When you listened to the reports of the chaos of New Orleans this past week it surely seemed surreal. One person described the city as being like Baghdad when it fell. Another said that it was ?angel wings and God's spit? that held their house together at the height of the storm. Despite the warnings to evacuate, many people believed they could just ride out the storm. One man talked of paddling around his living room on his son's surf board, but then the water rose again and he retreated to the attic, and then it rose some more and he had to smash a hole through the roof and climb onto a nearby tree. He ended up clinging to the limbs of the tree for the next four hours hoping for rescue. Throughout this horrific ordeal, complicated by looting, snipers, sexual assaults and other unrestrained wickedness, there are countless reports of heroism, of courage and of faith. God has His purposes in having this level 4 hurricane hit one of the lowest lying cities in America, a city renowned for it's voodoo, for its? sexual depravity and violence. What is evident this morning is that in times of chaos, in times of tremendous upheaval and danger, God, by faith and through faith, calls people to an obedience to Him that is seen as courage and strength. If we consider this in local terms, that the population of New Orleans is about that of . . .
One of Christ's predictions of what would mark the end of time was the incessant cry from the world for, ?Peace, Peace!? This has come to be more than we could have ever imagined as the multiple layers of our need for peace are exposed. Our thirst for peace is global in scope, nation to nation seeking peace. It is a thirst for relational peace, person to person seeking peace. It is a thirst for inner peace, the reconciliation of mind and soul peace. It is also a thirst for spiritual peace, man to God and God to man peace, which leads ultimately to a quest for eternal peace, a place of post mortal righteousness.
Though peace has such a scope to it with its many layers, it is easily recognized by all. A young boy once described peace as 'something that makes you feel all smooth inside?. Others like Thomas A. Kempis said "Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be." Let's look at a brief statement made by Paul that on the surface looks like a pleasantry but underneath has a complexity of truth. Turn with me to 2 Thessalonians 3:16-18.
I. The Source of Peace Originates in the Character of God Not In Logic.
It's third down and a yard to go, Jason Maas, quarter back for the Edmonton Eskimos, gets in close behind his offensive line. Across from him are the front four for Saskatchewan , Andrew Greene weighing in at 315 pounds, Nate Davis also at 315 pounds, Terrel Jurineack at 280 and the anchor man, Fred Childress at 330 pounds. The Edmonton line has Leferud at 295, Charbonneau at 290, Carson at 293 and the light weight Annunziata at 288. Maas takes the ball and dives under his line and all the weight of these opposing men comes to bear on what Jason Maas has in his arms, a 16 ounce football. If you were to add it up there would be at least 2616 pounds piled up, all in an effort to stop that ball. It's when the officials have dug through the pile, taking player after player off to finally uncover the position of the ball, that it is finally discovered if the whole effort has been a success or not. The point is that there can be powerful forces on the surface, massive in appearance and intimidating to stand against, but it's what at the ground level of your life that counts for ultimate victory.
We have a little book mark in our home that says, ?Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.? What is it you hear or hope to hear when you listen to the heart beat of your soul? The answer can only be . . .
It was 1798, William Wilberforce had battled against the political and commercial forces that were heavily invested in slave trading. For 10 years he had worked to almost no avail, after another defeat in the British Parliament, he returned home discouraged and tired. He opened his Bible and began to leaf through it. A small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. It was a letter written to him from John Wesley shortly before his death. Wilberforce read it again:
?Unless the divine power has raised you up? I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that abominable practice of slavery, which is the scandal of religion, of England , and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might.?
The challenge for Christians is to stand firm, to be resolute in times of godlessness, to persist in times of divine opportunity, to be humble for the enabling . . .