Summary: God gives his peace through his presence as we draw close to him in prayer.
Their grandmother lived in a slower time. So her visit to California from a small town in middle America included her first plane flight. She was anxious about trusting her life to this newfangled contraption! When the family met her at the airport, they teased her by asking, “Well, grandma, did the plane hold you up okay?”
She grudgingly admitted it did; then quickly added, “But I never did put my full weight down on it!”
Maybe we have feared putting our full weight down on God, and anxiety results. It does not really make a difference to the airplane, but it determines whether we enjoy the flight. So let me read Philippians 4.4-9, and see if we can trust God for the flight of faith.
[Read Philippians 4.4-9. Pray.]
The letter read: “Dear Abby, I have found the secret to inner peace and I want to share it will all your readers. The secret is to finish the things you start. Today alone I finished two bags of potato chips, a chocolate pie, and a bottle of wine. I feel better already.” People want inner peace.
When I counsel couples, I usually ask what they really want for their marriage. Many, many husbands and wives say, “I just want peace.” The home should be a place of peace, but sometimes it is not.
But is there peace anywhere? Wars rage across the globe. Nearly 2 million people are incarcerated in the US. Someone commits murder about every thirty minutes, and a crime of some sort almost every second. We live in a violent world, with violent people, who commit violent crimes. Can we have peace in the midst of such chaos?
Jesus seemed to think we could. Near the end of his life he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you….” (John 14.27). That’s encouraging. But even Jesus’ words are uniformly positive. Matthew 10.34: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” And in John 16, Jesus specifically says that, “In the world you will have tribulation….” So how does that work? To answer that, first…
1. We Must Know What Peace Is
There are different kinds of peace. One is horizontal—the absence of human conflict. Our President seeks this in his Bilateral Mideast Peace Meetings. Certainly, God commends to us prayer and labor for peace between people.
Additionally, there is vertical peace, one which concerns our relationship with God. This has two parts: 1st, an objective aspect, which the Bible calls “peace with God,” (in which we are declared no longer his enemies); and 2nd, a subjective aspect, the “peace of God,” which is promised in Philippians 4. Let me give you a definition, and then we will see if we can explain and apply it: Peace (in our text) is: The confidence in your soul which results from faith that there is a sovereign and all powerful God who is both good to you and present with you through all circumstances.
1.1. Biblical Peace Does Not Come by Changing Circumstances
Every day people seek to control their chaos by changing people and escaping conflicts. The angry wife yells, “I just want some peace and quiet”; the bitter husband clams up when his feelings are hurt; the hopeless flight attendant grabs a beer and slides down the escape chute. But even if we could control our world (and we cannot), storms in the soul wreck internal peace. Biblical peace does not result from changed circumstances.
1.2. Biblical Peace Is Not Possible Without Reconciliation with God
Most people I meet want the peace of God; they want to be comforted and cared for by the Almighty, to feel his presence and be certain of his love. Fewer, however, are interested in making peace with God the Conqueror. We do well to remember that until and unless we surrender to the Almighty, we remain his enemy. Have you admitted that you made yourself God’s enemy? Are you willing to sue for peace on his terms, since he is the Victor, the Conqueror?
Two issues seem to keep people from this commitment. First, presumption: most Americans assume they follow Jesus because they are not Muslims (or admitted atheists). Their profession changes nothing, but assume they are Christians because most everyone claims to be. But Romans 2.4 warns: “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Is your repentance genuine? Have you turned from trust in your own will, to run to the Father for both forgiveness and correction? Can mature Christians see your progress in the faith? Is the peace with God which you claim, real, or mere presumption? Do we have the courage to seek the answer to these questions?