Peace is not the absence of problems.
Peace is the presence of the Lord.
For most of us, peace seems to be fleeting and elusive. It comes and goes depending on the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The presence or absence of real or imagined trouble with our families, neighborhoods, work situations, and issues involving our government or even the world at large seem to determine our peace. Anything that may potentially disturb our security or significance becomes a threat to our peace. Our peace seems many times to be based entirely on the world around us. This type of peace, however, is not what the God desires for our lives. The peace that the world gives comes from walking by sight, not by faith. II Corinthians 5:9 reminds us that “we walk by faith, not by sight.”
If there were any people on earth that needed to have the peace that comes from walking by faith it would be the Israelite nation. Having been led by the Lord out of Egypt, they were wanderers in the desert, dependent daily upon miraculous provisions of food and water. They were soon to rebel against the Lord and wander in the desert a total of forty more years. It was at this point in their history that the Lord instructed Moses to tell Aaron to bless the Israelites and say to them.
“‘The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.’
So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:24-27)
They were instructed to put His name on the Israelites, that is, so that they would know that the Name of the LORD implies that He will become all that they need, which in this instance was peace. They would desperately need to know that the LORD was their peace over the next forty years; forty years of suffering the consequences of disobedience, forty years of having enough faith to get out of Egypt but not enough faith to get into the promised land; forty years waiting for death to take all those older than 20 years of age who had refused to enter the land of Canaan. They needed to know that peace was not found in their commitment to Him, but in His commitment to them. It was not the result of looking at circumstances, but at the LORD, who was in charge of all their circumstances. In all their hardship and travail, they were to remember that the LORD was still the author and provider of His peace.
It is in times of distress and difficulty that we supremely need to know that the LORD is peace. It was during such a time in the life of Israel that we first see the name Jehovah-Shalom. (The LORD is Peace) During the days of Midianite oppression the nation was finding caves and mountain clefts in which to dwell. Food was scarce and what they had was often taken from them. Gideon was found by the Angel of the LORD while threshing wheat in a winepress to avoid detection by the Midianites. After the discussion with the Angel, “when Gideon realized it was the Angel of the LORD he exclaimed ‘Ah, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!‘ But the LORD said to him. ‘Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.‘ So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it the LORD is peace.” (Judges 6:22-24) It was the knowledge of the LORD as his peace that enabled him to tear down his fathers‘ altar to Baal, sacrifice a bull from his fathers‘ herd, and subsequently destroy the Midianites by the hand of God with only three hundred men. His peace was found in the LORD, not in his circumstances.
On the night of His betrayal, our LORD spoke to His disciples regarding His peace. He stated in John 14:27, “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.” Here the Lord is granting to His disciples that peace that He Himself possessed. This is the peace that was not altered by His coming betrayal, beatings, and crucifixion. The weight of our sin, foreign to His being, was soon to descend upon Him as the forces of darkness gathered around His cross. When did His disciples experience that peace? Not that night, for they all deserted Him and fled. Not after His resurrection, for on two occasions they were huddled behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. The peace that Jesus gives is connected with the preceding verse in the Gospel of John. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) It was when the Holy Spirit descended upon them fifty days after the resurrection that they experienced the inward presence of their Lord, and His peace came with Him. Their lives became a testimony of His peace that comes from walking by faith, not by sight.
We also have the opportunity to walk by faith in His peace. This process is outlined for us in Philippians 4:6-9. “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. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
First there is the prayer of faith that sees circumstances, that, if we were walking by sight, would rob us of our peace in Him. Those circumstances are to be brought to the Lord with prayer, petition and thanksgiving. Verse 7 tells us that the peace of God will then guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. His process of guarding our minds is described further in verse 8. It is in directing our thoughts to those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. This is not just a mindset that attempts to avoid anxious thoughts; it replaces them with a mind set of faith that considers and meditates upon the One who loves us with infinite love, has perfect knowledge of our needs, and unlimited power to provide what is best for us. The mindset of faith looks beyond circumstance to the One who holds all circumstances in His hand. Similarly, our hearts are guarded by replacing activity born out of walking by sight, with the activity of faith which depends upon the Holy Spirit to put into practice in our lives whatever we have learned or received or heard from our Lord through others in our walk with Him. Verse 9 then concludes with this declaration, “And the God of peace will be with you.”
The peace we have in Christ is not the absence of difficult circumstances which produce problems for us. His peace is in our lives when we bring each situation to Him; as we contemplate Him as the One who is excellent and praiseworthy; and as we are directed by His Spirit into the actions of faith in His name, with the assurance that the “God of peace” will be with us. These verses taken together address a peace that embraces and directs our emotions, (verses 6-7) our intellect, (verse 8) and our will (verse 9). The peace that our Lord manifested was perfectly demonstrated in His emotion, His intellect and His will. This is His peace that He longs for us to experience as well.
Two days after concluding the above notes on peace, I developed some symptoms which led to the removal of an aggressive malignancy which, although removed completely at the present time, shows every sign of continual recurrence. The surgeon three times repeated the statement “poor prognosis” which completely removed all peace of the type which the world gives. It seems like the Lord has invited us to walk to Him on the water as He did with Peter. All the waves around us are crashing and we are wet with their foam. Directly in front of us, however, is the Lord, beckoning us to come to Him step by step, drawing our gaze to Him by the loving care expressed in His countenance. As we progress along this path, we know that our peace is in Him, and that He is surely as much in control of the cancer in the body as He is in control of the waves of the Sea of Galilee.
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.” (II Thessalonians 3:16)