My husband has built a little place up in northern Minnesota for which we are so thankful to my Dad for his generosity in sharing his land with us. It started as a dream about having a little place up north, a few discussions with my Dad, and then my husband would walk the land, envision the layout, eventually taking a machete and chainsaw to clear a spot for a little house and driveway. He made a path with huge boulders where we can walk, stop, and pray and after five years of clearing, planning, and saving money, the first construction began. As we plant trees and flowers, put up solar panels, purchase new chairs at flea markets, install the antique wood cook stove, put the deck on, and hundreds of other things, each finished project or addition causes us to bless our Father in heaven for the talents, resources, and people He has given to help us accomplish this dream.
We prayed about a name to represent the feelings evoked when we think about future activities up north. Not that a little place up north needed a name but we were always saying “We are heading up to our cabin, shack, vacation home, get away…” but none of those names defined the peace and tranquility we felt was important in receiving this gift from God. Not to mention the name “cabin” seemed mundane, it deserved a more reputable name than “shack”, it is not a vacation spot, and we were not trying to “get away” from anything. We settled on the “Sanctuary” which best represents our feelings of it being a place of refuge, asylum, shelter, safe haven, and safety; all synonyms for the word “sanctuary”. For us personally it also represents a place where we can go and meet with God alone, with family, or in small groups. Now we say, “We are going to the Sanctuary” and it immediately brings to mind thoughts of quietness and simplicity even though we are never short of work to be done.
But as beautiful as we think our sanctuary is, it is still just another earthly dwelling. The truth is that there is no place on earth where we can find complete refuge; where we are within a total haven of safety. We can attempt to build or create the most secluded, quiet, peaceful place on earth and yet it does not guarantee any of those things. We can provide a place of refuge but if we are disquieted in our spirit, we will not experience the peace and tranquility we search for no matter where we run.
However, there is a place even on earth where we can experience complete sheltering and security – in Jesus! People who have never experienced a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus believe those of us who do are simply using Him as a crutch or are using faith to “convince” ourselves all is well when in reality, nothing is well within our soul. They have a good point if we say Jesus is our hiding place and yet do not dwell in His safe, secure, and loving arms. If our testimony is not representative of the victorious life we experience in Jesus, unbelievers only see hypocrites in the Church. The challenge laid before us is how can we live in the peace which passes all understanding and live in the quietness of His love while still living in the midst of a sin-ridden world?
The answer lies in living as the sheep of His pasture. One thing we know about sheep – they spend most of their time in peace and quiet because it is one of their basic needs in life. They experience this peace and quiet when they follow their shepherd, graze where he leads them, and stay close to each other in the flock. Though predators may be all around, sheep live trustingly in peace and quiet within their flock because their shepherd leads and they follow his voice.
It is the same for Christians if we live as true sheep of Jesus. We discover the peace and quietness of His love no matter if we find ourselves up in northern Minnesota at a sanctuary, in an office building in the middle of a metropolis, or in the midst of a church seemingly filled with hypocrites and lukewarm, self-serving Christians.
The great news is that no matter what we face in life or where we find ourselves, Jesus has already overcome the world. In Jesus we HAVE peace in the midst of tribulation. John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Not only do we possess peace in Jesus He also GAVE and LEFT us peace! John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Then we are told what His peace does for us if we will accept that it is beyond our understanding. It guards our hearts and minds! Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
He has given us the “key” to experiencing His peace in John and Philippians! Do not let our hearts be troubled or afraid and do not be anxious for anything. Do receive the peace He has left with us and given to us and do pray and supplicate with thanksgiving making our requests known to God. If we are not experiencing His peace could it because we are not using our “key”?
Along with peace, when we live as true sheep we WILL experience the quietness of His love. Zephaniah 3:17 “The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” The thought of God rejoicing over us with gladness and singing and quieting us with His love is simply above comprehension! Take a moment and let this truth sink into your spirit. Receive the Mighty One rejoicing over you right now! Accept His love as He quiets your entire being! Let Him sing over you! This is more complete, powerful, and healing than yoga, meditation, or any other means we might use in an attempt to relax and reduce our stress. Let God do what He does! And follow Him as He does it!
This peace and quietness we experience when we live as sheep of His pasture, following Him as He leads, listening to His voice, and obeying His commands is described in Psalm 23 as we declare, “The Lord IS my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul.” Jesus leads us to places of abundance, provision, quietness and peace where He can restore our minds, wills, and emotions (our souls). Our part is to follow and position ourselves for His restoration.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Names’ sake.” He leads us into right standing with Himself and for His own sake. Do not miss out on this important truth. He leads us into righteousness for His Name’s sake not for our sake. In doing so, He is a God of His Word! He is righteous and declares we are righteous in Him therefore He must lead us in these paths in order to confirm His Word.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” He sets before us His body and blood at His supper in the very presence of our enemies. He does not hide us away nor are we immune from the presence of turmoil coming at us from every direction. He tells us to submit to Him, resist the devil and he will flee. He tells us He prepares a table for us in the MIDST of our enemies. Who and what are our enemies? Perhaps answering that question will help us sit down at the banqueting table and feast on what He has prepared for us with no fear even when the enemy is in our face. After all, it is at this banquet table or hall where Jesus places the banner of His love over us. Song of Solomon 2:4 “He has brought me to His banquet hall, and His banner over me is love.” We have the distinct privilege of sitting under His banner with our enemy salivating at the mouth as he watches us relish in the love of our God. Choosing not to follow Jesus to the banquet hall or sit at the table He has prepared for us places us in a vulnerable position indeed!
The green pastures, still waters, paths of righteousness, and prepared table before enemies all represent places of quietness and peace, safe havens, where the Lord leads His people just as shepherds lead their sheep. Just as sheep need peace and quiet as a basic need in life, it is a basic need of Christians to spend their time in the peace and quietness that only comes through Jesus. Sheep only experience peace and quiet when they follow their shepherds, graze where He places them, and stick close to each other. Christians likewise must follow our earthly shepherds and our good shepherd Jesus, browse and eat where they place us, and stay in a fellowship with Christians. Even when predators come, sheep know they are safe when they hear the voice of their shepherd leading, guiding, and protecting them. Enemies are all around Christians, prowling and seeking to devour, but in the presence and under the watchful eyes of our pastors and leaders, we know we are safe and secure.
The challenge before us this day is how to live in this peace which passes all understanding and in the quietness of His love while still existing in the midst of a sin-ridden world. The answer is living as His sheep. My prayer is that we choose to accept this revelation of living as sheep, experiencing the peace that passes our understanding and living in the quietness of His love as He rejoices over us with singing! In Jesus’ Name!