Peace. My soul craves it. Peace of mind. Peace of heart. Peace of conscience. Peace with God. Peace with man. Peace at home. Peace with my neighbors. Peace with my enemies. Peace and quiet.
When I made the decision to come to Dubuque a year and a half ago, I set out to build a peaceful life. My sixteen years in Chicago were many things but peaceful was not one of them. So I created peaceful working spaces in the office. I bought a home in a peaceful neighborhood, and named it Saints Rest, of all things. I have sought to build a peaceful relationship with my deacons, and with my leaders and teachers and workers. I have tried to promote a peaceful relationship between our church and the community. I want to be a man of peace living a life of peace. That way lies contentment. That way lies purposeful production. That way lies quiet contemplation. That way lies soul health and spiritual growth. That way lies knowing God.
I am quite sure I am not alone in this desire. All over the world, people are desperately searching for peace. The United Nations and the American Secretary of State pursue it ardently. The Brexit negotiators have tried to obtain it. Arbiters and life coaches, television personalities and New Age gurus of all sorts promise to bring it. Pharmaceutical companies sell it. Television commercials for cars sell it. Real estate agents sell it. False prophets sell it. Or perhaps I should say a version of it.
I am most interested in peace, but I am not interested in the world’s version of it. I want to know what God says it is. Oprah, Dr. Phil, Ellen, Sigmund Freud, Maya Angelou, Henry David Thoreau, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all clamor to offer us their perspective. It interests me not at all. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2.13).
Let us, instead, begin with God. What does God say peace is? In today’s post, I will give you four answers to that question, and chase that with another four answers next week.
First, peace is organization and order. God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints (I Corinthians 14.33). The context here is directly related to the church service. God’s house is to be a peaceful place, organized, smoothly functioning. Personality conflicts ought be kept to a bare minimum. Throwing your weight around should be unheard of. Chaos is an exemplar of the devil’s realm, not our Father’s. Schedules should be known and kept. Kindness and forgiveness should rule. As our forefathers would say, a place for everything and everything in its place. Peace and anarchy cannot cohabit.
Second, peace is the absence of armed conflict. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land (Leviticus 26.6).
|Augustus Closing the Temple of Janus|
Louis de Silvestre, 1757
I have never lived through war. I have pastored men who have endured it in Afghanistan and Iraq. It haunts them, and probably will for the rest of their lives. War brings famine, disease, misery, and death on a wide scale. Let us thank God it has not come to our lives.
Third, peace is the absence of noise. It is the active presence of stillness and quiet. Peace is calm. And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm (Mark 4.39).
This kind of peace can often be found in God’s creation. Over the years, He has shown Himself to me in some beautiful places. The Blue Ridge Parkway. The Outer Banks. A desolate spot on the sand dunes of the Lake Michigan shoreline. The bluegrass horse farms of Kentucky. The rolling hills of upper New York. The long, green bayous of Louisiana. The Smokies. The aching blue of the Pacific off Malibu. The high desert of California. The pine-scented air of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Where the Rockies meet the ocean in Vancouver. The jungle waterfalls in Puerto Rico’s interior. The vast sweep of the Mississippi mere blocks from my home.
Again and again, in Scripture, we find the Lord pointing people toward His creation. Yes, He intends it to be a source of praise, but also a source of peace. When God created the world He put man in a garden. When man created the world he put man in a city. Make no mistake, there is a difference, and that difference is not just a reflection but also a driver of the presence or absence of peace.
Fourth, peace is the absence of worry. And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them (Genesis 43.23).
How much time and mental energy do we waste worrying about money? Will we make it to the next paycheck? The end of the month? Will we have what we need for the next phase of life? Can we afford children? Will we ever be able to buy a house? What about retirement? We forget so easy God’s manifold promises of bodily provision.
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety (Psalm 4.8). How much time and mental energy do we waste worrying about our physical safety? We have locks and chains and bolts and bats and knives and guns and security systems and panic rooms and disaster plans. What we do not have is peace. I am not advocating being imprudent, foolish, or unprepared, but I am advocating trusting the Lord for your physical safety.
Peace. It is such a wonderful word. Let it roll around in your mind today. Let it marinate in your heart today. God’s peace. ‘Tis a glorious, priceless thing, and it is available to you. For the next four months on this blog we are going to explore it. We will define it, as we have done today and will do further next week. We will discuss its relationship to God’s sovereignty. We will see what will ensure we can never have it. We will look at eight specific scriptural ways to obtain it. We will find there is peace with God, great peace.
Join me each Monday, won’t you? And may the Lord give us a richer appreciation for and apprehension of His peace along the way.