Friday, December 25, 2015

Finding Peace in a Fearful World


Last week I heard an interview with Michael Botticelli, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a position informally known as "drug czar." I do not know enough about his approach to fighting drugs to comment on his performance. However, I do appreciate one thing about him. Botticelli is a recovering addict.

 

Botticelli began drinking alcohol regularly in his junior year of high school. By his 20s, he was an alcoholic. He also experimented with cocaine and marijuana. He was arrested for driving under the influence following a traffic collision on the Massachusetts Turnpike in 1988. A judge gave him the option of going into treatment or being sentenced to prison, and he chose to enter treatment.[1]

 

Botticelli’s story reminds me of what church is supposed to be about. We are sinners who are being saved by God’s grace. Now, we are called to bring the hope of a new life in Jesus Christ to those around us. People are looking for hope and peace in our fearful world.

 

We find out about peace and fulfillment in the Bible. The Bible is our way of hearing from God. The Bible tells the story of how God is restoring peace to the world—a peace that was disrupted by the Fall.

 

Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

 

Rome had experienced peace from war. However, the peace was an outward peace, not peace in the soul. Times were desperate when Jesus came into the world, especially for the Jews. Taxes were high, good jobs were hard to come by, morality was in decline, and classes and races were fighting against each other. An angelic announcement was the beginning of God’s answer to the problems we face.

 

Luke 2:8-18 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

 

I love how the fearful shepherds became the ambassadors of God’s peace. The word “host” is a military term. This “army” from heaven came to announce peace to these fearful, lowly shepherds. The peace they promised was from Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. The angel spokesperson reassured the frightened shepherds and told them the good news of Jesus’ birth.

 

The shepherds traveled to Bethlehem from some distance away to see the Prince of Peace. I am sure they had to make arrangements for the flocks to make the journey. When the shepherds saw Jesus, a newborn Baby wrapped in cloth, they worshiped him.

 

These shepherds were promised peace on earth by the angels. After hearing the angelic announcement, the shepherds took the Angels’ place in telling others about Jesus. These shepherds, unlike the angels, were fallen sinners who could tell the story of God’s grace, forgiveness, and peace from personal experience. The Angels have never been in our shoes as sinners needing a Savior. The shepherds have.

 

What is this peace on earth that is promised by angels and shepherds?  God’s peace is available to the broken and needy. Shalom, peace in Hebrew, is more than the absence of strife and conflict. Shalom is well-being and wholeness of the soul. We need peace and calm in our world today.

 

Max Lucado wrote, “In the days leading up to the war with Germany, the British government commissioned a series of posters. The idea was to capture encouraging slogans on paper and distribute them about the country. Capital letters in a distinct typeface were used, and a simple two-color format was selected. The only graphic was the crown of King George VI. The first poster was distributed in September of 1939: ‘Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us victory.’ Soon thereafter a second poster was produced: ‘Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might.’ These two posters appeared up and down the British countryside. On railroad platforms and in pubs, stores, and restaurants. They were everywhere. A third poster was created yet never distributed. More than 2.5 million copies were printed yet never seen until nearly sixty years later when a bookstore owner in northeast England discovered one in a box of old books he had purchased at an auction: It read: ‘Keep calm and carry on.’ The poster bore the same crown and style of the first two posters. It was never released to the public, however, but was held in reserve for an extreme crisis, such as invasion by Germany. . . . It became so popular that the bookstore began producing identical images of the original design.”[2]

 


Today, people need encouragement to “keep calm and carry on.” We need to hear “peace on earth and goodwill to all men.”

 

1. Peace is available only if we admit we need it.

 

One of the great themes of Luke’s Gospel is that the Savior is for all people. The theme of “Good News for all” is why Luke, who was a historian, is careful to report that Jesus was born in a Jewish family, under Roman law, and with shepherds visiting. The King of Kings was born in humble circumstances, cradled in a manger, and at first noticed by outcasts like shepherds.

 

·         Admit your brokenness.

·         Don’t be afraid to talk about your struggles.

·         Don’t try to present yourself as perfect and flawless.

·         Avoid pretense.

·         Admit your need for grace and Jesus.

 

I think we should all admit here and now, as the church, that we are broken people in need of God’s peace! We are a bunch of misfit toys like Sid’s creations in the movie Toy Story.

 

 

The shepherds in the Christmas story were a culture of misfits and broken people who found peace in the birth of Jesus.

 

“There is a powerful scene in Black Hawk Down that might help. Lt. Col. Danny McKnight is in a fierce battle. The transport is filled with the wounded, and there is blood everywhere. He yells at Private Othic, ‘You, get up there and drive!’ Othic pleads, ‘But I’m shot, Colonel!’ McKnight could speak for us all when he says, ‘Everybody’s shot!’”[3]

 

When our desire to keep up our image or to appear excellent is greater than our willingness to communicate that we are fallen, imperfect people in need of God’s grace and peace, we have missed the point. The shepherds remind us that God does amazing things through unlikely people.

 

In the angel’s announcement of the virgin born Jesus, they mention that peace is directed to those with whom God is pleased.

 

Luke 2:15 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

 

2. Peace is available to all who have faith in Jesus Christ.

 

From a simple reading of the Bible, one quickly discovers that the way to God’s favor is to believe in him.

 

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

 

If it is impossible to please God without faith, we know that by faith we find righteousness in Jesus Christ, our God. With faith, we find ourselves to be the objects of God’s good will through Jesus’ death on the Cross. Do you have faith in Jesus Christ? Do you want an inexplicable peace?

 

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

We can have peace when we are in a fearful world. In Max Lucado’s recent book You’ll Get Through This, he outlines ten biblical truths to encourage us when we go through life’s challenges.

 

Here are ten biblical truths explored in Max Lucado’s book You’ll Get Through This.[4]

·         Nothing in my life is unknown to God (Psalm 139).

·         God is near to me (Psalm 23:4).

·         The Lord will work out his plans for my life (Psalm 138:8).

·         God uses experiences of testing to train and prepare me (James 1:2-4); all tests are temporary (1 Peter 1:6).

·         God is always at work in me (Philippians 1:6).

·         I can wait for the Lord because he is faithful, merciful, and powerful (Psalm 130:5-7).

·         The reward for perseverance is a glorious life (James 1:12).

·         An eternal perspective puts my troubles in perspective (2 Corinthians 4:17).

·         Jesus advocates for me (Romans 8:34).

·         In God’s hands intended evil becomes eventual good (Genesis 50:20).

 

Think about these biblical truths. Which of these truths are most relevant to your life right now? Which do you feel that you need to embrace more fully?

 

I’m not sure what the shepherds were going through personally when they met Jesus. I do believe that they had tough lives. Their encounter reminds us that peace comes when we least expect it.

 

Remember, in Jesus Christ we can . . .

 

KEEP

CALM

AND

CARRY

ON

 

The peace we find as broken, imperfect people will inspire others to trust God.



[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Botticelli_%28politician%29, (Retrieved on December 14, 2015).
[2]Max Lucado, You’ll Get Through This, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2013), 148-149.          
[3]Ed Stetzer, Lost and Found, (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 2009), 200.
[4]Max Lucado, You’ll Get Through This, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2013).