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Procuring God’s Peace
Before I begin, let me say that God considers peace so important that not only did He give it as a title to His Son, Jesus, calling Him the Prince of Peace, but He also made it part of two life changing teachings. The Apostle Paul lists out peace as one of the fruits of the Spirit that is available to believers in Jesus Christ, preceded only by love and joy (Galatians 5:22-23). And Jesus taught that being a peacemaker is one of those attitudes every Christian needs to possess in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:9).
So, let’s begin by making a mental note, and picture in your mind a massive hurricane raging over the ocean and it’s coming in our direction. Violent winds are whipping the water into a frenzy, and giant waves are creating havoc and chaos everywhere. Ships are trying to get out of the way or to a safe harbor, and their crews are desperately trying to anchor down their vessels to prevent them from being beached or sunk.
The cities and towns that dot the shoreline are also in full tilt panic. People are rushing around trying to ready themselves, their homes, and communities for the coming onslaught. Others are packing up their cars and families and heading inland in an attempt to escape the coming storm.
This is not what you would call a serene or peaceful picture. But twenty feet below the surface of the water is a totally different picture. The waters are clear and calm, and the fish go about their lives completely unaware of the turmoil that is raging overhead.
There is a truism that we can take from this picture, and that is where there is depth, there’s peace.
This is probably why there is so little peace in the world, and that’s because there is no depth in its relationship with God and His word. The world is mile wide in its opinions and experiences, but only and inch deep in its understanding of God, who created it all, and the knowledge of His word.
But it is this type of peace that every human heart is yearning for, especially when faced with the storms of life. You might say that peace is one of life’s indispensable qualities and humanity’s greatest hope.
And while peace is humanity’s greatest hope, it’s really an elusive dream. We catch glimpses of it, but as soon as we do it’s gone.
We watch the news only to see how desperate this world is for peace. We have wars and rumors of wars, terror threats and bombings, coups, uprisings, and genocide. We have disharmony in our government, violence in our streets and schools, conflicts in our homes, and anxiety and stress in our lives.
In Jerusalem, the city known as “The city of peace,” there is continual conflict and war. Here’s a city claimed by most every religion out there. But, not only do they not get along with one another, they have failed to find a solution.
The world also tries to find peace, but miserably fails at it, because the only peace the world can offer is a cessation of war, which fails time and again.
Peace, therefore, is at the heart of what everyone wants. But its procurement shouldn’t be at any price, and we shouldn’t compromise our values, morals, or God’s word to achieve it, as many are so willing to do.
Many people think peace is an absence of conflict, and so they avoid divisive issues at all costs. But peace is never about running away from a problem, ignoring an issue, or pretending that the problem doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, this is at the heart of many relational problems in marriages.
But, avoiding a problem doesn’t produce peace; instead it’s like having a termite-infested house. If you don’t deal with the issue, the house won’t be standing for long.
Appeasement also isn’t the answer when it comes to procuring peace. When people yield their principles to another person’s demands, it eventually blows up in their face.
When people either avoid a problem or appease someone for the sake of peace, it isn’t really a true peace. Rather, it is a false peace that creates greater conflict.
The peace that last, however is the peace that only God can give, because God always is the same and never changes (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17).
Peace Comes Through God
Having a peace that lasts is a gift given by God, and that’s because the Lord personifies not only what peace is, but also peace itself. We see this brought out in several places. First through what the writer of Hebrews says.
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:20-21 NKJV)
We see this also in the priestly prayer commanded by God to bless His people.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
The Apostle Paul likewise gives the same blessing to the church in Thessalonica.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16a NKJV)
Therefore, the peace that matters, and the peace that lasts and has stood the test of time, is the peace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, whom the prophet Isaiah describes as the Prince of Peace.
Isaiah speaks of the coming of the Messiah and His names, all of which can only be given and applied to the Lord God Himself.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV)
Being the Prince of Peace means that He is the one who rules over peace. We might say that there is no real peace outside of having faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus confirms that true peace can only be attained through Him.
Knowing the trials and tribulations awaiting the disciples, Jesus wanted them to know that they could achieve the peace they desired, not from the situations, but rather in the midst of the situations, because He overcame and the battle has been won.
“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.” (John 16:33 NKJV)
The peace Jesus references is completely independent of the situation or circumstance. In the midst of this troubled world a Christian can have peace, because Jesus overcame the world through His death, burial, and resurrection.
There are two types of peace that Jesus brings.
Peace With God
“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 14:27 NKJV)
Jesus contrasts worldly peace with God’s peace. Now, the peace the world gives, as I have mentioned earlier, is the cessation of war and an end to hostilities. It’s calling for peace pacts, peace accords, and peace agreements, but unfortunately, they are all short lived.
No place is safe from conflict. It’s tragic to hear people wanting to move to all these different places trying to find peace and safety. The only problem is that they’re looking for peace in all the wrong places, and when tragedy strikes, which it inevitably will, they get discouraged and depressed.
Jesus, however, brings peace, but not in a way many want or expect. Right now, He doesn’t bring peace to this world; rather, He brings peace with God, which is far more important. This is because He came first to rule over our hearts as the Prince of Peace.
When He returns, however, He will bring a true and lasting peace to this world, and that’s because He’ll be ruling over this world as King.
There is no real peace outside a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which is what the Apostle Paul says to the church in Rome.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1 NKJV)
There are some who claim they’ve made their own peace with God, but that is not possible, because the power to attain such peace does not reside within them. Peace is only available through Jesus Christ. Only He can bring us peace with God.
To the church in Colossae Paul said, “For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20 NLT)
This was exactly what the prophet Isaiah foretold of the coming Messiah, Jesus.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV)
Peace Of God
This is the second type of peace Jesus brings. He is the source of true peace.
Until we reach heaven there are some things we’ll never quite know or understand. Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NKJV)
Our vision of things is not as clear as we may think or like. We’re not going to know the “whys” and “wherefores” we so desperately long for. Further, there are things that will bring pain, grief, and sorrow that we’re not prepared for.
But God’s peace is our knowing that God is sovereign and in control. Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi said it best.
“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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV)
Notice that this peace is beyond our understanding, that is, it transcends all human wisdom and knowledge. You might say it is unimaginable peace, and that’s because our limited intellect will never be able to figure out the limitless and infinite peace of God.
It’s the peace of God that anchors our souls, and keeps us safe from the storms that continue to assail us as our world crumbles around us.
Our problem is that we try to control the situations, even our destinies, rather than having peace knowing that God is in control.
Going back to our truism that the reason we have no peace in the world is because we have little depth in our knowledge of God and His word, brings me to our second point.
Peace Comes Through God’s Word
God desires for us to be at peace with Him and through Him. We find this mentioned and illustrated throughout the Bible. But to experience God’s peace through His word, there are two conditions, if I can say it like that, which are required.
Love of God’s Word
“Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.” (Psalm 119:165 NKJV)
The Psalmist is saying that those who love God’s word will have great peace. This is the exact same picture given by David in Psalm one. This is a picture of what peace looks like when we love God’s word.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1 NKJV)
The picture the Psalmist paints is what peace looks like: A tree firmly rooted right next to a gently flowing river, whose leaves remain green year round, and it always has fruit upon its branches. And this is the peace that is available to all those who love God’s word, and who ponder on its meaning for their lives throughout the day.
Obedience to God’s Word
“I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:17-18 NIV)
If God’s people had only obeyed His commandments, then He would’ve fulfilled His promise and given them a river of peace. Not a stream, mind you, but a river, a deep flowing river that flows year round and that doesn’t dry up, but is sure and steady.
When we honestly evaluate ourselves, we can trace our lack of peace to one thing, and that’s disobedience, which generally stems from an unrepentant heart, that is, a heart that refuses to turn towards God, and instead turns more and more to the ways of the world.
Peace Comes Though Forgiveness
This last area is where I have some of my greatest difficulty convincing others and myself to follow.
As a pastor, people come to me with their problems, which for the most part are relational in nature. They come angry and depressed, filled with resentment, bitterness, and hatred over what someone has done to them. To say that they have no peace in their lives is an understatement.
But what I have found even sadder is that the way out of their dilemma is for the most part rejected. The way for them to start the peace process to a more permanent peace solution is through forgiveness. And that is the last thing that they want to do, and the hardest thing that they could do.
This is mostly due to a misunderstanding of exactly what forgiveness is and isn’t, which I have dealt with in my teaching “Forgiveness: Life’s Antibiotic.”
But for our time together, if we want peace, especially the peace with God and of God, then we have to learn to forgive and start the forgiveness process. The reason I call it a process is because it takes time to heal wounded emotions. But if we want peace in our lives, then we have to forgive.
And so, to forgive others is to become peacemakers, which Jesus praises and makes one of the attitudes that we as believers need to possess.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NKJV)
To accomplish this goal, we need to take the initiative to forgive. Jesus said, “Go and be reconciled to that person.” (Matthew 5:24a NLT) This is a command to go, not wait for others to take the first step. Peace is never achieved accidentally.
Next, we need to consider others over ouselves. The Apostle Paul said, “None of you should think only of his own affairs, but consider other people’s interests also.” (Philippians 2:4 J.B. Phillips) The Greek word for “consider” is where we get our English word, “scope.” It means to focus upon and pay attention to the needs of others.
We also need to realize that there are spiritual forces that are evil and malignant that are behind the offenses. And so, to forgive the other person stops these evil spirits that are attacking us through the offense, and that’s because when we have forgiven, these evil spirits have nothing to hold onto, or as Paul says, “Do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:27 NIV)
When we don’t forgive, the outcome is that we’re allowing Satan entrance into our lives.
And finally, forgiveness helps to build bridges where problems can be solved. The Apostle James says, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17 NIV)
Peacemakers plant seeds of peace, and in the end they’ll reap a harvest of goodwill, because there’s a truism, a universal law if you would; it’s what the Bible says that whatever we sow in life is exactly what we’ll be reaping from it (Psalm 126:5, Proverbs 11:18, Galatians 6:7-8, 2 Corinthians 9:6). In other words, we reap what we sow.
There’s a hymn written by Haratio Spafford. In 1871 he lost his 2-year-old son in the great Chicago fire, which also ruined him financially. Two years later he lost the rest of his family at sea. He sent them ahead to Europe, and he would follow after he wrapped up some financial dealings. But their ship went down. After he heard of the tragedy, he booked the very next ship taking the exact same route. He asked the captain to show him the exact place the ship went down. Standing over the site he wrote the words to the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trumpet shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
Is it well with our souls? Do we have God’s peace, despite the turmoil and tragedies of life? If not, then let’s give God our sorrows and pain, and in return He will give us His peace.
As the old adage says, No God, No Peace – Know God, Know Peace
If we feel like we’re in a storm, Jesus can bring peace and stillness to our lives just as He brought peace and stillness to the sea when He said, “Peace be still,” and the wind ceased and a calm prevailed (Luke 4:39).
If Jesus Christ isn’t our Savior and Lord, then we’ll never know what true peace is. But when we know Jesus Christ then we’ll know God’s true and lasting peace.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study