Wars. Threats of world war. Increase in secularization of culture. Political division. Threats on holders of faith and seemingly growing persecution. Not to mention the “old” threats of illness, disease, economic hardship, or loss of loved ones.
It goes without saying that we live in some turbulent times. You might even be tempted to shut down at the mention of the fraying state of our world, because it seems everyone everywhere wants to talk about it—even in the church.
Just the other day, I got into the car with a friend who immediately said, “So Israel…” and quickly turned the discussion to the next world war. A few days before that, I went to a gathering centered on discussion of the Restoration Movement and the conversation quickly became consumed with the evil values of much of our culture.
What can get lost in the shuffle is the realization that for every one of those conversations that takes place, there are people increasingly getting lost in despair, even in the church. Perhaps it is appropriate to be aware of the happenings and the state of the world, but the church should never be lost in despair. Even when it seems that all hell is breaking loose, the church should have a peace and resilience about it.
“Perhaps it is appropriate to be aware of the happenings and the state of the world, but the church should never be lost in despair.”
My favorite example of this is found in Acts 12. This specific chapter begins with the first state-sponsored persecution. James is killed by the sword, and Peter gets arrested and appears to be destined for the same fate. From a human perspective, all could seem hopeless as Peter is being guarded by four sets of four guards. As Peter awaits the coming day chained to two guards, he’s fast asleep. He’s not nodding off, not dozing; he’s full on conked out.
The text says an angel of the Lord appeared and a bright light shone in the cell (Acts 12:7). I don’t know about you, but if I am sound asleep and someone turns on a lamp, I am awake and irritated. Not Peter. While he sits on death row, he sleeps so soundly that the angel physically assaults Peter to wake him (“He struck Peter on the side and woke him up.”). What kind of peace must you possess in order to sleep so soundly amidst such grave circumstances? In the most literal sense, it’s a peace beyond this world.
If you were in Peter’s position, knowing your partner in ministry had just been beheaded, what sort of state would you have been in the night before your public trial? Judging from many of the conversations I have had and witnessed, I don’t think we’d be asking for a pillow. Many seem quick to share their concerns, but few are spending time sharing words of hope, comfort and peace. Isaiah 40:7-8 reads:
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (NIV).
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
What truths from the lasting Word of God will give us the ability to have peace in turbulent times? What realities can we rest in for a good night’s sleep amidst restless times?
1. God is good.
The heart of Satan’s temptation in the garden of Eden was to convince humanity that God wasn’t good. The serpent convinced Eve that God was holding out on them (Genesis 3:1, 4-5). Ever since, the center of sin, fear, and doubt is questioning God’s goodness and his ways for mankind. To doubt God’s goodness is to believe in a lie straight from Satan’s mouth.
The Psalmist spells out the great proclamation, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever (Psalm 107:1). Even when our situations aren’t good, God’s goodness remains. When we doubt in the goodness of God, take a gaze from the foot of the cross and see God’s love, grace, mercy, and goodness (John 3:16).
2. God is in control.
Over the past few years, if we have been observant and learned anything, it’s that we are not in control. That’s a good thing; putting our faith in our ability to control things has never turned out well. At best God’s reign displayed through his faithful servants has generated positive fruit. But let’s be honest, right now it doesn’t seem we get to see a whole lot of that worldwide. Our politics reflect and deepen our polarizations, wars have left people fearful, and natural disasters have left people feeling hopeless.
Yet, in spite of it all, the gospel truth is that God remains in control. In Acts 12, the chapter starts on a hopeless tone (James dead, Peter arrested, the church threatened by persecution), and yet it ends with Peter released, Herod dead, and the word of God continuing to spread. It all happens in a marvelous display of who is truly in control. All of which points to God’s great plan which comes to its climax in Revelation 21. John writes:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Revelation 21:3-4, NIV)
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death”or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
3. God is faithful.
As the Psalmist expresses, “How long, Lord?” (Psalm 13:1). When we focus on the turbulence around us, that is our frequent cry. Has God forgotten us? Is Jesus ever going to return? Will the world ever be put to rights? No, yes, and yes because God is faithful. As Peter wrote:
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)
And as Paul wrote,
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:11-13, NIV)
God is faithful and always keeps his promises.
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
4. In Christ, I am a loved child of God.
God is good, God is ultimately in control, God is faithful, and this same God sent his Son into the world to die so that we might be able to be adopted as his children (John 3:16-17, Ephesians 1:5), have the promise of life after death (John 11:25-26), and spend all eternity in a restored relationship with God (Revelation 21:3).
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV)
What could give us a greater peace? The God who is good, sovereign, and faithful, has made promises with us as the beneficiary, therefore, “If God is for us, who can be against” (Romans 8:31)?
So tonight, get a good night’s rest by clinging to these great, unchanging, unshakable realities of God, and as you have opportunity, spread these words that give true peace amidst turbulent times.