If we focus on the Lord, He can bring peace even in places of failure.
I want to see us encouraged. The peace series is what we’re going to do for five weeks. I’ll be sharing a couple of messages. We’ve will have some guests as well. I love what they designed. I love all of the art that they designed on it. The design team did a great job. One of the things that we were talking about was how this represents the energy in the city environment that we are in. Yet in the midst of this urban living, how can we find the peace of God? How can we find the peace of Christ? How can we find that in our own lives when things are chaotic or intense?
I don’t know if you noticed it. There’s a little embedded thing that we put in the peace handout on the cover. There’s a secret verse, kind of a Finding Waldo thing. I’m not going to tell you where it is. But you can see it. If you know the verse, that’s great. Look it up. It connects to the theme. For those of you who are artistically inclined, you probably have already noticed, this doubles as a coloring page. You can use pencils and felt tips that are thin to color in and create your own way of remembering this. It becomes its own individualized art piece and it can change every week. So just be aware of all these different value ads going on.
The passage itself is connected to Easter in many ways. It’s also connected to a larger theme. It’s a theme that we’ve been exploring since the beginning of the year. It goes back to where we opened up the year. We opened with the idea of growing through adversity. Going through things that are hard and how to prevail. We spent a lot of time unpacking what it means to contend for vibrancy and breakthrough in our lives when things are hard. We talked about how God can use adversity to bring good, not just for us to survive and get through it, but how to bring good from it. We spent a lot of weeks there. That led us into a couple of weeks before Easter, where we talked about the cross. There is no better example of someone growing through adversity and coming through it. Taking something that was meant to be awful, dead, death, and bringing life out of it. Jesus is the ultimate example of how to grow through adversity, how He busted through it, and brings us life.
We also need to learn not only how to move through things that are hard, but how to incorporate the peace of God into places that are difficult. Fear is real. We’re going to talk about how to grow and bring His peace into a fearful place. Let’s start quickly by reading the passage itself. It says that Sunday evening, which would be Easter Sunday for them, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, the temple leaders, the authorities that had been so instrumental in having Jesus turned over to Pilate and put to death. Suddenly we’re told though in the middle of this place, when they’re locked in, Jesus was standing there among them. “‘Peace be with you,’ He said, and as He spoke, He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side.” The Bible says almost poetically, “They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord. He said for the second time, “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you,’ and then He breathed on them,” just connecting back to when Adam becomes a living soul in the book of Genesis, “and He said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit, and if you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'”
Verses 22 and 23 speak about spiritual empowerment and authority on the basis of His victory over death. There’s a sense that all believers possess this capacity on the basis of the victory of Jesus and the Good News, the message of the Gospel. This is something that we’re all privileged to be a part of, the focus I’d like us to settle into is on peace. Specifically, the peace that He brings in the fearful place. What I want us to do, is try to imagine in our mind’s eye what’s going on here. They are hiding out. That’s the only way to describe it. They are frightened. Thomas isn’t there. We know that because later on, it will become apparent. Judas is dead. He’s so devastated by what he did, so traumatized by the evil one, that he literally takes his own life. Peter is there, but he’s a man who’s just crushed. If you can think of any person who’s a shell of themselves, that’s Peter right now. It seems that John brought him. Peter, of course, had failed the Lord miserably. He had been the one who bragged about how faithful and loyal he would be. They all forsook Him, but nobody forsook Him the way that Peter did. He denied it. He broke with Him so emphatically, it was a crushing blow for him.
It’s one thing to fail. It’s another thing to fail in such a way that it almost defines our life. That’s what happened with Peter. The Lord was going to have to work with him to nurture him back to a place of health, where he began to believe. Even after Jesus was alive, it took a while for Peter to believe that he was even usable anymore. That’s a whole nother story. At this moment, they’re totally afraid. There’s a rumor that Jesus is alive. We know that John believed that He was. He had looked at the tomb and the way the cloths that were wrapped around Jesus had sunk. When he peered into the tomb, he was beginning to remember the words of Jesus. He had made a mental leap and believed the reason Jesus’ body wasn’t there was that Jesus did indeed do what He said He was going to do and was alive.
Mary Magdalene said she had seen the risen Jesus. The Bible says no one really believed her. They thought that’s what she wanted to believe. John wasn’t sharing his feelings. The picture is now was they knew they were in peril. They were thinking that what happened to Jesus was about to happen to them too. Now the whole group of them were going to get cleaned up. The same way that Jesus had been taken care of, they were going to be taken care of and so they were huddled in fear. That’s the only way to describe it. If you looked around the room, there was fear in that room. They saw with their own eyes how bad it was. It’s almost indescribable. We talk about it all the time, so it’s so always on our lips. But to see Jesus go through what He went through, to watch the utter humiliation, the violence, and how He was hammered to the cross. To watch Him hung between two criminals, stripped-down, spit on, taunted, gambling for his clothes, and His enemies throwing things at Him. It was awful, devastating, and they were afraid. That’s the picture we have. When we come to John 20, they are in a room, locked down, fearful. “Behind locked doors,” verse 19. Behind locked doors, because they were utterly afraid. The irony, of course, is Jesus had risen, but they didn’t believe it.
I was thinking about this. They’re locked up in fear, but Jesus is alive. As I looked at them, I thought, “How could they?” Then I reminded myself, it is possible to have Jesus in our lives and to struggle or be locked up in fear. Some of you may recall because I mentioned this last week. I said, “The same power that raised Jesus from the dead can live in our lives if we let Him. It’s always conditional.” So let me throw a couple of things out there about fear and I want us to work with this a little bit. I want to suggest something that seems so obvious that we’ll say, “Of course!” Number one, using this picture of the disciples, is that fear can lock us up and rob us of so much.
I want us to see the disciples huddled in fear, the doors locked, every sound, every voice, “What’s that outside?” Every step outside, “This could be the group that’s coming for us!” Every knock on the door “No, no, no, no.” Paranoia has set in. That is, of course, what fear does to us. When it gets out of control, it locks us up. It shrinks our world. It distorts our reality. It obliterates our confidence. It diminishes, almost suffocates, our creativity. When fear begins to lock itself down in our lives, it closes the lock on our door. It’s like everything starts to squeeze down. Fear is the thief that steals the peace. It can shut out love and keep us from loving. In 2 Timothy 1:7, it says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and the soundness of mind.” So much of our issue is in the mind. There were times where I was saying, “Lord, I claim this verse.” There have been times where I’ve said, “Lord, now this is a promise. I need to hold this promise. I’m wrestling to hold this promise because I claim the promise that You have not given me a spirit of fear. Fear is not to be a dominant theme of my life at this moment, but You have given me the power to prevail. You have given me, Lord, love to overcome that fear. You’ve also given me soundness of mind. Right now I’m having a really hard time with that mind.”
When we’re anxious, it’s hard. That is where the real battle is. It is right there and the Lord wants to teach us how to come against the things that we’re afraid of. Sometimes we’re afraid of so many things and the real battle is in our emotions, in our mind. That’s how come how we think matters. What we put into our minds matters. A lot of the fear battle takes place in our thoughts. That leads me to the fact that the Lord does want to invade our fears with His peace. I think you noticed when you read the passage that we just looked at; what’s the one thing He says twice? The first time He says, “My peace be with you.” Then He comes back around after He says, “See who I am? My peace be with you.” Two times, it was more than a greeting. It was settling, a gift, a calming, and a word of assurance. That was the very thing they did not have. They did not have peace. If anything, they were disturbed and frightened because things seemed to be spiraling out of control. I was thinking about it. When you’re disturbed and frightened, it’s easy to let things get out of control.
I was trying to imagine it in my mind’s eye. Lord, You’re trying to work Your peace into their fear. They’re so disturbed. They’re so frightened right now that You’re speaking to them peace twice. To say My peace to you right now, My peace to you right now. I was looking at that and thinking not only about times in my own life where I’d needed the peace of God, but it reminded me of my father. I don’t talk a lot about my father. I talk about my grandfather, who was my father’s father. My grandfather was a pastor and he became a very important figure in my life. He became the most influential person in my life. He taught me how to love God. He modeled a genuineness of faith that was impactful on a teenager. I grew to love the God he loved with all my heart. But his son, my father, he and I, did not get along. My father left us and the family ended as we knew it. I stopped living with my father when I was 12 years old. He died about 10 years ago, and my relationship with him through the years was strained. It never was what it could have been. It never was what it should have been.
I look back on my father and his troubled life, which is the only way I could describe it. I came to realize that so much of his struggle was connected to his fear and insecurity. It was his fear and insecurity that ended up costing him his family, and so much he lost. I see now as an older man and pastor who has been married to the wife of my youth now for almost 33 years. It’s incredible. I can’t even believe it. I didn’t even think I’d live that long. Incredibly, 33 years, four adult children, now pastoring for several years, I see things differently than I did early on. Early on, I didn’t want much to do with the man who was so angry all the time. What I could never understand as a boy, was how his anger was deeply connected to his fear. How intertwined his anger was with his fear in his wounds.
I’ll tell you that he was such a troubled soul and I wished I could have helped him. I wished I could have helped him better experience the peace of God. As it was, I did end up having some opportunity to have a relationship with him. As he got older, before he died, we were able to pray together and there was definitely an affirmation on his part of embracing Jesus. He had been so little involved in my life, so gone, so not present, such a broken man in his own right, that he couldn’t even be present. Honestly, when he left, it took me a long time to realize that what happened was he would get angry. The truth is, he was afraid. I saw how, when he would get afraid, I didn’t understand. When you’re a boy, you don’t understand. Why is this looking like anger? Why are you so mad? What’s wrong? It doesn’t make sense. But what was happening was he didn’t know how to handle things. It’s not an excuse. I begin to realize that so much of what was really going on inside him was fear. He didn’t know how to handle it. When he would get afraid, it came out as anger. It took me a long time to forgive him. It was connected to my walk. I would never have forgiven the man if it wasn’t for Jesus. There’s no way. I just couldn’t follow Jesus and have my heart in a dark place.
As time went on, I began to apply forgiveness to the point where ultimately I said, it didn’t just mean I was saying that things were great. What I was saying is that “I honor you as my father and I forgive you.” We often say that when you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free, and that prisoner was me. There’s something about that in the name of Jesus. I believe this, the Lord wants all of us to have increasing dimensions of freedom at work in our life. He does not want us to be disturbed on the inside and He certainly doesn’t want us to be disturbed all the time. He wants us to have His peace. I am convinced of that. When my father was afraid, it came out in anger. The culture was changing. His responsibilities were changing. He had stuff going on inside of him and he couldn’t access Christ. When we’re afraid, it may not show. I was telling someone, sometimes it doesn’t show up as anger. It can show up differently. A lot of times when we’re really afraid, what’s our drop back? To some of us, we’ll cave in our world. We are the disciples. We go into lockdown. It’s like the doors are barred. We’re now inside. Things get tighter and tighter and tighter.
For others of us, we have to figure out a way to get out of that pain, out of that fear. What do we do? We turn back to habits that we’ve left in the past. We run the risk of getting addicted again to things that will not be the solution. We might dive into relationships, sex, some type of drug, or whatever else we can to address that. That’s not the way of the Lord. It’s not going to solve it. A lot of times, what we get ourselves into does not solve the real issues. It is not what God’s trying to get at. Sometimes when we’re afraid, we start creating scenarios that don’t even exist. That’s what I was talking about, how things get out of whack in our minds. We start going places and we can get ourselves into a loop. You can’t get out of it. We’re stuck in this loop and it’s crushing us. You get that going on long enough in here, it’ll start showing up here, in this body because the body, as amazing of an instrument as it is, is made by the Lord to heal itself. In most cases, it will. If the mind is under duress long enough with anxiety, stress, pressure, and fear, that thing’s going to show up. That makes what the Lord is inviting us into even more. When He says, “Peace be to you,” it was, “Into this place of fear, I bring My peace to you. I’m bringing My peace in. I’m saying it again. Peace be to you.”
What is peace? I was looking at definitions of peace. Peace can mean the absence of strife. It can mean some degree of calm. I stumbled onto a definition of peace that fascinated me because it said peace can be described as something fitting together. When it fits together, the wholeness of God at work in our lives shows up. When things are not fitting on the inside, when they’re all jagged or out of whack, what happens is, everything is disjointed. The inside is churning. It’s disconnected. When that comes out, it’s like, you cannot have peace. That is not peace. That’s where my mind is. Things are not fitting together. God wants to teach us how to do that. Last week, at the Easter service, when I was sharing one of the messages, I talked about how God is life, but outside of God is non-life. Inside of God is always life, but when we start to see death working in us in different ways, what is that telling us? When death is starting to dominate us in a variety of ways internally, what is that telling me? It’s telling me that something in me has moved outside of God and He needs to pull me back into alignment with Him.
We’re not going to get this right 100% all the time, but there is a key to what peace means. When He says, “I want you to have My peace,” He’s talking about, “I want you to find yourself fitting together in Me, so that you’re settled, not torn up and divided on the inside because that is not My way for you.” He wants to give us His peace so that we can do a couple of things. One of them is, He wants to give us His peace and it’s going to be a way to remember it. He wants to give us His peace so that we can face things. Instead of fear, we must face life. We’re not to let fear be dominant. We need to let the indwelling Jesus fill the room, fill our hearts, and calm our souls.
There are some things Jesus wants us to face and part of us doesn’t want to do it. Some of us want to run away from that. “I don’t want to deal with that. I’m afraid of that.” There are other things that the Lord is saying, “You need to let that go.” I talk about this a lot. Or at least you need to loosen your grip because you’re way too tightly clinging to this thing. “You have to trust Me.” It’s pulling you out of this. Let it. I mentioned this last week when I was thinking about something. A question Jesus asked a man who needed healing and it comes up a couple of times in the gospels. Jesus will say to someone, and it doesn’t happen a lot, but when it happened I always think, “Why would you ask that question, Jesus?” He says to this person who needed obvious healing, “Do you want to be healed?”
Do you want to be healed? Now the first thing would be, “Well, of course, why would you even ask the question?” But the Lord was asking the question for a reason because a lot of times we are afraid. We can be afraid of being healed. I don’t like this, but this is what I know. What would that mean to be healed? Do you want to be healed? Is that what you want? Do you see what I’m saying? The Lord will say to us, in some areas in our lives, “I want to bring peace here, into you, a greater level or dimension of peace into your life in this area. Do you want to be healed?” “I’m a little afraid, Lord, because I’m used to this,” and I’ll tell you, there are probably some areas where, if I’m truly honest, I’ll say, “Lord, I really need You to help me here.” Then there’s another part of me that says, “But I don’t know if I want to let this go. I really want Your help here.” The Lord sends His peace so that we might face things. Secondly, He sends His peace that we might also go out and share things. I love that so much.
I looked at what Jesus was saying here. What does He say to the disciples? He tells them, “Look, you’re afraid right now,” but what does He say to them after He says, “Peace be with you”? Look at that 20th verse. He talks to them. He shows them His wounds. He fills them and talks about being filled with joy. Then He says, “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” In other words, “I don’t want you locked up here. I want you out there, but you are locked up in fear here. I’m sending you out in the same way that the Father sent Me out.” It’s like He’s saying, “I don’t want fear. I want to give you My peace so that you can do the very thing that I was called to. I’m going to send you out as the Father has sent Me out.” It’s a reminder that we were not born as followers of the Lord, we were not born just to be locked up people. We’re not supposed to be scared, dominated by negative things. We were born to fly. We were born for the open road. We were born to go out into the world and push beyond our fences, make disciples, share the Good News of Jesus with whoever we can with our deeds, and be a person who’s out there. When we’re all torn up on the inside, fearful knots tied up inside of us, how do you share Jesus like that?
Where’s the joy? How do we become outward bound when we’re inward bound? How do I do it? It’s an incongruency. The joy that’s required, “As the Father has sent Me, I send you. Get out of this room. I don’t want you here locked up in closed doors, afraid. Get out and do the work that you were born for.” We’re not perfect, but we were born to share. We were born to be alive. That means the Lord wants to teach us how to be healthier on the inside, having more access to His peace so that the joy in our lives can be real enough that it can be contagious. That is His third peace. He gives us His peace so that we can be wounded healers, that we can heal things. His desire is not perfect people, but real, authentic growing people who have increasingly experienced the peace of Jesus in their lives in such a way that it does affect other people with who we’re connecting ourselves with. We’re don’t have it all down. We never will. We have stuff. We have contradictions and yes, we have times where we will sit and disappoint God. There’s no question about it. But as a whole, God calls us to places of growth. He calls us to places of aligning ourselves in a way that allows Him to fill our lives with a greater dimension of His peace and joy. I believe that with all of my heart. It is His will for us not to be tied up, not inward bound, but outward bound.
The last thing we’ll say about it is He really does want to teach us how to know His joy. That’s that third peace. We stick it up there. That joy comes when we see Him for who He is. Peace and joy go together. They’re both connected to the Lord. What did Jesus say? What did it say they did when they saw Jesus? It says they were filled with joy. I love this. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord. Again, peace and joy go together. That’s the key. It’s connected to seeing Him for who He is. The older version says, “Then they were glad when they saw the Lord.” Then they were glad when they saw the Lord. Then they were glad when they saw the Lord. The key will always be, increasingly seeing the Lord in our lives.
The more we see Him, the more that will flow into our lives. So what does that mean? I think I see Him when I see Him in His words, when I see Him in words that are written about His words, when I see Him by focusing the attention of my life upon Him. It shows up in ways I come into His house, like you’re doing, and hearing His words. You are seeing Him. In a way, you are seeing Him. We are seeing Him together. We are seeing Him in one another. We are seeing Him at this moment. We are seeing Him when we pray. When we reflect we are seeing Him. When we see Him, peace and joy go together. That’s the key. “Then they were glad when they saw the Lord.” The Lord wants to fill us with positivity. He doesn’t want us to be locked up and defeated. He wants us to be alive, not problem-free, that’s not real. He wants to teach us how to move through things with His peace, increasingly whole, fit together, purposeful, positive, more of His joy, more of His peace at work in our lives, so that we can be a blesser of others. To be increasingly who we were created to be in Him. There’s a way to move through the fear that can be life-giving, but it’s going to take Him.
I’m going to pray and ask God to bless the rest of what we’ve shared here. Even now, Lord, I thank you for the opportunity to be able to share your words. Your words are life. Perhaps there are places in our lives where we feel the struggle going on inside, where it’s hard, where it’s not easy. Maybe some of us have things we’re facing in the coming week. Maybe we’re in a season of life now where there are certain things that we’re having to wrestle with. Maybe it’s relational. I don’t know what it is, but some things are robbing us of our peace, that is trying to define us in a defeated place. It may not come out like anger, but our fear can show up in other ways. I ask that You would visit us with Your peace, even in the fearful places of our lives. To trust You, to see what You can do, to align ourselves with You, to live in the life, not in the non-life, but to live in the life of Jesus. To begin to invite You into all of those places, to see You, because when we see You then will our hearts be glad. Even when things are scary, we know that’s what you do. We ask for your blessing. Bless us as we move into this week. Bless this time we’ve shared. Bless our closing song and our time of giving. In Jesus’ name, amen.