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No God, No Peace – Know God, Know Peace

I Samuel 18:1-9

Two Frenchmen had lived for a considerable time in England. After all of those years, one of them decided that he would become an English citizen. He tried to persuade his friend to do the same, but the friend refused. On the day when the one who became an Englishman took his oath of allegiance to the British Crown, he met his French friend who had refused to take that same step. The friend said to him: “So, now you’re an Englishman. And what difference does it make? You look the same, you act the same, you talk the same. You even have the same French accent. There is no difference.” And the old Frenchman who was now an Englishman said: “Oh yes, there is a big difference. You see, yesterday Waterloo was a defeat, but today it is a victory.”

Well, none of us can argue with the old man’s reasoning, and we wouldn’t want to if we could, because all of us like to be part of a victory. We want to know peace, but we want to know peace on the winning side. It is given to all of us to enjoy triumph more than tragedy. We all want out of the war—whatever that war may be, outward circumstance or inner conflict, but we want out of the war on the side of the victors. There is nothing unnatural about that, and there is nothing wrong with that. We would like to see our Waterloos end in triumph. We would like to see our gloomy days become glorious ones. We would like to have that deep peace within which builds peace without.

I think we find counsel in our search for inner peace by looking at the collapse of Saul, the first king of Israel. As we see how and why he fell apart, we might learn better how to keep ourselves together. Let me say going in that King Saul’s life crumbled into ruins for one reason and one reason only—he pushed God off the throne of his life.

And without God, Saul couldn’t see the gifts and abilities God had put within him.

At the beginning of his life Saul seemed to possess all of the ingredients necessary for a successful life. He was an impressive man physically. The Bible describes him as handsome and standing head and shoulders taller than anyone else in Israel. He was an impressive man socially. He came from a prominent family, respected and affluent. He was an impressive man personally. He was refreshingly humble, and yet possessed of a charismatic flair which enabled him to inspire other people to action. That’s the way he began his life. And what is important to remember is that when he came to the end of his life, he still had all those marvelous gifts and abilities intact. He had not lost a single one of them. The problem was that when he lost sight of God in his life, he also lost sight of the gifts God had given him.

I have come to believe that a critical issue for our daily living is this issue of self-image. How do you view the gifts and abilities God has given you in life? Everything depends upon your response. To live joyfully, creatively, meaningfully, purposefully, effectively is to accept what God has created you to be. Until you come to terms with what God has made you to be, your life will never be completely fulfilled.

Listen to me please. If you don’t hear anything else, please hear this. You are here because God put you here. Before the foundation of the world, God decided what you would be and what role you would play in the great drama of creation. You are important to God and to His world, and no one can take that away from you. You are of infinite value to God. You are sheer joy to the Heavenly Father’s heart. You are a jewel, unique and priceless. You are God’s masterpiece, fashioned by His own hand, and He has signed His name across your life. I don’t care how you feel today—believe it! I don’t care how many times you feel that you have failed in the past—believe it! I don’t care if anyone else tries to put you down—believe it! It’s like the bumper sticker says: “God don’t make no junk!”—and God , my friends, made you. Never forget that.

No matter what happens, never forget that.

I learned something about Fritz Kreisler, the great violinist. His parents started him on the violin early in life, but he was never any good. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t even get into the local orchestra. He gave it up and joined the army. He was a failure as a soldier. He tried a few other things, and didn’t succeed at those either. Finally, he came to realize that God had given him some ability with the violin, but it was going to take tremendous effort to develop that gift. So he went to a noted violin teacher and said: “I want you to teach me everything you know, and I will make you this promise; no matter what you demand of me I will never quit.” And Fritz Kreisler went on to become the greatest violinist of his day.

What’s the point? God has given all of us certain gifts and abilities. No matter what happens, no matter what circumstances surround us, no matter what difficulties we may encounter, as long as we do not lose sight of God in our lives, we will not lose sight of the gifts and abilities He has given us. Therefore, we will never quit in life.

And without God, Saul couldn’t see the people God had placed around him.

You don’t have to be much of a student of psychology or of Scripture to know what Saul’s problem was. Saul had such a poor image of himself, that he was unable to accept the strengths and the glories which he saw in other people. It cost him his relationship with the very people God had given him to love. Saul couldn’t stand the attention young David was receiving. He couldn’t stand what God was doing through David, and so he tried to kill David. It even destroyed Saul’s relationship with his son, Jonathan, who was the apple of his eye. Jonathan had a deep friendship with David. Saul ordered him to break it off. Jonathan wouldn’t do that, and so Saul fell out with his son. Saul’s daughter, Michal, was married to David. When Saul went after David, Michal took David’s side and the relationship with her father was broken. God had given Saul people who loved him and cared for him, and yet when he pushed God off the throne in his life, he came to see those people as obstacles to his own glory.

Dear friends, please remember that God has surrounded you with people who love you and care for you in life. Don’t lose sight of that. I am thinking now of a young girl who was born both black and poor- two strikes against her. She had a third strike as well; she was very sickly. After several years of ill health, though she was still young, she told her mother that she wanted to die. But her mother cared too much for her to let that happen. Down behind the little shack where they lived in the little town of Silver, South Carolina, there was a creek and at the edge of that creek there was a large stone. And the mother said to the young girl: “Get that stone and bring it up to the kitchen door to use as a step.” The girl replied: “I’m too weak to lift that stone.” The mother said: “I know you can’t lift it, but you can push it or shove it or drag it. I don’t care how long it takes, just get the stone to the kitchen door.” It took her one month and eighteen days to move that stone. A healthy girl could have moved it in just a few minutes, but her mother wouldn’t let her quit. Every day she made her work at the task, and what happened? As she worked she gained strength. The exercise and the challenge began to build up both her body and her spirit. Eventually she became strong, strong enough to be an athlete. Tennis became her game; Althea Gibson was her name. Some there are who say she may have been the finest woman tennis player in the world.

There were people in Saul’s life who loved him and cared for him. They could have brought him great joy and deep peace. Yet, when he pushed God out of his life, he also pushed out the people God had given him to love.

Then without God, Saul couldn’t see the hope God had planted before him.

Saul kept forgetting that God is in charge. They came back from a battle in which young David had killed Goliath, who was a kind of a Shaquille O’Neal of the Philistines. As they returned from that battle, the people rushed out into the streets rejoicing and crying out: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Now here was an opportunity for Saul to have led the people in thanksgiving to God for delivering them from this most threatening time they had ever known. It was a time for Saul to remind the people that their hope must always be in God. But Saul had forgotten that God is in charge.

You know, there’s nothing that begins to build peace inside of you like knowing that you don’t have to carry the load in life. God is in charge. Like the little boy who was watching the television news one night, and he heard about the war in Bosnia, and the movement of troops in Iraq, and two fatal car accidents, and a man murdered outside of his business, a home invasion, and a man arrested for sexually abusing some children. Then he was called to the dinner table. His father said: “Son, will you return thanks?” So he bowed his head and he prayed “O Lord, please hang in there, because without You, we’re sunkl” And that’s true. But the Gospel says that God is in charge, that He is our hope, He can bring good out of even the worst of things.

Some of you may recognize the name of Russell Conwell. He came from Massachusetts. He was an atheist. He had no use for God in his life. He led a squadron of soldiers in the Civil War called “The Berkshire Boys”. They were quite successful during their various forays into battle. However, on one occasion, they charged across a bridge only to encounter a massed formation of Confederate soldiers. Outnumbered and out-gunned, the Berkshire Boys had to beat a hasty retreat back across the bridge. As they were retreating, the bridge was set on fire. When Conwell, the commanding office, reached a point of safety, he suddenly realized that he had dropped his sword on the rebel side of the bridge. He lamented the loss of his favorite sword. Whereupon, one of his young soldiers, a boy named Johnny Ring, immediately took off running across that bridge, found the sword, picked it up, and began to run back across the bridge, which by now was in full flame. He was horribly burned as he ran—a feat so heroic that the rebels did not fire a shot at him in admiration for his courage. He brought the sword, dropped it at the feet of his commander, Russell Conwell, and then he collapsed to the ground. Conwell knelt down beside him and said: “O Johnny, I’m so sorry. I’m so very sorry.” The boy looked up at Conwell and said: “Sir, you don’t have to be sorry. I know Jesus, and so there’s nothing to fear.” Then as he breathed his last, Johnny Ring said to Russell Conwell: “Sir, do you know Jesus?”

That night in his tent, Russell Conwell got to his knees and committed himself to the service of Jesus Christ. He made a solemn vow then, which he kept, that for the rest of his life he would work sixteen hours a day—eight hours a day for himself in the service of Christ, and eight hours a day for Johnny Ring in the service of Jesus Christ. He would lead two lives, both dedicated to the service of his Lord.

Russell Conwell went on to become a Baptist preacher, the founder of the great Baptist Temple Church in Philadelphia. His sermon, “Acres of Diamonds” was preached more than 6,000 times across this country, and the money he raised from the preaching of that sermon he used to found Temple University in Philadelphia. He also began the Conwell School of Theology which later merged with Gordon Seminary in Massachussetts to make the Gordon-Conwell Seminary that we know today. You see, out of the tragedy of the war and out of the desperately sad death of a fine and dedicated young man named Johnny Ring, God has brought to knowledge thousands through that university and brought to faith thousands through the ministry of Russell Conwell and the seminary that bears his name.

If only Saul had remembered that God is in charge, perhaps it would have made a difference in the end of his story. If only Saul had returned to God, he would have found the never-failing love and the never-ending hope which God sets before us.

Well, there is an old Chinese verse that goes like this:

“When there’s peace in the heart, there’s peace in the family.
When there’s peace in the family, there’s peace in the neighborhood.
When there’s peace in the neighborhood, there’s peace in the nation.
When there’s peace within nations, there will be peace in the world.”

In other words, peace in the world begins with peace in your heart and mine. And here is what is true:

If you have N-O God, you will have N-O peace.
If you K-N-O-W God, then you will K-N-O-W peace.

Do you K-N-O-W GOD?

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