The Peace of God
Is experiencing peace really possible in the real world? How do you have peace when you continually hear about the terrible things in the news, never mind the various emotional pressures of everyday life? It’s just so easy to get frustrated and agitated about a situation, worried about a problem, or anxious about the future. Is the peace you read about in the bible or see in certain people actually possible? That’s the question. Because it’s not enough to just rest in peace when you die; you want to practically experience peace while you live. So how do you pursue peace?
The Pursuit of Peace
It’s hard to pursue something if you are unsure what it is that you’re after. Peace becomes possible when you better understand what it actually is. The peace of God is an inner confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God. Peace is the security and well-being of soul that flows from the truth of who God is no matter what is happening in your life.
For example, a couple months ago, the New England Patriots cut Tim Tebow from their football team. Understandably, the media swarmed Tebow, one of the most outspoken Christian athletes in all of sports, to see how he would respond. Here is a man whose dream is to be a successful quarterback in the National Football League, but in just four years, he’s been let go by three teams. How would he handle it? Tebow told reporters, “I'm blessed, because of my faith, that I don't have to worry about the future because I know who holds my future. It's something I try to live by. It really gives you a lot of peace in whatever circumstance I'm in." Tebow was experiencing an inner confidence and security in who God is for him. The world tries to get peace through maintaining a series of good circumstances, but that is an unstable peace because good things come and go. Situations rise and fall. True peace comes by looking at the changing circumstances of your life through the lens of God’s unchanging character. And what was Tebow refusing to do? He was refusing to step into God’s role. He doesn’t know the future, but God does. He’s not wise enough to work things together for good, but God can and will. A person loses the peace of God when he or she tries to step into shoes that are too big to walk in. Like small children who want to wear their parent’s shoes, they quickly realize they can’t get very far. Anxiety and fear comes when you try to step into God’s role and realize you don’t have God’s resources. But how can this peace be developed and fostered?
The Right Kind of Praying
In Philippians 4:4-9, the Apostle Paul explains that prayer is one of the main paths to peace. Yet there are several people who pray and still don’t have peace. The reason is that not any type of praying will do in achieving true peace. Biblical peace is confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God and both of these attributes of God must be informing and guiding your prayer life. For example, you present your requests to God with trust because you believe that he is good, and you present them with thanksgiving because you believe that he is sovereign. You tell God what you need and thank him for what you already have and for who he is. This means the prayer that brings peace is the prayer that knows God cares and is in control. The bicycle of prayer must have the two wheels of God’s goodness and God’s sovereignty attached or else you’re not getting anywhere. C.H. Spurgeon put it this way, “Prayer without thanksgiving is like a bird without wings.” In other words, it can exist, but it can’t get you very far. For prayer to “work” in bringing peace, you must come to the place where you can draw near to the Lord in thanksgiving even in the darkest of times. How can you do that? Think of the cross. God wisely ordered and governed the most tragic sinful event to become the most beautiful and celebrated redemptive moment in history. If God could do that with the suffering of Jesus, then what could he be doing with your suffering today?
Now, make no mistake, peace is not the absence of disappointment or grief; it’s the absence of fear and anxiety. When you refuse to step into God’s role and trust that he can order your future better than you can, his peace begins to protect you and guard you from the enemies of anxiety and fear. But you not only need the right kind of praying, you also need the right kind of thinking.
The Right Kind of Thinking
To gain peace, the Apostle Paul also stresses the importance of meditation and proper thinking. What you choose to focus on matters. This means that the peace of God surpasses all understanding, but it doesn’t bypass all understanding. It is a rational peace. The world doesn’t understand it because it tries to get peace by sort of emptying your mind. But whenever the Bible speaks about peace, it reminds you not to empty your mind, but to fill it. Jesus continually said, “Consider.” Consider who God is for you. Consider your Father who cares and is in control. Christian peace is not the absence of thought; it’s the focus of thought. This is why the Bible says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). This means it’s not the wrong things that keep you from peace; it’s the wrong thoughts. True peace doesn’t come by trying to escape from the hard issues of life; it comes by praying about them with trust and thanksgiving and looking at them through the lens of God’s character and truth.