"Stressed Out" part 0 (added in response to the
Virginia Tech shooting):
Finding Peace in a Violent World
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 22, 2007
Main Passage: Philippians
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
“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
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the
~ 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
~ Dale Lang
If you want to live in peace, you need to learn to forgive others. And
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
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.