Peace

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St. Francis of Assist once said, “Before you speak of peace, you must first have it in your heart.”

We are all looking for peace. We look for it in all kinds of places and ways, but it is very elusive despite our desperate attempts to attain it. Few people are really at peace. After all, the world around is seems to be in chaos a lot of the time. It is anything but peaceful. There is a great deal of anger, mistrust and violence. There is a lot of uncertainty and many things that are beyond our control no matter how hard we try. We get frustrated when we can’t change circumstances or people. We experience pain and anxiety when things are inexplicable and when life isn’t fair.

And yet, one of the names for God in Scripture is “Jehovah Shalom”, which means “I am the God of peace.” Jesus also said to his disciples, 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). God tells us that it is possible to have peace, but it has nothing to do with problem-free living. Rather, it is a gift that comes from God.

Scripture talks about 2 kinds of peace. The first kind is peace with God (Romans 5:1). In order to experience any kind of peace in our lives and world, we first need to be at peace with God. This peace comes from right relationship with Him made possible through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We don’t have to be afraid or alone. We can be God’s children if we accept His gift of redemption and can be made right with Him… be at peace with Him. We cannot have peace in our lives, or personal peace, until we are right with the Prince of Peace.

Secondly, Scripture talks about the peace of God. Once we are at peace with God, He provides for us His supernatural peace that passes all understanding to guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).

I’ve been spending some time at universities over the last few weeks trying to assist with mediation and negotiations, and here, in the midst of this great turmoil and chaos, it has again become so clear to me that unless we find peace within our own souls, we will never achieve it in our universities, our communities or our nation. Right now, we as a nation don’t seem to be at peace with God. We are arrogant. We are angry. We are bitter.  If we are to see any resolution reached or calm prevail, it is critical that we do the work of ensuring we are at peace with God and with ourselves.

Some of us in the church have been criticised for our role in the university mediation because of our view in terms of non-violence. The church’s role – and the Christian’s role – in this conflict, and in any conflict, always has to be to bring peace. Violence in any form or fashion, is not acceptable, no matter what the cause.

So, how do we get and maintain this peace that passes understanding that God gives us, even and especially in the midst of difficult circumstances?

  • If we want the peace of God, we must abide by God’s Word (Psalm 37:37; Psalm 119:165).
  • Focus on God’s presence. Learn to practice his presence. This doesn’t mean that we must be oblivious to what is going on around us, but we get to choose every day, where we will focus our attention, and that will determine the kind of peace we have (Isaiah 26:3).
  • Trust God’s ways (Proverbs 3:4-5). Not all our questions will be answered in this lifetime. Peace comes when we trust God, even when His plans don’t make sense to us.
  • We have to ask for it – Paul encourages us to “let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
  • If you’re not praying you’re worrying. You cannot simultaneously worry and pray.

 

 

Prayer

Lord God we pray that our heart would break for the things that break your heart.

Let us never allow our hearts to grow cold and hard.

Let our hearts, eyes and spirits be open to the work of Your Spirit as it prompts us to do your work among the poor and the vulnerable.

Help us to be at peace with you so that we can be at peace with ourselves and others, and be peacemakers in the world.

In the Name of Christ,

Amen.

The road less travelled

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The Apostle Paul is one of the heroes of the faith… one that journeyed down many interesting and unusual roads.

The road of vision
Paul found Jesus (or rather, Jesus found him) in an unlikely way, on the road to a very different and opposite purpose. Paul had set out to  find and persecute Christians, but on the way, He had a radical and transforming encounter with Jesus Christ.
He was blinded and lost his literal vision in this encounter, and yet, it is here, in this humbling process of losing his sight and coming face to face with the reality of Jesus, that his spiritual vision was restored and he saw things as they really were.

Just like in Paul’s case, God seeks us out and changes our hearts. He can turn us around and change our ways of thinking and being. He can point us in the right direction. No matter how far off course you are or have been, it does not preclude you from being used by God when He transforms your heart.
The road of fulfilment
When Paul received his calling from God, it was one that sounded really significant and important – and it was, but I don’t think he could have imagined the road by which it would come about. We read about his calling in Acts 9:15 when God says about him: “Go, because I have chosen him to serve me, to make my name known to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel.”

When he heard this call, he must’ve thought God had a plan for him that involved great importance and prominence. He would, after all, witness to royalty and nobility.
Paul did fulfil this calling, but he didn’t do it as an influential courtier. He did it as a prisoner. He did get the opportunity to testify before kings and influence people on the highest rungs on the social ladder, but not as an invited guest. Rather, he preached as a detained potential criminal.

Sometimes the calling to which God calls us takes us on a very different road from the one we imagined. Will we remain faithful, even when our calling takes us on a road we did not imagine and one we would not choose for ourselves? Will we be faithful wherever we find ourselves?
The road of completion
Whatever surprising twists and turns Paul’s journey of faith took, he followed in obedience and faithfulness where God led.

At the end of his life, he was able to say with confidence: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. Now there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge shall give me at that Day; and not to me only, but also to all those who love His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Despite the curveballs and all the things Paul had to endure – from beatings, rejection, persecution, shipwrecks, snake bites, stonings and more, he remained faithful to do what God had called him to do.Sometimes we use, some pretty pathetic excuses, for not doing the work or will of God, but Paul’s life reminds us that we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and not allow the things of the world to entangle us or hold us back from what God has for us.

God can use anyone – even those on entirely the wrong path. He makes all things new.
Sometimes our calling and our vision of what God is leading us to doesn’t come about in the way we imagined, but will we remain faithful no matter what? Will we press in and press on and complete the work God has given us to do despite obstacles and opposition we face?