The Peace of God
by Pastor Dan White
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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 (Philippians 4:6-7).
God is peace. He never worries. He never gets in a hurry. He never stresses. He is never in conflict with Himself.
God is the Creator of peace. He alone creates peace and gives peace.
God created the Garden of Eden as a place of peace and harmony. Nature was at peace. There were no hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or natural disasters.
Plants, animals, and humans received water from the springs gushing from the earth. The Scripture records that “The Lord God had not sent rain on the earth …But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:5-7).
Rain is not mentioned in the Creation account and is not referred to until the day when the Lord opened the floodgates of heaven in judgment because of the evil that swept over the earth. And how it rained! Forty days and forty nights. The first deluge. No one and no thing survived except Noah, his family and the animals on the ark.
A lot of people believe that these Genesis stories are myths. But to argue whether the first eleven chapters are Hebrew myths or are literal is to miss the point.
The point is that God created the world in peace. Mankind sinned in willful disobedience against the Lord. The result of sin was and is God’s judgment upon nature. Chaos, earthquakes, floods, and violent weather entered the world.
The Apostle Paul captured this phenomenon when he observed, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22).
Every storm, every forest fire, every flood is creation groaning for redemption.
And, creation that cries and groans for redemption will be redeemed by the restoring power of God.
The Apostle John saw the redemption of nature in his vision. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1).
John Wesley (1703-1791) the great evangelist who founded Methodism interpreted the meaning of nature’s groans and the promise of a new heaven and new earth restoration in a way that is clear and understandable.
"The whole brute creation will be restored, not only to the vigor, strength, and swiftness which they had at their creation, but to a far higher degree of each than they ever enjoyed. They will be restored, not only to that measure of understanding which they had in paradise, but to a degree of it much higher...No rage will be found in any creature, no fierceness, no cruelty, or thirst for blood. [As Isaiah prophesized], "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox" (Isaiah 11:6-8)."
Nature will be redeemed and will once again be at peace. I can’t understand how or when, but it will. Only God knows the details! But, the groan of creation will be answered with redemptive peace.
Not only was creation thrown into chaos, but mankind was thrown into confusion by the judgment of God. Worry, anxiety, jealousy, envy, hate, and all manner of inner and relational conflicts entered the heart of mankind.
The desire for world peace is a wonderful and noble desire, but it is an illusion and will never happen.
Jesus said that there will be wars and rumors of
wars before the end comes and that these are like the first pains of childbirth (Matthew 24:6-8).
Wars between nations, religions, and ideologies are also groans for redemption like the groans in creation. Jesus said they are birth pains for a new birth. These birth-pang groans precede the birth of the new heaven and new earth.
Like in nature, mankind awaits the redemption of God in Christ for peace to be established.
The Lord revealed this to the Apostle Peter too.
"Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:11-13 NIV).
Again, there is no way to logically understand these apocalyptic images but like nature, we all wait for the redemption of God in Christ for humanity’s peace to ultimately be established.
Now, I believe that to die in Christ is to immediately rise in a new body and be transported to heaven. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Where the new heaven and the new earth come in, I don’t know. Will heaven be the new earth?
It is interesting to me to speculate about these things, but it is enough for me to know that I have eternal life through Christ and will one day leave behind the conflict in both this world in general and in my world specifically.
But what about the meantime? Is God’s peace for me and you available right now? The answer is a resounding and reassuring YES!
It is important to know that this inner peace is God’s peace. It is from God. It is beyond our abilities to live in that place of God’s peace.
The Scripture says, “The peace of God through Christ transcends all human understanding” (Philippians 4:7). This means that we can’t figure out how to have God’s peace. No one can. My reasoning powers and efforts to be at emotional, spiritual, and mental peace are not within me. Peace of mind and heart exceed my ability and understanding and also the understanding of psychological and psychiatric study.
It is not within the rational power of any person to possess God’s true peace no matter how many self-help books, gurus, or sooth-sayers are out there.
Many of these are get-rich quick schemes that play off the anxiety and broken lives of people looking for help. Sadly, this is sometimes done in the name of Christianity to make the proponents rich.
Yet, renown and proven methods in Christian and secular self-help books, psychology, psychiatry, and medicine can be very helpful.
But ultimately, inner peace is a gift of God’s grace offered to believers. Like all gifts, we can receive or reject His gift of inner peace.
And, like all gifts, they come from outside of us. Inner peace and harmony come from Christ. It is not within our ability to enjoy God’s peace without His help and power.
How does Christ give peace? With Christ in me, I see from a different perspective. It’s like when Joyce and I fly out West to take a tour of the awe-inspiring landscape, canyons, and mountains. We fly over Nebraska, Kansas, and other states. I know why they call this vast region “fly-over country.” The landscape is boring compared to the Rocky Mountains, Alaska, and Hawaii.
Flying 35,000 feet above the earth, things and people look mighty small from way up there. Insignificant. And problems from back home seem to disappear.
In a sense, that’s the way the Psalmist pictured God looking out over all of the confusion and uproar here on earth. “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:1,4).
Seated in the heavenlies, God has a different perspective than we do and laughs at humanity’s conspiracies and plots.
Similarly, the heavenly view enables me, to look at people and situations that once caused me great stress to laugh about much of that now.
Perhaps a different perspective from a heavenly point of view can help you laugh at some of those past stressors and let go of them. The Scripture says a merry heart doeth good like a medicine. And sometimes, looking from a different viewpoint can produce a good old fashioned belly laugh that relieves anxiety and moves us into a state of peace.
Not only can a heavenly perspective bring peace, but getting away alone can move us to the place of God’s peace.
As Cleland McAfee wrote in his beautiful hymn, “There is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God.”
The Gospels record several times when Jesus left everyone to get away, be alone, and pray. Even though He is God, He was also man. The God-man. And I think that perhaps in his humanness, he got alone to see from heaven’s vantage point. Things look different from up there.
Like Christ, we too can get away, meditate, pray, and look at circumstances from heaven’s view point. Self shrinks from big “I” to little “i.” It is the place of peace with God - the place of prayer and meditation.
In that place, we can present all of our petitions with thanksgiving to God and not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6).
There is a great sense of peace and relief when we grow to the point in our prayers to thank God for everything - the bad included - because we trust that He knows what He is doing. He is either working to change us and create the image of Christ’s crucifixion and Christ’s life in us or working to change our circumstances as we ask him.
Thus, we experience today what Isaiah experienced thousands of years ago. That truth then is true today. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
One of my favorite peace Psalms is the third one. With ten thousand foes in front of him, a bloody, deathly battle awaited the first rays of dawn. Hear what David’s trust in the Lord caused him to write the night before the fight. 5“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. 6I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.”
David didn’t write, “I lie down and worry. I lie down and toss and turn because I have so much on my mind.” No, he wrote, “I lie down and sleep.”
On those nights when my body is tired and my mind won’t let my body sleep because of worry, I don’t count sheep. I recite and meditate on this Psalm. More often than not, I am able to close my eyes and drift off to sweet sleep. Try meditating on this Psalm the next time you can’t sleep! It’s God’s gift of peace to you and me.
In closing, there is another great promise in the peace of God passage in Philippians. “The peace of God...will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The peace of God through Christ stands as a sentinel guarding our emotional, mental, and spiritual health. He keeps out darkness, anxiety, confusion and strife. He fills our hearts and minds with light dispelling the shadows of fear and worry.
Moreover, He protects us from attacks from the devil who seeks to steal our joy, kill our soul, and destroy our peace of mind.
But, we can choose to leave his protective custody and open ourselves up to all manner of bewildering perplexities fraught with danger.
It’s like this. President Obama is surrounded by sentinels and guards of the Secret Service. They go to great length, effort, and expense to protect his life even willing to give their lives to guard our President.
Suppose that the President is in New York City staying at a hotel on the 22nd floor, and that the Secret Service rents the entire 21st and 23rd floors as a protective measure. No one above and no one beneath can threaten the President with a bomb or explosive.
But then about one o’clock in the morning, President Obama decides to go for a walk by himself down Broadway and into Central Park. He slips away from the Secret Service agents, and takes to the streets alone.
Would you not agree that this would be one of the most foolish things ever? The President would be exposed to dangerous thugs and could be shot.
I think it is just as foolish if we decide to leave the protective guard of Christ over our minds and hearts and live with no thought of Him and no worship of Him through the church or in private devotions.
We can willfully go it alone and endanger our soul’s well-being, peace of mind, and blessings of serenity by leaving Christ’s protective guard.
Leaving His protection is to depend solely on our reasoning and emotional ability to be in a state of inner peace. And finding that state of inner peace will be elusive since the peace of God transcends or is beyond all human understanding.
God has not left it for us to find inner peace. All we have to do is enter into it through Christ. God cannot give us peace apart from constant union with Christ and protection from Christ, because it is not there.
"For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul."
- Horatio Gates Spafford (1828-1888)
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Given all "the cares of this world," we can certainly give ourselves panic attacks if we take our eyes off Jesus! Thank you for all the good reminders, here, Pr. Dan! Your writing reminds me of the old hymn "I look not back," which concludes with "But I look up--into the face of Jesus, For there my heart can rest, my fears are stilled; And there is joy, and love, and light for darkness, And perfect peace, and ev'ry hope fulfilled." [http://www.hymnary.org/text/i_look_not_back_god_knows_the_fruitless_ ]