Today, I listened to a sermon on the hope and peace of Christ. I needed that today.
Yesterday, I was definitely struggling in the area of peace, and feelings of hope were pretty much the furthest things from my heart. I spent a lot of my teenage years, and pretty much all of my time in my twenties hoping for and chasing something stupid, and yesterday in an instant, that hope was suddenly and unexpectedly dashed. I knew it was bound to happen, but I wasn't prepared for it, yet. Had I been given more time, I'm not sure how I would have handled it any differently, but I like to pretend that if I had some forewarning, I would have been much better than I was yesterday... wanting to go home, put on my PJs, and cry in my bed. Alas, the show must go on... and I had a Christmas party for work that I had to attend.
The party, though it was a lot of fun, and a good distraction for awhile, it couldn't keep the tears from flowing as I drove the 20 minutes to my apartment later that night. As I prayed, I asked God for peace and for the strength to trust Him. It was strange praying a prayer like that, when I was overwhelmed with guilt that I was even struggling to trust the Lord in the midst of such disappointment. The thing I had put so much of my hope in, that I had focused so much of my time and energy on, has disappointed me time and time again. It has hurt me more times than I can count. It has made me feel worthless... and yet, I was mourning its loss. Lame. How black and white does something have to be? How obvious must God make something before we realize it's poison to us? For me... it's taken 10+ years, and even still, I know there's a part of me that knows that thing still holds some control over me.
It's like having this huge bag of toxins, knowing its harmful, and yet I just don't want to let go of it.
With the heart involved, it's insanity in its most deceptive cloak.
On twitter, I kept reading tweets from Pastor Perry Noble and people who attend his church, New Spring, in South Carolina, about the incredible sermon Clayton King preached on Sunday morning, and how so many people had been impacted by it. So, I checked it out today, when I was feeling less than motivated to do actual work.
I listened with headphones at my desk, and I can't lie.. there were moments where I wanted to clap, cry, cheer, or say "Amen!" throughout it. Clayton preached on the hope and peace of Christ. He talked about how we are heirs to the fullness of the inheritance of God... and part of inheritance is the gift of peace we receive through Christ.
He talked about how, when we don't have peace in our lives, we often try to manufacture peace ourselves. We seek peace in material possessions, food, sex, relationships... and when we realize that those things don't give us peace, we delve even deeper into them or find a new replacement altogether. He said, "We're trying to create lifestyles that have no crisis, when what we really need is the presence of Christ. Only Christ can bring true, lasting peace."
He used Galatians 4:1-9 to remind us that peace comes by God initiation. Peace is God's invention, his idea. He gives us peace, not in the form of a possession, but the form of a Person. Peace comes only from Him, and only when we're in right relationship with the Father. Peace doesn't take away the hurting, but it absolutely engulfs us to keep us from hopelessness. When we are enslaved to things in our lives, things like fear, we feel like a failure. Fear is crippling, but when you focus on the Father, our faith has a place to grow, and we are slaves no more.
Yesterday, I felt like a slave. Something, beyond my control, was happening. Something I knew wasn't good, something I knew shouldn't cripple me the way it had... and it's because I had forgotten my place as an heir to the rich inheritance I've been given because of Christ. There is freedom in Christ, and peace more abundant that I can ever know... and ashamedly, I've lost sight of that more times than I can count. What a good reminder it was for me today, as I struggle with something, that from the outside looking in, seems so lame. I should be able to just "let go," right? I should... but letting go of something that in some ways has become a part of me, and knowing that losing that thing isn't the end of the world, but a new beginning, will come only from a Peace that surpasses all understanding.
I'm not going to claim that one sermon has just changed everything and I'm perfectly fine now, but its reminded me of where I need to turn. "If you know Christ, it doesn't matter the circumstance surrounding you, Jesus will bring a deep abiding peace that cannot be shaken."
Praying for, and resting in that all-encompassing peace of the Savior, crying out "Abba Father!" and knowing that He is near.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His Word, my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood, His mercy rains
Unending love, amazing grace.