Publication: One-to-One, Winter 2006
OTHERS CAN’T GIVE IT – OTHERS CAN’T TAKE IT AWAY
Political leaders promise peace and prosperity because that is what almost all of us want. Peace is the foundation for prosperity, and when peace is taken from us, resources are diverted for survival, defense, and destruction. For things to get better, the true path to peace must be pursued.
Peace is not only the desire of mankind, it is the desire and the provision of our God who was revealed in Jesus Christ – Prince of Peace. The challenge for us is to find out that peace is a person. Isaiah called the coming Messiah, “Prince of Peace.” Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, said that Jesus would “guide our feet in the way of peace.” The way to peace is in the Prince of Peace. Wherever He reigns, there is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17).
What is peace and why is it so desirable…and how do we find it? The truth is that Divine peace is indefinable. The apostle Paul says it “passes understanding” (see Philippians 4:7). However, he goes on to say that it “keeps our hearts and minds.”
Some define peace as “the absence of war or conflict.” Others see peace as harmony, or a calm state of mind. But the peace of God through Jesus Christ is even much more than those things.
Years ago I enjoyed singing with my friend John Duke the old hymn, “Peace, Peace.” The refrain went like this: “Peace, peace wonderful peace, coming down from the Father above. Sweep over my spirit forever, pray, in fathomless billows of love.”
Peace comes down from the Father above. It is a substantive gift from God that sweeps over us, as we are aware of His presence. Jesus spoke of that peace in John 14:27, “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.” Jesus, the Prince of Peace, gives us a different kind of peace that defies natural understanding and situations. It drives away fear. As an old song says, “The world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away.”
I would describe Divine peace this way: It is the awareness of God’s sovereign presence that removes fear and stress. His peace is not the absence of something nor is it passive. It is the presence of Someone and the presence of His power, able to overcome any condition. This peace is available to anyone, in any situation, at any time, who comes to the Father in faith through Jesus Christ (see Romans 5:1-2).
We can celebrate and enjoy peace in a world of strife, because this peace is not an earthly condition; it is a heavenly one. It is the heart and mind that has discovered the person of Jesus, the Eternal King. It is an unearthly peace that emanates from eternity into time. It brings an amazing tranquility.
The world rejected the Prince of Peace two thousand years ago, but as many as receive Him even now, receive the same peace He offered then. The world continued in its strife due to its rejection. But to those who receive Him, He still gives the power to become the sons of God. Receiving Him, we receive peace and become peace givers (see John 1:10-13; Matthew 5:9).
STORMS AND STRESS
One cannot fully appreciate peace until they have experienced storms and stress. Because I live near the Gulf of Mexico, I have experienced numerous hurricanes, notably Frederic in 1979, Ivan in 2004, and Katrina in 2005. The howling winds, driving rains, and accompanying tornados are indescribable and devastating.
When Hurricane Ivan hit the coast in 2004, the eye passed right over our house. After hours and hours of merciless and fearful winds, the calm of the storm center stood above us for about 30 minutes. During that same time, just forty miles to the east of us, a forty foot wave swept over the barrier islands and into communities, exploding homes and taking lives.
As the eye of the storm hovered above us, I walked out into the eerie calm to survey the damage. Thankfully it was minor. After awhile, I went back inside as the winds returned from the other direction.
The peace of God is like living in the eye of the storm, or under the eye of God. We can live in an indescribable peace, even as terrible forces rage around us.
There are other kinds of storms that assault our dwelling places. These storms can bring great stress upon us. In 2000, I had a quadruple bypass heart surgery – a dangerous procedure which I had resisted. But terrific pain and the prospect of death changed my mind. I will never forget the amazing calm from the Holy Spirit that came to me in the midst of that storm and has remained since.
Stress is a major spiritual and health issue for most of us. When storms assail our marriage, our finances, our vocation, or our health, stress can be devastating to mind and body. I recently had cataract surgery. Just prior to surgery my blood sugar was 109. Just fifteen minutes later, after surgery, it was 134. “Why?” I asked the nurse. “I was asleep” I protested. ”Stress” she replied. “Your body reacted to stress.” Even subconsciously, our bodies are affected by stress. Stress also affects our cholesterol.
David describes his stress in Psalm 31. He uses words like trouble, grief, sighing, reproach, broken, fear and schemes. Did his stress contribute to moral failure?
Probably. He speaks of the “strife of tongues” and prays to be hidden from it. Proverbs describes it as “wood to a fire” or water torture (see Proverbs 26:20, Proverbs 21; 1 Proverbs 19:13).
The results of stress can be seen in hospitals, court-rooms, prisons, families, churches, and battlefields. Much of the stress we bring upon ourselves through selfishness, ambition, and being caught up in the world ‘s ways. Perhaps there is a benefit to storms; they can drive us to shelter in the Prince of Peace.
FROM HERE TO THERE
How can we find the “eye,” the calm, or the shelter? Martin Luther wrote, as he hid in a castle fortress from would be murderers, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” How can we get to the fortress? Where is it? Remember, the fortress is a Person. The One who is peace brings heavenly peace to earthly people.
We can find Him at the Cross where He died for our transgressions and replaced guilt with peace. We can find Him at the empty tomb where He conquered death and hell. We can find Him at the Right Hand of the Father where He intercedes for us. If we can find Him and His presence, we immediately find peace.
Peace is discovering that we are forgiven and can forgive others. It is knowing that He loves us with an everlasting love. It is knowing that even in the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us.
Perhaps we have to discover where peace is not, before we discover where it is. False prophets said, “Peace, peace,” when there was no peace. Peace is not in false trusts: fantasy, more money, flesh fulfillment, “comfort food,” drugs, accolades, ambition, or achievement. No, it is not even in self-esteem. These are stop-gap measures, and their effects are sadly temporary. Their glitter is fool’s gold.
Real peace is permanent; indeed it is eternal. David found peace through faith in God and records these declarations in Psalm 31:14-24:
“You are my God.”
“My times are in Your hands.”
“Deliver me from the hand of my enemies.”
“Make Your face shine upon Me.”
“Do not allow me to be ashamed.”
“Oh Lord, how great is Your goodness.”
“You shall hide me in the secret place of Your presence from the strife of tongues.”
The Good News is that God sent the Prince of Peace because He desires for you and me to have peace. God’s very name is Jehovah Shalom – “God is peace.” (Shalom is mentioned 250 times in the Old Testament.) He wants to make peace with us through the Cross. God’s greeting to us is “peace.” Over and over again, Jesus spoke peace to the disciples, to the fearful, and even to the stormy seas. The apostles began their letters with “Peace to you through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Why does God want to give you peace? There are many reasons: Confusion is the occasion for your enemy; strife is destructive; peace is the path to progress and a taste of heaven. It is the sign that we know and trust our God. The peace of God is free. The only cost is giving up our cares to Him and coming to complete trust in Him. The main reason that God gives peace is because He loves us with an everlasting love.
CELEBRATING HIS PEACE
As we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace and the beginning of a New Year, God offers us a clear choice: strife or peace, war or peace, destruction or peace. It seems foolish to celebrate a peace that we are unwilling to receive. To acknowledge that peace is the superior choice, but to reject it in favor of turmoil, is unthinkable.
I urge us all now to turn from our own way to His way, from our anxiety and stress to His peace. We can walk out of the howling storm into “the eye,” into the calm, and live in peace with God and one another. It is not about what others are doing; it is about what you and I will do. Others can’t give it and others can’t take it away. It comes from the Prince of Peace.
Scripture Reference: Romans 14:17; Philippians 4:7; John 14:27; Romans 5:1-2; John 1:10-13; Matthew 5:9; Proverbs 26:20; Proverbs 21; Proverbs 19:13; Psalm 31:14-24