3 You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
Our reading from Isaiah 26 is an excerpt from a song of praise the prophet Isaiah says will be sung some day in the land of Judah. It speaks of perfect peace.
I think all of us here tonight could use some peace. In fact, maybe the reason you entered the church this evening is that you are looking for a few moments of peace before going back out into the craziness of the world and life outside these glass walls. A life where you face many conflicts.
The words of the prophet are soothing at first. LORD, you keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you—that is, whose life is steadfast on you. How we long for that. But then we read the next clause, “Because he trusts in you.”
And herein lies a huge problem. To trust God is to hand over the direction and control over the outcome of my life to someone else—the very thing I am reluctant to do.
You see, I know best what’s best for me, and I don’t want God or anyone else to tell me how to live my life. And if I do discover that I need a little bit of God in my life, I’ll decide when and how much.
But such thinking is certainly not the mind of one resting steadfast on God. In fact, such thinking reflects the greatest conflict every one of us faces, and that is our conflict with God, Himself.
There are lot of different things we could say about our conflict with God. The consequences of trying to live life apart from God, who is the Lord and GIVER of life ought to be obvious. If we turn away from the source of life at any point, then we choose death.
But I want to focus tonight for a moment on our intense desire to maintain control over our own lives. This seems to me one of the greatest obstacles to trusting God and to receiving the peace He promises.
For the reasons I already mentioned, you and I want hang onto control of our lives. We want to control every outcome. We think we are best equipped to achieve our own happiness. But there is an unbearable stress in trying to figure everything out and get everything right. Few of us are successful at every point. And even those of us who actually seem to manage life pretty well, are still unable to do anything about the cloud of death that hangs out there over us all. We recognize there will come a point when we cannot maintain control any longer, and that thought terrifies us.
But faith also terrifies us. Because faith is about trusting someone else—that is God, with what happens in our lives. It is about walking in obedience to Him, even when it doesn’t make sense. Like walking in the dark having no way to control what happens to us. And so we fight God every step of the way to stay in control of the direction of lives.
But allow me to share a personal experience I think illustrates the freedom of trusting someone greater and wiser than we with our life’s outcome.
Eighteen years ago, when I was still living in the States, I had a very bad car accident. My 10-year-old-son was in the back seat. The highway (what the Germans would call the Autobahn) was wet, and suddenly my vehicle began to hydroplane. I gripped the steering wheel and tried to maintain control, but the harder I tried, the more violently the car kept fishtailing, until finally the car went off the road and began to flip over.
The few seconds I fought for control were terrifying. Fear that became dread in slow motion. I was keenly aware how bad things could be for me and my 10-year-old son, if I lost control driving at that speed.
But a strange thing happened. The instant the car left the road and actually went airborne my fear disappeared instantly. I remember it like it was yesterday. An incredible peace flooded through my whole being.
Again, it seemed to all be in slow motion. I was still aware of how bad things could be. I was conscious of every impact the car made. I remember the windshield shattering. I remember dirt in my mouth. As the car flipped over and then over again, finally landed upside down, I remember thinking my son and I could both die right here.
But as soon as I actually lost control of the car, I knew instantly that there was nothing more I could do. Whatever the outcome was going to be, it was no longer in my hands. I no longer had to figure this out and get it right. And that realization brought instant relief—peace. The thought moves me to this day.
I believe this experience illustrates the peace you and I can have when we allow the LORD to take control over our lives. When we trust Him completely. (To let him take the wheel.)
Does trusting God make us immune from conflict or pain or suffering in life? Not at all. But the amazing thing about trusting God, is that we can find His peace in the middle of conflict, pain and suffering. The Bible calls this peace that passes understanding.
And with respect to that cloud of death that hangs over us all? If we turn back one chapter in Isaiah, we find an amazing verse in reference to Zion, the holy mountain of Jerusalem. (Remember, Isaiah wrote some 700 years before Christ.)
7 And he (that is the LORD) will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever;
700 years after Isaiah wrote these words, God swallowed up death forever by His own death on a Cross, on a hill outside Jerusalem. It is there that He removed the sin and guilt, which is the source of our conflict with God.
Hand over control of your life to this God. Make sure your life is resting on the Rock, that is on Jesus Christ. And may the peace that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Him tonight.