Thursday, December 15, 2016

What Everyone Wants, But Few Attain

If you could receive just one thing for Christmas, what would it be? Does a big-screen TV come to mind? How about a new car – or boat? Or something like a new set of golf clubs, the latest technological gadgets, expensive jewelry, or some fancy shoes or boots?

Perhaps this has been a difficult year for you or your family, so your wish would be for something less tangible – like overcoming poor health, resolving serious family issues, relief from financial pressures, or a change in your job situation. If only those could fit into Santa’s sack for delivery!

Peace: Isn't this what we all would like to have,
yet find so difficult to find?
I’m thinking of something else, however, that everyone seems to desire but comparatively few seem able to attain. What I have in mind we hear a lot about this time of year, especially since it’s featured prominently in many of our favorite Christmas carols. Here are a few hints: “sleep in heavenly peace”; “and peace to men on earth”; “peace on earth, good will toward men”; “hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace”; “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

If you guessed “peace,” ding-ding-ding! You’re right! Even if it doesn’t always figure prominently in our conscious minds, we all want peace, don’t we? Back in the 60’s, the hippie movement gave the idea popularity with the iconic peace sign, along with index and middle fingers forming a V for “Peace.” It was at the height of the Vietnam War, and although that era may now seem like ancient history, our unceasing quest for peace continues.

I wrote about this a couple months ago, but especially at this time of year, it seems worth revisiting at least briefly.

Even during rare moments when it seems peace is finally within our grasp, it’s fleeting. It leaves as quickly as it came. All it takes is turning on the news, receiving an unexpected phone call, getting summoned to the boss’s office for an unscheduled meeting, hearing a sudden weather alert – or just having all the beloved grandkids converge at the same chaotic moment.

How then can we attain peace? They don’t stock it at Walmart, Target or your favorite grocery store. won’t ship it, drone or no drone. And you certainly won’t find it offered on the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ.

Experience has taught me there’s only one sure, unfailing source for lasting peace. We’re reminded of this repeatedly throughout the Bible. Here’s just a sampling:

Jesus assured His followers, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). Isaiah 26:3 promises that God, “will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.”

In declaring the birth of the Son of God to a rag-tag group of shepherds, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). Philippians 4:7 tells about, "the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension." Sounds good, but in our troubled world, perhaps too good to be true.

Why this perpetual pursuit of peace? My favorite devotional writer, Oswald Chambers, proposed it’s because in many ways, we live in a world at war. “Life without war is impossible in the natural or supernatural realm. It is a fact that there is a continuing struggle in the physical, mental, moral, and spiritual areas of life,” he wrote in My Utmost for His Highest.

He explained to maintain good health, we must ward off factors that ultimately lead to death. External factors also wage war against our minds and our desire to attain moral virtue. It’s no different spiritually, Chambers pointed out. The world around us wants anything but for us to advance toward godliness and holiness. As a result, we experience a profound lack of peace, surrounded by spiritual conflict.

As Jesus acknowledged this struggle, He also presented the solution. “In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Trying to find peace apart from Christ, if we believe the Scriptures, is like trying to find cats swimming in an aquarium. Or iced tea in a blast furnace. It’s just not going to happen. We might experience momentary flashes of peace, but then the next crisis arrives and, like a vapor, it’s gone.

If we’re aligned with Him, however, we can then, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace” (Colossians 3:15). Isn’t it worth a try? After all, He is the Prince of Peace.

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