"Stressed Out" part 0 (added in response to the Virginia Tech shooting):
Finding Peace in a Violent World
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 22, 2007

 

Main Passage: Philippians 4:4-9 (NLT)

 

VIDEO – from Bluefishtv.com - Virginia Tech Prayer Vigil

This past Monday afternoon, Shera and I had some errands to run including a stop at the bank. Shera had been collecting coins from many of you over the past few weeks in order to buy puppets for her missions trip, and this past Monday we went to the bank to change the change into bills.

Anyway, as we were standing in line, I looked over at the TV that was on in the corner. And it was the first I had heard about it. Massacre at Virginia Tech. Unfortunately the volume was down and I’m not a good lip-reader, and so I couldn’t catch the details of what was going on. But I did my best to read the ticker across the bottom and try to gather as much information as I could about what had happened earlier that morning.

And as soon as I got home, the TV went on and I started to absorb what had happened in this tragedy.

And I think my first reaction was, “Oh no, here we go again.” Immediately, I started to reflect back on Columbine, and Tabor, and Dawson College. And I even wondered if this could be another terrorist attack.

How about you? Was that the type of reaction you had, too?

Tuesday morning, I had a dentist appointment. Now, I don’t know what it’s like at your dentist’s, but at my dentist’s they have TVs embedded in the ceiling above the chair. So when you’re reclining and they’re working away in your mouth, you can be watching TV.

Of course, I always start wondering how securely they’re attached to the ceiling. And then I start thinking that maybe it’s strategy. I mean, suppose the dentist looks at your teeth and concludes there’s no hope? They all have to be pulled. Well, instead of pulling them individually, suppose he can just hit a button and the TV comes crashing down. Takes them all out at once.

Just a thought for the next time you’re sitting in that chair.

Anyway, as I was sitting there this week, I got a hold of the remote and switched the channels until I came across a news conference updating everyone with any new information about the massacre. That’s when I found out who the shooter was (Cho Seung-Hui) and some of the early details about him. And all week long, there have been more details released and we’re learning more and more about what happened at Virginia Tech.


Now, this obviously wasn’t what I was planning to talk about today. I had planned to start a new series on dealing with stress. And so we were going to talk in general terms today and over the next few weeks get into topics like worry and guilt and money and loneliness.

But as this past week wore on, I decided to change things a little bit. Because I think one of the greatest causes of stress right now for people is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what might happen to you or to those you love. And the events that took place at Virginia Tech only serve to reinforce that fear.


And then you think back to just two weeks ago on Easter Sunday. On that day, six Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan were killed when a roadside bomb exploded. Many of them were from the Maritimes. One soldier who was injured but survived, Shaun Fevens, actually attends one of the Wesleyan Churches in Halifax.

And then last Wednesday in Turkey, two Turkish Christians plus one German Christian were working at their publishing company when five young Muslim men came in, tied them to chairs, and proceeded to stab them multiple times and slit their throats.

You hear of things like this happening around the world, and you realize that we’re not immune to danger here, and you start to wonder if you can ever live at ease in this uneasy world. Is it possible to live with a sense of peace even in the midst of violence?

I believe it is. And I believe you can know this peace. So this morning, let me give you four factors for experiencing and living a peaceful life.

 

Four Factors for a Peaceful Life:

1. Know where your eternity will be.

Life can be messy. There’s no denying that. There are lots of things that would want to rob us of any peace. We have our struggles. We all experience all kinds of difficulties. We’ve all got junk that we’ve got to cope with. But that’s okay, because it’s temporary. So even when our world is in uproar, we can live in peace because we know this isn’t all there is. Peter wrote…

1 Peter 1:6 (NLT)
So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.

This “wonderful joy ahead” that Peter is talking about is Heaven. There are no problems in Heaven, no valleys, no dark days. And all of us who have entered into a relationship with Jesus have that to look forward to.

Philippians 3:20-21 (NLT)
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Saviour. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

How’s that for good news? I mean, I’m in no rush to get there, but it’s going to be great when I do.

Listen, when you have established a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and when you know you’ve secured a future home with Him in Heaven, then you can experience peace. Because you can know that whatever happens to you in this lifetime, you have an eternity to look forward to.

Listen to what Jesus promised His followers… He had already had his last supper with his disciples, He knew that He would soon be arrested and executed, and so He told His disciples…

John 14:1-3, 27 (NLT)
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”…
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

The peace Jesus gives is not a temporal peace—here today and gone tomorrow. No, the peace He gives is eternal. It’s a peace that says, “Whatever happens now, I have a home in Heaven.”

So you’ve got to know where your eternity lies. That deals with the afterlife. But you’ve also got to…

 

2. Trust God for this life.

Now, often, when a tragedy happens, God gets blamed for it. You hear people say things like…

“How could God allow this to happen?”
“I guess God just decided it was their time.”
“God took them to be with Him.”
Or the line we often feed to kids… “God needed another angel.”

I was on CNN.com this week reading some of the biographies of the victims in Virginia. And I came across Rachael Hill’s. Rachael was a follower of Jesus and she had graduated from a Christian school. And the administrator of the school talked about all of her talents and the hopes she had for the future. And then he said, “Obviously, the Lord had other plans for her.”

Now, I understand that statements like that are meant to console people and try to explain why bad things happen. But really, I don’t think they do either.

Listen, the students at Virginia Tech didn’t die because it was their time. They died because another student came in with a gun. They died because evil and sin exist. That wasn’t God’s plan.

You see, we live in a broken, fallen world. And because of that, things go wrong. Not everything that happens in life is what God desires. That’s the price He paid for giving us Free Will – the ability to choose. And so there’s a lot of stuff that happens that God doesn’t endorse. But the good news is, ultimately, He is bringing all things under His control. And one day, His plan will be fully realized.

That’s coming. But right now, we’ve just got to trust Him and hold on. What did Jesus say?

John 16:33 (NLT)
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

He’s saying, “Even with all the stuff that happens… even when you go through tough times and experience loss… you can still trust in Me, because I am with you and I will give you peace.” He says, “No, all is not right with the world. But I have overcome the world.” And so as we continue to trust Him now, we can look forward to that eternity with Him when all the current troubles will be left behind.

“Jesus offers no way out of the unfairness, but rather a way through it to the other side.”
~ Philip Yancey

Remember David in the Old Testament? David spent time fleeing for his life. King Saul was trying to hunt him down and kill him. So David had to run away and leave everything and everyone behind him and go into hiding. He knew that life wasn’t always easy. But he also understood that despite everything that might happen to him, he could still place his trust in God. This is what he wrote… read it with me…

Psalm 4:8 (NLT)
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.

What a great perspective David had on life. Even though he knew what hardship was, he also knew that he could place his trust in God. Because God is trustworthy.


Number 3. If you want to experience peace…

 

3. Learn the art of forgiveness.

Because you’ll never be able to live at peace as long as you’re harbouring anger and bitterness and resentment and hatred. You’ve got to learn to forgive if you want to experience real peace.

Romans 12:18-19 (NLT)
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God.

Instead of seeking revenge, offer forgiveness.

Now, I think a lot of people misunderstand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness does not say “It’s okay.” Because it’s not. It does not claim it doesn’t hurt. Because it does. And it doesn’t mean that there’s no need for justice. Because there is.

But what forgiveness does mean is that you’re not controlled by your anger. It does mean you’re not controlled by hate. It does mean that you’re not motivated by revenge. Basically, it means that you recognize that and an offence was done—you don’t ignore it, you recognize it—but you choose to move beyond it.

Oh, and that old phrase “forgive and forget”? You’re not going to be able to forget it. You’ve been hurt, and you need time to heal. You’ve experienced loss, and you need to learn to cope with it. I don’t believe we’re capable of completely forgetting.

But… if you do choose to forgive… then let me tell you what will happen. You can move forward in life instead of being tied to that moment when the offence happened, and eventually the times that the offence comes to mind will be fewer and farther between.

Now, this isn’t easy. The natural tendency when someone hurts you is to hurt them back. It takes some strength of character to choose to forgive.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

I think one of the best examples of this I’ve ever seen was found in what happened in Tabor, Alberta back in 1999. In that school shooting, 17-year old Jason Lang was killed. Now, I understand there’s no greater loss than for a parent to lose their child. And so I can’t even imagine the emotional rollercoaster the Jason’s parents, Dale and Diane, experienced at that time. But I do know that they are followers of Jesus. And because of their relationship with Him, they chose to extend forgiveness to the 14-year-old who had killed their son.

“Without God's love I couldn't have forgiven that young man who shot our son. This is too painful a thing to do on your own. With God in my heart he has made it possible. I've been set free from bitterness and anger and unforgiveness, and that's a wonderful gift… I'm an ordinary person, but inside of me lives the great and awesome Lord, and he made the difference.”
~ Dale Lang

If you want to live in peace, you need to learn to forgive others. And number 4…

 

4. Keep short accounts with God and with others.

We’ve already talked about you forgiving others. This is about others forgiving you.

When someone hurts you, you extend forgiveness to them. When you hurt someone else, you go and seek their forgiveness. Either way, it’s your responsibility to initiate the process of reconciliation.

In fact, Jesus puts reconciliation pretty high on our to-do list. Let me set the stage. In Jesus’ day, the Jews had a very strict religious protocol when it came to going to the temple. In fact, it wasn’t all that different than many churches today. When you went to the Temple you were expected to be on time, sit quietly, and stay for the whole thing. Don’t you dare try to leave early. If you remember you left the iron on, you hope your insurance is up to date. If the service goes overtime and you’ve got a roast in the oven, you just consider it a burnt offering as unto the Lord. What you were not to do was leave before the service was over.

And you can understand that. I mean, if you’re worshipping God, what could be more important? Well, Jesus told us what. In fact, He gave permission in this case to get up and walk out in the middle of a worship service. When does he say this would be okay? When we realize that somebody is holding a grudge against us and we need to go and seek their forgiveness. Listen to what He said…

Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

Basically He’s saying, “If you want to be at peace with God and yourself then you need to be at peace with others.”

Now put that in the context of what happened this past week. I wonder how many students at Virginia Tech this week got on the phone and made up with their parents. I wonder how many of them had a fractured friendship that needed mending. I wonder how many of them had some unresolved business that suddenly they were motivated to take care of.

You know, it’s often tragedies and close calls that wake people up to the need they have to be reconciled to other people and to God. But if you keep short accounts and make this a way of life, then you won’t need to worry about it. You can be at peace in any circumstance.

 

I'm going to finish up this morning by reading a verse from 2 Thessalonians. And as I read it, let it be my prayer for you...


2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NLT)
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.

 

 

 

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