Peace in the Age of Anxiety
There was a survey taken back in the 1940s which asked people to rate what they thought were the top seven problems of society.
The results were:
- People talking too much (a criticism we preachers are very sensitive about)
- Too much noise
- Running in halls and through doors
- People cutting into queues
- Violating dress codes
- People chewing gum.
Isn’t there a relaxed easy innocence to what people thought were the problems of the time.
Another survey in 1989 saw the top problems rather differently. Drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, crime and so on.
Something has happened in forty years that has made society very different. Society has fallen in some ways into a morass of its own making. And while the causes are things we might look at another time, one of the key characteristics of our time is a lack of peace; personal and global.
Only 8% of the time since the beginning of recorded history has the world been at peace. In a total of 3521 years, only 286 have been warless.
In many ways this age could be called the age of worry, for reasons like that. This is the age of stress, anxiety and worry.
We can sometimes identify with the man who said, ‘I’ve got so many troubles that if anything bad happens today it will be two weeks before I can worry about it.’
This is certainly not the era of peace; personally or globally. However, before going to far, let’s take a moment to ask ourselves what we mean by peace.
Peace can mean different things to different people. To a young mum I saw the other day in a supermarket, peace would have been escaping from that place with her very loud and angry two year old.
To some parents, peace is what begins about 8pm when those little ones are tucked in and settled down prior to their 6am rising. To others peace is when your 18 year old gets home at 1am. Others say that keeping peace in the family requires patience, love and understanding and at least two television sets.
Whatever we say about peace, it should be emphasized that the peace of the believer is as different from the peace the world talks about as joy is different from happiness.
For the world, peace is the absence of conflict. It is defined in terms of what is not happening – violence, warfare and combat. It is largely a negative concept. It is the Bosnian Serbs ceasing to fight Muslims.
However, the Christian understanding of peace is something quite different. The 17th Century philosopher Benedict Spinoza in one of his comprehensible moments wrote, ‘Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence and confidence in justice.
Jesus said this and more in John 14:25-27 when he said, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.’ The world can only give a peace that is an absence of conflict. Jesus gives a peace which is the peace of salvation – a right relationship with him.
Jesus, like Paul in Galatians links peace with the gift of the Spirit, who helps us to have peace with God and ourselves. Peace for the Christian is a fruit of the Spirit which arises from a right relationship with the Lord. It is the product of something good, not just an absence of something bad.
Let us think for a few moments together on four ways we can know peace in the age of anxiety.
- The Way of Faith
Our peace is in proportion to our faith. Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Do we realize we can have one? Do we know how we can have one if we do not?
Have we prayed the sinners prayer? Lord Jesus Christ, I am sorry for my sins, my years away from you. I repent and put my trust in you. I accept that your death on the cross was for me, and that now however I feel I am forgiven and accepted forever.
If you have never prayed that prayer then do so today.
Or if you have been a Christian for some time, have you become a bit lazy about your faith?
Is your love for the Lord growing, or just kind of static? Sure you still believe, but perhaps there is not much passion about that believing?
Have we become like exterior housepaint which once shone with newness but with the storms of life have gradually lost strength and effectiveness? If so, restore your faith today. Come back to the Lord, let him be your first love again.
2. Use the Resources God has to Give
The Lord’s Supper is one way in which peace comes to us. Here the whole Gospel is compressed into an action. This sacrament tells you that God is for you. He is on your side; he is yours and you are his. This sacrament tells you that God believes in you even if you don’t or no-one else does.
God has looked at you and said, ‘You are my son/daughter. I am going to love her through my son, and so show my love for her that I will forgive all her sins and help her to start life again.’
God has said, ‘I love these people so much that the only way I can really tell them is by going down amongst them and letting them know. This way I will let them know for sure that I am for them rather than against them. ‘
The Lord’s Supper says that God so loved you that he gave his one and only son for you so that as you believe you will have everlasting life.
This sacrament is the splitting of the atom of God’s love. It releases the enormous healing power of his saving love for you and brings you peace.
3. Live Out Your Faith
Yesterday at a prayer seminar run by the great Argentinian teacher Ed Silvoso, he told about the effects of faith in one of Argentina’s maximum security prison. It was previously dominated by drug dealers, the Mafia and violence. It took 300 wardens to oversee 900 men. Wardens were frequently murdered. There were no Christians amongst the prisoners, wardens or administrators. The only way a pastor could get in to visit was by invitation of a prisoner.
It so happened that a pastor was imprisoned. He invited other pastors to come in and they requested somewhere to meet. They were place between the church of Satan and the Mafia barracks. They began praying and praying and fasting. Before long some people became Christians.
The ultimate result was that there are now over 900 Christians in that prison and 160 were praying for our seminar yesterday. The number of wardens has dropped from 300 to 30. Peace has come to the troubled hearts of these people. Now the greatest noise which comes from the prison is prayer and singing.
The effects of faith have been spectacular. The peace of God makes a difference through Jesus Christ.
4. Enjoy Your Faith
Jesus Christ is the great giver of freedom. He deals with the muck in our lives, the hurt, the sins received and those committed. And once we have got that out the way we can have peace.
Peace with God gives us peace within ourselves. Peace with ourselves gives us the freedom to enjoy being a Christian. Sure life is sometimes heavy and difficult, but faith is meant to lighten the load, not add to it. Faith is supposed to lift you up, not drag you down.
One time gold miners came into a town to get some fresh supplies and equipment. They had made a big strike and agreed to tell no-one. However, when they set out to ride back to their site, fourty riders lined up behind them. How had people known, no-one had said anything. Then one of the new riders explained, ‘We could tell something was going on from the beam on their face.’
Are you enjoying your faith? Does it support you or do you have to support it? Are you living at peace with God knowing you are accepted? Are you at peace with yourself, knowing that if God has forgiven you, you have no right not to forgive yourself? Are you at peace with others? Have you overcome your anger and put aside what that person said or did? Have you left your burden at the foot of the cross?
Have you received Jesus’ peace today?
By George Robert Iles