Peace is in short supply these days.
Many people today yearn for peace in their own lives. Even if the nations of the world were at rest and no insurgent groups were plotting mayhem in the shadows, many individuals would still be on edge because of fighting with their spouse or their children. Stress on the interpersonal level takes a heavy toll on millions.
You can be making a six-figure salary but still lie awake at night torn apart by fractured relationships.
Nothing can be enjoyed — not good food, a well-played concert, an exciting sports event at the stadium, the birth of a new baby in your family. It all goes for naught without inner tranquility.
I grew up in the home of an alcoholic father. If my dad was drinking, there was no peace, even at two or three o’clock in the morning. Whereas most people normally feel a sense of relief when they arrive home after a hectic day — “Oh, it’s good to be home again” — I felt the opposite. My relief came whenever I left the house. (That’s part of the reason I spent so much time playing basketball in the neighborhood. I wasn’t what today is called a “gym rat,” but I was a “playground rat,” staying outdoors as long as I could. I would keep playing even under the lights there at Public School 92, so I wouldn’t have to go home to the turmoil again.)
What a relief it was in our family when Dad finally, at the age of seventy-one, surrendered his problem to the Lord. His personal war with the bottle stopped, and we all felt the calm come over us.
The Peace of God
The words of the ancient blessing from Aaron and his priestly descendants struck a chord in the hearts of judges like Deborah and Gideon, and they still do in our hearts today:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26
Notice the phrasing here. This kind of peace is not just a human achievement. It is a gift from above.
That is certainly what Jesus said to his disciples during the Last Supper:
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
What is this that the Son of God termed “My” peace? It was supernatural.
This was the peace that kept Him in control of Himself while standing on trial before hostile and unfair authorities. This peace sustained Him as He stumbled toward Golgotha. The crowd howled out their disdain for Him. The soldiers then nailed Him to the instrument of torture. Still, He held onto His peace.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians a wonderful promise of God. After describing certain steps we all can take, He said in response that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
This is a different thing from what the Bible calls “peace with God” — which, incidentally, was the title of Billy Graham’s trademark book, still in print after more than fifty years. He was writing about the great benefit of salvation. As Romans 5:1 puts it,
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The wrath of God is no longer hanging over our heads. We have confessed our sins to God. He has forgiven us because of the sacrifice of Jesus, and we have been accepted into His family. He has granted us pardon, so that our offenses have been cleared, and now we are in a state of peace with God. This is indeed a wonderful blessing. But the peace of God, on the other hand, goes beyond our mental comprehension.
It is a state of living that should characterize the rest of our years on earth — and beyond, into eternity. It’s far more than just “having a good day.” You could be living in a hut somewhere in the middle of a terrible drought… and still be the happiest person on the planet, because you possess the peace of God. This is deeper than just having adequate food and shelter, let alone a new car.
This is shalom — that wonderful Hebrew word that means completeness, wholeness, blessing for the total person.
Peace is not just the absence of frustration, anxiety, or turbulence. It is life the way God designed it to be. It is a piece of heaven, the place of no tears, the place where shalom rules. We can hardly imagine it. God wants us to enjoy this kind of blessing here on earth.
He has promised us His peace. We frequently ask Him to give us other things — more money, for example, or a promotion at work, or a healing of some kind.
All kinds of people say to us ministers, “Would you pray that God would work a miracle in my life?”
“What kind of miracle?” we respond.
“Well, I really need a better job” (or a turnaround in a child’s behavior, or some other request).
Rarely do we ever hear, “Pastor, please lay hands on me and pray for God to visit me with His supernatural peace.”
Peace is not just getting a raise, finding a more attractive boyfriend or girlfriend, or going on vacation to the south of France. It is that deep sense that God is in charge of my life, and He is working out the best for me, whether I understand it at the moment or not. He is saying, “I want to be with you at all times because I love you. No matter where you are and what is going wrong in your circumstances, I will lead you in the path of My peace.”
The trouble is, someone else is working 24/7 to cheat us out of this supernatural peace. That someone is Satan. Anything that God treasures for His people, the devil tries to rip off. He especially likes to rob our hearts of peace.
How true is the proverb that says,
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. – Proverbs 14:30
Medical science keeps discovering in these years what the Bible has known all along — that stress and discord are not good for your physiology. All kinds of studies keep coming out to document how the white blood cells and other physical components are at risk when we’re churned up in our spirit.
Sports psychologists are exploring the mind-body connection as well. They tell golfers that after hitting a bad shot, they have to take a deep breath and clear their mind of all negativity. If they don’t, the next shot is most likely going to veer off into the woods, too.
Our whole life can be thrown out of balance by the lack of “a heart at peace.” That, of course, is exactly what the devil wants. He pursues his evil goals in four ways: he makes accusations, stirs up animosity, floods us with anxiety, and pollutes our minds with garbage. But with God’s help, we can reclaim peace.