The holidays are usually time for joyous celebration, seeing family and friends, making new acquaintances and enjoying a time of relaxation and celebration. But it doesn’t always go that way, and sometimes the holidays can be especially difficult for those who have lost family, friends, or loved ones.
My Christmas and New Year’s was spent reaching out to my grown children after the death of my mother. No one was more dear to my children than their Nana. I had spoken to her just three days before the massive stroke that left her unable to talk or eat and completely paralyzed. She had a wonderful full life and would’ve been 94 in February. In our conversation we went deeper than we had in many months and she shared with me her perfect peace in facing the last pages of the last chapter of her life . My mom was a truely joyous extrovert who would remember not only the names of strangers but also their children’s names and would always inquire after them. She was a true people person with a smile and a laugh that would warm any room. She was also a force of nature, petite but mighty !
I had been invited to do her eulogy at the funeral and after expressing my gratitude for all that she had meant to me, I gave everyone an opportunity to stand and share a remembrance as a microphone was taken around the room. On a day that had started with rain and snow, the chapel was full, and many people stood to share how ‘Ginna’ had touched their lives. She had never used her full name Virginia because it was too formal and she felt that it wasn’t personal enough.
Through all of this I had a wonderful spiritual experience that Christians refer to as “the peace that passes all understanding”.
Let me tell you the story of where this expression comes from and the completely transformed life that penned this expression.
His name was Saul of Tarsus, and he was as religiously strait laced and zealous as a person could get. Having studied under the best teachers of the Law and being a part of the strictest sect of Judaism, he was out to destroy the fledgling Christian faith referred to as “the way”. He was enraged because so many of his fellow Jews from Jerusalem had experienced the New Birth of the Ruach Hakodesh ( Holy Spirit) into a spiritual journey of personally experiencing the love and forgiveness of God in such a powerful way that they abandoned the law of Moses and the Temple that Saul loved. He had set out with legal papers that gave him the authority to arrest, imprison and persecute any Jew found participating in this new spiritual path of following Yeshua as the messiah. He was scandalize by the idea of the Holy Spirit taking up residence inside the temple of one’s body, instead of inside the physical structure of the Jewish Temple on the Temple mount in Jerusalem.
His supernatural encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus would literally knock him off of his high horse and bring him into a place of utter humility before the King of kings. With brilliant light and thundering voice, his messiah confronted him directly for the violence and hatred that was in his heart. “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me “ Jesus asked when he manifested himself to Saul. He was left literally blind by this encounter and shown how spiritually blind he had been. It was the prayer of one of the humble servants of Jesus, that he had set out to arrest that restored his sight and vision. The inner transformation that resulted from this encounter produced a changed life and a man empowered by the love of God.
It was the living and resurrected Jesus who imparts the life of the Spirit to those who receive Him that changed Saul into the apostle Paul . This highly educated persecutor of the early church would be used by the Holy Spirit to pen almost 1/4 of the New Testament.
Later in his spiritual journey having been arrested by the Romans and viciously beaten and whipped, Paul wrote from jail to encourage the believers in Philippi. He spoke of an experience that all Christians are intended to have called, “the peace that passes all understanding.”
This supernatural experience that results from receiving God’s love and forgiveness, the new birth, a new identity, and a transformed life is promised to those who would humbly come to God for the peace and power that only He can give. This deep inner peace is in spite of all circumstances and always available and present to those who call upon the name of the Lord in humility and faith.
The heart that turns to the Son of God finds “Shalom”.. an inner calm and sense of wholeness that results from union with the Holy Spirit.
It was 600 years before the birth of Jesus, that the Holy Spirit would use the prophet Isaiah to speak and write these famous words,
“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” - ( Isaiah 9.6)
Here in the Tanakh or Old Testament, the Messiah, Jesus, wears the title of all three members of the triune God… for the three are one.
In the Bible, shalom means a flourishing wholeness and delight – a deep state of peace in which you are enveloped and surrounded by joyful calm as the Creator and Savior literally dwells in whom he delights.
It is peace with God that leads to the peace of God. You cannot earn it, but you can have this as your own experience of Jesus who openly invites you. He says “come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
The prophet Isaiah writing about Jesus before his birth said “ a bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not extinguish” . He is “the God of all compassion” and there is no one more loving and kind than Jesus Christ. Perhaps you have only experienced religion… mere human efforts to please God or to ascend to be like God. All such efforts fall short and fail. Jesus invites us to enter into his rest because he has already accomplished all righteousness for us, and now invites us to receive this blessing as a gift.
“It is faith that pleases God and without faith, no one can please God.” Where is your faith ?
You invest faith every time you step on an airplane or get into a car. Is your faith in yourself or your bank account or your accomplishments? How far do you think that will get you with a Holy God when you leave your body behind?
When it comes to peace with God eternal life and experiencing the peace and joy of God in this life, who will you invest your trust in? Will it be the only spiritual teacher whose grave has no bones? The one who conquered sin and death for you? The one who loves you so much that he was willing to die in your place to pay for your sin? God loves you with an everlasting love that is stronger than death. Jesus is the resurrection and the life and those who believe in him will live forever.
Jesus said , “behold, I stand at the door and knock, whoever opens the door , I will come into and feast with “.
Gods love and peace is available to you right now today will you invest your faith in the only one who loves you so much that he was willing to die for you?
Perhaps you could use some peace in your heart & life ?