How can we calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world? Part 2

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 

I am currently reading a book by John Eldredge entitled Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices For A World Gone Mad.” On the back cover of the book it asks, “When was the last time you felt carefree?” For some of us it may be impossible to remember such a time because we are constantly in a rush because we prefer distraction. Eldredge writes, “The more distracted we are, the less present we are to our souls’ various hurts, needs, disappointments, boredom, and fears. It’s a short-term relief with long-term consequences. What blows my mind is how totally normal this has become; it’s the new socially acceptable addiction.” 1

One of the biggest distractions in our culture today is the phone. We can’t leave home without it. We can’t sleep without it. Unfortunately, some people cannot drive their vehicle without looking at it. When our phone notifications sound off, everything else comes to a halt! I learned from Eldredge today that every notification triggers the brain’s learned response to check out what news had just come in. He quotes from Susan Weinschenk’s article, “Why We’re All Addicted to Texts, Twitter, and Google,” in Psychology Today, September 11, 2012:

“Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search…. It is the opioid system (separate from dopamine) that makes us feel pleasure…. The wanting system propels you to action and the liking system makes you feel satisfied and therefore pause your seeking. If your seeking isn’t turned off at least for a little while, then you start to run in an endless loop [Dopamine Loop]. The dopamine system is stronger than the opioid system. You tend to seek more than you are satisfied….  Dopamine starts you seeking, then you get rewarded for the seeking which makes you seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, or stop checking your cell phone to see if you have a message or a new text…. The dopamine system doesn’t have satiety built in. It is possible for the dopamine system to keep saying ‘more more more,’ causing you to keep seeking even when you have found the information.” 2

We live in a society where people think you are crazy if you turn your phone off or fast from social media. But what would the Lord Jesus think of such practices? I believe He would applaud such disciplines because He understands that the world does not offer the kind of peace God wants His people to experience. To experience God’s peace, we must make space for God in our lives.

We are learning from Jesus how to calm our troubled hearts in a chaotic world. The first way is to focus on the promise of insight from the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26). The second way to calm our troubled hearts is by focusing on THE PEACE OF CHRIST (John 14:27). Jesus not only promised the help of a Divine Teacher (John 14:26), but He also gave them peace. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27). Christ refers to two kinds of peace in this verse. The first kind refers to His work on the cross. “Peace I leave with you.” The word “leave” (aphiēmi) implies something that Jesus does. Christ’s death on the cross would provide eternal “peace with God” (Romans 5:1) for us because all our sins would be forgiven (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14). The Greek word for “peace” (eirēnēn) “is the spiritual well-being that results from being rightly related to God through Jesus Christ.” 3

Through His death on the cross, Jesus conquered Satan’s control of death (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15). Satan can no longer use peoples’ fear of death to enslave them to his will. Christians can now face death with the same confidence in God the Father that Jesus had (cf. I Peter. 2:21-24). Believers are assured of peace with God forever (cf. Colossians 1:19-21). “Having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20b) means causing God’s former enemies to become His children by faith.

Who are God’s enemies? “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.” (Colossians 1:21). Paul is referring to people as God’s enemies in this verse. You and I were His enemies before the Cross. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6). We need to be reconciled to God because of our sin. God does not need reconciling to us, we need reconciling to God. We turned away from God. He never moved. We moved. The people God created rebelled against their Creator and sinned so that death spread to all people because all sinned (Genesis 3:1-7; cf. Romans 3:23; 5:12-14, 18a).

Christ distinguishes His peace from the kind of peace the world can give – “not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27b). The world cannot offer eternal peace with God. The world denies that people need to be reconciled to God. The world says that people are inherently good because they are created in the image of God. “Because God loves everyone,” the world says, “There is no need for reconciliation with God.” The world offers a false peace to people. Sin has distorted God’s image in people. Some churches deny this because the world has influenced them to believe that people are inherently good and do not need a Savior.

The second type of peace in verse 27 is the kind that Jesus enjoyed on earth. He says, “My peace I give to you.” In the context (cf. John 14:21, 23), this peace of Christ’s is given to obedient believers. It arises from a life of faith in God. It refers to a calmness “that would come to their hearts from trusting God and from knowing that He was in control of all events that touched their lives.” 4  The world cannot give this kind of peace to us either.

The world offers a false peace that is deceptive and misleading. For example, a cartoon shows a man relaxing on his hammock near a tropical ocean. The sea appears to be as smooth as glass. A light breeze keeps the man comfortable. With his hand outstretched, he says to his wife, “Honey, hand me my tranquilizers, please.” This man has peace all around him, but he has no peace in his heart. The promises of the world are empty and powerless. The world says that more money, more possessions, more pleasure, more accomplishments, and power and fame will result in more peace. But we know of people with all these things who do not have inner peace.

Before we can possess this kind of peace, we must first receive peace “with God” through faith in Jesus for eternal life (Romans 5:1). Christ’s peace does not mean the absence of a storm. Jesus Himself was “troubled” (John 12:27) when He looked ahead to His crucifixion. He was “troubled” when He focused on Judas’ betrayal (John 13:21). Most people can be at peace when nothing is wrong. But Jesus is speaking of peace in the midst of the storm. This peace is a deep-seated calmness that stems from Christ’s presence and purpose in our lives. On the surface, you may feel uneasy and anxious in the midst of life’s storms, but deep down in your heart there is a calmness because you believe God is in control of all events.

For example, there may be a storm blowing over the surface of the ocean. But deep beneath the surface there is a calmness that is unaffected by the storm above. Jesus does not merely wish His disciples peace; He gives them His peace. No matter how troubled your heart is, and some of us may be deeply troubled – Jesus’ peace can calm your heart. Christ can give us peace in the midst of tribulation – at a time when we shouldn’t have any peace. This, of course, doesn’t come from the world.

It is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). When you face a storm, talk to Jesus Who can calm the storm in your heart with His spoken word. The One who calmed the wind and the waves with the words, “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39), can also calm the emotional winds and waves that trouble our hearts. Keep your mind focused on Him. The Bible promises, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3).

Next Jesus said,Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27c). In the coming hours, the disciples would have good reason to be “troubled.” Likewise, we will have experiences that prompt us to be afraid. But with a sovereign God ruling the world and “the peace of Christ” ruling in our hearts (cf. Colossians 3:15), we can overcome the storms that often trouble our hearts. 5

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am eternally grateful for the peace I now have with God which You made possible through the shedding of Your blood on the cross for all my sins. The world offers temporary peace through denial and escapism, but You offer lasting peace that is grounded in Your presence and purposes. Your peace escapes me when I seek to control situations and people. But when I surrender everything and everyone to You and refocus on Your promises, Your peace that surpasses human understanding floods my soul. Thank You for keeping Your promises. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. John Eldredge, Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices For A World Gone Mad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2020), pg. 47.

2. Ibid., pg. 46.

3. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 265.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 440.

5. Adapted from Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1804.

The Providence of God or the Plots of Man? Part 2

51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” John 11:51-52

After Jesus miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead in front of many Jews who had come from Jerusalem to console the family of Lazarus (John 11:28-44), many of those Jews believed in Jesus for everlasting life (John 11:45) while some began to plot against Christ (John 11:46-48). We are learning from this conflict over Jesus’ miracle how the providence of God and the plans of people work together for God’s glory. The first principle we learned is that plans to oppose Christ can arise from fear and jealousy (John 11:45-48). Today we learn the second principle which is to REALIZE THAT GOD USES THE PLOTS OF MAN TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSES (John 11:49-53).

“And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all.’ ” (John 11:49). No man comprehended the situation better than Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas. He was the high priest “that [fateful] year.” He served as high priest from 18-36 A.D. Originally the high priest held his position for a lifetime, but the Romans were afraid of letting a man gain too much power. So the Romans appointed high priests at their convenience.” 2 Caiaphas’ first words reflect rudeness to his fellow Sanhedrin members, “You know nothing at all.” Rudeness was common among the Sanhedrin members. He correctly observes that they have no solution to their problem.

Caiaphas then proposed a solution to their problem. “… Nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:50). The Sanhedrin could not figure out that it would be to their advantage, and that is what they cared the most about, that Jesus die at the hands of the Romans instead of the entire nation. Caiaphas proposed the death of Christ as a solution to the immediate political problem. Politicians are often willing to sacrifice the other guy for their own benefit. Ironically, “their rejection of Jesus did not solve their problem. The Jewish people followed false shepherds into a war against Rome (A.D. 66-70), which did in fact destroy their nation.” 3

John then explains that Caiaphas’ words were prophetic. “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.” (John 11:51). What Caiaphas meant to be cynical political realism; God meant to be understood in a deeper, more significant way. Caiaphas only had political interests in mind, whereas God had spiritual interests in mind (Acts 4:27-28). The prophetic quality of Caiaphas’ words is attributed to his priestly office, not his personal character. Because of Caiaphas’ office, God spoke providentially through him even though Caiaphas was not conscious of his word’s spiritual significance. Jesus’ death would be in place of the Jewish nation. If He would die, they would live. Christ would be their Substitute.

A former Thai navy seal diver, Saman Gunan, heroically died on July 6, 2018, while placing oxygen tanks along the twisting passageways of a cave flooded by monsoon rains in Thailand where twelve boys (ages 11 to 16) and their soccer coach were trapped since June 23, 2018. Eventually the entire soccer team was rescued between July 8 – 10, 2018. Saman died so this soccer team and their coach could live. Out of love for these boys and their coach, he laid down his life for them. Likewise, Jesus Christ loved you and me so much that He died on a cross as our Substitute for our sins so we could live forever the moment we believe in Him (John 3:14-16).

But there is more. Caiaphas continued, “And not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” (John 11:52). Caiaphas’ words were not just for Israel, but for the whole world. John has a world-vision in mind. This refers to uniting Jews and Gentiles around the world into“one” body, the church (cf. John 10:16; cf. Ephesians 2:14-18; 3:6). Sin scatters people, but the Savior unites them. Only Christ can unite the nations and cultures of the world into one body. Governments cannot do this. The United Nations cannot bring world peace nor can Black Lives Matter. But Jesus Christ can because He changes people from the inside out.

“Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.” (John 11:53). The Sanhedrin concurs with Caiaphas’ proposal. They seriously plot to kill Jesus. An old purpose (John 5:18; 7:19, 44-45; 8:59; 10:31, 39) was revived with fresh energy due to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. What these wicked men planned for evil, God providentially intended for good.  

Do you remember the story of Joseph in the Old Testament? After Joseph’s father, Jacob, died, his brothers fear that the only thing that has kept Joseph from taking revenge on them has been his respect for his father. So, they come to Joseph begging for forgiveness – even though he gave them that forgiveness many years earlier. How does Joseph respond? Does he avenge the wrongs that they did to him?

He said, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20a).  Joseph doesn’t try to rewrite history saying, “Oh, I know you guys didn’t mean it.” He is honest – “You guys tried to harm me – but God intended your harm for good.” Romans 8:28 says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” This “all things” means “all things” – including people’s evil intentions, their desire to cause harm, and sin. This is an absolutely amazing promise from God! Nobody can do anything to you that God cannot bring good from.

We see it clearly in Joseph’s life – sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned – which was exactly where, in the strangest kind of way, Pharaoh, would be able to hear about him. Then Joseph says, “God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20b). Joseph experienced tremendous pain – heartache, difficulty, problems, but God used all of that for incredible good – the saving of many lives. And as it turned out, not just the people of Egypt, but also his own family – including the very men who did him wrong – his brothers.

Can you relate to Joseph? Perhaps God has used the most painful experiences in your life involving believers who betrayed you to help and bless others. He has used your weaknesses and failures much more than He has used your so-called strengths. It is important for us to see God’s ability to do far more through our trials or failures than through our successes. God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. That means that many can gain through our pain!

The religious leaders had evil intentions toward Jesus, but God intended to bring good from their rejection of His Son. Jesus’ death would unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, the Church. Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross would pay the penalty for the sins of the world so that all who believe in Him may be reconciled to God and have everlasting life (John 3:14-16; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:16).

Christ’s work in our lives can turn enemies into friends. He can bring men and women back into harmony with each other. But it begins by resolving our conflict with God. The Bible says that before we come to Jesus Christ we are in conflict with God. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” (Romans 5:10). Before we became Christians, we were God’s “enemies” because of our sin. God hates sin (Genesis 6:5-7; Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 6:16-19; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 1:9), but He loves the sinner (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ came to this world to make peace between humanity and God, to resolve this conflict. This is the key place to begin in resolving conflict in all of our relationships. Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins so we could be “reconciled to God.” The moment we believe in Christ “we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1). Once we gain peace with God we can learn to live peacefully with one another.

“As parts of the same body, our anger against each other has disappeared. For both of us have been reconciled to God and so the feud ended at the cross.” (Ephesians 2:16 – TLB). Paul is talking about conflict between nations in this verse, but this works between people too. “The feud ended at the cross.” God is able to resolve the conflicts in our lives. Many conflicts between people could be solved overnight, if both parties involved would come to know Christ because of the power that He has to resolve those conflicts we face in our lives.

For me, this is the most everyday advice I could give anyone. In my relationships with people, my relationship to Jesus Christ more than anything else sets the tone for the ability to handle the conflicts that we face. He gives me the ability to think in a different way and relate in a different way. Finding the love of Christ helped me find the forgiveness in my life that built the foundation of strength for all of my relationships. Finding the love of Christ also gives me the strength to forgive others. If you are going to resolve conflicts you have got to have that strength. 

What relationship in your life still has walls to tear down? Whom do you despise? Maybe you dislike the way they look, talk, walk, laugh, and work. You detest being near to them. How can Christ slowly take down those walls one brick at a time so you can live peacefully with them? Ask Him to show you. He is our Peace (Ephesians 2:13-14) and He can teach us to live in harmony with others.

Prayer: Dear Lord God Almighty, Your ways are so much higher than ours. While evil politicians proposed the death of Jesus to advance their own plans and welfare, You providentially intended Jesus’ substitutionary death to save the nation of Israel and the entire world from eternal death. And not only that, Christ’s death would unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, the Church. Over and over again we see throughout history that sin divides people, but our Savior died to unite people of all colors, cultures, and countries. Many of us are not able to resolve conflicts with people because we are still in conflict with You. Our sin separates us from You, Oh Lord. But Your only Son, Jesus Christ, died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead to reconcile us to You. Oh Lord, I pray that those who are still in conflict with You will recognize that Jesus can resolve that conflict by freely forgiving all their sins and giving them eternal life the moment they believe in Him alone. Then He can give them the strength to love and forgive those they are in conflict with. And if we are all honest with ourselves, we must admit that there are people in our lives that we despise for whatever reason. Please show us today how we can begin the process of taking down those walls we have built so we can live peacefully them. It may begin with the words, “I am truly sorry for what I have done. I was only thinking of myself. Help me to see things as you do.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 215.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Gospels, (David C Cook: Kindle Edition, 2018), pg. 640.

3. Ibid, pp. 640-641.