgency He now conveys by pulling them aside to explain it in depth shakes them to their cores. It’s news to them. It spins them into panic and Jesus’s mysterious tone confuses them. They ask questions, all of which He answers yet none of which they feel certain they understand. From the gist of it, Jesus is going away for a while, leaving them in the hands of the Holy Spirit, Who will continue to teach and direct them. How this will work He doesn’t say. In preparation for uncertainty ahead, Jesus foregoes the humanly preferred “here’s-what-to-expect” angle to challenge the disciples to abide by His principles. He charges them to trust Him, just as they trust God.

Unsettled by Faith

Jesus recognizes hoping without evidence and believing without seeing are recipes for anxiety. Yet He refuses to compromise His position to accommodate His followers’ weaknesses. Instead, He provides an antidote for their emotional confusion while He’s away. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” He says. His temporary absence while entombed will serve as a trial run—a test of their mettle to indicate the strength of their belief. How well they handle His brief departure will tell if their faith can withstand far tougher, more crucial trials as they continue His work after the Ascension. He has no doubt they’ll be unsettled by faith. He knows He’s asking them to believe His promises despite every sign that what He said is impossible. But He doesn’t want them to search for worldly proof to validate His words. He expects them to reach for unworldly peace. “I do not give to you as the world gives,” He stresses. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Don’t be afraid.”

Peace Rules

Following Jesus now is no different than when the disciples traveled with Him physically. He speaks to us daily through His Word, in prayerful conversation, and as His Spirit whispers to our hearts. Often we become so entranced by what’s happening now, we miss subtle allusions to moments we’ll feel left hanging while He attends to our future. When time comes to carry on by faith, we fall apart. Answers aren’t clear and plans aren’t predictable. But, as with the disciples, understanding isn’t always necessary or available for us. All we need during uncertainty is unwavering trust to stop asking logical questions and reach for illogical—unworldly—peace.

We control whether circumstances disturb and frighten us. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” Jesus says. While all evidence suggests the contrary, He’s not abandoned us. Philippians 4.5-7 explains how to weather crises of uncertainty: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The Lord is near—coming to our rescue. Until He returns, we pass the time in prayer and praise, expressing faith instead of fretting and complaining. Total trust calms our behavior. Non-believers observe this and recognize something extraordinary controls our emotions. Worry is anathema to us. Fear isn’t a factor. Answers and predictability may elude us. But peace—not as the world gives, but God’s peace—is within reach. It guards our hearts and minds. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” Colossians 3.15 says. And so we do. When our world rocks, Christ’s unworldly peace rules.

Jesus gives us unworldly peace that transcends all understanding. It guards our hearts and minds. It rules our doubts and emotions. 

(Tomorrow: Footlight)

2 comments:

Mariah and Byron Edgington said...

How true your words.

Answers and predictability may elude us. But peace—not as the world gives, but God’s peace—is within reach. It guards our hearts and minds. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” Colossians 3.15 says. And so we do. When our world rocks, Christ’s unworldly peace rules.

Tim said...

Mariah and Byron--so good to see you! And so wonderful to share this Word with you. God's promise of peace has sustained me (and I'm sure you) through more turmoil than I care to remember. It does rule!

Blessings always,
Tim