By John Payton
In just a few days we’ll be in that “New Year” everyone hopes will be a “happy” one. Yet already, “happiness” is being toned down by the challenges of everyday life.
And we just came through celebrating that memorable night over 2000 years ago in the hills of Bethlehem when angels brought messages of “joy to the world” and “peace on Earth.” Still today the world looks for that joy and peace. Where is the joy and peace?
It’s certainly not evident in this world of international, political and personal chaos. Wars are still being fought in the Middle East, Africa, and South America. North Korea increases the threat of a nuclear world war.
Within our nation, political rivalry has never been higher. The UN is being called into Chicago to stem shootings. Social values are being attacked like never before. Racial warfare has increased, setting back years of progress. Today’s culture is increasingly averse to Christians and the church. This is a world of chaos!
Even our homes are war zones. Spousal abuse and divorce abound. So much unhappiness exists in people who no longer know how to share and give; people looking out for number 1. Mothers fight with daughters, sons with fathers, husbands with wives, brothers with sisters. The norm today is anger and retaliation. Materialism is culture’s attempt to find peace and joy: “the more the money and things, the more the peace and joy.”
True peace and joy have a common thread: they are dependent upon what is going on in our hearts and not upon outward conditions and circumstances. There will be no joy in the world or peace on earth until there is peace in the hearts of humankind.
You may recall when in 2006 a troubled milkman, Chas. Roberts, walked into an Amish schoolhouse; dismissed all but 10 young girls and brutally shot all 10 before taking his own life. Five of them survived but five died. It was a terrible day for the Amish community and a shock to the nation. Roberts left behind his wife, Marie, and their two young children.
The following Saturday at the funeral of Roberts, an amazing thing happened. Amish families filed in to support Marie and her two children. They composed three fourths of the people present. They stood along beside her as she grieved; offering their forgiveness for what Roberts had done and embracing his family. They showed love to his children even though they had lost their own children and found ways to support the family financially and emotionally after the funeral.
It takes something (or Someone) in our hearts to respond like that. The “Good News” of a Savior announced by the angels was for all the world, but “peace on earth” (as well as true joy) is for “those on whom his favor rests”—those who trust Christ for the forgiveness of their sins; who have received him in their hearts and lives: believers!
Doctors can insert a heart pacemaker and add years to this life, but only Jesus Christ is the heart “peace-maker”—giving peace with God, the peace of God and peace among men. And he is the “joy-giver.”
The peace that Jesus gives picks us up from the messes our sins have caused, embraces us in forgiving love, heals our hearts and lives and fills us with true peace that produces true joy now and forever!
John Payton is pastor of the Nazarene Church of Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-597-2249 or by emailing [email protected]
Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.