Peace is one of the most desired, most elusive, and most misunderstood of all things. Those who call for peace may be thinking of and longing for different and unrelated conditions.
The difference in the kinds of peace one may enjoy is illustrated by the fact that one may live in peaceful surroundings while experiencing utter turmoil within, or he may find himself in the midst of the destruction and bloodshed of war but enjoy unspeakable peace in his heart.
Isaiah laid his finger on the source of real peace when he wrote: “Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee” (Isa. 26:3, RSV). Our Lord also states the source of this peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
The unbelieving world can neither receive nor understand this peace, because it is a work of the Holy Spirit that proceeds from a saving faith in the Son of God. Peace therefore is indivisibly linked with the redemptive work of Christ and can never be experienced apart from that work. While the world looks for “peace,” God’s redeemed have true peace, unaffected by outward circumstances.
Actually the “peace” for which the unregenerate world longs is a time of suspended hostilities during which it may serve the devil without inconvenience or interruptions.
Politicians have spoken often of “a just and durable peace,” so much so that this illusory carrot is dangled before an unsuspecting and gullible public that fails to realize that peace is a state of existence conferred by God on his terms and consistent with his conditions, and in no other way.
The Apostle James tells us: “What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members?… You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (4:1, 3).
The peace that counts is rooted in and proceeds from the Lord Jesus Christ and is wholly beyond the comprehension of those who are not Christians. Our Lord makes the difference clear: “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
An enigma to the world? Of course. Foolishness to the unregenerate? Certainly. The peace about which our Lord speaks is beyond the understanding of all but his own.
This peace is the result of unconditional surrender—surrender to him who is the Prince of Peace, to the One who demands all that he in turn may give all, to the One who alone has the power to confer peace.
This peace is one which knows that God never makes a mistake, that for the Christian, truly in everything God works for good. Such a peace stems not from fatalism but from unquestioning faith in the One in whom “all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16, 17).
Given a complete faith in and obedience to such an one, who should not have peace? Ignorance of Jesus Christ or indifference to him brings about insecurity, the very opposite of peace. Trust and obey him and there is given the peace that passeth understanding—and, as someone has rightly said, “the peace that passeth misunderstanding.”
The Psalmist knew the source of such peace: “Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts” (Ps. 85:8).
The indivisible link between the imputed righteousness of Christ and his peace is indicated in these words: “Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (Ps. 85:9, 10).
Isaiah takes up the same theme: “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness quietness and trust for ever” (32:17).
This peace comes from a relationship with God from which flows an inner sence of his reality, his nearness, and his ability to provide the wisdom and strength needed for any contingency of life. In psalm 119:165 we read: “Great peace have them stumble.” It is the Prince of Peace with whom we have to do and who in his love and mercy confers peace on his own.
At the same time, there is no promise of peace for those who reject God. One has but to read any newspaper any day to see the turmoil and strife that exist in the world. Some have attempted to blur or eliminate the distinction between the “redeemed” and the “unredeemed”; but the Bible makes the distinction clear, and it was to establish this that Christ came.
“There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.” This truth proclaimed by Isaiah 57:21 screams out in the headlines of every newspaper in the world.
But what about the innocent victims of those who disturb the peace of the world? That is the very point. Those who have committed their way to the Christ of Calvary have inner peace, the peace that lasts for eternity, now, regardless of outward circumstances.
One of the tragedies of each generation is those who preach peace when there is no peace. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel denounced the false prophets who said all was well when the sword of God’s holy judgment was poised to strike. We too hear panaceas preached and a false optimism expressed that ignore the holiness of God while emphasizing his love. Such false teaching ignores both the reason for and the implications of the Cross. The “love” of John 3:16 is extolled, while the “should not perish” is ignored.
That there is a profound paradox in the person and work of Christ must be recognized. He said: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34), obviously indicating the division made by faith in him or rejection of him now and forever. But the divine legacy of inward peace is given to all who believe.
Peace is not an end in itself and never should be considered one. Rather, it is a sure corollary of a right relationship with God and can be found in no other way.
Look to man and find confusion. Look to God and find in him all the answers for the restless soul. The answer is found in the invitation, “Come unto me.” Surrender to him takes away the burden and replaces it with rest—the peace of God that is ours now and for all enternity.
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