Craig Groeschel - Is Peace Even Possible in 2020?
Well, this happens to be my birthday week. Does anybody care? My birthday week. When you're a kid, you have a birthday, but when you're my age, you have a birthday week. You squeeze it for all you can get out of it. So, this week, my office team gave me my annual cinnamon roll. That's what they did. They came into my office, they sang happy birthday to me and they gave me my annual cinnamon roll. I blew out the candle and they said, "Do you want to make a wish"? Which was kind of funny. I don't know if I've made a wish since I was a kid. They said, "Do you want to make a wish"? And so, I thought, I'll make a wish. And I made a wish. I'm not gonna tell you what it is because if you do, it may not come true. I'm actually not superstitious at all, but just for fun, I made a wish.
And it brought to mind the question, I wonder what you would wish for if you had one wish. If you could wish for anything, and you would have that wish come true, what would you wish for? So I asked some friends, just for fun, if you could have one wish, what would you wish? And some people said, "Yeah, I'd like a lot of money". Which is really not a bad wish, because if you have a lot of money you can help a lot of people, right? You can be generous, and you can enjoy the blessings, and money buys time, and create options. And it's not a bad thing, but we know money doesn't buy happiness. So it's not the best wish, but it's not a bad wish.
One girl said, "I'd wished for a husband. I'd wished to be married". Does anybody here wish you were married? You're not married, you wish you were. Raise your hand up. Any campus raise them up. Raise them up high right now. Raise them high. Hey, look around the room right now. You never know, God might've brought you here today to help your wish come true, you might make a little divine connection. Not a bad wish. It's a pretty good wish. Some people said, "Well, I would wish for beauty, or for happiness, or for health, or for fame". Or, one person said the classic, "I would wish for more wishes. That's illegal, but that's what I would wish for, I would wish for more wishes". You can't do that.
I want to show you something today from the New Testament that is incredibly emotional to me. It's Christmas season, and when the angels came to announce the birth of Christ, who remembers what the angel said? The angel said, "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth". Somebody say peace on earth. Peace on earth. You can type that in the chat if you want, peace on earth. The angel said, "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth". What's interesting is, when Jesus would talk to people, greet them in coming or in going, he would often say, "Peace be with you". Or after something would happen, even something traumatic, he would say, "Now go in peace".
When you think about the apostle Paul, he often said in his writings, he would start a letter and he would say, "Grace," and what? He would say, "Grace and peace be with you". What's so interesting to me is to think about that. He said, "Grace and peace". Think about all the other options that he could have said, but he didn't say, in his greetings. He could have said grace and popularity, because a lot of people want popularity. He could have said grace and power, or grace and riches, or grace and Tik Tok fame, right? But he didn't. What he said was, "Grace and peace be with you".
I would submit to you that what so many people really want in life, and don't even know that they really want it or need it, is they want peace, real peace. A peace that the world wouldn't even understand. A peace from heaven. A divine peace that only God can give, because, I don't know if you know this or not, but you can have money in the bank but no peace in your heart. You can be successful on the outside, right? But incredibly empty on the inside. You can be married, but not have peace in your home. And don't say, amen right now or nod real big, or you may not have peace in your home for a long time. I would argue, what a lot of people want, and they don't even know they want it, is a peace that only comes from God. But what so many of us have is not peace, we actually have the opposite. We've got tension. Don't we? A lot of us, we're afraid, and we're anxious.
When you think about your relationships with your family and your friends, what do you want? You want peace, don't you? You want harmony, you want to understanding, but so often we have the opposite. We have misunderstandings, don't we? We have disagreements. We have hurt feelings. We have bitterness. We have unforgiveness. I would submit to you, what so many people really want and really need is peace in life. The title of this message is a question, the question is, is peace even possible in 2020? And I want to show you from God's Word, it is, and invite you to pray with me today.
Father, thank you for every person at a Life.Church location, and every person streaming online. In a very complicated season of pain, and loss, and tension, and fear, we ask God, as we cast our cares on you and pray today, that you would open up the windows of heaven and pour out a peace upon your people that goes beyond our human ability to understand. God, may your word and your spirit bring comfort today. May we experience your peace, the peace of God. In the name of your son, Jesus, we pray, and everybody said, amen, amen.
What I want to do today is I want to show you a portion of one of my favorite scriptures from the Old Testament, from the book of Isaiah in the 26th chapter. I'll give you a little context of Isaiah 26. In a season much like today, of fear and unsettledness, the prophet Isaiah prophesied of a day of unbridled worship, filled with peace, and passion, and praise, for the goodness of God. He said this in verse one of the 26th chapter, he said, "In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song. Our city is strong. We're surrounded by the walls of God's salvation. Open the gates to all who are righteous, allow the faithful to enter".
Then he said in verse three, he said, "You will keep in perfect peace," somebody say perfect peace. He said, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you. You will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in the Lord, all those whose thoughts are fixed on him". He says, "Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal rock". I love this promise. I want this promise. I need this promise. You will be kept in perfect peace, the peace of God that comes from heaven.
Now I don't know about you, but I'm way more familiar with imperfect peace or inconsistent peace. Can anybody relate? I can have peace one moment, and even pray a prayer to God, and trust God with something, and hand this burden off to God, and be fine for about three minutes, and then suddenly I'm kind of like, "God, why haven't you done what I asked you to do? God where are you"? I could have a moment of just joy, and tranquility, and sense the presence of God, and moments later be overcome with a sense of anxiety, and dread, and fear, and personal insecurity. I'm way more familiar with inconsistent peace or imperfect peace. And yet, God promises something called perfect peace.
What is perfect peace? The word peace in the Old Testament comes from a really rich Hebrew word, it's the word shalom. It's actually a Jewish greeting. In both coming and going someone might say to you, "Shalom". And this word means way more than just peace, it means wholeness, it's completeness, it's the fullness of peace. It's peace in every way. It's the complete and perfect peace. It's peace with God. In other words, there's never this internal sense of fear or dread of, "Where do I stand with God, and have I done something to think that he wouldn't love me? Have I gone too far? Is my shame to great"? It's peace with God, it's peace with other people. Never a worry of where do we stand, or why are we bitter at each other? It's peace with yourself.
That dark spot in your past that you're so ashamed of, the thing that you did today that you wish you hadn't done, the thought you had, it's peace with yourself. "I'm okay, I'm good with God". It's peace with your circumstances, even when your circumstances aren't what you'd ever want them to be. It's shalom, it's complete, whole peace from God. What's so interesting to me is the original Hebrew text in Isaiah, it says this, I'm gonna tell you exactly what it says. It says, "You will be kept in shalom, shalom". The word shalom actually appears twice. This is an emphatic statement in the Hebrew language. It's saying, you get a double portion of peace. In other words, God says, "I will give you your portion of peace, and I'll give you even more than you need". It's perfect peace. It's a piece that goes beyond our human ability to understand.
Now, I want to be clear, peace does not mean that you won't have trouble in this world. Jesus was really, really clear. I hate to tell you, but he said in John 16:33, he said, "In this world you will have trouble". That's what he said. It doesn't mean you won't have problems, it doesn't mean that nothing's ever going to break. Doesn't mean your kids aren't ever gonna get in a fight on the way to church. Doesn't mean your spouse isn't gonna get on your nerves, like I got on Amy's nerves when I unloaded the dishes and put them in the wrong place, and she didn't like that they were in the wrong place.
And you're thinking right now, "Well, at least you unloaded the dishes". Which is exactly what I thought, but I'm not gonna bring that up right now because I want to be in perfect peace when I get home. Peace doesn't mean you're not gonna have a difficult time. What is shalom, shalom? The perfect peace of God. We need to understand that peace isn't found in the absence of problems, but peace is found in the presence of God. It's shalom, shalom. Peace is God's presence. It's God's perspective. It's God's assurance, even when life is anything but what you want it to be.
And some of you right now, you may want to push back a little bit like, "Yeah Pastor Craig, your little perfect wife, and your prefect little live blah, blah, blah, blah". My marriage sucks right now. Where's peace in that? My body is wrecked right now. Where's peace in that? I'm trying to hold it together financially, and Christmas is coming up, and the bills are stacking, where's peace in that? I've got a child struggling right now on drugs, or there's pornography in my home. Where's peace in that? I'm scared to death with good reason. How, like how, not just the promise, how do you experience the shalom, shalom of God?
I want to show you in scripture how you experience that peace. We need to understand that the battle for peace, it begins in our minds, that there's a war in your mind. How many of you say there's a war in your mind? There is in mine all the time. I can know the truth of God, but then my mind wanders into all sorts of untruths, or, even better yet, I can believe wholeheartedly the truth and the promises of God for you, but I doubt them when they come to me. There's a war going on in my mind between what God says and what my mind tends to wrongly believe. The battle for peace begins in your minds.
And that's why I'm want to show you two different versions of this powerful truth in Isaiah 26 verse three. Let's look at the New Living Translation, it's translated this way, that, "You will keep in perfect peace all whose thoughts are fixed on you, God". They're fixed on the truth of God. They're focused on God, they're fixed on God. The NIV says it this way, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast". Notice what Isaiah doesn't say, you have perfect peace if your thoughts are fixed on him, he doesn't say, you'll have perfect peace when your mind is fixed on CNN, or Fox News, cover my bases, all of you, both my conservative friends and my liberal friends, right?
It doesn't say you're gonna have perfect peace when your mind is fixed on the future. Doesn't say you're gonna have perfect peace whenever your mind is fixed on your financial problems. Doesn't say you're gonna have perfect peace when your mind is focused on the bad news from your doctor. No, you'll have perfect peace when your mind is fixed and focused on the truth of God. In fact, I like the Hebrew word that's translated as fixed, it's the word samak, and this word means to lean on completely. It means to fully rest oneself. Imagine like this was God, much bigger and stronger, this is what it is with your mind, it's leaning your mind on God. You could literally translate this verse, you will have perfect peace when you lean completely on, when your mind is resting on God's promises.
This is perfect peace. Perfect peace is when your thoughts are resting on God's unfailing promises. My question for you is this, what's your mind fixed on? Like for real, what's your mind fixed on? Some of you might say, "Well, there's this cute girl at the gym". I'm not talking about her, that's a different sermon, okay? That's my lust sermon. It's called, the porn battle plan. That's a different sermon. I'm talking about, where does your mind drift to? Whenever you have idle time, where does your mind drift to, what do you focus on? What consumes your mind?
Some of you might say financial worries consume your mind. Some might say political division consumes your mind, or it might be COVID fears consume your mind. Maybe your mind is consumed with what's going wrong in the world right now, or what could go wrong in the world right now, or what you don't like, or what you dread, or that annoying person on social media. Just hit unfollow in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and be set free in Jesus name, okay? What do you do? You'll be kept in perfect peace those whose mind are fixed on God.
Scripture says this, Paul in the New Testament, so powerful, Philippians chapter four, verse eight and nine, he says this, he says, "Fix your thoughts," not on whatever creates fear, not on what gives you anxiety, not on the bad news of this world, but, "fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable". What do you do? "Think about those things that are excellent and worthy of praise". And when your mind is fixed on God, when your mind is fixed on what's true, when your mind is fixed on what's admirable and worthy of praise, then the God of, what? The God of peace will be with you. The God of peace.
When is the God of peace with you? When your minds are fixed on him. What do I tell myself? My God is good, he is always good. There is nothing gooder than my God. His promises are true. His word never, ever fails. Who is God? When I'm lost, he's my guide. When I'm weak, he's my strength. When I'm hurting, he's my comforter. Fix your minds on God. Ask yourself, "Who shall separate me from the love of God in Christ? Shall trouble, or hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword"? We could modernize Roman eight and say, or relational tension, or loneliness, or anxiety, or loss, or depression, or fear. "No, in all these things," what are we? "We are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus who loved us".
I am convinced, with everything in my mind, completely convinced, "Neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all creation will be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus". My mind is fixed on him. And when my mind is fixed on him, he offers me shalom, shalom. It's the perfect peace of God that the world will not understand, because it's the peace the world can't find. This is what Jesus said in John 14:27, so powerful, he said, "Peace I leave with you". And then he says something I don't want you to miss, he said, "My peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. And because I give you my peace," he says, "do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid".
Notice this, Jesus says, "My peace I give to you". He's not giving you a peace, he's giving you his peace. And peace is not found in the absence of problems, peace is found in the presence of God. There's a powerful story in the New Testament. When the disciples were out on a boat and a big storm blew up. The storm was so massive, the disciples were afraid for their lives. "What's gonna happen? We're probably going to die out here at sea". And they did what I would do, they started freaking out. Ah! And what was Jesus doing? He was taking a nap. Jesus was taking a nap. What's interesting to me is there were really two storms on that day, two storms. There was the one that was visible to the eye, the thunder, the lightning, the wind, the waves, the visible storm.
And there was a second storm, and that was the storm, not on the outside, but the storm on the inside. And I don't know how it is for you, but so many times the storm on my inside is way, way harder to manage than the storm on the outside. I can look fine to you, but the storm on the inside sometime is consumed with fear, anxiety, and doubt, and worry. It was a storm on the inside that led the disciples to cry out, "Jesus, don't you even care? We're gonna die". Some of you right now, it's the storm on the inside, it's bringing about your doubts. And, "God, are you there? Do you notice? I prayed, I've cried out. I'm waiting. I'm looking. I don't see you. You're just taking a nap". And Jesus walks out calmly, maybe stretches, in the middle of the storm, and with the power from God declares, "Peace, be still". You can't speak what you don't have. Jesus, who is peace, gives you his peace, and you can be kept in perfect peace when your mind is fixed on him.
Can I be dead honest with you today? I know this truth, and have believed this truth, but have not always experienced the perfect peace, but this year, and most recently, I found God's Word to be absolutely and completely true, that his perfect peace is available, even amidst the most difficult circumstances. I'll try to explain to you that I've been on a really intense journey of training my mind, scripture would call it renewing your mind with God's truth. And it's incredibly intentional because my mind honestly needed it. And so, it's a daily routine. And Amy can tell you, she'll tell you, "He's done it and it's made a difference". It starts out first thing in the day, my YouVersion Bible app.
My mind is in the word, letting the word renew my mind, and I'm fixing my thoughts on God, praying, "God, renew my mind, direct my thoughts". Very, very intentional. Then as the day goes on, I'm not proud to tell you, but oftentimes my first thoughts are really negative. Meaning there'll be like, "Today's gonna be a hard day", or, "oh my gosh, this is so difficult," or, "I got to do this again," or, "that person just was rude to me," or, "I can't believe I got to," my thoughts start out on a negative side.
And so, what I have to do is capture those thoughts, what scripture says, and make them obedient to Christ. I force them out of my mind and replace them with truth, and say things like, "No, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. No, God is blessing me coming and going. No, my heart is filled with love toward people, and no matter how they treat me, I'm always going to be a blessing to them". And so, I capture the thoughts and replace them with truth. Then at the end of the day, I get out my little five-year journal and I write on there where I saw God working and what I'm grateful for. Even in the middle of the day, where it's chaotic, and painful, and disappointing, I can always find something to be grateful for, and I've been renewing my mind.
And over the last two weeks, in one of the more painful and complicated seasons of my life, I experienced the shalom, shalom of God in a way that I can barely understand. I'll try to explain it to you. My oldest daughter, Katie, was pregnant, and a little over eight weeks early, on a Sunday morning, she said, "I'm having pain," and they rushed her to the hospital. They said she was dilated to a nine, and Katie had had two previous C-sections, so the baby was too far in the canal to have a C-section, and so, at great risk to her, they had to go natural birth.
And so, Amy and I were at home unable to go and visit my daughter in the hospital, over eight weeks early, in a very risky situation for her and for her baby. At the very same moment, my pastor, who I've talked about so many times, Pastor Nick Harris, was in the hospital fighting for his life. And his family couldn't be there, and of course, we couldn't be there. Two people that I love with all my heart, and we couldn't, we couldn't be with them. So we did what we could, and we prayed, and then we felt ridiculously helpless, like, what good is that going to do? We just want to be there.
And Amy and I just grabbed hands, and we started praising God, and thanking God. Let me tell you what, that's real praise. It's easy to praise God when things are good, it's real easy to praise God when things are going your way, but real praise is when you can thank him, even when you're in the middle of the storm. That's the kind of praise the devil hates, that's the kind of praise that makes the demons flee. And we praised God and we worshiped God when we couldn't be with the people that we loved. And all I can tell you is, heaven opened up and shalom, shalom, entered our rooms, and our hearts, and we felt a peace that goes beyond our ability to ever explain.
I'll show you baby Spencer, baby Spencer was born over two weeks ago and is still in ICU, but baby Spencer is progressing. What's interesting, as one baby was born into this world, angels in heaven welcomed my pastor, who lived a life that honored God, and he received his well done and good and faithful servant, from God in heaven. And his family is with us today in this service, and my prayer is that you feel the peace of God, knowing that Nick honored God. He's our perfect peace. It's a perfect peace. It's the goodness of God.
So if you're going through a loss, a hurt, a pain, a fear, I pray the words from Philippians chapter four verses six and seven would minister to your hearts as they have to mine, too many times to count, when Paul said this, from a Roman prison awaiting possible execution, the apostle Paul said, "Do not be anxious about anything". Whatever it is that's weighing you down, whatever it is that's gripping your heart, don't be anxious about that. "But in every situation," when there are babies being born, and when the person's going home. When the doctor's news is good, or when the doctor's news is bad. When the bank account's high or when the bank account's low. When your marriage is on a high, or when your marriage is falling apart.
"In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving," with real praise, "present your request to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus". It's the peace of God. Did you see that? It's the peace of God. It's not the peace of this world, it's not the peace of having money in the bank. It's not the peace of when everything's going the way you want it, it's the peace of God. In other words, the world can't give it, and the world can't take it away, because this is a peace that is not from this world, this is a peace that only comes from God.
Peace isn't the absence of heartache, it's not the absence of loss. It's not being void of disappointment, it is the presence of God. So whatever you're going through right now, fix your thoughts on him. Think about what's good, think about what's pure, and your mind will be kept in shalom, shalom, as you focus on the one who is peace and the one who is always good. Cast your cares on him because he cares for you. He is with you now, and maybe this word is for you. He is a gift, peace on earth. Peace be with you, go in peace, grace and peace for you. It's a piece from heaven and it's available for you. Shalom, shalom. May God's peace that passes all understanding, guard your hearts, and your minds, and your souls.
So Father, we ask for that peace from heaven. In all of our churches today, those who need it in some area of your life, would you just slip up your hand right now? Just slip up your hand. I need his peace, I need his peace. Father, I pray for my church family, that they would experience from you what only comes from you, peace in the middle of fear, peace in the middle of doubt, peace in the middle of anxiety, peace in the middle of the storm. Peace in the middle of loss, peace in the middle of sickness. God, because you're good, we trust in you. We thank you God, we thank you, that even though Jesus said, "In this world we'll have trouble," we can rejoice and take heart because you have overcome this world. And this world is not all we have, we know God, with you in heaven, one day there'll be no more crying, no more tears, no more brokenness, no more pain, no more sickness. Shalom, shalom, the peace of God. Now God, may your peace guard our hearts and our minds. May we experience your goodness now, even as we pray.
As you keep praying today, shalom, I told you it means peace in every form and fashion, there's some of you right now, if I talked about, where do you stand with God? Are you at peace? You might say, "I'm not sure," or, "maybe not". And this was 100% my story growing up. I went to church, but I didn't have peace with God. I continued just to wonder, have my sins been too much or too bad? But let me tell you what my pastor taught me, my pastor taught me that you're made right with God by grace and grace alone. Jesus is the Son of God who never, ever sinned, he's perfect in every way. He was the innocent, perfect, sinless sacrifice, who gave his life on a cross. He died in our place, for our sins, and God raised him from the dead.
My pastor taught me, it was Jesus plus nothing. It's not Jesus plus religion, it's not Jesus plus good works, it's not Jesus plus generosity, it's Jesus plus nothing. My pastor taught me that Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship, from a loving God who loves you. And I know right now, there is someone who needs this message, because you feel far from God, distant from God, separated from God. And you are one prayer, one moment away from peace, forgiveness, love, and grace, of a God who's reaching out to you. At all of our churches, or those of you watching online, who say, "Yes, I know I've sinned. I'm ashamed. I've done some things wrong".
When you call out on the name of Jesus, he'll hear your prayer, he'll forgive your sins, he'll make you brand new. There's some of you, this is the very reason you're watching today, because God is reaching out to you. He's ready to forgive you, he's ready to transform you, he's ready to be at peace with you, he loves you. All of our churches, those who say, "Yes, I need forgiveness. I'm turning away from my sins. I'm surrendering and submitting my life to Jesus. Jesus, my prayer is this, I give my life to you". That's your prayer. You need his grace, you need his forgiveness. You're committing your life to Jesus.
Would you lift your hands high right now? All of our churches, and say yes. We've got people here, and here as well. All of our churches, as you say yes. Those of you that are watching online, just type in the chat, I'm giving my life to Jesus. Just type it in the chat right now. I need his grace, I'm giving my life to Jesus, and it would be a joy for all of you, wherever you are, to pray with those around you. Just pray out loud, pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive all of my sins. Jesus, save me and make me new. Fill me with your spirit so I could follow you. My life is not my own, I give it all to you. Thank you for peace. Help me to share your peace. Help me to share your love. Thank you for new life. In Jesus name I pray.
Can somebody celebrate big? Welcome those born into God's family.