A Peace Producing Grip
Galatians 5:22-23, Isaiah 41:13
First Baptist Church Laurens
June 18, 2017

One of the families that lived up the street from us when I was growing up was an older couple named Mr. & Mrs. Key. I saw them quite a lot. For many years we went to the same church. Mr. Key drove our school bus in the mornings and the afternoons. And, the Keys also had three grandchildren that were the same age as I was. In turn, it was quite common for me to go to their house to play. I felt comfortable, at home and safe there.

One particular visit to their home remains in my memory. It was a summer afternoon and their grandchildren were all there. The Keys had bought a new game that everyone was learning to play in the front yard. It was called Lawn Darts. Yep, you got it, that Lawn Darts – one of the most dangerous games ever made available to the general public. On that beautiful afternoon, there we were hurling oversized darts at targets all over the yard; darts that had about a 6 inch long stainless steel tip on the end of them.

What made things worse is that the Keys had just made another purchase. Not only had they just bought the Lawn Darts, they had also recently purchased a new, red Nissan – the only new car I ever remember them driving. It was parked in the front drive, not far from the Lawn Dart game. At one point in the competition, I leaned back with all of my might, and threw my dart as far and as high into the air as I possibly could. It was hot, however, and I was sweating. In turn, I lost my grip. Rather than heading straight for the target, the dart flew straight toward the car coming to a crash on the roof with a mighty sound and leaving a large dent. I was horrified and for a solid 60 seconds you could have heard a pin drop. In the end, the Keys were gracious and told me over and over again not to worry about it. Yet, I felt horrible. After all, I had christened their new car with a Lawn Dart and as long as they had that little Nissan, I could always tell exactly where my throw that day had landed.
The damage was done because I lost my grip.

Occasionally, having a tight grip on something or someone can be a bad thing. But, much of the time, a tight grip is a good thing – in fact, it can be a great aide in producing the fruit of the spirit called peace in our lives. This morning allow me to take just a moment to mention two ways this is true.

First, peace comes when we affirm and are aware of God’s tight grip on us. I love the verse from Isaiah 41 that we read a moment ago. “I am holding you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I am here to help you.’”

Whether we know it or not, God has his grip on us. He is holding us tighter than we imagine. In turn, we don’t have to be afraid which is to say we can be at peace.

As you know, peace, Biblically speaking, is not simply the absence of conflict or war. Peace is this interior sense of well being and calm that allows us to live through whatever life throws our way because we know that God is going to see us through. Now, this doesn’t mean that every situation will turn out the way we want. Nor does it mean that we will emerge on the other side of all that life throws at us unscathed. But through it all, God, our heavenly father, has his grip on us, we are held by his hand as Isaiah says. We can be at peace.

Second, (and Dad’s I want you in particular to hear this), the way that we cultivate the fruit of peace in others is by keeping our grip on them. Now don’t hear me wrong. I am not advocating suffocating others with our presence by never letting them out of our sight or by being a helicopter parent which means that we are always hovering over our children and other important people in our lives.

No question about, part of maturing and growing is having freedom to be who we have been created to be and it means knowing that others trust us enough to let us go while giving us the ability to live life and make decisions on our own.
But, having a grip, particularly on our children does mean holding their hand, maintaining a close relationship, cultivating a mutual respect and gently guiding them down the right paths.

Dads and granddads this is a responsibility that we share with our children’s moms and grandmothers. Yes, teaching our children and grandchildren about fishing, about a sport or how to make money is good, important and worthwhile. But teaching them that God loves them, what God’s expects of them, that we love them and what it means to be all that God wants us to be, is far, far more important. This is really where our legacy is. And these lessons come not when those we love are kept at arms length from us but rather when it is clear that that we have them in our grip, that we hold them tight and that we are not going to let them go. This develops a peace for them. The peace of God’s presence and our presence. And it is a peace that will not let them go no matter what life brings their way.

My hunch is that you don’t know the name Tommy Bolt. Bolt was from Oklahoma, was a veteran of World War II and worked for a number of years as a caddie and club professional at a golf course in Shreveport, Louisiana. He won 15 times as a professional golfer but his achilles hill was his temper. He got angry a lot on the course which led to the nickname Terrible Tommy. Bolt’s greatest golfing achievement came in 1958 when he won the US Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa by four strokes over Gary Player.

Now, no one really knows why Bolt won the Open that year. Was it because he was from Oklahoma and thus had a better than average knowledge of Southern Hills? Was it because, he got his temper under control for a week? Who knows. But, at least a few have speculated it may have been because before the tournament, he changed his grips on his golf clubs becoming the first golfer to winner a Major Tournament using golf club crips manufactured by Golf Pride, that largest manufacturer of grips for golf clubs in the world today.

The point is simple – a good grip is important. God’s grip is invaluable and our grip on our children, our grandchildren and on those what we love is invaluable too.

Who has you in their grip? And how tight is your grip on those your love? This morning, for Father’s Day, we have a gift for our men. It is, indeed a grip. It has our logo on it and you can put it on a water bottle, a stainless steel mug or anything else that you want to hold tight. As you grab one this morning let it remind you how tightly God holds you and to hold the special people in your life just as tight too.

Without questions there is no fear and there is peace, when we know who holds our hand and when we know they will not let us go. Amen.