When Peace Snoozes, Part 2

peace

Jesus’ Example

Jesus is our perfect example of everything godly, including peace.  We never see in the Bible examples of Him running around in distress.  Why should He be stressed and anxious?  He knew His authority over evil, so He had no reason to fear. He had faith in God’s ability to protect Him, regardless of how strong His opponent seemed.   As a result, He continued doing what He intended to do on the earth. He didn’t let a circumstance detour His life and routine.  He was on the earth on a mission.  A lack of peace – spawned by fear and doubt – couldn’t detour Him.  He didn’t let it.

A great story of this is Jesus’ boat trip with His disciples in Mark 4:35-41:

On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Imagine what Jesus slept through.  The atmosphere would have been dark, wet, and cold as rain poured from raging thunderclouds.  From those thunderclouds came piercing flashes of lightening and roaring thunder.  Agitated by the tumultuous waves, the boat tossed about like a beach ball in the ocean – a perfect invitation for nausea.  All about the ship the disciples shouted at each other in panic as they defended their lives against the storm.  With the ship teetering at different angles, threatening to sink with the water filling it, it was likely slimy fish were pouring in and flopping about in confusion.  It was probably one of the most chaotic scenes the disciples had been in.  And what was Jesus doing amid all the noise?  Sleeping on a pillow.

It’s unlikely most people could be calm through such chaos, yet alone sleep.  But Jesus did, to the point that the disciples had to wake Him up!  When He did wake up, His response was still drastically different than the disciples.  He didn’t give in to panic and fear.  He took control of the situation with fearless strength and commanded the storm to stop with these words: “Peace be still!”  Peace.  Instead of floundering in the middle of the chaos, He passed His inner peace onto the scene.  Functioning in that peace, He was able to use the authority He had been given to bring calm. He knew that without faith, there would be no peace.  And without faith and peace working together, there would be no confidence in His ability to tell the storm what to do!

The disciples could have done the same.  However, their fear hindered them from using their authority – the same authority Jesus gave them to cast out demons.  All they could see was the storm instead of the possibility of God’s power manifesting to aid them.  While they focused on the storm, their minds stayed in anxiety, effecting their actions.  So paralyzed by what they felt and saw, they could only imagine the worst.  Their hearts were too full of fear for their minds to be at rest.  May we learn from their experience and choose to follow Jesus’ perfect example instead!

Peter’s Example

The Apostle Peter’s imprisonment is another example of sleeping in peace. Let’s take a look at Acts 12:1-8:

Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church.  Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.

 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.  And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.  And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.

Peter had every reason to fear.  The Romans had just killed another disciple and now they were planning his execution as well.  Typical Roman style, the Romans put him into prison with enough guards to scare off an army.  Historically, these prisons weren’t anything like the clean, well-fed prisons of today. Most cells were dark, especially the inner cells. Unbearable cold, lack of water, cramped quarters, and sickening stench from few toilets made sleeping difficult and waking hours miserable. This was not a moment of relaxation from the real world; it was torture.

But despite the gross stench, foreboding darkness, and impending execution the next morning, Peter managed to fall asleep between two soldiers.  Here, very few of us could relate.  This wasn’t just a bad doctor’s report.  It wasn’t a home foreclosure or relationship gone badly.  This was certain death.

How could Peter relax enough to snooze during the final hours of his life?  How could he nap with cold, metal chains holding him in place between armed guards?  How could he even think of resting when the whole kingdom of Rome and his own countrymen were against him?  He was at peace . . . inspired by faith.

Peter’s peace was founded on three truths.  First of all, Peter did not fear death.  He counted death through martyrdom as an honor (Philippians 1:21).  In light of standing before Almighty God, it meant nothing to him for his life to be threatened by a mortal human being like Herod.  Secondly, he was strong enough to know God would protect him because his life’s mission was not complete.  Thirdly, he knew the church was praying for him.  How could he lose?

Peter had confidence in God’s desire and power to deliver him.  The faith in his heart moved to become peace in his mind, allowing him to slumber, even when Herod sought to do the worst. The decision to walk in peace and not fear triggered God’s ability to move supernaturally.  God saw his faith and commissioned an angel to guide him out of the prison . . . with two oblivious guards sitting beside him.  That’s peace!

You have authority over every storm you can sleep in. – Bill Johnson

To Be Continued…

 

The Heart of a Shepherd

shepherd

We often use John 10:10 as our “go-to” verse when explaining that evil comes from the devil and not from God: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  But if we read the entire chapter of John 10, the message goes even deeper.  Life comes from Jesus in His role as our good shepherd.

Let’s look at John 10:1-18, 27-29 and break down how Jesus proves Himself as our shepherd:

He comes in honorably (verse 1-3a).

 While the devil comes in like a thief without our permission, Jesus comes in because we open the door for His entrance.  He’s a gentleman and won’t come where He’s not wanted or honored.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the doorkeeper opens. . .”

He calls us by name (verse 3b).

A thief could care less about our personal identity.  All he wants is to control us and steal our possessions.  The Jesus, on the other hand, cares about us and knows us so well that He will lovingly call us by our name.

“. . . and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

He leads us (verse 3a-6).

A thief, hard-hearted and cruel, will not lead us but will drive us forward.  Jesus, the greatest leader of all, will set the example by stepping out ahead and guiding us to our destination.

“. . . and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

He leads us to a good place (verse 9).

A thief will not lead us to a place of goodness where our needs will be met.  He will drive us to our demise, caring less about our well-being. The Good Shepherd, Jesus, will freely allow us to come and go to receive whatever we need whenever we need it.

“If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture . . . “

He gives life (verse 10).

A thief’s goal is not to give life, but to take and destroy it.  Jesus’ goal is to bring life, a life overflowing with His goodness!

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

He lays down His life (verses 11-18).

The thief, or a hireling, does not have the heart of a shepherd.  When danger comes, he leaves us to be destroyed.  Jesus, on the other hand, is willing to lay down His life to protect us from predators.  He cares about us enough to sacrifice Himself for our well-being.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.  As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

He adds more to the fold (verse 16).

While a thief is self-centered about who he allows into his clan, Jesus is open to adding new members to the fold.  He desires a big family, not for selfish reasons, but so that they too can be saved from the wicked thief.

And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”

He gives eternal life (verses 27-29).

The thief can only give eternal death in hell.  Jesus, however, has all authority to provide eternity in heaven, and no one can steal it from us.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.

Even an earthly, natural shepherd cares for his sheep.  He does whatever it takes to preserve their lives because they are valuable to him.  If they, in their weakness and imperfection, can exemplify the heart of a shepherd, how much more will our spiritual Shepherd reveal His heart through His perfection?

If we ever doubt God’s heart or how He operates, we should go back and review the heart of a shepherd.  Jesus purposefully used it as an illustration in order to describe Himself so that we could understand Him (verse 6).  Rest assured He will never leave His vocation.  He will forever be our Shepherd as long as we allow Him to be.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)