Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27). Often Christians go through life searching desperately for peace when He has given it to us already. In the verse above, Jesus bequeathed peace to us…He left it to us as an inheritance, as children of God. It is like money in the bank…and yet we live like paupers sometimes – no peace, no joy, no hope.
To me, peace is about surrender. Think of it: when there is conflict (political, military, personal) there must be one side (or both) who gives in or surrenders in order for peace to come. It is the same way with us. We like to think we have some semblance of control in our lives…we have our to-do lists, our short and long-range goals, plans for our own improvement or for the improvement of others…but what happens when things do not go as we expect? Loss of control often leads to loss of peace, which can bring us the entirely wrong conclusion: More control does not equal more peace…it just creates the striving for more control.
When we see any loss of control in our lives, when we realize we do not determine our own destiny (The mind of a man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps, Prov. 16:19) it leads us to one of three things: fear, anger or peace.
In the bible, we are told “do not fear” countless times (though someone out there has probably counted!). God knows us. He created us. He is mindful that we are but dust (Ps 103:14). He knows how easily discouraged and overwhelmed we are. So reassurance covers the pages of His book, His love letter to us – The Bible. There are too many to list, but here are two of my favorite scriptures about fear and discouragement:
- Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with My victorious right hand (Is 41:10).
- I have told you these things so you would have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
The antidote to fear is trust in God. We must trust in God’s character, God’s goodness. And we must trust in His wisdom and His sovereignty. We must know He is good and holy and just; and we must know that He is wise and He is supreme over all. The Kay Arthur study we are starting May 3 will reinforce all of this.
In the meantime, read Psalm 139 to remember how He knit me together in my mother’s womb and He saw my unformed body ; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. As a friend said to me, nothing takes Him by surprise. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Daily, we must choose to accept God’s plan for our lives and, at the same time, we are accepting the peace which He has already given us.
Another choice we have, when we realize that we can not control everything in our lives, is anger. I have learned that anger – at ourselves, other people, even at God, is a great tool of the devil. Anger makes us feel strong, but really makes us weak. We cannot be a blessing to anyone else and we cannot honor God when we are angry; so being angry prevents us from accomplishing what we were created to do. For the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Paul says, You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desire; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness…’in your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (Eph. 4:22-24, 26-27, 31).
When we are angry it is often because we cannot accept, or be at peace with, some circumstance we are experiencing – a difficult person, a trying situation, some plan of ours gone horribly wrong. Our expectations for how things are “supposed to be” can really be our own undoing. God has not lost track of us. He is still working out His plan for us, it is just a matter of us accepting it. For I know the plans I have for you declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11). Our peace can only come from accepting or submitting to His plans for us. When we struggle with anger, it is a lack of submission to God’s rightful authority over us. Resting in His sovereignty, trusting in His goodness will allow us to be content in any circumstance (Phil. 4:11).
Peace is one of the distinguishing marks of a Christian: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control; against such things there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23). All of these attributes mark us as those who are in the world, but not of the world (John 17:14), and they are interdependent: you cannot have peace and joy without kindness and patience, you cannot have goodness without self-control, you cannot be faithful without love and so on.
The Fruit of the Spirit grows as the Spirit abides in you and God reigns, rightfully, in your heart and mind. What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ (Is 45:9).
So practice acceptance of God’s will in all things. It requires discipline like any other worthwhile practice. Start with the small things and credit God for His wisdom when things begin to “go all wrong”…remember, they are only wrong according to you. His plan is bigger than any one of our individual plans. Once we surrender to (and rest in) His will, we can have the peace that Jesus bought us with His life.