We all know that true and lasting peace is hard to find or experience in the world today. What we see in Syria and the Middle East reminds us that the world has never really known any lasting peace. Shootings in Oregon and Arizona remind us that the peace we might experience in our community can be shattered in an instant. Our own peace of mind can crumble when a spouse suddenly talks about being unhappy or a child begins to struggle with depression or people around us at work lose their job. The kind of peace that brings contentment, completeness and a true sense of well-being is essential if we are going to experience life the way God intended, but this kind of peace is illusive and fragile at best, but it is not impossible. Today our life is series is going to help us find this kind of peace because life is to be at peace with God.
The first thing we need to know is that God wants us to experience lasting and life giving peace. Before Jesus left this world he said, Peace I leave you, my peace I give you which tells us that God wants us to be at peace which means that peace is possible, but the peace we are taking about is not the absence of war or conflict it is much – much more. The kind of peace we are talking about is what the Bible calls Shalom. Shalom is one of those words that doesn’t translate well. We often think of Shalom as a greeting or something we say when we people come or go; much like aloha, but it means much more than hello or good-bye. Shalom means peace, not a 60’s kind of hippie “peace” but a profound sense of completeness or wholeness. Shalom means fullness, rest, harmony, a state of calm without any anxiety or stress. It also includes a sense of vitality and passion that penetrates every area of our lives and every fiber of our being. Shalom is the fullness of life – life the way God intended it to be lived. So life is Shalom, life is to be at peace and this all starts with being at peace with God.
To show us where we can find this kind of peace we are going to look at a story of Jesus found in Luke 10:38-42.
Many people look at this story to define their personality type. Are you a Mary or a Martha? Do you like to do things or do you like to study and learn? Are you active or a contemplative? While those questions are all fine and can be helpful, we need to look deeper at this story and admit that in some ways we are all like Martha. Look at what Jesus says to her. Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about MANY things.
Couldn’t this be said about us? As we head off in 100 different directions we are worried and upset about MANY things. Even when it comes to our faith and our relationship with God we worry about many things. We wonder if we are good enough. We wonder if we are doing enough. We wonder if we are doing the right things. Whether it is our life or faith, we are all like Martha. We are worried and upset about many things which means that we aren’t experiencing Shalom. We are not at peace.
Martha was not at peace because of all the work she was doing and yet the irony is that she doing all the work to try and find peace. Martha was doing everything possible to serve and please Jesus because she wanted to be close to him. Martha wanted to show Jesus that she loved and trusted him. She was cooking and cleaning and serving and helping all in an effort to be at peace with Jesus. That’s part of what motivates her question to Jesus. It’s not just that she wants Mary to help or that she’s trying to point out to Jesus that Mary is a slacker, she wants Jesus to notice her and appreciate her so she can feel close to him. She wants to feel content and confident and complete in her relationship with Jesus, but the harder she tries and the more she works the father away from Jesus feels and the less peace she experiences.
As long as Martha tries to find peace in what she is doing – she will fail. As long as her focus is on herself – she will fall short. As long as we try to find peace in what we do – we will fail and as long as our focus is on ourselves – we will fall short. Peace isn’t found in us or in what we do; peace is only found in Jesus because Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
The only thing that brings lasting and eternal peace is Jesus which means that if we are going to experience peace with God and any peace in our lives then our focus needs to be on Jesus. Maybe you have seen this saying before: No Jesus – No Peace, Know Jesus – Know Peace.
In many ways, this sums it all up. If we know Jesus we will experience peace. It’s not in serving Jesus or talking about Jesus or even believing in him that we experience peace it is in knowing him, which is what Mary was doing. She was sitting at Jesus’ feet getting to know him. She was listing to him and watching him, learning from him and loving him. She was staying connected to him. To know Jesus is to know peace, but no Jesus means no peace. Without Jesus there can be no peace with God.
Peace with God only comes through Jesus because Jesus is the one who brings us back to God. In Romans 5:1-2 it says, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Peace with God begins when we enter into a relationship with God and that only comes through faith and trust in Jesus who paid the price for our sin and redeemed us, or brought us back into a relationship with God.
Last week we heard that the penalty for our sin is death, but we don’t get what we deserve, we get life through Jesus. While our sin separates us from God, the death of Jesus on the cross paid the price for our sin and so it is Jesus who brings us back into a relationship with God. This is what Paul means when he says that we are justified through faith. When we have faith in Jesus, when we love Jesus, when we know Jesus we are brought close to God and not only are we saved but this justification or salvation opens the door to more peace. It is the first step toward Shalom. Paul says this again in Colossians 1:21-22.
Peace with God only comes through Jesus; we cannot achieve it on our own., but a life at peace cannot continue without Jesus, that’s what Paul goes on to say in Colossians 1:23.
If we continue to live a life where we maintain our connection with Jesus and where we stay firm in our hope and steadfast in our love for Jesus then we will experience the peace God has for us. The real question we have to wrestle with is how to remain focused on Jesus so we can experience this peace. Again, Mary and Martha give us the answer.
In his Life Is book, Judah Smith says about Martha and Mary that Mary is distracted from her responsibilities by Jesus. But Martha is distracted from Jesus by her responsibilities. Do you see the difference? It has to do with priorities and perspective. If our priorities are all the things we have to do in life and Jesus is not our main focus, then Jesus becomes a distraction to what we think is really important, but if Jesus is the priority then everything else is the distraction. So where are our priorities?
When we look at our schedule are we trying to fit Jesus into a full calendar or does time in worship, prayer and scripture come first? When we look at our checkbooks does giving to Jesus come from what is left over at the end of the month or does God and the work of God take priority? And what priorities are we setting for our family? Is time with God a focus or an afterthought? If time with Jesus is a distraction from our lives, then Jesus is not our focus and God is not the priority and any peace we may experience is fleeting and fragile, but if life begins to distract us from Jesus, then we know that our perspective is right and we are moving in a good direction.
Perhaps our lack of peace today comes from not having the right priorities. As we search for peace in the world and as we look for contentment and completeness in more and more activities we always come up short and the reason is we are looking in the wrong places. Peace is never found in the world, it is only found in Jesus. Shalom is found when we set the right priorities and keep the right perspective.
Now please understand that making Jesus first doesn’t mean we neglect our jobs or families, it just means we set healthy and faithful priorities for ourselves and our families. It means we talk together as a family about how to make sure God is first. We set expectations about where our faith fits in to our lives. When I was growing up, going to worship wasn’t an option it was an expectation. Being involved in the church wasn’t forced on us but it was part of lives because it was part of our families, we learned it from our parents who made church part of their lives.
If I could say one thing to parents and grandparents today it is this, set a good example for your family. Set the right priorities for your children and grandchildren and invite them to be part of your faith. Don’t teach them the faith, live out your faith for them. Set the right priorities and help your family keep the right perspective because if God is not a priority in your life, God will not be a priority in the lives of your children and peace for them and for you will be difficult to find. Peace is so needed today and we have been shown the way – it is the way of Mary. Peace is found in knowing Jesus.
Maintaining this kind of perspective and keeping these priorities is not easy. The world is pulling us in so many different directions and telling us that everything else that we need to do is essential. The world says we have to be involved in everything if we are going to find life and we have to have our children involved in everything if they are going to be complete and confident and well rounded adults. But it’s not true. Shalom is not found in the world or in a whirlwind of activities, it is found at the feet of Jesus. It is found in knowing Jesus and so that needs to be our priority.
Peace with God comes only from Jesus. The key to life is this one thing – Jesus. Do you remember the 1991 movie, City Slickers? In that movie three middle aged urban men go out west to be cowboys for a few weeks with the hopes of finding some of the answers to life. They are looking for peace – that sense of completeness and wholeness that is missing in their lives. The old cowboy who leads them is named Curly who gives them the secret to life and the secret to finding peace.
Curly: Mitch that the secret to life is this (shows his finger).
Mitch: the key to life is my finger?
Curly: No, the key to life is one thing. You stick to that one thing.
Mitch: what’s that one thing?
Curly: that’s for you to figure out.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to figure it out, the one thing that leads to peace with God is Jesus. Stick to Jesus, sit at the feet of Jesus and you will find peace with God and life is to be at peace with God.
Life is to be at peace with God.
1. Take time to honestly answer this question:
Does Jesus distract you from your schedule, activities and life or does your schedule, activities and life distract you from Jesus?
2. If Jesus is a distraction to life, begin to set different priorities.
• How can Jesus come first on your calendar?
• How can Jesus come first in your checkbook?
• How can Jesus come first with your family?
• How can Jesus come first in your plans for the future?
3. Read the following Scriptures that talk about how Jesus brings us peace with God.
• Romans 5:1-11
• Colossians 1:21-22
• Ephesians 2:14-18
• Galatians 5:22-25
4. What ONE THING can you do this week to keep your eyes, heart and life fixed on Jesus. Read Hebrews 12:1-4 and Isaiah 26:3-4.