BE LIKE JESUS
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch
May 28, 2017
TEXT: John 14:27, John 16:33, Philippians 4:6-7
It was December 7, 1941. My grandparents, George and Mary, got up that morning and went to worship at the Waukomis Christian Church, just southwest of Enid, Oklahoma. I don't know what all happened that afternoon but I am confident my Grandma made a good lunch and supper. And my guess is that they listened to the radio at some point during the day. Imagine their surprise and concern to hear that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor that morning. Early reports talked about bombs being dropped at Hickam Field, killing some 189 people and wounding about 303. Of course, bombs were dropped in many other places all around Pearl Harbor resulting in a total loss of some 2,400 people. But I mention Hickam Field, in particular, because that was where my father, Wally - at 20 years of age, was stationed at the time. Just imagine - as news reports started coming in about the devastation and declaration of war - just imagine how my grandparents must have felt. I try to put myself in their shoes and I know I probably would have been very anxious and worried about my son. And what is so amazing - is they didn't know anything about my father until FIVE days later, when a telegram arrived that said this: "Safe and well."
Later, a post card arrived. In that card, he spoke very little about the attack except to assure them he was okay. He goes on, though to celebrate the fact that he had just been elected a deacon at First Christian Church, Honolulu, where he'd been attending!
In the midst of war, fear, and uncertainty, my father focused on his dedication to the church and to his faith. In fact, that morning when the Japanese started attacking, my father was up getting ready to go to church! Even in the midst of war - my father was able to be at peace, and I believe that was because he knew the Prince of Peace. He had a personal relationship with Jesus that was the center of his life - and that gave him a peace that probably didn't make sense at all, in those scary and troubling times. But my father knew on whom he could depend and trust - even when everything else was literally falling down around him.
All because of Jesus - because of the gift of His peace!
Today we come to focus on peace - a key belief of how we live and act and be like Jesus. Our key idea is that we can be free from anxiety because we have found peace with God, peace with others, and peace with myself.
Now this is good news to hear - because I think we are all yearning to have peace. We live in a world where there doesn't seem to be much peace. News of terrorists and war seem to fill up our TV news all the time - along with violence and crime here at home. We struggle at times to have peace with our neighbors and even within our families. And then we constantly are fighting our own inner battles. Stress has just become a way of life as we worry about our jobs, our health, our money, our children. It has been said that the number one mental-health problem for women in the United States is panic anxiety and in men it is second only to substance abuse.1 Peace is something we all desperately need and want - and we try all sorts of ways to find that peace - hoping that we will one day find a time without any conflicts or worries. We try to find peace through relationships - or through pleasure - or maybe even through getting even or maybe even by ignoring or avoiding conflict. But in the end, we realize that all our efforts are useless. Nothing we can do on our own can fully satisfy and fulfill our need of peace. Peace is not something we can devise or create with our own thinking and understanding. Rather peace is something we receive.2 Peace is a gift - a gift given by God who sent us His Son Jesus - the Prince of Peace.
In Romans 5:1-2, the Apostle Paul describes it this way: "Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory." By Jesus breaking down that wall that was between us and God through our sin - we now can have peace with God. When we accept Christ as our Savior and put our trust in Him - we can have that peace, as we stay close to Him.
That's the message Jesus gave His disciples on the last night before He went to the cross to die for our sins. After washing their feet and leading them in the last supper - He took time to encourage them and give them parting gifts. John 14:1 begins His farewell words by saying: "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust also in me." Jesus is getting ready to leave them and it is going to be a terrible storm in their lives - seeing Him tortured and crucified. He wanted them to put their trust in God - even when everything in their world was about to collapse.
Jesus tells them that God is going to give them another Advocate - a Helper, who will never leave them. This is the Holy Spirit, who lives within all who believe. The Holy Spirit is always with us, helping us, comforting and encouraging us and reminding us of everything that Jesus has said. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus leaves a parting gift to the disciples - and yes,
even to us. Jesus says verse 27: "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." The world says that you can't have peace unless you are free of trouble - problem free. But Jesus says - He will give us peace in the midst of the trials and struggles we have. In John 16:33 Jesus says: "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." We can have peace - because of what Jesus has done - He has overcome the world! And yes - there will always be trials and struggles in this world. It is not a perfect world - and never will be until we are in heaven. But in the midst of the trials and struggles of this world, we can have peace from Jesus.
You see peace is the not the absence of conflict but the presence of Christ.3 When we ask Jesus into our hearts - and trust Him with our lives - God makes a spiritual deposit of His peace into our hearts. And as long as we choose to be in a close relationship with Him - abiding in Him and keeping Him first in our lives - we can know that amazing gift of peace down deep in our souls.
You see, peace is a gift, but it also is a choice.4 Jesus is offering us the gift of His incredible peace - but we have to choose to accept that gift. We have make to make the choice to make Jesus our Lord and Savior - and to make Him first in our lives. We have to let go of our self-centered, "me first" attitude that wants to be in control - and let Jesus be in control. Once we really make Jesus the Lord of our lives - and depend on Him - that's when we can know that peace, deep in the center of our lives.
Think about it this way - when I was a little girl, sometimes I would have nightmares which would frighten me. I would toss and turn and become really anxious or afraid, the longer I tried to tough it out by myself. But finally, I would choose to run down the hall and jump in bed with my parents. I'd snuggle in between them both - my mother on one side and my father on the other. We'd talk about what was bothering me - and then, I'd just lay there between the two of them and I would fall asleep. I always felt perfectly calm and protected - and at peace. I knew that my parents were bigger than my nightmares and I didn't have to be afraid or anxious any more.
Well God is bigger than anything that causes us to be afraid or anxious!5 When we choose to turn to Him - He will calm us and protect us and give us the peace we need to get through whatever struggles we are facing. When we turn to God and give Him our problems - then He will give us His peace.
You know this gift of peace has really a lot to do with the choices we make and the things we think about. What we focus all our attention on - will definitely affect us and determine whether we have any kind of peace in our lives. If our focus is always on our worries or on what is going on that is wrong in the world, we can become depressed or cynical or joyless. And if we feed our minds with things from the internet or television - social media or conversations - that are negative or go against the ways of God, we will lose our peace as well. We have to make a conscious decision that we are going to think differently than the world - to think of those things of Christ - if we are ever going to have His peace.
The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:8-9 - And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me-everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you." We have to be careful to program our minds with thoughts that are uplifting and good. And that means, we have to stop and ask ourselves - is this kind of thinking helpful or does it bring glory to God? If the answer is no - then we need to change our thinking and focus our thoughts on God.
And peace is always fueled by a heart of gratitude. Again, in Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul says, "Don't worry about anything, instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." A thankful heart is one that sees God's hand in everything and will find a peace that is beyond all human understanding.
Henry Frost served for many years as a missionary to China. In his journal, he wrote of a very difficult time in his life. He says," I had received sad news from home, and deep shadows had covered my soul. I prayed BUT the darkness did not vanish. I summoned myself to endure, BUT the darkness only deepened. Then I went to an inland station and saw on the wall of the mission home these words: 'TRY THANKSGIVING.' I did, and in a moment every shadow was gone, not to return"6
Whenever we are feeling down or discouraged - or anxious or afraid, or when we are facing difficult situations that we can't immediately change or fix - we have to turn to God in prayer. Pour out your heart to Him - be completely honest. Lay your burdens down at His feet. And then always look for ways to be thankful. Rehearse all the things you are thankful for - from the smallest bit of beauty. And really - spend more time thanking Him than complaining to Him. It is amazing how your attitude and perspective will change with gratitude! And all of the sudden, you will find a peace that it above all your circumstances a peace that be beyond all human reasoning. And that peace will give you the power to endure - even the most difficult of situations.
Horatio Spafford was one that learned of God's peace that helped him to endure through difficult circumstances. Many of you might remember his story. He was a prominent American lawyer from Chicago and lived in the mid 1800's. He and his wife Anna were close friends of the famous preacher, D. L. Moody. In the late 1860's, they faced all sorts of tragedies. Their only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of 4. A year later, fires destroyed some real estate holdings they were invested in along the shores of Lake Michigan. And then in 1871, they lost many of their own possessions when the great fire of Chicago destroyed much of the city. But in spite of his own personal loss, he unselfishly helped others who had become grief-stricken and homeless because of the fire.
Sometime later, Horatio decided to take his wife and 4 daughters on a trip to England. It would be a time of rest but also a time to travel throughout Britain with D.L. Moody on one of his evangelistic campaigns. And so, the Spafford family traveled to New York in November 1873 to catch a boat to sail across the Atlantic. Just before they set sail, Horatio was unexpectedly detained by urgent business. So, his wife Anna and their daughters: 11-year-old Annie, 9-year-old Maggie, 5-year-old Bessie and 2-year-old Tanetta went on ahead of him. He would follow them later, after he attended to the business at hand.
As the ship neared England, it collided with an English sailing ship and it sank in only 12 minutes - drowning 226 of the 273 passengers on board. Horatio's wife Anna stood bravely on the deck, with all her daughters clinging desperately to her. But the force of the waters were too much for them - and all 4 daughters drowned. Only Anna survived. She was in complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, "You were spared for a purpose." She then sent a telegram to Horatio with these two words, "Saved alone".
When Horatio heard the terrible news, he boarded the next ship out of New York to join his grieving wife. During his voyage, the captain called him to the bridge and told him that he had determined the exact spot where his wife's ship had gone down. He let Horatio know that they were at that moment passing that very spot. Horatio stood for a moment there, standing over his daughter's watery graves, reflecting on all that had happened. At that point, he could have chosen to be angry and bitter - he could have chosen to reject God - or to sue the shipping company - he could have chosen to be depressed and in despair. But he didn't - he chose to return to his own cabin - and lean all his strength and hope on God. And that faith gave him a peace that was beyond all human understanding. As he prayed, he worshiped God and wrote down some words to a very famous hymn. And they go like this:
"When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea-billows roll, Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to know; 'It is well, it is well with my soul.'
"Tho' Satan should buffet, tho' trials should come, Let his blessed assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul. It is well, with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul."7
Is it well with your soul today, my friends? Do you know His peace?
Come to Jesus fix your thoughts on Him tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done - and you'll find that peace you are so longing for!
1Mark Adams, "The Gift of Peace", Redlands Baptist Church. http://www.redlandbaptist.org/sermon/the-gift-of-peace/
3Jeff Strite, "The Prescription for Powerful Peace", www.sermoncentral.com
4Randy Frazee, Think, Act, Believe Like Jesus - Becoming a New Person in Christ".
Zondervan, 2014. Page 176.
5Mark Adams, "The Gift of Peace", Redlands Baptist Church.
6 Jeff Strite, "The Prescription for Powerful Peace", www.sermoncentral.com
7Gena Philibert-Ortega, " 'It is Well with My Soul': The Story of Horatio Spafford". Genealogy Bank. February 5, 2015.