It’s been awhile since I’ve had time to sit down and write, much less write something worthy of posting here. Between work, the ever increasing time needed for Threshingfloor Ministries, and the pressure of final projects for the school year, I’ve been quite swamped. It’s rare for me to be stressed about anything, but the amount of things on my to-do list for the last month and a half has certainly brought me near to being overwhelmed.
Because of all the pressure, I’ve been pondering a few verses that deal with the concept of peace in the Christian life. There’s plenty to choose from, but two that have been particularly on my mind are Ephesians 2:14 and Philippians 4:7; “For he (Christ) himself is our peace” and, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
What are we to do when the earth around us shakes us when we are meant to have an all-encompassing peace? What can we learn from the scriptures about how we are to respond to stress and struggle in such a way that our peace is sustained? I would argue that a Christian’s being at peace in the midst of chaos is one of our greatest ways to witness to the world around us. They will indeed find it strange and attractive if we are steadfast and at rest where they are shot-fused and on edge. Being at peace is a critical thing in the Christian life.
Here’s a couple of my thoughts as I’ve mulled over the scriptures and examined myself to see what it is that keep me from being at peace in the midst of the chaotic life I’m currently in.
I don’t have faith in God’s promises
The first and most present reason to me is simply unbelief. If we really believed God’s promises with the surety that we are meant to have, there is nothing that would cause us to worry. We would actually feel the fact that all things are working for our good in Christ. When we read in Psalms that the Lord gives his beloved rest, our confidence in that promise would free us to rest easy and sleep soundly. When we read in 1 Peter that the trials that happen in our lives are working for us a greater work of glory, we would not worry or fear any pain that comes our way. Ultimately, our lack of peace stems from a lack of faith.
I’ve been re-reading (for the 3rd time) The Complete Green Letters by Miles Stanford, and have been greatly convicted by one quote from A.W. Tozer that reads,
“We are forever asking God to do things that he has either already done or cannot do because of our unbelief. We plead for Him to speak when He has already spoken and is at that very moment speaking. We ask Him to come when He is already present and waiting for us to recognize him. We beg the Holy Spirit to fill us while all the time we are preventing Him by our doubts.”
Oh how often that is true! We ask God to give us peace when he has already given it to us in Christ, who is himself our peace. Instead of pleading to God for what he has already given, instead, let us be like the father in Mark 9:24 who cries, “I believe; help my unbelief!” and beg the Lord to enable us to have faith in what he has already accomplished. Then and there, as our faith grows, we will indeed come to know that massive peace that comes from resting in the Lord.
My focus is on the wrong things
Secondly, our peace is greatly hindered by our earthly focus. When our minds are more entangled by the day-to-day stress of life than they are with the fact that we are joined into Christ and seated in heaven, it is little wonder that we are so easily swayed. Colossians 3:1-2 declares,
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
As we meditate more on heavenly things and are captivated by the glory of Christ, earthly stressors will lose their power. As Greg Gelburd notes in his post at the Resurgence, much of our stress is the sign of idols in our lives. If we indeed delight ourselves greatly in the Lord and fill our mind with the fact that we are (past tense) seated with Christ at God’s right hand, we will stand strong in the midst of the most terrible storms.
By no means are these two things the only ones that contribute to preventing us from having appropriate peace, but I believe that they are critical ones. We must examine ourselves and bring ourselves before the Lord so that he might work upon our wayward hearts. As we grow in faith and allow our focus to be re-directed to the glories of Christ, our lives will be transformed. It is an amazing thing to be able to say with the hymn writer,
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
As we become a people who not only sing that song but know their precious reality, the world around us will see and be amazed and begin to give credence to the gospel that we proclaim. So, brothers and sisters, seek peace. He will not withhold any good thing from the ones he loves. And remember, when I say “seek peace,” that is synonymous with saying seek Christ, for “he himself is our peace”! There is no true peace in in any other source.