Where are the places you go, or the things you do, to help calm your nerves or find some peace? Do you escape to the mountains or the beach? Maybe you walk in the woods or go for a run to feel at peace. Maybe you less active and find peace getting lost in a good book or listening to some music. Some people love to cook while other people like to eat. There is even an entire category of food that helps people feel at peace called comfort food and it brings peace because it helps connect us to the traditions or our past. While we often look to these things to bring peace to our lives, we learned last week that peace isn’t going to be found in the world around us or even inside of us – peace is found in God.
Last week in our Life Is series we learned that life is to be at peace with God and this kind of peace only comes through Jesus because it is only Jesus who brings us back into a relationship with God. Jesus redeems us and opens the door for us to experience peace which is why the focus of our lives needs to be Jesus. Peace with God is only half of the equation; however, the other half is having peace with ourselves. Life is to be at peace with yourself and you won’t be surprised to hear that this peace is also found not in what we do or what we listen to or what we eat or in anything we find in the world around us, it is found in the one we trust an turn to. Finding peace with ourselves comes from God and to help us understand how we find this peace we are going to look at the beginning and the end, the first chapter of the first book of the Bible and the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, Genesis 1 and Revelation 22.
Revelation 22:13. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last. So Jesus is saying that he is the first and last, the beginning and end, which means he is eternal and present with us at all times and in all places, but let’s just look at the word first for a moment. Jesus is first has two meanings. It means Jesus is before all things, but it also means that Jesus is better than all things. Think about what it means to be first in a race or a competition. The first in a race is the fastest. The first in a competition is the best or most skilled. The first is usually the most powerful, the most beautiful, and the most talented and that is Jesus, he is first in everything.
Since Jesus is the first in everything we can trust him for everything. Whatever it is we are worried about – God is bigger. Whatever problem we face – God is stronger. Whatever we strive for in this world – God is better. Jesus is first in all things which means we can trust him and that trust brings us peace. The Apostle Paul said, if God is for us, who can be against us? Can any force or power stand against us if God is on our side? No, because God is bigger and God is stronger because God is first. Paul says, we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. And he says, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. The empty grave of Easter tells us that God is even greater and stronger and more powerful than death which means there really is nothing that can stand against God and if God is with us then we can be confident and at peace in all circumstances.
Not only is Jesus first which means he is bigger, better and stronger than all things, but being first means He is before all things. Here is where we turn to the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1:1. God is before all things and the very first thing God does is bring peace into chaos. Genesis 1:2. God is first so he is the one who brings order out of the chaos. The deep and darkness it talks about here are symbols of chaos and confusion and it is out of that chaos God brings order. God brings light into darkness. God brings the heavens and then the sky and the earth into a formless void. God brings creatures to live in the waters and then creatures to live on the land and then finally human beings to be stewards of it all. So God is before all things and God is there to make a way for us. God is first which means that God goes before us to make a way.
In all things, God goes before us which means that wherever we are in life and what every stress or problems we face – God is already there. God has been there and God is there waiting to help us find peace. We hear this in Psalm 139: 5, You hem me in behind and before – you have laid your hand upon me. God is before us, so no matter what we face, we are facing it with God who already knows the situation and has a plan for our future. We can be at peace with ourselves if we will trust that God is first.
God going before me was a lesson it took me weeks to learn when I worked in Yellowstone NP, and I had to learn it the hard way. The summer I woprked in Yellowstone I was told I was going to be working at a location called Lake. I was going to work in the dining room but I was also going to be part of a ministry team. When I arrived in the park for my orientation they told me I was going to be working in Grant Village which immediately stressed me out because my ministry position was in Lake. I didn’t know what to do so I talked to several people about it both at work and with the ministry and after worrying for some time they told me to go ahead to Grant Village and I could work with the ministry team in place there. It didn’t take me long to realize that the ministry team at Grant Village was awesome and it was exactly where God wanted me. God had gone before me into the park and provided for me a great team of people to work with, but I still didn’t have peace because I wasn’t very happy with my job.
I worked as a prep cook and dishwasher. I basically did a little bit of everything and whatever needed to get done, but it wasn’t very exciting so when a job opened up at an ice-cream shop, I applied thinking it would be more fun. I really thought that was the place for me, until they told me I would have to work on Sundays which conflicted with my responsibility with the ministry. After a lot of thought, I realized I had to turn it down which didn’t bring me peace but just more anxiety and searching.
I kept looking at other jobs always thinking that something else was going make me happy. Forget the fact that my kitchen job not only gave me every Sunday and Monday off because of the ministry team, it also gave me every Saturday off. That location was the only place where they worked us 4 - 10 hour days so we could have three days off to explore the park and I was the only one who got every weekend off because I had asked for Sunday and Monday and so they gave me Saturday as well. You would have thought I would have seen God’s hand going before and providing all this for me, but I didn’t.
I kept looking for other jobs thinking a different place and different work would make me happy and bring me peace. Eventually they offered me a different job and I took it and the first week there, I was miserable. I didn’t like it at all and prayed for God to make a way for me to go back to the kitchen. God made it clear that I had gotten myself into that situation and I could get myself out. So I humbled myself, went to my manager and told him I wanted to go back to the kitchen. They really didn’t understand, but they agreed and I went back to washing dishes and preparing meals and I never looked for another job that summer.
When I look back on that summer I can see that God had literally gone before me and worked it out for me to work in a kitchen in Grant Village. It was the absolute best place for me to be and God had actually paved the way for me to be there. God went first and when I realized that and accepted that, I found peace.
That experience taught me a great lesson in life and faith, God really does go before us and prepares the way for us. God is there to give strength and wisdom when we need it. God is there to give direction and guidance when we need it. God is there to give us patience and love when we need it and God is there to offer us grace when we need it. Yes, God even goes before us when we fail and need to be forgiven and Peter is the one who teaches this to us.
Before Jesus died, Peter failed to acknowledge that he knew Jesus. Three times as Jesus was being questioned and condemned by the religious leaders, Peter was also being questioned and he denied that he was a follower of Jesus and that he even knew Jesus. That failure was painful for Peter and in the days after Jesus died that failure meant Peter had no peace. We all know what it is like to fail and let down the people we love the most. It’s horrible and it disturbs us and it robs of peace, and that is where Peter was until the morning of the third day. On the morning that the women found Jesus’ tomb empty, they were given this message, Mark 16:6-7.
Jesus was going ahead of them. Once again we see that Jesus is first. Not only was the first to rise from the grave but he is going before his disciples to Galilee, but did you notice that Jesus singles out Peter? Jesus specifically wants Peter to know that he will meet him in Galilee. What peace Peter must have felt when he heard this news from Mary. Jesus wanted Peter himself to know that he went before him and would meet him in Galilee. The door of forgiveness was opened.
So Jesus goes before Peter to Galilee but what Jesus does in Galilee is what’s really important because it is in Galilee that Peter is forgiven. While most of the resurrection appearances of Jesus take place in Jerusalem where the disciples had been staying for the Passover, in John’s gospel we find the disciples back fishing. They are back in Galilee and it is here that Jesus takes Peter aside and forgives him for the three times that he failed. So even when we fail, Jesus goes before us to forgive. Jesus is always first.
What often causes us the most distress and robs of any kind of peace of mind is our own sense of failure. We are not who we think we should be and we are not who we think God wants us to be and that failure often keeps our hearts and minds unsettled and it can destroy our faith and wreck our lives, but God is telling us here that he goes before us to forgive us. God is ready to forgive before we even see our need to be forgiven. God being first to forgive and first to offer mercy and first to reach out in love brings a peace that can bring order to our chaos and light to the darkness of our lives.
There is one more way that Jesus being first can bring us peace and that is remember that no matter we are facing today, Jesus faced it first. Whatever the stress is, whatever the anxiety is, whatever the temptation is, whatever the suffering, loss and pain is, Jesus experienced it first which means that he is able to understand what we go through and help us through. Look at Hebrews 4:14-16.
Jesus has experienced our flesh and blood which means has been tempted in ways we have been tempted and has gone through the same suffering and pain. Jesus knows the bitter disappointment of family and friends lettings us down and he has seen great plans fall apart. Jesus knows about loss, he knows about misunderstanding, he even knows about failure, not that he failed but he saw and experienced the pain of those who failed around him.
Jesus knows what we are going through today which means he is able to understand us our weakness and offer us whatever it is need to move forward in life. That’s what Jesus does as the great high priest – he goes before us to God so that we can follow him to a place where we can find mercy and grace and strength. It says we can approach God’s throne with confidence, and it is that confidence and assurance that brings us peace.
Peace comes in knowing that Jesus is first. He is alpha and omega, beginning and end, first and last. He hems us in behind and before. God was first at creation and brought peace into the deep dark chaos of the world. Jesus is first which means he is bigger and better than anything and can help us overcome all of our problems and fears. Jesus is first because he goes before us and prepares the way for us to experience the fullness of life and Jesus is first in that he has experienced all of life before we did which means that no matter what we are experiencing today, Jesus knows and he understands. Peace comes in knowing that Jesus is first and we find peace by making Jesus first in our hearts and lives.
Life Is to be at peace with yourself
Read the creation story in Genesis 1. Notice how God was before all things and how God prepared the way for all of life.
Read Revelation 22:13. What does it mean that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end, the first and last? Can you say that Jesus is first and last in your life?
Knowing Jesus is first brings us peace:
Jesus is first. He is bigger and better than all things
• What problem do you face today and how is Jesus bigger?
• What thing are you searching for today and how is Jesus better?
• Where do you feel weak today and how is Jesus stronger?
Jesus is first. He is before all things.
• What situation can you look back on and see how God went before you to provide?
• How has God gone before you in circumstances you find yourself in today?
Jesus is first. He has experienced all things.
• What does it mean for Jesus to be your Great High Priest? (See Hebrews 4:14-16)
• Jesus was tempted in every way we were. In what temptations and struggles with sin does this help you?
• What does it tell us about God that He sent His son to experience the fullness of our lives and weakness?
Where do you need to put Jesus first in your life so you can be at peace with yourself?