(Originally posted 4-3-19)
If you’ve read much of the Bible, you know the concept of peace is often cited; certainly through the Gospels with Jesus but also in many other contexts. It can be a very broad term in which a discussion can go several directions. Realizing this is a potential rabbit-hole for our conversation today, I want to hone in on what I believe the fruit of the Spirit is in regards to peace. Peace is something that can mean the absence of war and the existence of favorable conditions between opposing nations. The Bible speaks of peace in this way and also tells how we are to live at peace with our neighbors and even enemies.
But for the Spirit-filled believer, I want to make the case for peace a bit differently. We are called to live at peace with others. It’s a command and I’d be ignoring a large chunk of Scripture if I said otherwise or at least didn’t make note of this fact. However, I see peace in the list of the fruit of the Spirit and am strongly compelled to make a case that as Christians, peace is living without fear, worry, doubt, anxiety, etc. Those are the things that rob us of peace and ultimately, rob us of joy as well. Peace is an acknowledgment that no matter what life brings, God is in control and we do not have to live in a constant state of worry or fear.
As with all of these fruits, there is nothing here that develops overnight and suddenly bursts forth, seemingly unannounced. Just as fruit takes time and the plant must be watered, given sunlight, and have good soil, so must the fruit including peace, be cultivated over time. We must be intentional about seeking peace and realize the battle that wages around us, unseen for the most part. This battle seeks to disrupt our peace in Christ. Really our worry and lack of peace stems from misplaced trust in the wrong things. We look to other people, our jobs, our titles, and so forth to bring us a peace that they were never meant to offer. We wrestle with finding peace because we search high and low for something, anything, to be the thing that helps us rest our heads at night.
Jesus’ life and words have much to say on this topic. Let’s dig in.
1. Jesus’ peace causes us to depend on Him more and ourselves less
This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25, 33-34
In Matthew 6, Jesus is giving His Sermon on the Mount and expounding upon some very practical Kingdom-minded truths. Following subjects like giving, prayer (The Lord’s Prayer) and fasting, Jesus turns to this concern of anxiety. He realizes that in the mind of man, a consuming question is “what if?” What will tomorrow look like? Will I have money? Will I be able to eat? Will I have clothes? What if none of those things are there? We question whether or not we will have the basic needs of life and Jesus is pointing a finger directly at our hearts.
What happens when we worry and get anxious over the future? Ultimately, our hearts turn inward and we look to ourselves to find the answers that Jesus says are dependent upon Him. This is nothing short of sinful behavior and a denial of God’s goodness. It’s the same sin Adam and Eve succumbed to. Jesus’ words are clear in Matthew 6: seek the Kingdom first, then the rest will take care of itself. That’s so profound, it’s worth saying again: seek God first and everything else will be ok. The only “what if” that matters here is “what if we lived this way instead of the way the rest of mankind is programmed to live?” This is the true path to peace.
2. Jesus’ peace is the antidote for anxiety
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
We live in a world that is consumed with finding peace. Self-help books, meditation, prescription medications; these are the best remedies to find peace and quell worry that a secular society has come up with. Whether or not you or I have tried any of these resources does not make us somehow less “Christian.” There are real helps available and for a person truly struggling with worry at a clinical level, it might be worth your time to invest in some medical advice.
What Jesus offers us however, is a means for true depth in peace that lasts beyond anything we can find elsewhere. Just like last week, we saw joy pointing to a life beyond this one, peace points us past just momentary affliction as well. Jesus’ peace is a true antidote and it comes through a relationship with Him. That relationship starts with acknowledging Him as Lord and Savior. It is then built upon through reading His word and prayer, therefore growing in sanctification (i.e. holiness). If what you are surrounding yourself with brings only anxiety and trouble to your soul, I must ask, “Have you considered Jesus as the answer?”
3. Jesus’ peace is other-worldly
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
Like so much of what we’ve talked about already (love and joy), we are seeing a theme develop as we look at the fruit each week. None of these things are readily available outside of relationship with Christ. Oh yes, the world may tell you that you can find peace by doing some exercise or simply seeking some transcendental state of being. Those paths may appear appealing but the world still struggles with finding its meaning and real peace, apart from Jesus.
Jesus gives His peace freely to those who would trust in Him. In John 14, Jesus is preparing His disciples for His departure. He knows their hearts are filled with fear and confusion. He knows the next few hours will disperse all of them. But He give them His peace and leaves them a charge to not be afraid. Interestingly enough, the next passage is John 15 which begins with a discussion of the vine and the branches. Jesus knows that if we remain in Him and if we are committed to live in peace, we will bear much fruit.
So what of this discussion of peace today? Where does it land as you consider the role fear, worry, and doubt play in your day-to-day life? I must fully disclose that I struggle with anxiety. I can have moments in which a very generalized type of anxiety can come over me; really without warning or any clue as to why. It’s something I’ve gone back and forth with and at one point, I did take medication which did offer some relief. Everyone can make up their own mind about this and we all can have opinions about treatment options (medicine, counseling, etc). What I decided for myself was that I ultimately wanted to not stay on something long-term if I believed what I faced was a short-term battle; that in which my condition was not otherwise totally crippling or disabling. That was my choice and I can respect others who would choose differently.
But I still have anxiety at times and simply worry about all the “what if’s” of life. All of us do. It can be more or less pronounced based upon the individual. However, when we bear fruit and specifically start developing peace, it really becomes a part of our transformation in Christ. I don’t believe we are called to live in fear. We are to be more than conquerors which means breaking down and defeating the obstacles to finding peace in Christ. Once again, joy is a mark of our lives because we know the end of the story (spoiler alert: Jesus wins!). With this in mind, peace must override our hearts and minds on a daily basis. True peace, lasting peace can only be found within Christ.
I love you guys and am totally willing to discuss this further if you are struggling. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst out into song before you, and all the tress of the fields will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17
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