Thursday, December 14, 2006

All Shall Be Well

I am preaching on the subject of “Peace” today. At times like this I remind myself that I am not required to have mastered something or understand it fully in order to preach about it. I am a fellow traveler on this journey, and this is true, by the way, most of the time for preachers.

I am familiar with many of the pithy sayings about spiritual peace, such as “Peace is not the absence of trouble but the presence of God.” They’re all accurate, for the most part, but I wonder if they don’t make it out to be easier than it is. “No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace.” Okay. Got it. But a subject like this deserves more than bumper sticker slogans.

One of the songs we sing about the peace of God is called “It is Well With My Soul.” The first verse goes “When peace like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’ The author, Horatio G. Spafford, wrote this out of the crucible of devastating loss. He lost a fortune in the great Chicago fire of 1871 and soon after lost his only son, aged 4, to scarlet fever. In 1873 he sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him to England to visit the evangelistic campaigns of his close friends D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey, planning to join them in short order. On the voyage their ship collided with another vessel and sank; his four daughters were lost. His wife cabled him with the simple message: “Saved alone.” Spafford booked passage to join his bereaved wife, and was notified by the captain when they passed the spot of the ship’s sinking and his children’s deaths. Unsettled, unable to sleep, he said to himself, “It is well; the will of God be done.” He later wrote this famous hymn based on those words.

I recall reading of an early church leader who regularly consoled his flock (and himself) with the assurance that “All shall be well.” This is a strangely comforting thought, isn’t it? But apart from God it is just positive thinking, however comforting it may be. To say “All shall be well” is to affirm that no matter how bad things get, no matter what turmoil we face or devastation we suffer, the God who loves us, in the name of the Son who died for us, through the Spirit who intercedes for us (Romans 8:26) will care for us and see us through. Jesus puts it this way to his followers, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33)."

The message Spafford’s wife cabled him can be heard at another level. “Saved alone.” When I consider the devastation Spafford suffered, and wonder if I could withstand similar losses with my faith intact, this is what I come back to: When all is said and done, I am saved, and on that alone rests my peace. Jesus (from Jeshua, “the One who saves”) has overcome the world and “this world is not my home” (another song we sing). Jesus assures me “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you (John 14:27)” and on that I endeavor to build the rest of my life.

So, friends, may the God of peace be with all of you (Romans 15:33). And may you be with the God of peace.


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