Many believe that a life following God is supposed to be without struggles and stress. Where is real peace? Here’s a 3-Way Peace Plan. ♦
There’s much anxiety in every productive life. Pressures to produce, to perform, to create, to earn, to fit in, to stay healthy, to survive. It’s enough to drive many to the brink. In fact, many will give up, check out, hide out, and/or succumb to temptations and habits that will only numb pain, worry and despair. And the underlying anxiety may still remain.
No, it’s not a pretty picture. We all know it and have lived it.
Now add the label of “Christian” to that life of private or public angst and you have a recipe for a living contradiction. A perpetual basket-case of an individual on the inside while posing as a healthy child of God on the outside. Add the self-condemning hypocrite burden to the mix and you’ve got a real mess.
A secret mess.
And then we go to church on Sunday and hear that we’re to have “peace that surpasses understanding.” It’s enough to make one want to cry out (privately of course) in frustration and confusion.
What’s a person to do? A normal person, by the way, because this is the plight of everyone.
The Problem with Peace
There’s an underlying assumption that when the Bible speaks of peace it means that we won’t have any troubles. This is a fallacy. Problems abound throughout the Old and New Testament. From Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel and the prophets, the Old Testament tells us historic story after story of men rising and falling, failing and fearing.
Like a spiritual conga line the problem continues into the New Testament with the Jewish line of David from the family of Judah begetting Jesus, the promised lamb of God. He died in a very non-peaceful way and his followers encountered further troubles and even death including the original Disciples and then Paul, the highly effective preacher of the gospel to the known world.
You think you’ve got problems? Yes, the Bible is full of people with troubles and problems. Troubles unto death.
Enter the 3-Way Peace Plan
There’s a 3-way resolution to these troubles. It wasn’t available to those of the Old Testament as it is available to all of us post-Christ. You see, Man has a big problem that gets solved and can be wonderfully experienced:
1. Peace with God. We are all born into separation from God, even as enemies, out of sinful human nature. (See last week’s Biblical Viewpoint post Evil – Nature or Nurture?) No amount of good behavior will close the gap. There is no natural peace. Romans 5:10 calls us “enemies of God.” Wisdom is understanding that perpetual separation from God is our natural present and eternal plight.
2. Connected with Jesus. We need to reconcile with God and establish peace. Jesus is the savior/deliverer of that peace through his sacrificial death for our sins. (See Biblical Viewpoint post Jesus, the Word and God-Man.) He is the answer. There is no other peace solution to the God-separation problem. Jesus reconciles our account – we now at least have spiritual peace.
3. Powered by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the transforming vehicle by which experiential peace is delivered. We see evidence of the power of this gift from God promised by Jesus to his followers, “I send the promise of my Father upon you…with power from on high” – Luke 24:49. Being fueled by the Holy Spirit is the key to real personal peace on earth. (see Biblical Viewpoint post Nehemiah the Comforter.) Abundant living in a broken world is found in the Spirit.
And anything less than all three won’t cut it. Many Christians, by that very name, have submitted, acknowledged and identified with Christ’s death and are thus reconciled with Holy God. The challenge in the everyday is to operate under the power from on high, the power of the Holy Spirit, so available yet so under-utilized by many of us. True living peace in the midst of earthly struggles is solved by the Spirit of God.
Twice this past month I’ve awoken in the middle of the night with my mind spinning and whirling with unrest. This is unusual for me and set off alarms. Something was amiss. What was consistent in both events was work related deadlines, stress, worry, doubt and fear. Quite the mid-night cocktail. Like a living case-study, my wife prayed over me for spiritual surrender, covering, protection and peace. We physically clutched a Bible between us, the living Word of God. In my mind I recalled the verse: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6
In both events the angst subsided in palpable ways after Holy Spirit charged prayer. And my stress and worry sources were clearly resolved in coming days. Other verses were subsequently shared with me:
“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
“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
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, for they will trust in You.” – Isaiah 26:3
It doesn’t really make sense, but it’s real nonetheless. And if you’re human, your problems and mine will reemerge. But I’ve been given a fresh reminder of the promises of God available to all of us who call upon His name. Truly personal, experiential peace is only a surrendering prayer away.
Does God really bring peace that surpasses understanding? Absolutely.
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7