If you missed the introduction to this series, please click on the following link to join us in our study on peace. We wouldn’t want anyone to feel left behind: Peace In: Introduction
Peace In: Part I
As we delve back into our study in Philippians 4:4-9, we need to determine what “peace” actually is. Since we’re commanded to have peace . . .
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25
. . . it would behoove us to know what we have to do or be. How many Christians commit the sin of lasciviousness because they never bothered to figure out what it was? Let’s not make that same mistake here.
One way to discern what peace is is to figure out what it’s not.
- Peace (as used in Philippians 4) does not mean a lack of war. If you look up “peace” in The American Heritage College Dictionary the first four definitions deal with the dichotomy of war and peace. For example, the first definition says that peace is “the absence of war or other hostilities.” The fourth definition maintains that peace is “public security and order.” It’s true that, more often than not, the Bible uses “peace” to refer to a lack of war, but in Galatians 5:22, Philippians 4:4-9, and Isaiah 26:3 a “lack of war” is not the appropriate definition. How do we know that? Because a child of God possess the ability to posses peace even in the middle of a war. David is perfect example of a man who frequently found himself in war time scenarios and either asked God for peace in the middle of the trial or wrote about the peace he experienced.
- Peace is not a feeling. The belief that peace is an emotion lies at the root of many misunderstandings concerning God’s will for our lives. Today’s society is emotion-soaked. Disney tells us to “follow our hearts,” psychologists speak of emotional disorders, and the media encourages us to amass stock in the “feelings-market” lest we bruise our self-esteem. Though emotions are wonderful gifts of God, we as Christians must realize that they are neither formative nor trustworthy.
I truly wish I could take an hour or more to flesh-out the “doctrine of Christian emotions;” but it would require a thorough going-over that we don’t have time for now. Still, there are two cogent points to be made concerning the relationship between peace and feelings.
- Emotions are untrustworthy. In Jeremiah 17:9 we are told “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” How many times do our feelings rise and fall like an out-of-control roller coaster? I don’t know about you, but occasionally I don’t feel like a Christian. What if my reality were tied to my capricious feelings? That’s a horrific thought.
- Decisions are to be made with our minds, not our hearts. Proverbs 28:26 tells us, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.” Plans should be made and costs counted using wisdom – skill in living. That skill comes from rightly applying God’s truth to our choices. It requires knowing, understanding, and everminding God’s Word as we make decisions. Emotional choices are made by fools.
Since we’re using analogies, I happen to like this one . . . Feelings are like a fuel gauge. When the gas in your car is gone, your car stops running. The fuel gauge is not the reason your car doesn’t run; it’s just there to warn you that there’s a problem. Our emotions were designed to confirm for us (and warn us) about what’s happening in our spirit, but they are in no way seminal to the issue.
So to sum it all up, God is not commanding us to possess a “peaceful feeling.” In times of distress it might be very difficult to work up positive emotions. Sure, there are many wonderful feelings that accompany biblical peace, but I don’t always have to “feel peaceful” to have peace.
- Peace is not a divine stamp of approval. This point ties in with the latter. Often times in decision-making we search for some ethereal “feeling of peace” from God to validate our choices. The problem with this kind of thinking is two-fold. First, God does not give us extra-biblical revelation. The Bible is complete. The Cannon is closed. God is not in the habit of sending “angelic Post-It-Notes” with special messages designed exclusively for me. If I want to know what God says, all I have to do is turn to His Word. I cannot depend on how I feel to discern God’s will. Though good feelings often accompany right choices, how many times do those same “good feelings” partner with awful choices? I cannot enumerate the number of decisions I’ve made that were hurtful to my relationship with God, and all the while I felt “good” about my course of action. Secondly, consider Moses. Moses stood before a burning bush that was not being consumed. God manifested Himself through the bush, and the ground around the bush was so holy that Moses needed to remove his shoes. Then God’s Own voice emanated from the bush and commanded Moses to go to Egypt and free Israel! But what was Moses’ response to the simple, obvious command from God? Here’s my interpretation of his words:
“Lord, I just don’t have peace about that!”
God gave Moses a clear command yet Moses was not “at peace” with God’s will. Now consider David. In the midst of troubling years, being hunted by his king (and later by his son), we read that David often experienced the peace of God.
- SO WHAT IS PEACE???
In all biblical honesty . . . I can’t tell you!
Peace is very difficult to define.
In my defense, I turn you back to Philippians 4:7. Paul tells us that genuine peace from God “surpasses all comprehension;” it cannot be communicated in its entirety. This is both a sad reality and yet a wonderful promise (which we will deal with later).
The difficulty we face in defining peace is that it’s not a feeling or an action. It’s not a thought or a word.
Peace is a state of being.
It’s a reality that exists in our minds. Dr. Mark Minnick, pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, SC, defines peace as
It’s pretty easy to describe emotions, actions, and thought patterns, but it is not so simple to define a state of being. That is why Dr. Minnick’s explanation is so helpful. The fifth definition in The American Heritage College Dictionary is also helpful, it describes peace as “inner contentment; serenity; a state of tranquility.”
To truly have the peace of God is to experience a state of being that defies comprehension. It can be accompanied by wonderful feelings, or it can sustain when our feelings are in chaos. It’s a knowledge. It’s an understanding. It’s a plane of living. That is what we’re commanded to have.
So, how do receive this peace? What must we do to achieve this state of being? Re-read Philippians 4:4-9 and we’ll discuss it next Sunday in Peace In: Part II.
Until then, God bless.
Continue to “Peace In: Part II.”