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  • Writer's picturePastor John Anderson

Panic or Peace?

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." - John 14:27

I remember vividly swimming in the Pacific Ocean back in 2001 in Santa Barbara, CA. Some friends and I decided to drive over and spend the day on the beach and hang out on Labor Day together. The water is always cold no matter the temperature outside so we brought wet suits and surf boards and braved the cooler waters. We had passed by several signs that stated the rip tides were out and all swimmers should be cautious. Having worked as a certified lifeguard for several summers and fancying myself as a good swimmer, I looked at those signs as suggestions instead of warnings.

We were having a great time and enjoying the empty beaches when I noticed that I had drifted a good way out and that I was further away from the group than I had intended. As I started to make my way back towards my friends, I realized that the harder I swam, the further I was going away from them. Like a ton of bricks it hit me: "I am in a rip tide!" Panic immediately sat in and I instinctively began to fight against the tide trying desperately to get closer to the beach and to my friends, but it was completely useless. I was running out of energy and drifting further out and further away.

After what seemed like forever, which was really only a few seconds, I calmed down, laid on my back, and let the current take me out and away. It was a surreal moment when I stopped fighting, gave in to the powerful current, and waited until it spat me out. Finally about 3/4 of a mile down the beach and way further out into the ocean than I intended to go, I felt the current release me. Thankfully, I had enough energy to swim in and collapse on the beach from absolute exhaustion.

As I laid there on that beach thanking the Lord for His mercy, I also was in complete learning mode. There were some important lessons I learned the hard way that Labor Day that have stayed with me since then. One of them was simply this, Don’t Panic. The more I panicked the more trouble I got myself into. I was not changing anything by panicking, I had to calm down and let my training kick in and that is likely what saved my life that day.

Jesus disciples found themselves in quite a rip tide in John 14. Their entire world was collapsing around them and Jesus their Master and friend has dropped the bombshell that He is leaving and is going to send Someone in His place. They are in unfamiliar territory and no doubt they had a panicked look on their faces as Jesus explained to them their new reality. Panic was not going to work, they needed peace, His peace!

Maybe like me you have felt a cultural current pulling you in. Afghanistan, Border Crisis, uptick in Delta variant cases, mask mandates, school closings, general population depression and discouragement, limited travel, incompetence in leadership, shifting culture, low commitment Christianity, church attendance decline, vaccine debates, on and on the list could go. Every Christian I know has the natural tendency right now to PANIC. I urge you today, lay on your back, look up to your Father in Heaven, and stop wildly trying to fight the cultural current. Your God is in complete control and He has promised you His peace! Don't forget your training, you can have peace even in dangerous days, shifting culture, and frightening circumstances.

We are commanded in Colossians 3:15 "And let the peace of God RULE in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful." The word "RULE" is so important. It is not that there are not other things going on in your heart, you just cannot let those things RULE. Fear, Panic, Worry, Stress, and many other emotions can be in our hearts, but we cannot allow those things to RULE. We can only allow the Peace of God to RULE in our hearts if we are going to survive this cultural current.

I finally started making my way down the beach towards my friends and every step I took was a step of thanksgiving. I looked out at the ocean that had just about killed me and discovered it was one of the most peaceful scenes I had ever witnessed! I did not make any foxhole commitments to God out on that water, but I did experience a peace that I had never experienced before but have experienced many times since. There are really only two responses to the cultural current for God's children: Panic or Peace. I choose peace today and I pray that you will find peace in Christ alone as well.

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