Summary: Since believers have peace with God, we can be at peace with others as well. When the Holy Spirit grows this fruit in our lives, we will also experience inner peace.
Partaking of Peace
Rev. Brian Bill
Ann Landers receives around 10,000 letters a month from people requesting advice on various topics. When asked what her most common question is, she answered that people seem to be afraid or worried about something. They’re afraid of losing their health, they worry about their job, and they’re filled with concerns about their family. People are wacked out about their neighbors or frustrated with their friends. A great preponderance of letters describe relational ruptures and family friction. In short, people are looking for peace but can’t seem to find it.
We’re not sure how long the tenuous Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire will last in the Middle East and we wonder how long it will be before our own relationships head south. I read an incredible story this week about a father who was so filled with anxiety and stress that he punched out “Cookie Monster.” Here’s the story as it appeared in the online version of USA Today on Thursday:
A man’s plan to have his young daughter meet the Cookie Monster crumbled when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting the furry blue Sesame Street character. Police say Lee P. McPhatter, upset that the Cookie Monster would not pose for a picture at the Sesame Place theme park, shoved and kicked the employee inside the costume.
Middletown police said that 21-year-old Jennie McNelis suffered bruised ribs and a cervical sprain when McPhatter shoved her to the ground, then kicked her in the head and back. McPhatter said he would fight the charges, which include simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct.
Peace is regarded as one of the supreme virtues and yet it is so often absent from lives today. From “Road Rage” to “Cookie Conflicts,” our culture does not partake of peace on a regular basis. We long for it, we wish we had it, but we seldom find it. Even in the church we don’t always see it. That leads to a question: Why is that some people have peace while others of us are going to pieces?
As we continue in our study on the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23, we come to the third character trait of committed Christ followers. Let’s read this passage together: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”
As we’ve discovered in our series, the Fruit of the Spirit can only come from the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. He alone is the source and supplier of peace because He is the God of all peace. Only as we stay connected to the vine will we be able to know and experience this peace.
Before we define what peace is, let’s look at what it is not:
• Peace is not merely the absence of activity. We often use the phrase “peace and quiet” to refer to our need to slow down.
• Peace is more than the absence of hostility. The biblical concept is much deeper than just not having conflict.
• Peace is not just getting away from reality. While we go on vacation to get away from it all, the Bible offers peace right where we are.
In the Old Testament, the word shalom is a state of wholeness and harmony that is intended to resonate in all relationships. When used as a greeting, shalom was a wish for outward freedom from disturbance as well as an inward sense of well-being. To a people constantly harassed by enemies, peace was the premiere blessing. In Numbers 6:24-26, God gave Moses these words to use when blessing His people: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”
The New Testament describes at least three spheres, or planes, of peace:
• Peace with God – that’s the vertical dimension
• Peace of God – this takes place internally
• Peace with others – when we have peace with God and we experience the peace of God, we can then extend peace horizontally
Peace With God
Last week we spent some time establishing the fact that God breaks out into joy when He thinks about us. Zephaniah 3:17: “…He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” In order for us to move forward in our journey to joy, we must first recognize that God rejoices over us with singing.
While this is certainly true, and we need to let it soak into our spirits, there’s a corollary to this biblical truth. Because you’ve been created in the image of God, you matter greatly to Him. But, due to the devastating effects of sin, before we come to faith in Christ you and I are also considered to be at “war” with God.