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 4:6-8 (NIV)
Peace. It’s an illusive thing. Peace in the Middle East has been an ever-present goal for many years. Just when it seems that it might be within grasp, something happens. It often is the same in our lives. Trouble brews at work. No peace. Just as that finally resolves, a child gets into trouble, or that troubling diagnosis comes. Peace is gone once again.
But the issue, I believe, is that we are looking for peace in the wrong place. We are not thinking of peace in the proper context. We tend to think of peace as the absence of problems. Sorry. Not going to happen. We may have a season that is absent of major problems, but it won’t last. I don’t intend for that to sound pessimistic. It’s reality. Jesus, Himself, told us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) There, He said it. Right out in the open. Life has problems. Trouble comes. We should not be surprised.
Isn’t it interesting Jesus didn’t say, “I have told you these things so you wouldn’t have any more problems?” To hear some television preachers talk, you would get the idea that if you are close to God, He removes all problems. That’s an encouraging thought. It’s just not in the Bible.
Life is a journey. The Christian life is a journey. We walk. We grow. We seek. We find. The very act of seeking, the very act of growing implies that we are not complete in our quest, in our growth. Paul said in Philippians 4:11, “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” He is content…at peace…in whatever circumstances he finds himself. But he said, “I have learned…” That tells us he didn’t start out that way. He wasn’t at peace with all his circumstances from the beginning. He learned how.
That’s an encouragement to me. It helps me realize that as I’m on my journey I can make progress…I can learn how. Many of you remember Katharine’s critical illness in 2003 (can it have been that long ago?) There were so many things that were out of my control. Things happened while I was not in the room. I never knew from one ICU visit, to the next, what news I would hear. Throughout that long process, (five weeks in ICU) I learned to understand that God is in control, and that whatever happened, He was there. I could face the next news because of His presence…His love…His peace.
Does that mean that I no longer stress over bad news or problems? Of course not. But I have made a lot of progress. I can have peace in the middle of the problem. Peace in spite of the problem. Peace…because His presence is with me. I talk with Him throughout the day. And thank Him. When I spend time thanking Him for all He has done in my life…how far He has brought me…anxiety leaves. Peace comes.
I leave you with the words of Paul: Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
O Lord, You are the God of all Peace. Rule in our hearts today. Help us to comprehend Your constant presence, Your unfailing love, and Your infinite mercy and grace. It is then that we can live in Your peace. We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen!
Johns Creek Baptist Church