As I write (actually I'm speaking into a small dictation machine) I am on the home stretch of a nine-day trip. I visited our branches in Toronto and New York and now I am in Atlanta, Georgia. I came to minister in two churches; the first was this morning and I am on my way to the second now. I say that by faith because I am actually standing by the side of the road waiting for a tow truck to come and fix a flat tire. I hope they'll be in time for me to make it to the evening service. Life doesn't always go as we plan does it? Thankfully God is in control no matter what happens.
I know that my present problems are small compared to the wars, the terrorism, and the ever rising rate of divorce that has become so common in today's world. What ever happened to the peace that was promised, the peace on earth, goodwill toward men" announced by those angels in Bethlehem so long ago? Why does it seem so illusive?
If every bomb in the world was disarmed and every weapon dismantled, people would still find ways to hurt and destroy one another. True peace is more than the absence of outward hostilities. It is the presence of something in the heart. That something is peace with God, which is exactly what Jesus offers. He said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you" (John 14:27).
Our peace is not based on the circumstances of this world, but the inward reality of God's presence. If we really believe He is in control we will not fret over circumstances that are out of our control—like a flat tire!
Speaking of which, life is getting more and more interesting here in Atlanta. It's been nearly two hours since the promise of a tow truck. Tonight's church service starts in less than an hour and a half—and it's way on the other side of Atlanta. It's times like these when the reality of "peace on earth, goodwill toward men," gets tested. I admit I am struggling to feel that peace and goodwill now.
So far, three tow trucks have passed me. The car rental agency has promised to send a taxicab to get me to the church on time. An empty one just drove right past without stopping.
You may find yourself in a situation similar at some point during the Christmas holiday season. It's the little things that seem to intensify feelings of tension and angst isn't it? Frustration wells up, and panic sets in. That is what I'm fighting right now. Deep breath. "Lord Jesus please work out this situation. I'll try to give you praise no matter what." Right now I'm doing quite a bit of pacing. Maybe this is what the Bible means by "peace that passes understanding." It's hard to understand how I can be calm and peaceful when it seems I am about to miss my speaking engagement. I think I'll conclude this when I can tell you the outcome…
…Well I'm back. Eventually a taxicab picked me up for my hour-long trip to the other side of Atlanta. The ride felt like a scene from a bad movie. It started raining so hard that traffic slowed to a crawl as people drove along the highway with their emergency lights flashing. The inside of the cab's windshield was badly fogged and the driver complained that she couldn't see the lines on the highway. "Why don't you turn on your defroster?" I suggested. She told me she couldn't because it would short out the motor! Needless to say it was a tense ride to the church. I arrived just in time to meet the pastor and pray before the service. Casey, a local volunteer was there to help me with my books and free literature. Thank God for Casey.
The service went well. Afterwards I went out for dinner with a couple of friends who had brought their Jewish doctor to the service. We spent a couple of hours at the "Macaroni Grill" talking about Jesus. (R&B star Usher was seated next to us.) I was so grateful that the Lord turned what began as a harrowing afternoon and evening into a great time. Please pray for the doctor's salvation; he seems very close to faith in Jesus.
God's peace really does exceed my ability to understand just as it often eludes my attempts to fully experience it—especially when things don't go the way I want. Can you relate? Opportunities to get frustrated over situations, to respond apart from the Spirit, abound each and every day. At this holy and yet sometimes hectic season, it is easy to allow circumstances, the flesh and the devil to rob us of the peace provided by our Savior's presence. My prayer for myself and for you is that "peace on earth, goodwill toward men" will be more than just a Bible verse. Come what will, may that peace and the joy of our Savior's birth be your foundation and your daily experience, now and in the coming year.
Peace on earth? Yes, peace in our hearts, as we trust in Him.
Peace on earth? Yes, come quickly Lord Jesus.