by: DALE NESSMITH
Peace at the pond
“And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.” Exodus 15:27
A few days ago two young men stopped their car on Railroad Bed Road adjacent to where I was mowing grass. Thinking they may be needing directions, I shut off my lawn mower beside the road near their vehicle. One of the guys had rolled a window down and was beckoning me with his hand. When I asked if I could help them, he said, “Is this your farm?” To which I replied, “Yes.” Then he asked, “Would you mind if we went fishing in your pond?” My first response was, “No, I just restocked it.” (That was the Randy person — the sinful, selfish, proud and possessive one.) Almost immediately I felt a pang of guilt and a wince of conviction and said, “When did you want to go?” (That was the redeemed person sensitive to grieving the Holy Spirit and trusting the shed blood of Jesus Christ for relief). The young man replied eagerly saying, “Well, we have our poles with us now!” I then told the two young men to go ahead and fish. I cranked the mower and resumed mowing and immediately thought to myself, what a mistake I had made. I had just given permission to two guys I had never seen before to fish in my pond. What were these guys up to, I wondered? Were they staking my place out? Why didn’t they have jobs and something else to do besides going fishing? I really felt foo ish and that my good nature had been taken advantage of. To top it all off, I had a neighbor call me later that evening to inform me that someone was fishing in my pond and they didn’t think I allowed that.
Now my pond is not on the list of “Outdoor World’s” best places to fish! It’s only a 1.3 acre pond and it contains no shrimp or red snapper. There are a few bream, bass and catfish in the pond. Sometimes a pair of geese will visit there with a baby gosling or two. The purple martins seem to like soaring over the water in the summer catching mosquitos.
No, my pond is not a fisherman’s paradise; but it does have water in it and trees around it. The pond dam provides a walking trail and a prayer path for Penny and me. And, most importantly, I need to be reminded, and I want you all to know, that it’s really not my pond—it’s God’s pond!
Often we use the word “mine” too loosely. It’s sort of a paradox but it happens when we hold on to things, people, and places too tightly. Contentment is not earned, it’s learned. And once we understand that all we have comes from God, the less we’ll strive to keep it to ourselves and from others, including God.
“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1
Late that afternoon, I heard someone knock on our front door. It was one of the young fishermen who thanked me for letting them fish, showed me three bream they caught and offered to give them to me. I told them they were welcome and that they could keep the fish. I went back to the supper table thinking to myself that I had done a good deed.
Always be ready for a test when you have been blest. Also, God has a way of removing our self righteousness by allowing circumstances to clarify our motives. Every blessing we receive is because Jesus Christ died on the cross. There is nothing we can do to earn back favor or merit any of His righteousness. Jesus paid it all! Since all of our security is in Christ Jesus our Lord and He is the greatest treasure (He surely ought to be.) of our lives, we don’t have to be on the defensive all the time for fear of being taken advantage of.
“And Mephibosheth said unto the king, Yea, let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace unto his own house.” II Samuel 19:30
Sometimes God sends annoyances and aggravating people and circumstances to test our love for Him and one another. God may send somebody to your house to ask permission to fish in your pond. There is nothing superficial about God. God goes deep and He can see what’s on the bottom of our pond. And, He has a way of bringing grace to the surface.
A couple of days after my righteous good deed was noted (by me), I received a text from one of the young men I allowed to go fishing asking permission to go fishing again in my pond. Now I knew for sure these guys had ulterior motives and that they were just freeloaders and I was not about to support such sorriness. So I responded with a text po- litely saying no; that the pond was for family recreation and they were the first two “outsiders” I had ever allowed to fish there. I even felt good about my honesty and figured my noble “no” was right and wise. Then I received this text in response to my no. “I don’t want to keep any of the fish or anything. Just wanted to find some peace. I do un- derstand and I respect your wishes.”
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not over- come of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:20,21
That text revealed the enemy was me and the soft words of respect and a desire for virtue not only warned my head but warmed my heart. So much so that I couldn’t rest until I sent the young man a text in return telling him to text me next week and I would allow him to fish in my pond and that I didn’t want the fish he caught.
I think what changed my direction with him was that he wanted some peace. And, if you or I don’t have peace; that’s a gospel signpost telling us to change directions as well. Peace is something we all want everyone to have. I like it when my cows are at peace and even enjoy seeing our cat at peace even though he’s sleeping on the hood of my truck.
Peace is a fruit of the spirit and the vine the fruit of peace grows on is Jesus Christ. Peace is so important because without it we cannot enjoy anything else. In order to have a good crop of peace, we must stay close to the vine!
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5
Staying close to the Divine Vine means confessing our sins and being willing to change directions or our minds if need be. Sin and peace do not get along very well. They don't mix any better than oil and water or light and darkness. Being close to the vine also involves the husbandman or vineyard keeper being close to us. We must remember that God is never closer to us than when He is pruning us with those sharp sanctifying shears of His. If it yields more peace then how can we complain when God decides to cut something out of our lives? But God doesn't fill our baskets with peace for us to tote around or prop up on. Rather, He will pile the peace on so that we can share it with others. Never think God is blessing you because you have done good (You have not, neither have I.). He blesses us so that we can be a blessing to someone else. We don’t get to pick and choose who we bless either, God does that. He sends someone to ask permission to fish in our pond, but who really wants to catch some peace? The strange thing about it is, if we refuse to allow another to find peace, we won’t have any either.
Our lives and world today are anything but peaceful! Maybe it would be a good idea for us all to go fishing. Our good Shepherd pro- vides a rod to comfort us, God supplies the line of His promises that will not break no matter the tug of the resistance of the test. The hook of God’s unconditional love has a barb on it that will not back out or break loose from a heart or soul it is set in. And we all have a pond, it’s the sphere of our lives on earth. This pond comes in different sizes, shapes and depths. Some are fresh and some are salty, but all are filled with the water of God’s amazing grace. I believe that young man was right. There is peace in my pond and there is in yours too! Let’s go fishing!
Peace is the presence of God
It is true that peace is not the absence of problems; peace is the presence of God. Because God is sovereign and has infinite wisdom and uncon- ditional love for His people, where you find God you will surely find peace. Most likely, the reason many people enjoy fishing is because they think of God more while doing it and end up feeling more peaceful. Jesus Christ was called the Prince of Peace before He came to earth, and when He did come, the angels sang a song called “peace on earth; good will toward men.” Trouble should not mess with our peace when God is not far from any one of us. Actually, trouble ought to be a good day for fishing and an opportunity to catch a mess of peace.
Jesus told His disciples to get in a boat. Little did they know they were about to find peace in the midst of a storm.
“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39
The disciples found peace on the pond because Jesus was with them. We should preach the presence of God to ourselves every day. And our daily prayer should be that He will deliver us from temptation and remove any sin in our heart that will interrupt our fellowship and His felt presence. It’s the only way we’ll find peace on the pond.
Peace is possible
Do not ever doubt or question the captain’s judgement! He knows where the waters are the deepest and He also knows those are the quietest. There are miracles everywhere we go. They surround every pond — the birds and trees, the soft, gentle breeze, sitting in a boat or on the banks
with a loved one or friend; and we think all we’re doing is fishing! Oh no, we are experiencing a sacred moment, for peace is nothing less than a miracle made possible by none other than God Almighty.
Christ made peace with God for us, did you know that?
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Romans 3:25
The water and blood which flowed from our bleeding Savior’s side cleansed and redeemed us from a law we couldn’t keep and a devil we couldn’t whip. Now, instead of dry and desert places, we have a pond of grace whereby we find peace.
No matter how muddy the ponds of our lives, peace is always possible. The Israelites found their pond muddy and bitter and called it Marah. But when God told Moses to cut down a tree and toss it into the bitter water, that water became sweet. The Israelites found peace on a pond and ended up camping under the shade of palms sustained and suppled by wells of peaceful water. Remember, nothing is impossible with God, not even peace. I have known people who have said when faced with difficult circumstances or seeing others faced with them, “I could never do that, or bear that burden.” Yet, if and when God brings that burden, that problem to us, we bear it and not only do we bear it, we bear it with a peace that is hard to describe because it’s from God. When we find peace on the pond we should praise God really sincerely for His sacred serenity.
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
Peace is to be pursued
There are many things in life that aren’t worth catching. Peace is not on that list. We should make every effort to find peace every day of our lives on earth. First, we should find peace with God. We do that by being honest with Him, by trusting Him and by obeying Him. Second, we
should strive for peace with others. Even though there may be people we can never be fully reconciled with, we should do our part by forgiving them and not carrying a grudge. Third, after we find peace with God, and genuinely attempt peace with others, we must find peace with ourselves. God knows our weaknesses, but he also knows our hearts. He knows what’s in our ponds too!
The real motivation for pursuing peace though is the fact that peace is a gift from God to us. It is such a shame when we waste grace, when we don’t even go to the pond.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
When that young man wants to fish in my pond, I am going to let him. No only that, I’m going to go fishing too. But I’m not going after catfish or bream, I’m going after a soul. Jesus Himself told His disciples that He would make them fishers of men and He did so. The disciples found peace on the pond too; one even walked on the water. I see this as an opportunity for me to tell the young man where he can find real peace — in Christ. I surely can’t save him, but I can show him where the fish are biting. And if the Holy Spirit gives him a hunger, he might just get hooked on Jesus.