In our continuing meditations on the gifts that the indwelling Holy Spirit brings into the life of a believer – the fruit of the Spirit – we come now to the subject of peace.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines peace as “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.” Philippians 4:6-7 says “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.” From that scripture we can deduce and define peace as a state in which the heart is not tormented by anxiety and fear and conflict.
When God created man, that was the condition of man’s heart and of his relationship with his maker. Then sin came in. “When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.” Why? The state of freedom from fear and anxiety and conflict that they hitherto enjoyed had gone. They had no peace with themselves and with God. The Chief Thief of peace is sin.
THE PEACE OF CHRIST
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – Jn. 14:26-27
The peace we are dealing with here is that which is a gift from the Holy Spirit. It is the peace of Christ. In the world, peace is the result of favourable external circumstances. When you are debt free and have a healthy bank balance, you experience peace; when your medical report is a clean bill of health, you experience peace; when the police are around your neighbourhood, you experience peace.
Jesus said His peace is not “as the world gives.” That means His is a peace not dependent on favourable circumstances. It is a gift and it rules the heart in spite of bad circumstances. Jesus confirmed this when He said “I have told you these things, so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). This peace is found in Christ. While He doesn’t promise a trouble-free world for his followers, Jesus promises peace in Him in spite of the prevailing circumstances in the world.
One of the amazing things about Jesus’ statement in John 14 is that He made that promise just hours before his crucifixion. He wasn’t worried about His own impending cruel death. He was rather concerned about the peace of His disciples. It is that kind of rest and freedom from anxiety that Jesus offers you. This kind of peace makes no sense to the world. In fact Philippians 4:7 calls it “God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.”
What Jesus is offering is His own peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” My peace. He is not creating our own peace. Rather, He is sharing with us His own peace. He is bringing us into His own peace, the kind that He enjoys with the Father.
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” – Col. 1:19-20
What is the way into this peace that the Holy Spirit gives? Jesus is the way. He is the Prince of peace. He is the one who made peace with God for us through His blood. This peace is an expensive gift, bought by the very blood of God’s only begotten. The cause of the first conflict in Eden was sin. The solution must necessarily be the removal of the offence. The price for your peace has been fully paid: “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him” (Isa. 53:5). The way into it is to believe “the good news of peace through Christ” (Acts 10.36). When that happens then Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” becomes a testimony in the life of the believer. It is when we are reconciled to God that we have peace. It is when we are in Christ that we can share in the peace of Christ. It is when we are in Christ that we can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and have Him bring the gift of peace into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard.
ENJOYING THE PEACE OF GOD
Jesus promised that His peace is not as the world gives. It is while we have trouble in this world that Jesus promised us the victory that overcomes the world. Therefore, while the world loses sleep, frets in anxiety and fear, we can in the midst of these troubles enjoy the peace that the Holy Spirit gives. What a blessing!
This peace also benefits our human vessels, the body. A wise man said “A heart at peace gives life to the body” (Prov. 14:30). How many people have suffered hypertension and stroke because they lacked peace? This fruit of the Spirit will spare you unnecessary visits to the doctor and prolong your life. When you go to bed, you “will lie down and sleep in peace” (Ps. 4:8). This is God’s gift to you. And when this fruit becomes a spring in your life that overflows to others, the bible promises that “Those who promote peace have joy” (Prov. 12:20).
Will this peace abide with you only when you are yet to experience a so-called major crisis? Absolutely not! What has been promised is a life-long fruit that will outlast your lifetime. God says in Isaiah 54:10 that “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” There we have a rock-solid promise of peace that can see us through the most devastating of crises. That is one of the ways in which this peace is “not as the world gives”, it is long-lasting, founded on the sure promise of God.
MAINTAINING YOUR PEACE
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” – Jn. 14:1, 27
At least three times in John 14 alone, Jesus counsels His disciples to not let their hearts be troubled. That instruction presupposes that while Jesus is our peace, having reconciled us to God and shared with us His own peace, and in spite of the deep work of the Spirit within, there is an attempt by the enemy to invade our peace. “Do not” is a call to arms to stop that invasion from happening.
The primal assault weapon is the temptation to sin. It worked so potently in stealing the peace that Adam and his wife enjoyed in themselves and with God. The Lord said in Isaiah 48:18 that “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river.” It is that promised peace, which obedience causes to abound and flow like a river, that the lure to disobey purposes to rob you of. Maintain your peace by fighting temptation. “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1Jn. 2:11). He is our peace. “Great peace have they who love (His) law”, therefore, make every effort to be found at peace with him.
While you fight to not let your heart be troubled, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace” (Col. 3:15). “Let” is a verb that means to permit to enter. Give permission to the peace of Christ to dwell in your heart. Do this by dwelling on the glories that are yours in Christ, including His peace.
Eliphaz said to Job: “Submit to God and be at peace with Him” (Job 22:21). That message is still very apt today. Much of the pain we bear comes from our failure to submit to God. This is broader than our default understanding of sin. Jesus, even though He was a son, learned obedience. You too, as a child of God, you need to learn submission to the will of the Father. It will keep your peace intact.
Because we are flawed as humans, our relationships will throw up tensions every now and then. For many the theft of their peace has come from their relationships, especially marriage. The word of God covers this too. Let the peace of Christ dwell in your heart. Learn to forgive as Christ forgave you. Settle matters quickly so they don’t linger and rob you of your peace. “Seek peace and pursue it” (1Pet. 3:11). “Make every effort to do what leads to peace” (Rom. 14: 19). And “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). Let every crisis be an opportunity for you to allow the river of peace welling up within you to flow into your relationships.
Part of our human experience here is that there will be billows, waves and storms. These troubles will aim at the peace you have received. In Philippians 4:7-8, Paul admonishes that you be not anxious about anything, but pray about everything. The result, he says, will be that “God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its own earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (AMPC).
Finally, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”