The Peace of Faith
I am continuing my Sermon Series on Faith today as we look together at what I am calling, “The Peace of Faith” This is part TWO of a FIVE part Series, so be sure to write me for your free copy of today’s message.
I am reminded of the words of a Hymn we used to sing regularly in the Church choir.
“Oh the Peace the Saviour gives,
Peace I never knew before
and my way has brighter grown
since I learned to trust Him more”
To live and walk in peace, peace with God, peace with my family members, peace with my colleagues, peace with my neighbours or friends, and in peace with myself, is surely an aspiration worth pursuing. Years ago, while I was in London, I spoke with a young woman who had joined Holy Orders in her bid to find “Peace with God.” She had done well and was enjoying the work being assigned to her in that Religious community. She sat almost “spell bound” as she joined a group of University Students at one of my Bible Classes. Hardly waiting until I had finished, she appeared at my elbow and asked if she could talk with me. “I am following Christ and trying to do the best that I can, but I have no peace. I feel that God has shut up Heaven to me” she said. She was not the first to feel like this nor will she be the last. Many people experience similar emotions and although searching, do not appear to have truly found God, or found His Peace? Is this how you feel today? Do you know the Peace of Faith, — the Peace that Faith in Jesus can provide?
Turn with me if you will to Johns Gospel in the 4th Chapter.
and to the story known as “The Woman at the Well”.
Let us read together from verse 5…
“Then Jesus cometh to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8 (For his disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat.)
This is a fascinating story. It is the story of a woman who had an encounter with Jesus. If you have had a true encounter with Jesus, then your life will have been miraculously changed. If you have never experienced a miraculous change, then I suggest to you that you have never had a real encounter with Jesus. You may have encountered the Church, you may have encountered an Evangelist, you may have encountered a Preacher, a Pastor or Priest, you may have encountered a Sect, a Movement, a Religious Order, or a Ministry, but you have not yet encountered Jesus. Jesus ALWAYS transforms those who encounter him, some physically and some spiritually, and some
get to experience change in both body and soul.
Let us look closely at the story.
Firstly, I believe that Jesus stopped and sat at the well, because He was looking for Her? If you are familiar with this story you will know that the woman had a vital role in the future of that whole region. But from the point of my message today, I will pass over that, suffice to say that Jesus knew about Her,
before she knew about Him!
John tells us that “it was about the sixth hour of the day.” The day began at 6am, so it was about Noon. It was not usual for folks to be out drawing water at the height of the mid-day sun,
and indeed it would seem that there was no-one else at the well when Jesus got there. So here she comes, on her own, in the heat of the mid-day Sun. She has her own reasons to slip up there quietly and unseen, away from the glare and gaze of the neighbours, but we’ll get to those in a moment. Scarcely has
she shown up, when Jesus asks her “give me a drink”.
Look at verse 9…
9“Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans”.
Clearly Jesus has no time for any local prejudices, there is no sectarianism in His heart. Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart. Man sees what we are, but God sees what we can become.
Look at verse 10…
10 “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life”.
Here Jesus is telling her, and telling us, that what HE has to offer, is far superior to anything that the World might offer. There IS peace to be found in some Island retreat, where Palm trees sway gently in the breeze, and the lagoon tides brush the
sandy shores with calm, and where life’s cares and worries seem to evaporate away. I’ve been to those kind of places and its true that they DO offer peace. But the worlds peace, the best peace it offers, is not permanent, but temporary. Jesus tells this woman, that what HE has to offer, beats anything that the world offers.
Now look at verse 15…
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands;
and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband:
in that saidst thou truly”.
Here then is the reason for the secrecy, and this “cloak and dagger” kind of under-cover excursion to the well. This is a woman with a “reputation”. She doesn’t come here with other woman, she comes alone, to avoid those looks, those gossiping tongues, those wagging fingers and those judgemental attitudes.
She dare not be seen with the others, and it could be that she dare not venture out of doors only when others are in doors.
Society has its own way of dealing with that kind of woman. Maybe already she had felt the stones of angry words, the stones of snide remarks, the stones of hurtful glances and the stones of bitter condemnation. You see there are more stones than those that lie on the ground.
The amazing thing is that “Jesus went there looking for her” that’s what speaks to me? Jesus was looking for an Evangelist, someone who would trigger Revival and a move of God. Someone who would raise the curiosity of the crowd, and the following of the masses. So Jesus sits there waiting for her,
for this woman, this Outcast of society, this Black Sheep of the flock, this Woman of ill repute. Where were the Rabbi’s? Where were the Great or the Good? Does God purposely go for the worst and avoid the best?
Listen to what the apostle Paul says about that:
“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence 1 Cor 1:25-29
God may overlook the best, they might expect the glory.
Now let us read from verse 27 …
27 “And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou?
or, Why talkest thou with her”?
Even the disciples were dumbfounded when they found him talking to her, they were simply lost for words. Well it can’t be explained in the natural, it beggars belief. Everything within them, their background, their upbringing, their culture, their understanding all wanted to scream at him, “Not her”
“Don’t talk with her; Don’t entertain her; Don’t choose her; Don’t even sit with her” I don’t blame the disciples, after all they are following the “church line” for that’s exactly how most of us in the Church would react.
As I said a moment ago, Man looks on the outward appearance while God looks on the heart, Man sees what we are, while God sees what we can become. The Church has closed its doors today to the drug addicts or the drug pushers, the prostitutes, the homo-sexuals, the alcoholics, the uncouth and the unkempt. “Don’t bring your filth in here;” “keep away;” “don’t sit in my pew;” ” don’t soil my seat; “don’t stink out my sanctuary;”, … and although we may not speak those words, our looks and our attitudes speak volumes. There is a tear in my eye as I write this sermon today, for I know there is a tear in the eye of God too. Jesus said “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick” Matthew 9:12. When are we going to throw open our Churches to the sick and the sore in our world? Yes we will sing;
“rescue the perishing care for the dying snatch them in pity from sin and the grave, weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, and tell them of Jesus the mighty to save”
… but when is the last time you wept over any soul, let alone the fallen souls of our world, what prostitute are you crying about?
My heart is breaking today for this lost and fallen world, and Gods heart is breaking too. Lets leave behind our nice churches, our warm seats, our luxurious carpets, our comfortable life-styles, our centrally-heated prayer rooms, and lets get out there under the bridge where young men and women are dying, alone unloved and uncared for, and without God or Hope. Oh may God break our hearts for the souls of our neighbours. Let me be the first to admit my own faults, but we cannot do it alone, we need to do it together, there’s a vast Harvest to be gathered in, and every blade of grass in the field is “precious” to Jesus;
and did He not say that “the publicans and the harlots press into the kingdom before you” (church-going folk)?
Look now at verse 28 …
28 “The woman then left her water-pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him”
We used to sing
“Jesus gave her water that was not in the well,
precious living water, and sent her forth to tell
She went away singing, she came back bringing
others for the water that was not in the well.”
Here we see the results of her encounter with Jesus, I told you earlier that no one can remain the same once they have truly encountered Jesus. Here a woman of ill repute, a woman with five husbands and now a man in tow who wasn’t her husband, found acceptance in Jesus, found faith in Jesus, found forgiveness in Jesus, found peace in Jesus and found a
new life in Jesus.
Did you see there in verse 28 that she returned to tell the “men” about Jesus, and they came to find him too. I expect that she didn’t really know any women, didn’t feel comfortable with the women, but was more comfortable with those who represented her past. Today God has a prostitute in mind to reach and win the prostitutes and the woman of the streets. He has a homo-sexual in mind to reach and win the “gay” community. He has an alcoholic to save, so that he can reach those who still abuse liquor, and abuse their wives and children because of it.
Could it be you, could you help me to win the world?
Now you may be thinking, what has all this got to do with
The Peace of Faith?
This woman in John 4 represents (for me) all those who have searched and struggled to find “peace” in their lives. The tragedy is that like her, most have searched in the wrong places.
At the heart of our search for purpose and meaning to our lives, is the search for peace. There is an uneasy turmoil within all of us that cannot be put to rest unless and until it finds that rest in Jesus. The world says “There is peace to be found in Wealth;” “There is peace to be found in Fame;” “Peace in Sex, peace in Pornography, peace in Gambling, peace in Pleasures, peace in Violence, peace in Booze, peace in Perversions, …” and the list goes on and on. Now please don’t misunderstand me, but there IS a measure of pleasure and peace in many of those things;
otherwise they wouldn’t be so popular with the world.
But Lasting Peace, lasting satisfaction is found only as the woman at the well discovered, lasting peace is found only in Jesus. Faith in Jesus brings Peace, peace for now, for today,
for tomorrow and for ever, and the apostle Paul described it as a
“peace which passes all understanding.” Phil.4:7
Do you know that kind of peace in your life?
The peace that I speak of, comes from knowing that you are forgiven and clean in Gods sight. This woman at the well of Sychar, discovered that for herself. In the sight of others, she was dirty, filthy, maybe even diseased, but once she had sought pardon and peace with God, she was clean. Its hard for some people who know your past to accept your present, but its not hard for God. Remember that God looks on the heart, not on the hood. That woman who came to me years ago in London, who had joined Holy Orders to find peace with God told me that she knew of Gods forgiveness, but she still felt guilty over her past
sin. This is not uncommon. So let me explain to you, what I explained to her on that occasion.
I had in my hand that day my Bible. It was a Bible with a Black Leather Cover. “Look at this Black Cover” I began …” blackness often speaks of dirt, of filth, of rottenness and the things that soil. Our lives can look a bit like this in the sight of God. We were all born in Sin, born soiled by Sin, born separated from God. But The Bible tells us about “The Garment of Salvation and the Robe of Righteousness” (Isaiah 61) and when we receive Jesus as our Sin Bearer and Saviour, not only are we forgiven and cleansed, but we are “covered with the garment of Salvation” and we are “dressed in Christ’s Robe of Righteousness” Then I asked her “do you think there is any soiling on Christ’s Robe”? “Of course not” she answered:
Then from my pocket I took a clean crisp freshly laundered white handkerchief and wrapped my Black Bible in it. “Now what do you see” I asked; “Nothing but the white” she responded.
In that moment, with her own words, a dark cloud of guilt over her past was lifted and the peace and calm of God flooded her soul. She had discovered the peace of faith. Peace cannot come to us through the Church, through Religion, or even through Sacrament, Peace comes through a Person,
and his name is JESUS.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD.
Long ago a man sought the perfect picture of peace. Not finding one that satisfied, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide.
Finally the great day of revelation arrived.
The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, and the tensions grew. Only two pictures remained veiled.
As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd.
A mirror-smooth lake reflected lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Surely this was the winner.
The man with the vision uncovered the second painting himself, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace?
A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice; the crowd could almost feel its cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-grey clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind and rain.
In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the waterfall. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power.
A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her eggs. With her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones, she manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil.
Now that’s peace!
If you have discovered the Peace of Faith, then you too may encounter the most horrifying and frightening circumstances, but you can always rest under the shelter of Gods wings.