Guest speaker David Brickner shares about finding God's peace in a restless world.
Shalom. Larry King, “Shalom.” David: I think that’s a very appropriate greeting for this message series because Shalom is the Hebrew or biblical word for peace. It also means hello and goodbye. Some people take that to mean that we Jews don’t know whether we’re coming or we’re going, but it is in the Shalom that we find in God, that I greet you. Shalom peace and a restless world. We have no doubt all of us come to experience at one level or another the fact that this world is a restless place. All you have to do is look at the news and see all across the globe that there’s conflict and upheaval. I read in a recent book, The World in Conflict, written by the foreign correspondent for the magazine Economist, about all of these areas that are in turmoil.
This guy dedicated the book to his children. He says, “To Tamica and Sam, in the vain hope that they will grow up in a conflict-free world.” To many that hope does seem vain, except when we look to God. God has a promise of peace to give to us and a hope that we can not only possess for ourselves but share with others. We have to understand what we’re talking about when we look at this issue of peace in a restless world. I’ve been thinking a lot about this because more and more, the ministry that I serve, Jews for Jesus, has people, my own team in harm’s way on a daily basis. For example, in Israel, where my parents live and the largest number of Jews for Jesus are located, there are rockets that are flying weekly from the Gaza Strip.
Hezbollah in Lebanon has 130,000 rockets that are aimed right at Israel. They can hit anywhere on the land. If a war breaks out again between Israel and Lebanon, it’s going to be horrible. When these air raid sirens go off, and I’ve been in Israel when this happens, you’ve got 90 seconds to get to a bomb shelter. When you have that as a constant experience of life, that’s a test of restlessness. That’s a sense of existential crisis, and we have to speak into that. Or there’s another place where our ministry is the second-largest branch, and that’s in Kyiv in Ukraine. In Ukraine, we don’t read about this very often, but there’s a low-level conflict going on between Russia, Ukraine, and the Russian separatists from the Crimea that are constantly shelling.
The people, especially those who live in Kyiv, and that’s a picture of our people out on the streets, are in the midst of a protest against this war. How do people live in that environment? In a week, I’ll be in Paris where the largest Jewish community in Western Europe is located. It’s also a great place where terrorism is regularly striking. That logo is the hat on the leader of our Jews for Jesus branch in Paris, Josh Turnil. After the Bataclan theater was shot up last year, there was a huge peace March. Josh and his team went out and joined with the marchers. Now, how do we share a message of peace when everybody’s in turmoil? One of the things that they did, and I’m so proud of them is that they got the words of Amazing Grace, they put their music to the streets, and people were drawn.
They hadn’t heard that song in Paris being sung in French. People heard a message of peace in the amazing grace that God has to bring. Have you ever seen this statue around San Francisco? If you go to the Merced campus, it’s right across the street on Brotherhood Way. It used to be at the San Francisco International Airport for many years. This is a Benny Bufano statue. Benny was an Italian immigrant to San Francisco back in the early part of the 20th century. He won first prize in an art contest with this amazing statue. It’s called Peace. There are about three or four different Bufanos all over the Bay Area because he was really focused on peace. Teddy Roosevelt saw this and he said, “I have to meet this guy,” and what a thrill for an immigrant to meet the president of the United States.
Later on, things got very murky with Bufano. When Woodrow Wilson brought the United States into World War I, Bufano cut off his trigger finger and mailed it to the president in protest of the war. What is peace? Many people say that peace is really just the absence of strife. I was in New York with a team of our staff and volunteers. We went out into Union Square, one of the big areas where there’s a lot of foot traffic. We had that poster board that said, “What are you for?” Then we gave the opportunity for people to come up and write down on a colored post-it note what they were for. I watched people love to do this, it gives them a chance to express their opinion. So many people put down world peace. What a great opportunity. I remember talking to one Jewish lady, I said, “What does that look like for you, world peace?” AShe said, “All the wars stop.”
That’s what most people think is a definition of peace, the absence of strife, the stopping of wars. I asked Karen, who is the eight-year-old daughter of our branch leader in New York, “Hey, Karen, what does peace look like to you?” She says, “that’s when everybody stops fighting with each other and we get to hang out and be hippies.” I love that. The Bible says something different. That word Shalom means wholeness, completeness. It’s not the absence of something, it’s the presence of someone. Completeness, wholeness, right relationship, and that’s what God offers. There’s a passage that makes this declaration in a wonderful way, a way that we need to understand. Paul’s writing here says, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, We have peace with God.” That’s the first and most important place to have peace with God.
We have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into the place of undeserved privilege, where we now stand confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. There’s a confident, joyful place to stand for us, who have peace with God. That peace is really what calms the restlessness of the soul. That’s where peace needs to begin. Not everybody’s in agreement about this, and especially as I share the gospel, this good news with my own Jewish people. One of the biggest objections is when the Messiah comes, he’s supposed to bring peace. Since there’s no peace in the world, Jesus cannot be the Messiah. In fact, I had an hour-long debate on the Larry King Live show where this very objection was brought up. Take a look.
Larry King, “you know, he hasn’t come.” David Brickner: “Well because the world is still in turmoil. We’re told that when the Messiah comes, we will all live in peace and tolerance. Since we know that hasn’t happened, we know for sure that the Messiah has not come. Larry King: “Wasn’t he supposed to bring world peace. Wasn’t he supposed to resurrect the dead?” David Brickner: “The first and most important place that peace begins is in the heart. Peace is not something that’s forced from outside. It begins in the heart, and that’s what Jesus brought. He brought peace between God and man. He is coming again and He will bring peace on the earth.”
You can watch the whole thing on YouTube. It was an hour-long debate and it got heated at times. Everybody recognizes there’s something wrong with the world. There’s this restlessness. Not everybody understands what that is, or attributes it to the same cause. The Bible tells us that peace in this world was not broken when nation began to war against nation when we, the creation, experienced alienation from our creator. We have chosen each individually and as a society throughout history to be the masters of our own destiny, to claim our right to rule in our lives without the one who is our maker.
Think about it. If you had the chance to observe the statue of David by Michelangelo, and somebody came up to you and said, “Isn’t that amazing how that sculpture carved itself out of rock?” What? That’s absurd. Yet, in a sense, that’s what the world is that we live in. We have to listen to the words of the Psalms. Psalm 100 said, “It is the Lord who has made us, and not we ourselves.” When we recognize that we are not, no matter how much we try to be the masters of our own destiny, but there is a maker, there is a God, then we recognize that we need a relationship with Him. That’s exactly why God sent Jesus, the Messiah. He’s the prince of peace. To deal with that alienation, to bridge the gap between the creator and creation. When Jesus came, He lived a perfect life and died a death to pay the penalty for the alienation, pride, and arrogance that separated us from our maker.
Jesus is in fact, the prince of peace, the Messiah. Death could not hold Him. The grave could not keep Him. He rose again from the grave. Now, that same resurrection, power of God is available to be applied to the lives of all those who put their trust in Him. That is how we have the most important peace. Peace with God, reconciliation. If you believe in your heart, that Jesus is Lord and confess with your mouth that God has raised Him, then that peace comes about. It’s a one-time thing that happens when a person turns their heart over to their creator, through faith in Jesus. That’s how we get into that place of undeserved favor in which we stand joyfully and confidently, because God says, “Your sin has been forgiven,” past, present, future. It’s a legal standing.
We can never have peace from God until we first have peace with God. Once we enter into that wonderful relationship where peace is established now and forever, then we are giving ourselves the opportunity to access the resources of God. We have peace from God. Look at verses three through five, “Peace with God leads to peace from God. We can rejoice too when we run into problems and trials.” Notice it says, when, not if. This is not an elective in God’s curriculum, it is a required course. “When we run into problems and trials, for we know,” and I think we’ll never be able to get the benefit of the resources until we know these things. We know that they help us develop endurance, and endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope up of salvation.
This hope will not lead to disappointment, for we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. That’s the source. That’s the resource, the Holy Spirit. When we have peace with God, we receive of the Holy Spirit at that very moment from then and onward. We need to have the filling of the Holy Spirit in order to experience that peace. That’s the resource. That’s the wonderful thing that God has promised us. In fact, Jesus Himself said, “I have said these things to you, that in me, you may have peace. In this world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I’ve overcome the world.” He’s overcome the world. So no matter what cosmic conflict there is out there, we know that we have a relationship with the one who declares the end from the beginning, who has it all together.
Have you ever been in the midst of a deeply troubling experience, and in the midst of that comes down an inexplicable peace from God? I remember once I was leading a group of Jews for Jesus musicians, we call ourselves the Liberated Whaling Wall. We sing Jewish gospel music, which is kind of a cross between Israeli folk and Fiddler on the Roof. It’s good stuff. We were traveling all over the world and having lots of exciting experiences, but I never imagined the most exciting, in a manner of speaking, would be in Johannesburg, South Africa. Johannesburg has a very tight-knit Jewish community. Before we ever arrived, there was an organized protest against our efforts. One of the big concerts that had been scheduled was at Witwatersrand University, a big university in downtown Johannesburg. They organized in such a way to get the administration to cancel us. As we were leaving from that canceled concert, one of the student organizers said, “You think this is bad, watch out for Market Theatre.”
Market Theatre is the best-known venue in downtown Joburg. We had a concert scheduled there that Sunday night, and I figured, okay, we better hire some extra security, which we did but not enough. About an hour before the concert started, there were several hundred protestors who gathered in front of the theater and formed a human chain blocking the entrance, so that many people who wanted to come couldn’t even get into the venue. I said to the head of security, “See all those guys out there chanting and yelling? Don’t let them in.” I went back and we were getting ready for the concert. You could hear the sound of the chanting, and then all of a sudden it stopped.
I looked from behind the curtain on stage and there all the protestors were filing in. I went to the head of security. I said, “Man, what do you think we’re paying you for?” He said, “You’re not paying enough. These guys pulled out guns and said, ‘You have family, we have family, step aside.'” I went back behind the stage and I gathered our group of nine people together, and I told them what I had discovered. We prayed. I have to say it was like no other moment that I felt in my life because the peace of God just settled down on all of us, like a warm blanket. After we finished praying we knew to a person that we needed to go out and start that concert. So we were introduced and out we went. We still felt that sense of peace, but everything came apart.
People started yelling and screaming. I or the ones with the microphones and the monitors on the stage couldn’t even hear what we were singing. Somebody hit the lights and was rushing the stage, and we couldn’t go on. The police were there, and the manager of the theater came up and said, “You guys need to cancel this concert,” which was a big discouragement of course. We felt the peace, but we also had felt discouragement. I went out on the platform and I said, “I thought there was free speech in Johannesburg, but apparently not tonight, and we’re going to cancel.” All the protestors stood up and cheered and marched out. We were packing up in discouragement when a woman came up to me. She said, “I was down in downtown for some other reason, but I saw this hubbub, what was going on?”
I began to talk to her. Turns out she was a reporter from Reuters, the news service, which everybody in Johannesburg and around the country picked up. The next day, there were banner headlines all over the place, the uproar over Jews for Jesus group. We got so much free publicity. We had police escorts everywhere we went, and leaders of the Jewish community came up and said personally, “We’re so sorry this happened. This doesn’t represent us.” Three Jewish people found peace in their Messiah in the remaining two concerts that we had there. That whole experience led to the opening of the first overseas branch of Jews for Jesus in Johannesburg, South Africa, which has been the most fruitful branch ever since then. What do you think of that? Praise the Lord.
I would’ve never chosen that way to get those things done. But that’s what God does. Think about it, if you were in a boat that was about to sink, that would be a troubling thing. If you were caught on the 23rd floor of a building that had a fire burning below you, that would be horrifying. But then imagine in the midst of all that, the creator of the universe comes to you and says, “David, when you pass through the waters, I’ll be with you. They won’t overwhelm you.” “Terry, when you pass through the flames, they are not going to burn you because I will guard you.” Well, that kind of changes things, doesn’t it? But you see, that’s what God has said to us. He’s promised us His presence, His peace, the resources of His Holy Spirit in the midst. Why?
To accomplish the things that the Bible talks about here. These trials, these problems that we’re going to run into will disturb our peace inwardly. Forget about what’s going on in the rest of the world. I’m concerned about my problems right now. Guess what? God is at work to produce endurance, character, and hope. These three things, these three attributes are the guardians on the path of peace in a restless world. Do you want them? We all have to endure the restless world. Do we want the things to guard for peace in our hearts? Endurance, character, hope. You never get endurance without being tested. Nobody gets character without the trials that produce it. You don’t hope for what you already possess, do you? No, but God intends through our trials to bring these things about.
I’ve shared several times with Cornerstone about the tragedy of some of the circumstances of my life in the past decade. Upending my family and calling into question, the future of my ministry in Jews for Jesus. Amid all that dark time, I remember somebody coming to me and saying, “David, how are you doing?” These words came out of my mouth. I said, “I feel powerless in the Palm of Providence.” I like that. I’ve gone back to that statement many times because it reminds me of what I discovered. We’re all problem solvers at one level or another. When something comes to us, presents itself in our lives, we want to fix it. It’s at those moments when we can’t do anything to fix it when we are powerless that we want to find ourselves right there in the palm of the one who knows all things, powerless in the palm of Providence.
What does God do with us in that situation? He changes us. He’s made me a different person than I was. I would not choose that path, but God chose it for me. We all are on this path of sorrow at different times in our lives with chaos surrounding us. We know from the promise of Scripture that we’re going to share in the glory of God. That’s the future. When we see the conflicts in the middle east and all over the world, we know that God’s going to make that right. He’s going to come and bring peace, finally to the world where He’ll wipe away every tear from our eyes. That’s a subject for another message. In the meantime, we find ourselves sometimes perplexed and restless because of what’s going on in the bigger picture. More often than not trying to deal with the picture of our own heart, and our restlessness. That begins, first of all, when we have peace with God. The peace from God is what we, who love Him, need to follow on that pathway with endurance, with character, and with hope.
I want to leave us with three steps that will help us on that path. When we feel like that peace is not necessarily with us. We all need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That’s the resource. Why do we have to keep being filled? Simply because we leak, I leak. God wants us to be continually filled and these steps will help us on the way. The first step is to remember that God is all-powerful. God is that Providence in whose palm we rest. I don’t know if you have a problem with your boss at work, don’t you think that God is more powerful than your boss? Sometimes it may not seem that way, but He is. Or problems at home, whatever the problem is, God is bigger. We leak when we get our eyes off of the all-powerful one and onto our problems.
Whenever we sense a lack of peace, whenever we’re leaking, and we know it, the challenge is to turn from the problem and to turn to God. Know that He knows what’s best. He wants what’s best, and He’ll do what’s best. Can we trust the all-powerful God? Secondly, we want to remember God’s promises and believe them. What are God’s promises to each and every one of us in the circumstances we find ourselves? You’re having difficulty financially? The promises and my God shall supply all your needs, according to His riches and glory by Christ Jesus. You’re feeling the brokenness and the woundedness of a relationship that’s gone south. You’re living in that. God promises that He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Every single problem that we face, every single point at which we leak and lack peace, God has a precious promise that we need to find it out. We need to believe it. We can even memorize it and carry it with us.
Some will say, “Well, David, I pray and believe, but sometimes it doesn’t seem to me that God answers, that He keeps His promise.” I would say to you, “Yes, He does every single time, just not necessarily in the way that we want.” God keeps His promises either through intervention, cooperation, or transformation. Intervention, cooperation, or transformation. Think about it. Recently, we celebrated the Passover, which is the story of God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery and Egypt. We were released by Pharaoh and went out and hit the Red Sea. There, it was a big barrier. Pharaoh decided he wasn’t happy with the decision. So he sent this whole army after us. We’re there defenseless, the waves in front, the army behind. What does God say? “Stand back and see the deliverance of your God.”
The sea parted, and Israel went through on the dry ground. The pharaoh’s armies were destroyed in the wake. That’s intervention. Even in our lives, we can see God intervene where no other way, you can see to solve a problem. God gets in there and does it. He does it in individual lives as well. Intervention more often though, is cooperation. For example, when Israel was brought into the Promised Land, God said, “I give to you,” and yet what, they had to fight enemies in the land to gain what had been promised. God invites us to cooperate with Him in fulfilling the promises that He has for our lives in this restless world. We need to be prepared to do that and find, well like me and my team, the willingness, peace, and strength to go out onto the stage not knowing what was going to happen in Johannesburg.
Cooperate with God. He’s got a far greater plan. One we don’t necessarily see when we’re cooperating, but we believe the promises and trust. The third is perhaps the most difficult for us to believe, but it’s just as important. That is transformation. God wants to transform us through the problems. Remember Pastor Terri a few weeks ago was teaching the story of Paul and the thorn and the flesh. This great man of God had this terrible thing that he so desperately wanted God to take away. He prayed three times and God told him no, “Because I’m doing something and my strength is going to be made perfect in your weakness.” I experienced that myself, the path that I’ve had to follow, this path of sorrow. I would’ve taken a different path and yet God has changed me. He wants to change us, to give us endurance, character, and hope. That’s what He’ll do.
Thirdly, we need to remember God’s faithfulness. Has God been faithful to you in the past? Can you remember a time where He undertook for you when things were not going well and God came in? God was telling Israel all the time, “Set up a memorial stone here. Remember when I parted the Jordan River, set up one. Remember when I defeated your enemy, set up a memorial stone.” We need those memorial stones in our own lives, for the times when God has been with us to help us because He’s done that in the past. He remains the same.
The Bible says that he’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can believe that. We can believe that God is faithful and as has been, so He will be to the uttermost. In just a moment, the band’s going to come and sing one of my favorite songs tying into this very idea of God’s faithfulness. He remains the same. We’re going to have our time of giving. But before that, let me pray for God’s peace in our midst. Lord, we do live in a restless world sometimes because of what’s going on in the bigger picture, and sometimes, most of the time, because of what’s going on in our hearts. We recognize, Lord, that you’ve established the means for us to have peace with you and peace from you through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. May we remember those good things today. May we maintain our hope for a future that you promise where peace will finally be established. As we wait for that day, Lord, give us the confidence to trust in you, our prince of peace. In His name, we pray. Amen.