They say that money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you peace of mind. If only that were true.
In the late 1800s, Horatio G. Spafford was known as one of Chicago’s most successful lawyers and businessmen. Through the years his investments had paid off handsomely. In 1871 Mr. Spafford wrote to some of his friends that he felt that he was “sitting on top of the world.” He had a loving wife, four beautiful daughters, a profitable business empire, and a successful law practice.
But legend has it that one day a cow belonging to a woman named Mrs. O’Leary kicked over a lantern in her barn. This went on to trigger the Great Chicago Fire that killed many people, including some who attended the famous evangelist D. L. Moody’s church service that same Sunday night. While the fire raged from Sunday, October 8, to Tuesday, October 10, 1871, Spafford’s wealth was burned to ashes. He told his friends that all he had left of his business empire was his university diploma. Spafford’s financial fall affected his wife hardest of all. Her doctor suggested that a vacation might help her. So Spafford arranged for a trip to Europe, but just prior to the departure, he received news about a pressing business matter in Chicago. He told his wife and daughters to go on ahead and he planned to join them on a later ship.
Somehow, in the middle of the ocean, the ship carrying his wife and daughters collided with a British ship at full speed. In only twelve minutes, 226 people lost their lives. When the survivors reached Cardiff, Wales, Spafford received a two-word telegram from his wife that simply read, “Saved … alone.”
Spafford booked the first ship bound for England. As he was sitting out on the deck, the ship’s captain informed him, “Mr. Spafford, we are approaching the spot where your daughters now rest.” Instead of being grief-stricken as he had thought he would be, Spafford later recounted that a peace came over his mind as he remembered the words of his friend, D. L. Moody, who told him, “One of these days you are going to read that D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of that; I’ll be more alive than I am now.”
Imagining his daughters more alive than they’d ever been, Spafford’s heart began to explode with words that replaced tears of sorrow with confident joy. Rushing to his cabin, Spafford began to write the words that had suddenly filled his heart:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea-billows roll;
Whatever my lot,
Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
In Spafford’s greatest moment of pain, he found the greatest peace. As a result, he began to worship Jesus, and the rest of us were given one of history’s greatest hymns. How is that possible? Because in a world full of uncertainty, doubt, fear, and loss, you find peace not by looking to yourself, but by looking to Jesus.
The Gift that Money Can’t Buy
I am utterly convinced that nothing quite assaults our peace like sickness and the reality of death. No matter how much money we have, how successful we are, how well-educated we’ve become, or how much we prepare, there are certain things we cannot protect ourselves from. In many ways, money is like the insulation in a house, and sickness or death is like a fire. Insulation can limit our feeling of heat during a warm summer day or cold in the depths of winter, but if the house catches fire, insulation doesn’t matter.
If you could package peace and turn it into a product, you’d quickly become the richest person on earth—probably even in all of history. People are constantly chasing down peace. I believe our quest for peace is directly linked to our survival instinct. We want to finally be at ease and know that our life is going to be comfortable. Like squirrels hoarding piles of nuts for winter, we believe that the more resources we have, the more likely we are to beat the elements, protect ourselves from peril, and survive. But is that how peace works? Gathering enough “stuff” until you “feel” peace? Can all the nuts in a forest protect a squirrel from a raging forest fire? No. Neither can all the money in the world save anyone from the brevity of life.
The Bible teaches that no one can truly have peace without the divine protection that Jesus provides. His protection is not for your “stuff,” it’s for your soul. Best of all, it’s completely free. In other words, it won’t cost you any money. But there is one catch. It will cost you your loyalty to anything that you love more than Jesus. In other words, Jesus doesn’t share. He wants your highest loyalty. The sad reality is, loyalty is where some people jump ship. To them, the peace that Jesus offers in exchange for their loyalty isn’t worth it. We see this portrayed dramatically in the story of the rich young ruler.
I Won’t Give That Up
Mark 10 tells the story of a rich young ruler who was likely experiencing earthly peace, but perhaps was looking to add some eternal peace to his portfolio. The man inquired, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v. 17). Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone” (vv. 18–19). In other words, Jesus was letting this rich young ruler know that good should only be used to describe someone whose words were to be taken seriously. Was the rich young ruler using the term casually? Did he even understand what Jesus meant? We soon find out just how serious he is about listening to the “good” teacher.
Jesus continued, “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother’” (v. 19). The rich ruler affirmed, “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy” (v. 20).
Simple enough, right? It sounds like the rich young ruler had everything going his way. That is, until Jesus went straight for his heart. Mark records this:
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10: 21–22)
Whoa! Did Jesus just tell a man that he could buy eternal life? It may seem like that’s what happened, but we know that is completely outside of anything Jesus ever taught. So, upon closer reflection, we see exactly why Jesus made such an extreme statement. He was showing the man that even though he claimed to be keeping the Law so perfectly, he actually wasn’t so perfect after all. In fact, the greatest commandment of all is to love the Lord and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37–40), but this man wasn’t willing to do either. He wanted peace, but his hands were so full of his earthly desires that he couldn’t receive the heavenly gift Jesus was offering. This rich man didn’t love Jesus more than his money, even though Jesus looked upon him with such a deep and caring love, undoubtedly willing to offer him everlasting peace that would outlast anything his money could ever buy.
When you and I think about this story, it’s easy to scoff at the rich young ruler. What a blind fool! He couldn’t get his eyes off his temporal desires for just one second to see the priceless treasure that Jesus was offering. But what if we are just like that rich young ruler? What if we get so focused on our need for temporary peace that we neglect to remember that what we need most is eternal peace? And what if, like the rich young ruler, we think we’re nailing it when it comes to religion, but we’ve relegated a relationship with Jesus to little more than a garnish on our main course? Is it possible that in our quest for peace we are squarely focused on healing, financial success, a happy marriage, and a blossoming career, meanwhile treating Jesus as a throw-in?
If there is one thing that the story of the rich young ruler teaches us it’s this: to truly have the peace you need and the peace that Jesus provides, you must love him more than anything else in this world. He is the anchor that can bring stability to your soul in the midst of unstable times. He is the only one who can bring purpose out of your every pain, even if the breakthrough you’ve been praying for hasn’t happened yet, or may not happen at all.
The preceding article is a short excerpt from the chapter titled, “He is Peace,” from Costi Hinn’s forthcoming book, More Than a Healer: Not the Jesus You Want, But the Jesus You Need (Zondervan). The book is now available for pre-order and will release on September 28th, 2021. You can order it here.