Charles Stanley - Peace With Yourself
When we think of Christmas, one of the words that pops into our mind, oftentimes, is peace. We sing about it, we talk about it, we write about it, we hear about it. But how much of it do we really experience? Especially peace within ourselves? We talk about peace between nations, peace in groups that are voting on issues, but what about peace within ourselves? How many of us have genuine peace within ourselves? You remember Jesus said, "My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. But let not your heart be troubled".
God is a God of peace, and God is interested in peace within all of us. And one of the issues that we have to deal with peace is this whole idea of peace within ourselves.
So, I want us to think about peace for just a moment. It's mentioned three hundred and fifty-three times in the Bible, so it says something about how important it is. Jesus talked about it. Let's think about this whole idea of peace within ourselves. If I should ask you today: do you have peace within yourself? Are you happy about yourself? Are you at ease with yourself? Can you sleep with yourself and be happy? Can you go about your work and be happy, or is there something missing in your life?
There are three areas of life in which you and I certainly want to have peace. And the first one is peace with God, which is His gift to us when we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior for the forgiveness of our sins. We have peace with Him. The war is over, no conflict. Then there's peace with one another, which is the result of our learning to live in a harmonious relationship with others. And this is a very difficult situation with many people. They have a very difficult time really being at peace with many people in their life. Sometime, it's within their own home, with their children, with their friends, the people they work with, but there seems to be conflict.
When there's no peace, there's conflict, there's something wrong. But you know the very Greek word, irene, which is the Greek word for peace, means to bind together. And when you don't have that, you have conflict. Then of course, this one is what we want to talk аbout: peace with ourselves. When you think about it, would you think that you have peace with yourself? You're happy with yourself? You're delighted with what God's doing in your life, what you're accomplishing, what you're achieving?
So, peace with ourselves, which is the inner quietness and serenity that comes when we learn to live in a harmonious relationship with our inner self. How do we live with ourselves? Many people cannot. This is why they get entangled in all kind of situations and circumstances that are very damaging to their life. They don't have any peace within themselves. There is only one place that you'll find peace that makes it possible for you to have peace with yourself, to accept yourself, to be at ease with yourself, to be happy with yourself; and that is in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, no other way.
I know that many of you who're trying all other things say, "Well, some of these, someone or somehow I'm going to make peace with myself". No, you're not, not apart from Jesus Christ. And so, when I think about that and I think about the struggle that people go through to find peace within themselves, the things that they do, the places they go, the money they spend. How do you find peace with yourself? And that's what I want us to talk about, primarily, in this message.
And when I think about how peace really eludes us. We think, "Well, everything is just fine", then all of sudden, we don't have any peace because we forget what the basis of our peace is. The basis of our peace with ourselves is a relationship. It's a relationship to God, but it's a relationship to our self. If I should ask you: do you love yourself? "Oh, you shouldn't talk about loving self". Yes, you should. You should love yourself. Because watch this: only those you love will you really treat adequately. You do not love somebody, you're not going to.
You say, "What about all the people I don't know"? There is a capacity God has given us to feel and to express love for people we don't know. Otherwise, why would God give us a Great Commission? "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature". If we do not have the capacity to love people we don't know, people we'll never see, then there's something wrong with the Great Commission given to us by Jesus because there's a capacity to love even those you don't know. Our problem is loving the people we do know and loving ourselves. But it's loving ourselves that I want us to note, primarily, here.
In Psalm thirty-four verse fourteen, if you'll turn there for a second. It's just a very, very short passage of Scripture, and the reason I want you to turn there is because of what it says. It's a very short verse, and here's what it says. "Seek peace and pursue it". It isn't just enough to seek it, but go after it. In other words, when you find it, pursue it. That is, work at it, because peace does not come cheaply, and it does not come, oftentimes, easy. So, I want us to think for just a moment. If you think about your peace with other people, if you have it, it's going to be expressed in a certain way. If you don't have it, it's going to be expressed in a certain way. So, let's think about it for just a moment.
Now listen, you have to be honest with yourself. You can sit here and think, "Well, I'm a Christian, and I've got peace with everybody". No, you don't. Not really. If you ask me if I had peace with everybody, I couldn't tell you that I have peace with every single person because some people create conflict, and you have to work at having that kind of a relationship with people who're just conflicting by their very nature. So, let's think about it in this light, and that is a person that we have problems being at peace with are people, for example, who don't like the way they look.
You say, "Well now, what's that got to do with... Just stay with me. They don't like the way they look. They get up in the morning and they look at themselves and this is not right and that's not right and this is not right and this is too tight and these shoes are the wrong color and my stocking has a hole... run in it", and on and on you go. And so, after a while you think: what in the world's going on with me? You don't like that. You don't have peace with yourself until you can accept yourself. And all of us have expectations of ourselves.
So naturally, we going to judge ourselves on the basis of what we expect. And so, sometimes people do well till they look in the mirror and they think, "Oh my, what's happened to me? I'm getting old. I'm getting too thin. I'm getting too otherwise". And so, they have a problem with it. Then people feel inadequate. They don't feel like they're up to doing what they need to do and ought to be able to do, and so they feel inadequate. They don't have any peace. You have a job, for example. You go to your job on Monday morning, you don't feel adequate you can do it. It's over your head. You don't have any peace.
And so, listen to this. When there's no peace, there's what? Conflict. And when there's conflict, there's not happiness, there's no joy, there's no real sense of satisfaction, and acceptance of ourselves. And so, the conflict is an indication something's not right. Then there's feeling unworthy. "I don't deserve that". And you have seen people like this and met people, and maybe you have congratulated them for something or you've given them something and you've told them how grateful you are, and what do they say? "Aw", you know, they say, "Aw, I don't deserve it, you shouldn't".
And so, they don't know how to accept congratulations. They don't know how to accept a gift, they don't know how to accept the fact that you think they're special, that you think they're worthy. They can't accept that somehow. Why? Not because of something you've done, but because of something they feel on the inside. They don't feel worthy of a gift. They don't feel worthy of your desire. And many people, for example, get into marriages, and they get into marriages that don't last because they never settle this. They never get this issue of a personal acceptance right.
And so, sometimes because they don't accept themselves, they don't allow someone else to accept them because they don't even know how. They can't even interpret it. And so, before long, they have a problem. There's conflict. Not with the other person, but within themselves. That is, the acceptance of oneself on the basis of spiritual things is very, very, very important. Then of course, there's the feeling of being not only unworthy, but insecure about themselves. If you're insecure about yourself, you're never quite happy.
I'll tell you what it's like. It's like walking like this. "I'm not too sure I'm going to put my foot in the right place". You don't feel at ease. These are not feelings that God intends for His children to have because if you've accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, He's going to make you adequate. He's going to enable you to be at peace with your surroundings, but many people are not. And of course, there's the feeling that they don't fit any group. They don't fit a Sunday school class at church. They don't fit at any group where they work or in their community. They just don't fit. If you ask them why, they can't tell you why.
Watch this, they have this feeling I don't fit. If you say, "Well, describe that for me", they can't tell you why. They just feel inadequate, they feel unloved, they feel unacceptable. And you ask them why, they can't tell you. They've never experienced the awesome, indescribable, unconditional love of Jesus Christ. He's the foundation of true, genuine love. And then, of course, many people don't feel loved by anybody. And this is one of the biggest problems today in our society. Children grow up, they have their college education paid for, they have an automobile, all the clothes they want, and all the rest, but they never got accepted at home as a part of the family.
Listen, watch this carefully, you can't give any substitutes for love. You can't give any substitutes for accepting somebody. You can't give any substitutes for just acknowledging who they are and accepting them as they are. There are no substitutes for that. And one of the major problems in our society is we don't accept each other. We can always come up with some reason to criticize and to blame, and rather than accept the fact that we're all different, we're not going to, and that no two people... it's just hard to believe, isn't it? All the billions of people in the world, no two of us are alike.
You think: well, surely there must be somebody out there like me, but usually the people who are arguing with that don't want anybody like them. They can't accept themselves. So, I'd ask you this simple question: do you accept yourself just like you are? This is who you are. God wants us to accept ourselves, listen, in His love, in His predetermined will, He wants us to accept ourselves. And when you trusted Him as your Savior, He didn't say, "Well look, there's a whole list over here I want to deal with now". No. He began to work in your heart, watch this, when you trusted Him as your Savior, the Holy Spirit came into your life. He sent Him to seal you unto the day of redemption, which means once you're a child of God, you're always a child of God.
You may not act like it, you may not look like it, you may not dress like it, you may not do anything, but you still are. And when you don't do the right things, His chastising hand comes upon you and you wonder: well, where's this love of God? That's what He's doing. Loving you by chastening you to get you back in line. So, God wants us to live in peace, and He wants us to have His peace and to be at peace with one another. Here's what I want you to remember. Are you listening? Say amen. When you and I carry with us negative attitudes about ourselves, we may think that that's just between us and nobody else. It's also between us and God. But now here's the bad thing: all those negative thoughts weigh on us. They're in your mind. All that negativism is in your brain, in your mind, and you're thinking about that.
You say, "Well, what's that got to do with"? Here's what it's got to do with: negative thinking about yourself, unloving thoughts about yourself weigh something. They weigh against you, and so you carry that with you. All of that trashy stuff weighs within a person's life, and this is why they are emotionally bent over. You may stand tall, but if you're not emotionally right on the inside, this is what happens. The real picture is this: because all of this negative thinking minus God, minus His love, minus what He thinks about you is weighing you down.
So, when I think about the fact that we battle these things all the time, and I think about children who grow up in a home with the mom and dad fussing at each other. No acceptance of each other, what does that child have? Child has a mind full of chaos, conflict, consternation, unloving, bad words, bad deeds, bad sights that they see, and they grow up with it. And we don't realize what this thinking does to us, and this is why we're to love God, we're to be at peace with Him, we're to be at peace with each other. Unless we're at peace with Him, we'll never be at peace with each other.
And so, people struggle to overcome these things, and they can dress up, drive the best, live the best, talk the best. But unless God has dealt with your thinking about yourself, watch this carefully, if somebody criticizes you, listening carefully? Say amen. If somebody criticizes you, that doesn't mean it's the truth. Doesn't mean it's the truth. God is the only true Judge. Now, sometimes all of us need to be corrected, but that's not, listen, correcting my attitude or my particular action or what I say, that's not who I am. Sometimes I may need correction, but I think about people who grow up in conflict, just constant conflict. And the reason I make an issue of that is because I grew up in that.
And I look back and realize how long it took me to get that, all of that out of my system. And we will act what we think, what we feel, and only God can deliver us. And when I went to see my stepfather and deal with my attitude toward him, set me free. I'd already been a pastor, but I knew something was wrong and wasn't right and I had to deal with it. And I had to go to see him and express what I felt in my heart and not blame him, but accept the fact that that my feelings toward him were not right and get that straight.
As long as you carry, watch this, you can't get rid of it unless you and God get rid of it. You can go to a psychologist, psychiatrist, and everything else. You and God must deal with negative attitudes that are nothing other than conflict, no peace. "My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled". Jesus made it very clear that the peace that He gives is peace that makes it possible for me to live among people, different people who are from other nations of the world. And we get along, why? Because we have one central figure, and that is Jesus Christ. He's the One who is the central figure. And that's the way God intends for us to live.
We, watch this, we accept each other because of who you are. Not because of what you do. All of us make mistakes. We don't always look our best, we don't always do our best. We accept each other because we belong to God and because Christ living within us. Listen, God intends for us to live submissive to His will so that He can express Himself through us to other people. And the fact that we don't is because we do not realize we're at war with ourselves. As long as you're at war with yourself, watch this, you cannot be at peace with others. You can't, it won't happen. And the reason we have such conflict today, I think about all the political conflict and all the racial conflict and all the religious conflict and all the national conflict. Conflict, conflict, conflict everywhere. Is that necessary? I don't think so.
You say, "Well, you don't know what you're talking about". I know this: wherever Jesus is, He can eliminate conflict. He can give us peace in our heart, acceptance of ourselves, and acceptance of each other. And one of the reasons we have problems accepting other people is we don't accept ourselves. When you're living with a mind full of conflict, it may have started in your home as a kid, small child. It may have started later on in life, but there's conflict, there's no peace. And if I should say today to you: can you name somebody in your life that, when you see them, you feel conflict. You may not do that, but your system does.
When you deal with people with whom you have conflict, your whole system is affected. Jesus said, "My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives give I unto you". You can't buy it, you can't trade it, you can't swap it. "My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled". What about it? Do you have real peace? Who is there in your life with whom you feel conflict, even today? Is it somebody who's already died and buried, body's in the grave? Still have conflict? Somebody that you married first, still have conflict? Your kids who went away to college and haven't written you a note or called you since they left? Your boss who fired you and you felt it was absolutely unnecessary and unfair.
Who is there in your life that still is there no matter what because you've not dealt with it? "My peace I give unto you", listen, when Jesus said that, Rome and the Jews were at terrible odds with each other. And yet, 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". He told us to love each other, not carry a load of guilt. And here's the thing that's such a burden to my own heart. When I see people who've grown up in families full of hatred, animosity, and conflict with each other, and coming along in life and facing life, and carrying all that with them.
When I think about it, it's really hard to believe that any two people could marry and be happy. If you think about where people've come from, the kind of homes they grew up in, and then they marry someone, and then what happens? If they haven't dealt with all the past, and all the past, and when all that's past meets, it's like an explosion. And we judge each other, accuse each other, want to leave each other, want to weep, want to hurt each other. And what we don't realize is all that started way back yonder. We didn't deal with it then because nobody talked to us about it. Got an education, never mentioned it. Now I have all of this stuff, where we live, what we drive. I have all of this reputation, all this big job, big this, big that. The conflict is still there.
Listen carefully, whatever has happened, no matter how you've been treated, you don't want to carry the weight. Listen, it doesn't come in pounds, it comes in tons: tons of weight of negative feelings and thoughts, ungodly feelings and thoughts, unforgiving feelings and thoughts. It's there, right here, right here... And if you'll ever have any peace in your life, you can't make enough money to buy it, drive enough big cars to buy it, live in a big enough home. The only one thing that can set you free is Jesus Christ. And when you surrender your life to Him, here's what happens: when you surrender your life to Him, He takes away all the guilt. He can take away all the hurt. Would you have to deal with it? Yes, you will. But He wants to clean you up. Whatever's in your heart that shouldn't be there, lay it down. Lay it down.
You say, "How do I do that"? You confess it to God, and you surrender it. Lord, I lay that down, I choose to ask You to take that out of my mind. I forgive whatever it takes, don't keep carrying the tonnage of unforgiveness, hurt, pain, grief in your life, when it doesn't belong there. "My peace I give unto you", Jesus said, "not as the world gives", because that doesn't work, "Not as the world give", "I give you my love, my peace, and my joy".
And that's the promise of Almighty God to those of us who will surrender our life to Him, yield ourselves to Him and let Him begin the healing process in our life. If you've never trusted Jesus as your Savior, remember this: you don't have the capacity to forgive. You may have a capacity to give a little bit, but it won't last. You need Jesus. You need to ask God to forgive you of your sin. And I trust that you'll be willing to ask the Lord to forgive you, cleanse you, set you free, and watch Him work. Amen?
Thank You, dear Lord, for the awesome power of Your Word when You said, "If we confess our sins, You're faithful and just", that means You always will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. All of these thoughts that weigh us down, in Jesus's name. Amen.