How many of us today feel stressed? We might be dealing with school issues and feel overwhelmed? Our job might be shaky at best and we have mounting bills to worry about as well. Then there are the health issues we may be dealing with or family issues. Regardless, all of us have stuff going on which takes away from pleasure and peace in our lives.
To deal with the stress, people are turning to counselors and going to doctors for medication. The courts are full of people trying to deal with conflict through lawsuits, judges, and juries. The reality is peace is almost non-existent in our world. Throughout the world, nations are battling nations. Peace is often maintained through military might. Diplomats try, albeit unsuccessfully to broker peace. Organizations such as the UN or NATO try to find diplomatic solutions to disputes with no success.
Now many Christians believe that because you are a Christian, you are immune to anxiety and stress. But we all know that we experience it all the time. We have circumstances that cause us grief and stress, many of which are out of our control. We deal with broken relationships and all the same things everyone else in the world deals with… so what’s the benefit of being a Christian?
According to the Bible, peace is a hallmark of the godly person. We worship the God who is called the God of Peace. He took the initiative with humanity and reached out to us through His Son Jesus. Jesus is called the Author of Peace. In essence, peace should be part of the Christian’s life and church. Through Jesus, peace is provided to us and we are commanded to live it in our lives.
So what does this peace look like? What does it accomplish in our lives? The peace of God is threefold. It manifests itself in our relationship with God, with ourselves and with other people. These are not parallel but unrelated types of peace, rather they are three different expressions of one peace – the peace that God gives which is called the fruit of the Spirit. Each aspect has unique characteristics that contribute in varying ways to the life of a man or woman of peace.
Now in our relationship with God, we know that our peace with God is our justification by faith in Jesus. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. This is the point at which all peace begins. We cannot have peace within or peace with other people until we first have peace with God.
Prior to our salvation, because we were born in sin, our relationship with God was characterized by alienation and enmity. We were objects of His wrath and in a state of rebellion with Him. Now many today have a false sense of peace. We live with a false impression that God, who is love, will hold no ill will towards us.
All that changes when we come into a relationship with Jesus. Instead of being opposed to us, God is now for us. When we come to Christ, God changes everything. Circumstances come under God’s sovereignty where He promises to work out all things for our good. Proverbs 16:7 tell us that He even promises to make our enemies to live at peace with us.
Peace with God then is the foundation of peace within ourselves and peace with other people. This foundation does not guarantee of course that these other aspects of peace occur automatically. We must still pursue what makes for peace, both within and without, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, realizing that the fruit of peace is His fruit, not ours.
How many of us have every been pestered by a mosquito? The buzzing in your ears is irritating and the fear in our minds of their blood sucking forces us to do all in our power to kill it! Sadly, this tiny little insect can turn whatever we are doing into chaos.
Even though Christians have experienced peace with God, there are certain “disturbers of the peace” that keep us from fully experiencing the peace of God in our lives. Like mosquitos, seemingly petty in size and nature, they can turn our personal lives upside down. The more calamitous the event in our lives, the more likely we are to turn to the Lord with our hearts and in doing so we experience His grace and peace. But the more “ordinary” adversaries or irritants in our lives, things that rob us of our peace, we tend to try and deal with them ourselves and often find them more draining than bigger issues. We worry, fret and scheme over distressing circumstances and we envy or resent other people who appear to get a better deal in life or who mistreat us in some way.
As Jesus finished speaking to His disciples on the night of His betrayal, He concluded with these words, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In this assurance of peace, Jesus made two promises.
The first is we will have trouble in the world. It is often times that the same things that rob us of joy also robs us of peace. The common denominator of all these circumstances is uncertainty. We all fear the unknown. A loved one is ill and the diagnosis is uncertain. Or the car breaks down while on a trip; will we have enough money to pay for repairs and get to our destination on time? Maybe the airline loses your luggage? Will we ever see it again? What will we do in the meantime? These and countless other circumstances continue to prove that Jesus was indeed correct when He promised us that we will have trouble in the world.
The second promise is just as correct: He has overcome the world. Ephesians 1:22 says, “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church”; that is Jesus has been appointed head over everything on behalf of the church. He has power over the universe and He exercises it on our behalf and for our good. In Matthew 10:29-31, Jesus tells us that not even the sparrow can fall to the ground apart from the will of our Father. And even the very hairs on our heads are numbered. No detail is too small that it escapes the Father’s attention. And now Jesus, in His ascended glory, exercises that same watchful care on our behalf.
So why do we still worry? Sadly, I think it is simply because we do not believe. We are not really convinced that the same Jesus who can keep a sparrow in the air knows where our lost luggage is, or how we are going to pay the car repair bill or how we can get to where we need to be on time. Or even if we believe He can deliver us from our difficulties, we doubt if He will. We let Satan sow seeds of doubt in our minds about His love and care for us.
There are two passages of Scripture that will prove to be most helpful in coming to Him and finding peace. The first is Philippians 4:6-7. Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The great antidote to anxiety is to come to God in prayer. We are to pray about everything. Nothing is too big for Him to handle and nothing is too small to escape His attention.
Paul also says we are to come to God with thanksgiving. We should thank Him for His past faithfulness in delivering us from troubles. Remembering is one of the best tools for stimulating our faith. We should thank Him for the fact that He is in control of every single circumstance of our lives and that nothing can touch us that He does not allow. We should thank Him for His infinite wisdom. He is able to work in this circumstance for our good and that because of His love. He would not have allowed it unless it was for our good. Finally, we can thank Him that He will not allow us to be tempted (either a seduction to evil or a trial of our faith) beyond what we can endure.
The result promised to us when we come to God in prayer with thanksgiving is not deliverance, but the peace of God. One of the reasons we don’t find this peace is because all too often we will not settle for anything else but deliverance from the trouble. But God, through Paul, promises us peace, a peace that is unexplainable. It transcends all understanding. And, says Paul, it will guard our hearts and minds against the anxiety to which you and I are so prone.
May we learn to trust God’s promises and in doing so, may we experience this peace that has been provided to us through Jesus Christ.