Without peace, there is no happiness. The topic today is peace—the third spiritual muscle for Happiness Formation.
[Hi, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light, and I am the keeper! Your light is your service to the world, and my job is to help you shine the brightest so that God is glorified, and you are gratified.]
Let me begin with a story. It is an ancient allegory.
A man was taking an evening walk in the woods, and suddenly he felt someone following him. He turned around and saw a big tiger sneaking behind him, so he started running for his life. Unfortunately, he ended up at a cliff leaving no room for him to run.
Seeing a vine dangling down the cliff, he immediately grabbed the vine and slid down the cliff. The tiger growled and roamed along the edge to find a way to reach him.
Hanging on the vine tightly, he looked down and saw a river below with several crocodiles looking up with the jaws wide open, waiting for their lunch to drop right into their mouths.
The man looked up and saw the hungry tiger trying to figure out how to reach down to catch him. He looked down again and saw the crocodiles with their jaws open even wider.
He then looked up to make sure the vine is strong enough for him to hang in there only to discovered two little mice—a white and a black—gnawing at the vine above him.
Realizing sooner or later the vine will break, he tried to shoo the mice away. The two mice ignored the man and kept gnawing at the vine. The man looked around hoping to find a stick or a branch that he could use to drive the mice away, but the only thing at his arm’s reach was a big red juicy sun-ripened strawberry, something he loves to enjoy at a normal time, but he felt he could not for the time being.
He looked up at the tiger and down at the crocodiles and then up at the mice. After several rounds of looking, he decided to close his eyes, reach out his arm, unplugged the strawberry, and enjoyed the savory sun-ripen strawberry as if time has stopped.
It is an allegory of life. The tiger at the top represents our past. Most people cannot have peace because they are haunted by their past—past guilts, past grudges, and past wounds that have not healed.
The crocodiles down the line represent the future. Many people in the world do not have peace because they worry about their future—their job security, health security, and financial security. They also worry about the future of their children, marriage, and unforeseen disasters like a pandemic.
The vine is our lifeline, and the white and black mice represent day and night—the ticking time that is slowly wearing our life away. We want to stop the time from running out, but time is merciless.
The strawberry represents peace. It is a gift from God. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27).
Jesus wants us to enjoy the amazing peace he gave us, but most people live a life haunted by the past that the cannot change, fearing the future that they have no control of, and being enslaved by the tyranny of time.
A friend of mine gave me a short and vivid picture of human life, “Most people live a life with one foot in the past, another in the future, and pee on the present.”
If you want peace, you must not ruin your present because the strawberry is available at the present moment only, and the present is the only moment you have control of.
Bill Keane, the American cartoonist, said, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”
However, forgetting the past and ignoring the future are not the solutions because suppressed memories can cause mental illness, which can affect our physical health and cause relational problems. You cannot escape the past by simply sweeping it under the carpet. It will rot and spoil the future.
Nowadays, many people learn meditation to quiet their minds to have a moment of peace. However, you cannot meditate the past away by quieting your thoughts because it will recur when you resume thinking. Humans are thinking beings. We exist because we think.
The popular meditation methods today are like sweeping the garbage under the carpet. It provides a short-term gratification, but no long-term solution. The skeleton in the closet will always come back to haunt us.
Therefore, if you want to enjoy true and lasting peace, you must tame the tiger, control the crocodiles, and muzzle the mice.
How to Tame the Tiger
To tame the tiger is to reconcile with the past. If you forced yourself to forget the past without reconciliation, it will make you sick. You cannot use meditation to numb the pain from the past because it will recur when you stop meditating.
In some cases, I have seen that common meditations can cause psychosis and even death in the long run. After hearing a friend of mine died after years of meditation, I did some research and found some clinical data from the NIH (National Institute of Health) and other sources that have proven that meditations can cause mental disorders in some cases.
If you are curious about it, you can Google the research data related to the meditation psychosis. As for this message, I want to focus on the solution.
The only solution ever existed in human history to tame the tiger of the past is the cross of Christ. God knows that we cannot save ourselves from the past, and that is why he sent Jesus Christ to wash away our past guilts and grievances with his blood on the cross.
The cross of Christ enables you to forgive and be forgiven. Christ is the only way for you to reconcile with your past guilt and grievances.
For your guilts, the solution is confession. The Bible says,
“If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9).
For your grievances, the solution is forgiveness. I personally know that some grievances are not easy to forgive because the wounds are too deep. However, by not forgiving, you only hurt yourself. Jesus said,
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6: 14-15 NLT).
This passage sounds like God’s forgiveness is conditional, but it just shows that God dislikes people without mercy because God is merciful. In the Parable of Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus reveals how much God detests an unforgiving person.
So, to tame the tiger of your past, confess your own sins, and forgive other people’s sin against you, and you will have peace.
How to Control the Crocodiles
After COVID-19, I believe few people can think about the future and have peace. We now feel life is like walking on quicksand. Anything could happen in the next moment.
No matter how powerful we have become in the evolution of medicine and technology, a microscopic virus could turn our lives upside down overnight.
We cannot ignore the future by singing “Hakuna Matata.” The best we can do is planning for the future. We have heard the saying, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Still, life experience has taught us that our plan can still fail because the future is an uncharted territory.
We cannot control the future, but we can control our worries. Our worries are represented by the crocodiles down the line. The solution for worrying about the future is entrusting the future to God because God controls the future. The question is how to do it. The Bible says,
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Notice that the result is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The peace of God so great that it is beyond human words can describe and it is even beyond our understanding.
To receive the peace of God, we must do these things. First, “Do not worry about anything.” Let’s pay attention to the word “anything.” It means we must not worry about anything at all, no matter how big or small the thing is, because worry does not solve any problems.
Instead, we must pray about everything. Prayer, in the biblical sense, is contemplative. Contemplation is constantly envisioning or imagining the desired outcome.
In a sense, contemplation and worry are similar. Worry is imagining the bad things in the future. Contemplation is imagining the good things in the future. If you know how to worry, you know how to pray.
In other words, prayer is imagining the good things in the future. Many people today treat God as a genie, but God does not answer our prayer like a genie, saying, “your wish is my command.” God wants co-creators.
Next, the Bible says, “supplication.” Supplication means humbly, seriously, and persistently praying. Many people pray with humility but not with enough seriousness. Here is how Jesus describe what payer and supplication should be like:
And he (Jesus) said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.” (Lk 11:5–8).
Persistence pays off. Jesus told another parable—the Parable of the Persistent Widow—to emphasize the importance of persistence and grit. Jesus literally means that you should annoy God with your grit.
It is a mystery, but over and over again, Jesus reveals that God loves people with grit. If you are reluctant to annoy God with your persistence, your prayer is not serious enough.
Then the Bible says, you need to add thanksgiving to your request:
“in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Php 4:6b).
Thanksgiving usually happens after the prayer is fulfilled, but having thanksgiving beforehand, you secure the outcome and seal the deal ahead of time. You leave no room for an alternative outcome. Thanksgiving burns the bridge of return.
A rich man told me that, at the end of a banquet he attended, he asked the parking valet to get his car. It arrived at the door quickly, and he took a bill out of his wallet to tip the valet.
Only after handing it to him, he realized that it was a ten-dollar bill instead of the one-dollar he intended to give. As he was about to ask it back, the valet quickly thanked him joyfully for his generosity.
He said that the expression of genuine gratitude convinced him that this young man deserves a generous tip. This story depicts what Jesus has taught. You can find out whether it is true by trying it out yourself. When you pray, end with thanksgiving as if your wish has been fulfilled. You will see the odds increased.
That is how you calm the crocodiles by securing the future. The guaranteed outcome is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” God’s amazing peace will guard your heart and mind from all kinds of worries and anxieties.
How to Muzzle the Mice
Life is a terminal disease. From the moment we are born, the time mice begin to gnaw at our lifeline. We can neither slow it down nor rush it. Throughout history, many wealthy people and mighty kings tried to use their power to invent a longevity pill to live longer, but nothing works.
However, I have discovered that, you can make the mice irrelevant by receiving eternal life. Eternal life is not just about living forever because everyone will live forever. Some people will live forever in death, and some will live forever in life.
Still, some people believe we enter “nothingness” when we die without realizing that “nothingness” is the same as “eternal death.” Who wants to become nothing? On the other hand, eternal life is the quality life from now to infinity. Jesus said,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24).
Notice the phrase “has passed.” It does not say, “will pass.” Whenever Jesus talked about eternal life, he spoke in the present tense. It means you can experience eternal life right here, right now.
It is not something you wish will happen in the future after you die. Your eternal life begins the moment you believe. Your body will continue to live up this earthly lifeline, but your spirit has entered eternal life where the mice cannot eat.
The moment you believe, God gives you a parallel lifeline where there is no tiger at the top, no crocodiles at the bottom, and no mice gnawing at it. So, you can enjoy the savory sun-ripen strawberry forever and ever peacefully.
There you have it. If you want peace, you must tame the tiger, control the crocodile, and muzzle the mice. I have shown you how to do it based on the teaching of Jesus Christ.
Peace, like any muscles, must be toned and trained. Let us all determine to bear the fruit of peace so that your life will be fruitful, and God is glorified. Amen!
See you next time. Bye now!