Steven Furtick - The Path of Peace
Let me just share with you from Luke 1:67-79, "His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 'Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel because He has come to His people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember His holy covenant, the oath He swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven'", somebody say, "Here comes heaven".
Tell your neighbor, "Watch out here it comes". 40% of you participated when I ask you to touch your neighbor. You don't like 'em? Look at 'em, say, "Here it comes". The priest Zechariah is speaking of the prophet John the Baptist, and he's now talking about Jesus, whom John the Baptist was pointing to, he said, "to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death", in the shadow of death, in that place of despair, "to guide our feet into the path of peace". That's my title for today: "The Path of Peace". And I won't make you talk to your neighbor one more time after this, but look at 'em and say, "You look like you need some of that peace that he is preaching about".
We have a challenge today to try to calm our minds and receive the message; I always wished as a preacher that I could have a metaphysical power to read your mind. I think that would be so helpful to do my job if I could see your stress level or even if you had a number like the beds that have the sleep number, what if I could see your stress number today, I could do it so much better, 'cause I could see like, are you at a seven or like a three... 'matter of fact, right now, what would you give your stress level, one to ten? Just in this moment.
So I'm hearing a three, who said three, you're not old enough to have a three stress level. You're supposed to be like 80 before you realize that all the crap you worry about isn't worth worrying about and then you can have a three stress level, where you just don't care. I can't wait to get old and just not care, that'd be great. You're too young for that. But somebody said 10. Did you say 10? And I'm not gonna ask you why. 'Fact I don't even have to. Alright, here's what we'll do, we'll do another one real quick, I know this is personal, but at every location play along, just close your eyes, get the thing on your mind that is the greatest source of stress in your life at this very moment and you better not be picturing me.
Alright, get it on your mind, what is the single greatest source of stress in your life? We'll broaden it a little bit, not in this very, very moment, but in this season of your life. Alright, got it? Now, open your eyes, you're gonna be shocked, but I know what you were thinking, I know this much: I know that the thing that you thought of, fell into one of the following four categories, okay? It was either related to, a place, a pace, a problem or a person. Or maybe people. Peoples. Just in general, all of them, every last one of them just human beings, homo-sapiens.
So it's either a place that you're going after this, but some of the stressful places that we will go this Christmas season, it could be a place, if you have to fly, certainly understand your dread for that experience. Just walk through the airport telling yourself, over and over again, "I'm not a human, I have no rights", and you'll be okay. The pace of life, I hear people mention this a lot. "How you doing"? "Busy. I'm busy. Busy, busy, busy, I'm busier than the one arm wallpaper hanger". Said that to me the other day. That's weird. "Busier than a three-legged cat trying to cover up his poop on ice". Somebody said to me. "Running around like a chicken with my head cut off". So violent. All I said was how are you doing and you're like decapitating chickens.
So it's like the pace of life, understand that if you've been running people everywhere, you've been like an unpaid Uber driver for a 13 year old, I understand. Sometimes it comes down to a problem in your life that is persistent and sometimes comes down to that you're pushing through right now, lot of people listening to me preach right now are having a hard time focusing with their minds because of the pain in their body. Or what can be even worse, somebody that you love that you can't do anything to comfort them and that can be difficult.
And really the fourth category that I mentioned, people; that's really the whole thing. Which is why when I asked you to imagine in your mind the source of your stress, the greatest source of your stress. I was very clear; I said, "imagine" because some of you would have started pointing if I would have let you. Which is a bad idea; like, some of you are sitting next to what you perceive to be the source. See, you should look really confused right now is my advice. I think it's important before we begin a discussion on the path of peace to try to talk about the source of stress because whatever you identify as the source of your stress determines where you will seek your peace. Amen. I'm gonna say that again. Whatever you say, "This is the source of my stress", that regulates and determines where you seek your peace.
And so the Christmas story, of course, comes along and challenges us in all of those ways that we experience stress and pressure. Christ is born to challenge us as it relates to our expectation of peace. The Jewish people had a very particular expectation of the kind of peace that the Messiah would bring. Zechariah states it very clearly and paints a picture of the kind of peace that the Jewish people were looking for God to bring through the prophesied Messiah. It features such expectations as mentioned in verse 74, he says that this Messiah "will rescue us from the hand of our enemies", notice the word "from"; the expectation of peace for the Jewish people is that God would deliver them from their circumstances, from their oppression, from their being marginalized, from their poverty, from their despair, and from their darkness.
It was surprising then for me to see the shift that Zechariah made in verse 79 where he said that the rising sun will "shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death", and so it represents a shift in perspective that God does not always rescue me FROM, sometimes He visits me IN my trouble. And for so many years, I have thought that the thief of my peace was other people, or certain places or the schedule of my life, which is kinda funny 'cause I'm the one who said yes to all that stuff that I'm stressed about. And so I'm now asking God to take away the things that I committed to and I've tried so long, you know, to arrange my life in such a way that I would no longer experience those stressful events and stressful people and if God would just change them and if just everybody would act the way they should act for a little while this Christmas.
But the Lord has been speaking to me in these last few days about the path of peace and what I realize the more I reflected on this promise of peace that God gives us, Isaiah 9:6, "His name will be called Wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father and the Prince of peace". But notice the prophet didn't call Him the Prince of convenience. Or the Prince of ease, or the Prince of comfort or the Prince of my preferences, because a lot of times, when God promises me peace, what I hear in translation is that God is promising me convenience, or God is promising me ease, or God is promising me my preference being met. But the Lord has been speaking to me and maybe you don't need to hear this, but just in case you do, it is impossible to experience peace when you are expecting perfection.
See my problem, I'm coming to realize this, it's not other people, it's not the place, it's not the pace, and it's not the problem, the problem is not the problem, like I can tell you the problem is not the problem because Jesus was born in a manger. The angel appeared to shepherds, so the shepherds were the people that you would least expect the Harold to make the announcement of the birth of the Son of God, and yet He showed up to the least likely people in an unlikely place. So it's not the people, it's not the place, it's not the pace, the shepherds were always on the move from place to place to place to place, it's not the place, it's not the pace, it's not the people, it's not the problem, here's my problem, my problem is that I can't receive peace because I'm expecting perfection.
And the angel said, are y'all gonna help me preach or is it just me today? I make it quick, here's the whole message, if you need to go, if you got things to do, I'll give it to you right now and you can go on and get to Target and hopefully, everything will turn out alright. The enemy of your peace is not the people, it is not other places, it is not how fast life is or the way the world is; the enemy of your peace is your insistence on perfection. And when heaven came down and appeared to humanity, it was not in the form of perfection, in fact, God did not come down looking like a deliverer, He came down looking like a dependent, He came down as baby.
And so when the Prince of peace came, He didn't come dressed in power, He came in Pampers, why? Because God wanted you to know that He's going to bring you peace, but not like you expected Him to bring it. It's not gonna look like you pictured it. It's not always gonna fit your preferences. It's not always going to live up to your exact specifications of the performance of people. So if I'm going to live at peace, I've got to surrender my expectation of perfection. I feel like I can leave. Every Christmas party is gonna so much better that you attend because of what I just told you. Every place you set your foot over the next three days, is gonna be so much more peaceful because you just realized that peace isn't found in a place, peace is not found in a set of circumstances that is problem free, it is not that He delivers me from it, it's that He meets me.
Can I show you something real quick? He said that He will guide us with the light in the valley. He didn't take us out of the valley, "Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil". I'm at peace on the path. Why? Not because I'm not going through it, but because I'm not going through it alone. See, there's somebody with me that is greater than what's against me. The path to peace, it's a strange path that God would send His Son as a child, that God would burst the eternal cosmos and enter into creation in the form of the most imperfect being.
I know some of you disagree, 'cause I hear you saying things about babies that I just don't personally agree with and we can agree to disagree, it's Christmas, we just, you just, "Oh, she's, he's so perfect". If you say that, you've never taken one home. That's what I know. Huh? And so it's a strange path to peace, you know, God wants to come and set things right, He should come down as a warrior. Not a weakling. Why not skip that stage. Jesus shoulda come 24 years old, full of testosterone, and yet He comes tiny, infant, into a desperate place, you know the story about Joseph, waited to the last minute to Air BnB for the census, ended up in a cold place and the presence of God was born there.
The path to peace, it's a strange one, that the path to peace for Jesus would lead through Gethsemane where He would pray, "God, if there's any other way than Me going and experiencing their wrath from Your hand for them, let this cup pass from Me". A path for peace for us would lead Jesus though the Kidron valley where He would ultimately as we come to understand more than Zechariah understood in Luke 1 whose prophesying about his own son, John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus, Who would guide us in the path to peace. But the path to peace with God, for us, lead Jesus to a hill, where He died at the hands of sinful men, and it's a strange path to peace, we have to admit.
That He would come in weakness and die in weakness to become our strength, it's a path to peace, it's a strange thing about peace because whatever you identify as the source of your stress determines what you consider the source of your peace. And that's why I don't like to blame people for my stress. 'Cause if people brought me the stress, then I need people to change for me to have peace. But I'm past the point in my life of wanting for people to have to act a certain way for me to have peace in my own heart.
And I love what the angel said, as Abby was quoting that Scripture and she was, did it perfectly and I don't even wanna do it myself 'cause she did it so good and I don't want to do, I don't want to mess it up, but she said, "And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not for behold I bring you good news of great joy'". Because the first thing that the shepherds felt in the field when the announcement of Jesus Christ came forth from the angel was not faith, it was fear. See, we think that the presence of God is always going to make us feel better and comfortable, but the first thing the shepherds felt was fear.
See, they found peace, but they found it through fear; peace did not come to them directly, it had to pass through their fear, and they found God in the place of their greatest fear, in the fields where they were keeping the sheep from predators at night, they were lowly people in a lonely place and here comes the angel says, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace". Now notice this, the peace is on earth, but it's not from earth. The peace is on earth, but it's not of earth.
See I don't want this plastic peace that comes from people. I've learned that if the peace comes from people, people can take it away. If it comes from situations, situations can change and take it away, so I don't want a peace that comes from a promotion at work, I don't want a peace that comes from a convenient circumstance, I don't even want a peace that comes from a feeling, I don't want a peace that comes from a situation. I want a peace that the world didn't give and the world can't take it away. Come on give Him praise if you got an unshakeable peace, an unspeakable joy.
I read that Scripture all week, the path to peace, what is it that I need to get out of the way in my life to experience peace. So I'm not running around all the time, just concentrating on all the missing pieces. And now I'm missing peace 'cause all I can see is the pieces I'm missing. 'Cause when you're a perfectionist like I am, Enneagram type 1, the thing that God will give you as a prescription for your perfectionism is children. And I am on a dosage of three children. Three children per day guarantees that there will never be a moment in your house that is completely peaceful.
I'm telling you right now, I can count on zero toes how many times in the last seven years I've had three peaceful children, all at the same time in one house. So you know what I'm learning to have to do? I'm having to learn to take my peace in pieces. Because if I wait until everything is peaceful, if I wait until every child is happy, if I wait until everyone is getting along, if I'm waiting for peace, if I'm waiting for every child to bow their head and say the blessing and clear their dishes and thank their mom, I've learned to celebrate God if just one kid puts the bowl in the sink, forget about the dishwasher, that's a Red Sea, Old Testament miracle, just in the sink, even in the sink is a blessing, I'll celebrate one bowl in the sink.
See this Christmas, you can't wait for everybody to get along, if there's even a piece of peace, you gotta thank God for it and snatch and take it and celebrate it. Because watch this, Zechariah didn't say He'll show us the path to peace, give me my Scripture this is the best Christmas Scripture I ever saw in my life, 79, "He guides our feet into the path of peace". It's not the path to peace, 'cause that means that peace is out there somewhere, but it's not the path to peace, I've been living my life, God forgive me, when I get through this season, "oh, ufff". I get through 2018... what? Calendar isn't gonna fix any chaos in your life. The same dude you let steal your peace all last year is gonna be standing right there at your window in 2019.
So I'mma have peace, y'all my kids get older, they won't need so much. Now they gonna be driving and you gonna have a lot of peace then, when they're out on the road on your insurance. That's why I can't project my peace out here, or I can't project my peace on people or I can't project my peace on a certain place, it's not the path to peace, that's not the message of Christmas, when God came down to be born of a virgin and was wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, He didn't promise a path to peace as in a future event that will happen when; it's not a when-then-peace, it's not a one-day-peace, it's not a someday fairytale beauty and the beast peace, it's not a when I get married peace, it's not a when I sent the kids off peace, its' not when I pay my student loans off peace, it's not a when I get through Christmas peace, it's not a when my in-laws leave peace.
It's not the path to peace; it's the path of peace. What does that mean? Every step I take, He's with me, every move I make, He's with me, every season of my life He's present. So watch this, I'm not waiting for it; I'm walking in it. Touch somebody say, "Walk in it". That's the Christmas sermon, change my title, I told you it was called The Path of Peace, but I want you to tell 'em when they ask you, "What did the preacher preach about today at your church, the evolution that you went to on the Christmas"? Tell 'em, "He told me walk in it. Stop waiting for it, stop waiting for it and start walking in it".
You hear me, Nairobi? Walk in it. You hear me, Toronto? Walk in it. You hear me, Roanoke? Walk in it. You hear me, Matthews? Walk in it. You hear me, Winston-Salem? Walk in it. You hear me, Riverwalk? Walk in it. You hear me, Blakeney? Walk in it. You hear me, Ballantyne? Walk in it. You might have to walk through a valley, but you don't have to lie down and die. You don't have to curl up in a fetal position and wait for this season to be over. I don't have time to trip, I'm preaching about Jesus. It's doesn't matter what the devil puts in my path, I'm on it. I'm on it. I'm on it. Glad I almost tripped. I didn't plan it, but I'm gonna use it. 'Cause some of y'all got some people waiting for you when you leave church and if you're not careful you're gonna trip, but get your balance back and fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Walk in it.