Sunday 14th January 2024
Romans 15:33 NIV – 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Interestingly today. I’m Opening our sermon with the same verse intend to use as the Benediction at the end. I hadn’t chosen this verse until yesterday. Although for the last few weeks. Months.. I have been searching for it. Peace.
Of late I’ve felt like I have lost my peace. And especially at night when I find it hard to drift off to sleep. Something which I used to be able to do in a matter of minutes.
However though. As I lay my head down for sleep my thoughts run wild. Worry. Fear. Wonder. Self doubt. Decisions.. they all demand my headspace. Causing if I could describe it in one word. Confusion.
It didn’t help when we went over seas and new worries and stresses joined the dance of confusion in my mind. Nut bush city.
It wasn’t until the first or second week.
Overseas. That I realised I missed the Son. It’s light, it’s warmth. It’s simple presence in my life. missed It’s comfort it provides me. And when it was out. It was beautiful. I would try and bask in it. Take it all in.
This in turn with the help of the word son, got me thinking spiritually. It also made me realise I missed Christ in my heart. I was still praying all be it, my prayers became routine. More chore than a will. However, I wasn’t reading any scripture and my conversations with god were not as frequent and I leant more on my own understanding and my own ways to try fix my moods.
Don’t get me wrong. I never not stopped believing in Christ. It’s just I felt distant from him. Sure we all go through it. It’s part of our growth in Christ and it’s not something we all experience. The Key word here is I felt. As God we know is always there. I felt Not good enough for him. I felt Lazy. I felt left behind. And unable to be comforted by him. I was Stagnant in my faith. Depressed.
At this same time I could also see how I was more irritable. Stressed. Agitated and easily triggered into frustration and anger. Especially when things didn’t go as I wanted or I thought should. I can see the clear link between the two. But it felt like effort to fix. Every night as I lay my head down. The thoughts, with majority negative were louder than the ones trying to speak reason. Questioning my past Days acts as a Dad and a Husband and in turn Christian.
Where is my peace. I’m a Christian. Christ promises it too us. To me. Why couldn’t I feel it. Why can’t I achieve it to go to sleep calm and peaceful. As the less you get the more confused and irritable you get. And I had to walk over 20000 steps the nest morning on cobble stone streets. See that. The world and the confusion it brings even started to cause resentment for where I was. Walking the streets of History with my family. Should have been a joy! But we are in a daily spiritual battle. Consider how precious a soul must be when both God and the devil are after it.” Charles Spurgeon
The confusion of the world had been easily leading me a stray from God, his word and his peace. An unknown author once said,
There is nothing in this world that can trouble you as much as your own thoughts.”
Combine that with the stresses of life and your surrounds. There’s not much quality room left for anything else
One night awake. Whilst amongst my own thoughts scrolling through social media for my comfort in my search for peace. I came across a survey.
In 2021 a study was commenced where they polled 40,000 people ages 8 to 80. They wanted to see how people were engaging in Scripture. As they compiled the results, they made a profound discovery they were not even looking for when they originally planned the survey.
The study indicated that when people engaged in the Scripture once a week, which could include a pastor instructing the congregation to “open your Bibles…”, there was negligible effect on some key areas of their life. The same result was true if people engaged in the Scriptures two times a week. The result equalled little to no effect.
Three times a week saw a small indication of life. There was a slight pulse, a faint heartbeat. Something moved in the behaviour of the person engaging in Scripture.
The eye opener happened when Bible engagement reached at least four times a week.
A steady climb of impact would have been expected, but that was not the case. The level was basically stagnant over days one and two, with a small bump on day three. But when day four was reached, the effects spiked in an astounding way. The stunning findings included the following:
Feeling lonely drops 30%
Anger issues drop 32%
Bitterness in relationships drops 40%
Alcoholism drops 57%
Sex outside of marriage drops 68%
Feeling spiritually stagnant drops 60%
Viewing pornography drops 61%
Sharing your faith jumps 200%
Discipline others jumps 230%
The research literally leaps off the charts. The findings hammer home the truth that there are profound differences between people who engage the Scripture at least four times a week and those who engage with the Scripture less often
I was instantly caught by this as in my stagnation I even tried reading some Scripture versus on the odd occasion but I hadn’t reached day 4. Let alone the 3rd day.. But still felt no change and it’s so much easier to read the news or check out Instagram on your phone and scroll up than to open my bible app and read.
With this new information I wanted to test it. I promised my self. I would read the bible for 4 days minimum to see if I could feel a change. I started reading Luke. I did it. Though the first 3 days I found it took effort to actually stop at night and read the bible. After the 4th day I wouldn’t say it was a life changing moment but I felt a change in me and a natural desire to keep reading the bible and it was allot easier to open the bible app and keep reading.
I did feel closer to God again and voiced more meaningful prayers. But the real Epiphany didn’t happen until last Monday after we arrived home. Lying in bed unable to sleep . I had decided to start reading the psalms. Stephen has mention it ne previously about living in the psalms. So after 3 years of wanting to. I decided I would. Some are actually short and easy to read helping and encouraging to keep reading. Then I read psalms. 4
Psalm. 4 David hiding in a cave
From his son.
Psalm 4:1-8 NIV
1 Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
 How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods ?
 Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.
 Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.
 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.
 Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us.
 Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.  8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:1 NIV
Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
Psalm 4:-5 NIV
Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.5] Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.
Psalm 4:8 NIV
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Or, as the ESV puts it, “Be angry and do not sin.” The Hebrew word translated in the ESV as “be angry” is ragaz, and it can mean “to be disturbed or agitated.” David recognizes there are legitimate causes to be agitated but cautions against going so far as to be sinful.
So relatable to me and my current thoughts. I had to follow its advice.
This I encourage you all to do. As spoken by David. At night close your eyes in silence and search your heart. .
Philippians 4:8 can guide our search here.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
What happened in your day. Where can you see and find Christ alive in your life. Think on that. I closed my eyes. I see the smile on Abbie’s face as she performs a magic trick on me. I see the love of a little brother who on missing her sister who was at a sleep over get a toilet roll and draw a smiley face on it and calls it Abbie.
I see scarlet the eldest child, instinctively reach out and hold on to her little brother on a boat trip when we went over some waves. these moments help. Me to look deeper. I see love, I see gifts from God entrusted to me, I see God active in my life. What do you see in yours.
Like Paul writes in Philippians’ anything excellent or praiseworthy. This is a key to help you to start to see Christ alive in your life. To help you find peace. It also takes away all the many thoughts and worries that decide to pop up and make themselves relevant as your mind is where it should be. Focused on Christ’s love for you.
Now in your silence and gratitude search your heart for Christ and the fruits of the Spirit. Pray and be thankful. These are sacrifices to Our God. I give you my day lord. Guide me.
Galatians 5:22-23 NIV – 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (tolerance, restraint), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
Search your mind over the past day. Could you see Christ alive in your life. Did you bear or receive fruit. What part of your garden needs attending to. Give that to Christ.
You see our peace is found in our relationship with Christ. Our personal connection. His love for us and our love for him.
I enjoyed this activity and did it again the next night. I again enjoyed discovering Christ in my life and seeking him working and finding him in places I hadn’t payed attention to previously. I’ve been doing it all week and it truly helps to see Gods love in your life. It enables us to start to feel see Christ active , alive in us.
George Mac Donald a Scottish author, poet and Christian Congregationalist minister once said
It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another.
Adam and Eve story. Did you know the first display of loving peace is found in the fall of man story. Spurgeon high lighted this to Leesh and I while reading one of his sermons. After the apple and Adam was hiding naked. A sinner, Confused scared anxious.
God came looking for him. Not to chastise him. Punish him. He was looking for him to restore… peace. Calling out to Adam. So he could restore the peace that Adam had earlier shared between himself and God, now severed by sin.
Although now marker by Sin, naked, all Adams faults on display to God seeing everything sinful in him. Gods priority was to restore the peace in Adam.
It is the same for us. We can try and hide our sin. Hide from God. But he can see us too. wherever we are, our nakedness, our sin, with nothing to hide our sin from him. But he is more concerned with restoring the peace between us. And in fact wants us to come to him worst and all. No mater your sin. The darkness you harbour. He wants you!
Don’t run and hide from Gods peace. Go to him with confidence, naked speaking truth from your heart, open personal prayer. No fluffy stuff or big words.
The God of peace. He is the creator of peace, the provider of peace and importantly, the restorer of peace. We see this in Genesis.
C S Lewis says Look for yourself, and you will find only hatred, loneliness despair rage ruin and decay. But Look for Christ and you will find him and with him everything else.
Muse on that.
In a study published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine, researchers found that it takes an average of 18 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. Seek God daily and it will become habit. I challenge you.
We know that we are to Search our hearts and find Christ. Whilst reading the Scriptures. But this is where our action and discipline comes into it. It’s easy to talk and want to change. But worldly confusion and distraction is a mighty foe even for the most secure of us in our faith.
This is why Paul writes about striving and uses the example that he ran the good race.
We too need to strive for Christ and run the good race to increase our wisdom, understanding and our fruits. striving is going to take effort. It’s going to take time. Its going to take searching in the quietness naked for our God.
The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.
Pick it up outside these walls. Don’t wait 3 years like I did. Take on Stephens advice and pick up psalms. Read through it. And at night as you lie in your bed in your own thoughts. Seek and find Christ and be thankful for a loving God who wants to provide you peace.
John 14:27 NIV – 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.