Charles Stanley - The Narrow Path To Personal Peace
Jesus said, "My peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid". And He spoke those words to His disciples the night before He was going to be crucified, and of course they didn't quite understand what all this was about. They had an idea that something really tough was getting ready to happen, but He said, "My peace I give unto you".
And if I should ask you this morning, do you have peace in your heart? I mean, do you have a settled sense of satisfaction? Not that everything's right, but that you have a relationship with God whereby you're convinced and persuaded or whatever you face in life, it's going to be okay, because you have Him, the assurance that He is living within you. Your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. One of these days, whether you die or He comes first, you know that you're going to heaven, and all of this mess is going to be over with and things are going to be right like He promised. Do you have that sense in your own heart? Well, we don't live in a very peaceful age, that's for sure. People do not have peace about their job, about their marriage, about their children, about the circumstances in which they live, or where they live, or how they have to live.
And so, when Jesus comes along and He says, "My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives," that is, the world can't give the kind of peace that Jesus offers. So I would ask you: do you have that kind of peace? Can you honestly say I have this sense of peace? Now, the Greek word is "eirene" which means to put something together. That is, to bind it together. That is, when a person has genuine peace, we sense this togetherness in our heart. We sense this oneness and without strife and without consternation and all the things that go on. The peace that Jesus Christ offers is peace that comes through a relationship with Him. That's the only true source of lasting peace. Everything else in the world's counterfeit. You may have all the money in the world you want, go anywhere you choose, do most anything you want to do, have most anybody you want to have, but if you don't have Jesus, you do not have peace. You don't have to have anything else and you don't have to have anybody else to have peace.
Jesus said, "My peace I give unto you". Why did He say that? Because that's the only source of true, genuine peace, is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And you think about the things that Jesus said and the way He said them, He said we're the children of God. And this God is a God of peace. That's who we are. And when you trusted Christ as your Savior, you took on a whole new relationship, the most important relationship in life, the only relationship that's going to last beyond this life, and that's a relationship with Christ. He said, for example, we are to be followers of the Prince of Peace. Who's the Prince of Peace? Jesus. He's the avenue, He's the Prince. And He said in the Sermon on the Mount we're to be called peacemakers.
I wonder how many of you consider yourself a peacemaker. Now, some of you would have to say, "Well, not with the situation I live in, I'm not a peacemaker". Well, Jesus didn't say except, if, and, and but. We're to be peacemakers. Watch this, there is to be something within us that so connects with someone else and helps them to be connected to the real, true peacemaker, that things begin to change when their relationship with Jesus Christ gets right. Then you have the foundation of true, genuine peace. Until that happens, it's not going to be there. And if you ask the majority of people: do you have peace? They'd have to say, "Well, sometimes, maybe," and ultimately not really.
And when I think about all the things that Jesus said, He said we've been given the gift of peace. That is, it isn't something we work up to. It's a gift that He gives us. What is that gift? Watch this, it's the gift of Himself. When Christ comes into your life, watch this carefully, He satisfies the longings of your heart. He promises to do it. He satisfies those hungers and thirsts in our life that really and truly satisfy. The world has all kinds of counterfeits, but there's one narrow path that leads to peace, and it's not the world's approach. They offer many counterfeits: one single, narrow road to peace. And most people will die never having found it.
And I would ask you if you know what that peace is. Do you know how to walk that path? Or are you like the rest of the world, sort of trying to get all of this and all of that and go here and do this and do the other, trying to find something to satisfy the gnawing in your heart? One thing for certain: you can't counterfeit peace, not really. Peace is a precious, precious gift from One person, and that's Jesus. And nowhere in the Bible does it say there's any other source. But I would just ask you if you have it. Doesn't mean that you have everything in the world you want, but you, watch this, you can have absolute, awesome, complete, continuous fulfillment of the peace of God in your life and not have a lot of things.
And when I think about Jesus and the apostles, He said, "My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, give I unto you". Why did He say that? Because He's saying to them the world can't satisfy the longing in your heart. "My peace," Jesus said. "My peace I give unto you, not as the world," tries its best to give. So, when I think about that, and I think about, came across this verse of Scripture that I don't know how in the world I missed it all these years, and I was sort of ashamed of myself when I realized I'd missed it. I had to ask God to forgive me. And so, if you turn to the tenth chapter of Luke, you're going to have to ask Him to forgive you also.
But let's look at this, if you will. Luke chapter ten. When Jesus was sending His disciples out, well, He was instructing them what to do and how to do it. And here's what He says in verse five. Now, think about this and apply this to yourself. Don't think about it being in the New Testament. Think about right now, "Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.'" Do you see what that says? "Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.'" And I got to thinking, "Lord, how many houses have I been in my life and I never said that. Jesus said, "Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.'"
So, I had to ask the Lord to forgive me. I thought, "Lord, that's not what I've done". You said, "Oh, Jesus didn't mean you". Yes, He did. And so, Jesus meant what He said, because what He was saying is pray, pray for this home. Pray for the people who are living here. What kind of troubles are they having? Are they having marriage troubles, troubles with the kids, financial troubles, disappointments, and all the things that happen within a house. Jesus always had a purpose for every single thing He said. And so, this is what He said to them: whenever you go, wherever you go, you bless that house before you enter it.
Now, there are some things that steal our peace in our life, so I want us to think about it. For example, He's promised to give us peace. And we do have peace with Him when our heart is right. We've been saved by the grace of God. Doesn't mean you never sin, but you ask Him to forgive you and your walk is a walk of peace. But there are some thoughts, there's some ideas that steal our peace. So remember, we said peace is a narrow path. That is, if you are walking in peace, there are a lot of things that are not going to be in that pathway.
So, let's think about some peace-stealers for a moment. One of them is lustful thoughts. You cannot have lustful thoughts and have peace, because the Spirit of God in a Christian, for example, is going to cause you to feel not just peace, but a sense of conviction. When a person looks at something or someone with a lustful thought, the Spirit of God isn't saying bless you. The Spirit of God is convicting you: shouldn't look, shouldn't see, shouldn't think, shouldn't desire, shouldn't lust after it. The narrow road of peace eliminates a lot of things. Lustful thoughts create not peace, but chaos in a person's heart, in a person's soul. And we live in a society that's full of it.
So that's one thought. Then, for example, feelings of guilt. If you feel guilt over sin in your life, guilt over something you didn't do, should have done, guilt over something you said, you should not have said, you can't have peace. Watch this: Peace is fragile. The path of peace is very narrow, and that is thoughts that are guilty thoughts destroy peace. Or anger, you can't be angry and be at peace, can't be. God talks about anger, doesn't belong in our hearts. You can't be angry toward somebody and have peace in your heart at the same time. You say, "Well, but if you know what they did to you, you've got a right to be angry. No, you don't. How can you have peace in your heart if something inside of you is gnawing away, and getting more and more bitter every day? You cannot. Peace is a narrow pathway.
I think about people, for example, who are very, very bitter about something that's happened in their past, they can't get over it, the way they've been treated. What they feel may be true, and nowhere in the Bible does it say you have a right to be angry and bitter if somebody does thus and so. No. I'll tell you what settled that. When Jesus went to the cross, if anybody had a right to be bitter and angry and resentful, He did. But He did not. And so, by example He says it, and by word He teaches us not to be bitter and angry no matter what happens. And there are a lot of people who are miserable today because they're bitter toward someone for something they've done. Maybe they cheated you in some fashion, maybe they made a promise they broke.
And I think about how many people made promises to each other about marriage and break those promises. You can't be living a double life and have peace. No matter how fine your automobile is, how big your bank account, what position you have, you may be number one in whatever situation you're in, you don't have peace with God; if you're not obedient to God, you cannot. The world doesn't believe that. They're trying to deaden their conscience and deaden their feelings because what's going on within them that's wrong is destroying them. Our thought life, you cannot escape what you think by taking a pill or having a drink.
Think about this, how foolish, when you can have the peace of a loving Heavenly Father, and you decide, "No, this is the route I'm going". And then, people who seemingly are pretty good, if you look at them, self-centeredness, very self-centered. It's all about me. It's all about what I want. It's all about what I deserve. It's all about what I think. It's all about what I want to do. Listen, you can have no peace if you're all wrapped up in yourself. That self-centeredness, it's selfish, it says pride. Can't have any peace like that.
Then I think about people who doubt, people who live in doubt. They doubt the Word of God. They doubt that God will answer their prayer. They doubt that going to church will make any difference in the world. They doubt their friendships, their relationships. They live, they're skeptics at heart. There's no peace in that. In fact, if you'll think about it, it's a very, very, very narrow path to genuine peace because we have a lot of things around us that will steal our peace, if we allow it. Can you live peacefully and have peace and enjoy peace in a world that is confused and mixed up and as wrong as ours is? Yes, you can.
Watch this, it isn't relationship plus, it's relationship period. You ought to write that down. It's not relationship plus, it's relationship period. It's Jesus in you. He is the source of peace. He is the provider of peace. He and He alone, and all you have to do is look around, talk to your friends or your enemies or the people you work with. Find out how many, find out how many people you talk to that you can tell by their conversation whether they have peace or not, because watch this. A person who does not have peace cannot hide it. And people think if they get enough money, they'll have peace. How much money's enough? It's never enough. There's only one source of true, genuine peace. That is having a sense of oneness with God, a sense of unity. That's the source of all genuine peace, no matter what happens.
This is why we meet people, once in a while, who are going through situations and circumstances, we think, "How do they handle that"? And every once in a while, I've met someone whom... I'd walk away and think, "Oh God, I hope I could have the kind of peace they have going through what they're going through". Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is the source of true, genuine, lasting peace. Anything else and everything else is a substitute. I think also, people who are living in doubt about the things of God. I think about people, for example, who just are not believers. And I can tell you this, and I've lived long enough to know this. I've never met a person who is not a Christian, who gave me any true genuine evidence that they were really happy. Little fluff on the outside...lot of that, sounded good, but the more I listen and the more I watched and the more what I didn't see and didn't hear, that's not peace.
Let me tell you something, when you have Jesus in your heart, you can't keep it to yourself. And it's not that you have to act out, you don't have to act anything. You just allow Him to express who He is through your conversation, watch this, your conversation, your conduct, and your character. And I think, for example, people who are living in unbelief, they're miserable. No matter what they say to you, they're miserable. If you don't have Jesus in your life, let me ask you a question: what do you have that you can really and truly depend upon? Jesus is the source, the narrow road to peace is a relationship with Jesus.
And I think about people, for example, who get jealous. They think they've got everything just right, and somebody else comes along and they get jealous about this and jealous about that and jealous about somebody, and that's not peace. Peace is a gift of God that comes through the presence of Christ in our life, that's the source of peace. And this is why some people can go through the most terrible, horrible circumstances and situations of loss and suffering, heartache and pain in their life, and have this awesome sense of unshakeable peace. Because they have one relationship that's right.
Now, how do we experience this peace? I want you to write them down, and the first one says this: we must believe that He is in control of our life and our circumstances. If I don't believe that, I'm not going to have any peace. Otherwise, we will attempt to be in control, and there's no peace in that struggle. But do I believe that He is in absolute control? He is. Just because I get out of control doesn't mean He's out of control and doesn't mean that He does not control everything.
So, ask yourself the question: do I believe that He is in control of my life? I didn't say feel like it. Do you believe that He's in control? The second statement is this: we must believe that His offer of peace is real and be willing to accept His offer of peace in spite of our feelings. Can't go by feelings. His offer, "My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled". "What I'm giving you," He says, "not like the world's got to offer, because it doesn't satisfy anything". And then, in order to have peace, we must fully surrender our total life, mind, will, and emotion to Jesus as Lord.
We must fully surrender our total life, mind, will, and emotion to Jesus as Lord. That is my character, my conversation, and my conduct, I must surrender to Him. Peace is this awesome, eternal relationship, this oneness with Jesus. Does that mean that you'll never have any trouble? No. Does it mean that you'll never get sick? No. Does it mean that you'll never have fear? No. But here's what happens. Whenever and whatever comes your way, you can respond with this absolute certainty, "The Lord Jesus who is in me will see me through this. He will be adequate no matter what's going on in my life".
So, I would ask you a simple question: do you have peace in your life? Were you sitting here this morning when you first came in, and you were worried about something, concerned about something? Maybe you were feeling jealousy. Maybe you were feeling lustful. Maybe you were feeling, just distraught about the way that you've been treated. Maybe you were concerned about what's going to happen tomorrow on your job. Or that person that you just don't like being around. You see, you can go to church and be in terrible shape by time you get out. Unless you're willing to surrender your life to Jesus and say, "Lord, here I am. Here's my life. I'm going to trust You, not for how people are going to treat me, what I'm going to receive or not receive. I'm going to trust You to be in me what only You can be. And I'm going to trust that You have absolute control and that You're going to make it all come out in such a fashion, it's going to be a blessing to You, Lord, and a blessing to me".
Sometimes the most trying, painful circumstances in life turn out to be a seed-bed, just a seed-bed of awesome peace that God sends to your life. Now listen, you've heard all of this, and every single one of us knows in our heart right now if we have peace or not. You don't have to ask anybody else. You know whether you have peace or not. Watch this carefully, you can have it. No matter what you're going through, you can have it. The invitation to peace is always there from Jesus. So, what does it require of me? Surrender my life to Him. Okay, Jesus, I've messed it up. I'm just surrendering myself to You. Whatever You choose, I'm going with it. I'm going to believe that You, the source of my peace, is my peace, and You will see me through whatever I'm facing. And You'll see me through it, knowing in my heart You are the source of my peace.
I ask you one last question: if Jesus is not the source of your peace, now be honest, if Jesus is not the source of your peace, what is? I love that verse, "My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives. Let not your heart be troubled, neither be afraid". And maybe you have been listening or watching, and you're thinking, "Okay, you just don't know my circumstances". He does. He knows all about your circumstances. And you know what He's willing to do? Forgive you of your sin, cleanse you. But it's a matter of surrender and a matter of faith. Am I willing to believe that He can clean up this horrible mess I've made, if I surrender my life to Him?
Let me ask you a question. Is any mess too big for God? Then He's got your number, hasn't He? He's waiting for you to deal with it. He's waiting for you to bring it to Him to say, "Lord, I've messed these things up in my life. I've hurt other people. I've cheated," or whatever you've done in your life, I'm giving it all to You. I'm surrendering my life to You. What will He do? Forgive you, watch this, and forget it. He'll give you a new start, and that's my prayer for you.
And Father, thank You that You didn't list twenty things for us to do, to change, in order to have Your peace. You said, "Trust Me. Trust Me. Trust Me". Thank You for loving us enough to make it so simple and plain. Thank You for loving us enough to forgive and forget and give us a new start. In Jesus's name, amen.