God's Grace Brings us Peace

Grace Under Fire  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Grace Under Fire
Week 4: God’s Grace Gives Us Peace
Good morning and welcome to church today! It is good to be with you today as we wrap up our Grace Under Fire series. Just as a reminder, we are looking at those refining times in our life. Like gold in the smelting pot, being heated and refined. Like iron being worked by a blacksmith, in and out of the forge, hammered and shaped, cooled and heated. Just like these metals, our times of fire, our times of pressure have a tendency to refine us and strengthen us.
You may not realize it, but we have been studying Wesleyan Theology and the various types of Grace as we look at the way our grace is strengthened during difficulty. First, we saw that God was with us, even when we don’t know it, God is with us. That is God’s Prevenient Grace, that grace that comes before we even recognize it. Then we looked at the fact that God’s grace is FOR us – it is for US. Each of us. When we realize and accept that God’s grace is for us, we experience God’s Justifying grace. That is the grace of the moment of salvation, but as God’s Prevenient grace continues to fall over us, we are drawn closer and closer to God and to becoming who God created us to be. Each time we have a realization and repent and turn to God in a new way, we are experiencing God’s Justifying grace. Last week, we looked at how God’s Grace Sustains us. In other words, God’s grace urges us on to perfection and that is God’s Sanctifying Grace.
Today, we are wrapping this all up with the fact that God’s grace gives us peace. While God gives us peace in this life, it is just a foretaste of the peace we will have in heaven when we receive God’s Glorifying Grace.
I don’t know about you, but I could use a little of God’s peace. We define peace in a few ways, it can be a time without war… think of the beauty pageant answer, “World Peace!” We could certainly use a little of that kind of peace in our world. The war in Ukraine rages on. There are wars in Africa, drug wars through out Central and North America, gang wars in our cities, and the list could go on. As much as we can hope for this kind of peace, as much as we should strive for and work for this kind of peace, we know that Jesus told us there will be wars and rumors of wars from now on. We don’t give up. We fight for this kind of peace but we do so with the sure and certain knowledge that only Jesus will bring this peace.
The other kind of peace we think of is “freedom from disturbance, tranquility.” These day’s someone may describe this as Zen – but we aren’t Buddhists. We want a freedom from disturbance and tranquility that others talk about and want, but Jesus has offered us something different. In John 14:27 (NRSV), Jesus tells us:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
We want this peace that Jesus gives, not the peace the world offers. We want real peace. We want a peace from Jesus that steadies and calms us when we are under fire, when we are under the pressures of life.
Because here is one reality that we all face. When we are under pressure, when the heat is on, when we are facing trials and temptations, we as humans have a tendency to doubt God for a number of reasons. And when this doubt slips in, all else within our lives seems to get out of control and a little chaotic. Some may even say that our doubt leads to fear, and as we know… fear is the antithesis of faith.
So today, we are talking about the peace God’s grace brings into our lives through His everlasting love and faithfulness.
Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians about this peace. He tells us;
Philippians 4:6-7(NRSV)
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We find God’s grace and peace when we come to Him. His peace guards our hearts and minds as we follow Jesus.
I want to take a few minutes to share a story with you about a moment when God’s Peace was shared with another. I hope this is a familiar story because we talked about it a couple of months ago. It is the story of Sarah and her gift of a child.
Turn with me to Genesis 18.
If you recall, God has promised Abraham and Sarah that they were to have a child, and that their ancestors would be a great nation, yet here they are, Abraham is over 100 and Sarah is over 90 years of age. As Abraham is sitting in the heat of the day, he sees three men come to him and he welcomes them in and shows them hospitality, gives them food and drink.
It turns out, these men are representatives of God. Some say they are the Trinity incarnate. Some say they are angels and messengers from God. We can argue about what or who they were, but that doesn’t really get us anywhere. Instead, let’s look at what their message was:
Genesis 18:9-14
They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”
God renews the promise to both Sarah and Abraham that, even in their old age, He would grant them a son. Of course, Sarah laughs at the idea of she and Abraham having the pleasure of a child. Sarah had doubt.
Let me ask, have you ever had doubt? Have you ever questioned the reality that God was with you, or that God was for you, or that God sustained you? Have you ever doubted? I think we all have, some more than others.
But, don’t forget this fact. Our God is still in the miracle business!
Over and over again we see this fact in scripture and in our lives, with God, all things are possible.
Even knowing this, we often live in between the doubt and chaos of life!
I want to look at and wrestle with the question, “What happens when God’s grace shows up to steady us in the midst of our doubt and chaos?
What happens when God makes otherwise impossible things possible?
We Don’t Expect It
First of all, we don’t expect it. It’s no secret that in this story, the promise from God caught Sarah a little off guard. I mean, she actually laughs out loud because the promise seems so absurd. The same way, when God shows up in our stories, it sometimes catches us off guard, and even may lead us into a position of doubt.
This isn’t just an Old Testament occurrence. Think about Mary and Martha’s reaction to Jesus when their brother Lazarus had been dead and in the grave for 4 days. Both of them told Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
They continued living in doubt, even having seen Jesus’ miracles. They have seen and heard the stories of the lame walking, of the blind regaining sight, of the deaf hearing, and even of the dead living again… And with Jesus standing in front of them they still doubt when he says, “Roll the stone away.” In fact, Martha says one of my favorite phrases in the Bible,
“But Lord, He stinketh!”
It was four days after the death. What was Jesus thinking? And yet, a miracle takes place. Jesus tells Lazarus to come out and that’s exactly what Lazarus does. He gets up and walks out of the tomb, alive.
We serve a God who consistently, even today, is working miracle after miracle and yet, we are still caught off guard when God’s grace shows up.
Maybe because of that sin in your life that no one else knows about, you have had a tough time these last few weeks when we talk about God’s grace. You can’t reconcile how His grace would want to be near you, be for you, and even remain sufficient to sustain you. And so today, naturally, you are having some trouble believing His same grace would be able to steady you in the midst of your doubt, your fear, your “fire.”
If that’s you, I want to encourage you with the next point, the next thing we do when God’s grace shows up to steady us… We build altars to remember.
We Build Altars to Remember
How many of you have ever climbed a mountain, or even a big hill, and when you got to the top, you saw piles of rocks, rocks stacked one on top of the other? These are basically little altars. They serve 2 purposes; one is to show that you made it to the top and share that story with other hikers and climbers. The other is to be able to remember the accomplishment. We need the same thing with our life as followers of Jesus.
When doubt slips in we question God’s goodness, we question God’s graciousness, we question God’s glory. Doubts make us question everything about God.
What is causing your doubt right now? Is it an unanswered prayer for a job? How about a prayer for your child? Or your marriage? Don’t let the doubts and questions slip between you and God. Instead, look back at the times you know that God has been with you, and for you, and sustained you. Consider those times that God’s grace gave you peace.
In the Old Testament, people experienced doubt too. However, they took a step to help with this doubt. They built altars, just like our piles of rocks at the top of the mountains. Turn with me a few chapters to the left in Genesis, at the beginning of Abraham’s story, in Genesis 12.
Genesis 12:7 (NLT)
Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
Abraham built an Altar to remember that this was a place where God met with him. This was where God showed up and showed out!
What are those places in your life and in your story? I believe those places, those moments in time, will allow us to experience God’s grace in the midst of hardship.
It doesn’t have to be a pile of rocks either. Facebook has become an altar for many of us. I know, that can be a bad thing, but I mean it for good right now. I have memories popping up over this past week, reminding me that 3 years ago I was walking where Jesus walked. Thursday, I saw the reminder that on January 26, 2020 I was standing on the Mount of Olives where Jesus knelt and prayed before his crucifixion. That was truly a time when I felt close to God! That was a time and place that God showed up in my life! The Facebook memory reminded me of the glory, and the goodness, and the graciousness of our God!
When we remember God’s glory and goodness and grace from the past, we have every reason to believe that God’s grace will be with us, and for us, and sustain us, and give us peace now and in the future!
I believe that the altars of remembrance were a key component in Abraham’s life and story.
The question is simple: what altars can we build right now, in this current season?
What miracles do you need to remember?
How has God shown up for you and how have you felt His peace?
Maybe you are living in a season where God’s grace is showing up as you fight for your family, or as you battle a sin, or as you overcome an addiction, or as you struggle between jobs. Maybe you are living in a season where God’s grace is showing up as you live into and work toward your calling in ministry for the next season in life.
Maybe you are living in a season of pain after all that we have been through as a church!
Remember this, in the good times and the bad, when the pressure is on and when life is easy, when you feel you are under fire and when you feel that you are at peace, we can build altars to remember that God’s grace brings us peace!
And, it is as we look back and remember these altars that we give all the glory due to God.
We Give God Glory
Finally, the Bible teaches us to give God glory when we experience His steadying grace. We see the promise of God to Abraham and Sarah come to fruition in Genesis 21.
Genesis 21:1-7 (NLT)
The LORD kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.
And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me.
Verse 6 is key, as it shows us exactly who gets the glory for this birth: Sarah says, “God has brought…”. After laughing in response to God’s promise, after a period of disbelief regarding this promise, Sarah finally sees for herself God’s promise come to fruition. In fact, she gets to hold the fruit of God’s promise in her arms.
Sarah experienced God’s grace and in the end, it gave her peace. Beyond the doubt. Beyond the fear. Beyond the questions, there is Peace in our God.
This is what God’s grace does! It steadies us in the midst of our doubt and unbelief. It completely transforms us from who we were to who we are now. Have you experienced some sort of breakthrough? Have you witnessed God’s grace in a personal way? Give God the glory for it and when you look back and remember all he’s done for you, be sure to point to the heavens.
Some of you may be just now starting to experience God’s grace… you feel God drawing you closer and closer, you are just now accepting the free gift of God’s grace and mercy. If so, I am so excited for you. I would love to hear more about that with you and visit with you about your new journey with God.
And, whether you’ve been following Jesus for decades, or you’re just starting to scratch the surface, take some time today to consider all that His grace means in your life.
Grace with you.
Grace for you.
Grace sustains you.
Grace brings you peace.
Let’s pray together.
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