It all started with a hurricane. We’ve been through many, having lived in South Florida during Hurricane Andrew and then moving to coastal North Carolina, where wind and rain pummeled our homes and our wallets. The timing of the last storm was particularly bad. Hurricane Florence hit us just as...
Imagine a state of perfect peace. What do you picture? For me, I imagine retreating alone to the ocean, looking out into the vastness, beauty, and power of its waters. The air is comfortable with a warm and gentle breeze with no distractions other than the chatter of seagulls and the rhythmic beat of the crashing waves. I envision a quietness with unthreatened time: no to-do list, fear, worry, pressure, pain, or place to be.
But then, just as quickly as I drifted off to my peaceful getaway, I am quickly jolted back to the reality of rambunctious children, phone calls, and an anxiety-inducing “to-do” list, as my envisioned peace fades into the distance.
Peace. Is it truly attainable beyond a momentary escape from reality?
According to John 14:27, it is.
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.
I have been meditating on this a lot recently. Several months ago, I felt financially comfortable, lived in a beautiful home, was blessed to stay at home with my four children and yet, I still struggled to find peace. As God allowed circumstances in life to intensify and my earthly efforts and comforts to fall short of peace, I began to wrestle between what I desired and what Christ desired for me. I felt confused, even angry, at why God was allowing so much hardship and heartache all at the same time.
Now here I am, months later, in a very different place. Previous financial comfort is gone, my beautiful home is no longer mine, my health is an unknown, my children have a very uncertain future; yet, I have unexpectedly gained something as I have learned to surrender these things to the Lord. Peace. Due to the unrest of my circumstances, I am assured that Christ alone is the giver of this peace.
How is this possible? How is it possible to find peace when we live in a world of unrest, uncertainty, and suffering?
Firstly, it’s important to recognize that this verse tells us where peace is not found. It is not found in the world, ourselves, circumstances, or comfort, all of which we tend to seek for peace. Christ has made it clear in his Word that the peace we seek is bought, assured, and sustained by Christ alone.
Jesus Christ, the Purchaser of Our Peace
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5).
Each one of us has been born into sin and rebellion against God. Therefore, while we are enemies of God, we cannot experience any peace apart from his common grace. But Jesus gave himself up in our place to take the wrath of God upon himself, in order that we might be reconciled to God through his blood as the propitiation for our sins.
Because of this, only a believer in Jesus Christ can be filled with a peace that surpasses all understanding, since peace is birthed from a fixed disposition of trust in Christ, something the world can never know apart from him. In fact, the effort to achieve “world peace” is a futile one. Though the wicked experience glimpses of peace by God’s common grace, they cannot experience it fully since they do not have peace with God himself:
But the wicked are like a tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. ‘There is no peace’, says my God, ‘for the wicked.’ (Isaiah 57:21)
Only those who have been forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus are truly at peace with God the Father and, therefore, any attempt to bring peace to the world apart from the peace of Christ will always fall short.
Lastly, the Bible reminds us that this promise of the peace we receive in Christ does not mean we will have peace with the world around us. In fact, he clearly tells us in 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.”
In John MacArthur’s words,
Though the ultimate end of the Gospel is peace with God, the immediate result of the Gospel is frequently conflict. Conversion to Christ can result in strained family relationships, persecution, and even martyrdom. Following Christ presupposes a willingness to endure such hardships. Though he is called “Prince of Peace,” Christ will have no one deluded into thinking that he calls believers to a life devoid of all conflict.
How then do we experience this peace which Christ has bought for us?
Jesus Christ, the Assurance of Our Peace
And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. (Isaiah 32:17)
The sanctifying work of Christ produces in us the fruit of righteousness. This is not a righteousness of ourselves but the righteousness of Christ being made our own, which is proof of our salvation and the Holy Spirit’s work in our life. This fruit of righteousness brings peace:
Inward peace of soul now, and eternal peace hereafter; the righteousness of Christ applied removes the guilt of sin from the conscience, it being perfect justifies from all things, and yields a tranquillity and serenity of mind, which is had in a way of believing, in this righteousness now, and it will issue in everlasting peace and rest in the world to come; the end of the perfect and upright man, who is perfectly justified by Christ’s righteousness, is peace.
Moreover, this also gives “assurance forever,” of interest in divine things, in the love of God, and relation to him as a Father, in Christ as a Saviour and Redeemer, and in the glorious inheritance which this gives a title to; or a holy confidence and boldness at the throne of grace now, having this righteousness to make mention of as a justifying one, and also hereafter, before the throne of judgment, this being what will answer for him in a time to come. (John Gill, Exposition of the Entire Bible)
In other words, as the fruit of the righteousness of Christ bears witness in our life, it produces in us a confident assurance and “quietness of soul” under the mighty hand of God. The byproduct of this assurance is a steadfast and unwavering peace in Christ, which enables us to persevere through even the greatest trial.
Jesus Christ, the Sustainer of Our Peace
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4)
Trusting in Christ is what saves us, and keeping our mind stayed on him is what sustains us. However, while we have the responsibility of actively keeping our minds fixed on his truth, Christ is ultimately the one who pursues us, opens our eyes, saves us, redeems us, and sustains us. If our Savior has done all of this for us, what more shall we fear? What are you allowing to steal the peace which he has purchased for you?
One of the greatest culprits that robs us of peace is our own lack of knowing the truth and believing it. Jesus tells us clearly that he will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on him. Why? Because when our minds are stayed on him, we come to know more of the incomparable holiness, power, love, sovereignty, and grace of the God we serve, which creates in us a greater humility, dependence, and trust in him alone.
When his Word permeates our hearts, it changes our thoughts, actions, and entire being. The things we once held so tightly to – our hopes and dreams, external comforts, health, and financial security, which often rob our peace for fear of losing them – begin to lose their power over us as we learn to trust more fully in the love and sovereignty of Christ.
For the peace of Christ is not found in lack of conflict, but in Christ’s presence within it.
We are also told that the the Lord is an everlasting rock, literally meaning “Rock of Ages.” He is immovable, eternal, steadfast, and secure. Though everything in our lives may be threatened, changed, or lost, Jesus Christ, our “Rock of Ages,” will keep and sustain us in his unwavering peace.
Real and Lasting Peace
Believer, you can have confidence that real and lasting peace is truly attainable. We must be aware, however, that it will not be found in the fulfillment of our plans, the distraction of social media, the success of our children, achieving better health, financial security, or even a temporary escape to our envisioned place of peace. We may find a semblance of peace for a moment, or even a season, but it will not last, and it will leave us vulnerable to the inevitable disappointments that come as a result of the always changing circumstances of life.
The peace that you and I seek can only be found in Christ, assured by Christ, and sustained by Christ.
If you find yourself in a place of relative ease, are you seeking peace and contentment in Christ or in your comfort? If you are in a place of distress and feel as if peace is nowhere to be found, please do not lose heart. For it’s in those very moments that Christ draws nearest to us, gently teaching us to let go of our false securities and freeing us to experience the peace that comes with complete surrender and trust in him.
When we lean into his sovereign grace in the midst of turmoil and receive his divine peace, the world takes notice, and our lives become a platform to proclaim his glory.
For the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:7-9)