Are you experiencing upheaval in your life? Are you awake nights distracted with anxious thoughts about potential problematic outcomes to life situations? Are you paralyzed by fear? Do you feel like you are falling apart, exhausted by multiple tensions in life? God has help for you. He has a peace that will help you through the anxiety producing circumstances of life. All you have to do is ask for His peace and follow His instructions and it can be yours.
The word “peace” (εἰρήνη ĕirēnē, i-ray´-nay) refers to rest, peace, prosperity, tranquility, harmony, or health. We are talking about a particular kind of peace in this study; “the peace of God.” In the Old Testament “peace” is translated from the Hebrew term shalom. This is more than mere cessation of war. The peace God offers involves positive prosperity as well. We receive such peace by setting our mind on God (Is. 26:3). In the New Testament we gain further understanding and see clearly God offers is peace in the midst of difficulties. His peace helps us to rise above or wade through hardship. We need His peace.
Peace not presumption. This peace is not based on presumption like when the children of Israel thought they could make things right with God after they refused to go into the Promised Land by presuming to go on in their own strength (Num. 14:39-45). That only led to less peace and more defeat. Nor is it peace the false peace of a presumptuous false prophet (Deut. 18:20). ). Peace is not something we can earn or manipulate. Peace is a gift of God’s grace and comes from a close relationship with the Lord.
Peace not procrastination. This peace does not lead to procrastination. Sometimes God will have us “stand still” and watch Him fight for us (2 Chron. 20:17). But more often than not God’s peace is provided for and in the battle. At the very least we need to be in prayer to secure God’s peace. While we should wait on God’s peace in decisions, we need to act in that peace when it is obtained. Where do we find such peace?
Peace from Jesus. Jesus said:
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.
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.”
True lasting peace comes through faith in Jesus and is good before, in and after the battles of life. The world offers false peace. The world offers mindless meditative peace or relative peace. But the peace Jesus offers enables us, (no matter how difficult or dark a life situation we find ourselves in), to have a heart untroubled and unafraid. The peace offered by Jesus transcends and surpasses anything the world has to offer.
Peace on Two levels. Through faith in Christ we have “peace with God” (Romans 5:1). Outside of Christ we are at war with God (Rom. 8:7). When we put our faith in Jesus and enter into a saving relationship with God in Christ, we then move to being at peace with Him. Our war with God is over when we surrender to Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is why Paul opens his letters with the phrase “Grace to you and peace” (e.g. Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; Philemon 3). The one who has received forgiveness for their sins through faith in Christ by God’s gracious gift is one who then enters into and experiences peace with God and eternal life.
But it is possible to be at peace with God and not have the “peace of God.” Peace with God and the peace of God are distinct. Peace with God necessarily comes first. But the peace of God does not necessarily or automatically follow entering into peace with God. As Christians we may allow pockets of resistance to the Lordship of Jesus in our lives. These can take many forms. It may be a relational compromise such as a Christian entering into an unequally yoked relationship with an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:11 – 7:1). It can be a compromise in integrity such as gossiping, speaking a half truth or bearing false witness (Eph. 4:29). It may be a disregard of the still small voice of the Spirit or a neglect of a portion of God’s word (Jer. 44:5). Other examples could be listed. Such things create peace-disrupting obstacles. All sin and fleshly behavior is peace disrupting. A person can still have peace with God in that they are saved from their sin. But with such pockets of resistance the peace of God can be lost. Thankfully it can be regained through confession and repentance.
Peace through prayer. The peace of God comes through prayer. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he writes:
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; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Here Paul is writing to believers and recognizing that it is possible for believers to be anxious or not be experiencing the peace of God. His solution is to in every situation pray and in faith be thankful to God and set your situation and requests before God. If we do this the result will be “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The peace offered through Christ goes beyond our understanding because it comes independent of our circumstances. Such peace comes from God and is a work of the Holy Spirit. All we need do is release and surrender our circumstances to the Lord. And as we do that God takes over and bathes us in His peace that surpasses, even defies human explanation. God’s peace transcends “all understanding.”
Peace through pure thoughts. God’s promise to His people is that if they focus on Him He will give us peace (Isaiah 26:3). A little further on in Philippians Paul adds:
Philippians 4:8-9 - 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Here Paul teaches us that right thinking is intertwined with the peace of God too. He also connects applying the things “you learned and received and heard and saw in me” to not only the peace of God but to “the God of peace” who is promised to “be with you” when in faith you do these things. When we take every thought and submit it to Jesus it clears the channels of communication between us and the Lord (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Wrong thoughts create spiritual static. Right thoughts lead to clear and crisp reception between us and the Lord. That leads to the peace of God.
In the second part of this study we will look at the parameters within which we can experience the peace of God. We will also look at the danger of having a false peace. Until then, apply in the Spirit what you’ve learned and let the peace of God rule you.