Pursuing Personal Peace
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). What is the peace of God? What does possessing the peace of God do for a person? Why does this kind of peace have a guarding function over our hearts and minds? What is the purpose of this peace? Questions like these along with their answers are immediately applicable to the one suffering from others outpour of hate and hurt on their lives. In addressing the first question, what does the peace of God do for a person, it is important to fill up the phrase “the peace of God.” What is it? Where does it come from?
The peace of God is not a new idea in the New Testament. Nor is the peace of God a phrase that you throw out in the middle of a troubled conversation with your friend because you don’t know what else to say. Nor does the phrase contain any magic that at the saying of it, you feel a rush of comfort flooding your body. Instead, the peace of God is apart of the plan of God to bless His people in sharing with them what He has experienced for all eternity. In a sense, this peace is birthed out of a trust in God. We have this peace of God because we trust in the revealed character of God. Yet, still deeper, the peace of God is a central theme throughout the storyline of Scripture. In fact, you could plot out the storyline of Scripture like this: Peace Created, Peace Broken, Peace Reinstated, Peace Consummated. Negatively, this peace is devoid of all fear, tension, hostility, injustice, discord, dissension, hate, crime, rebellion, hurt, pain, brokenness, grief, despair, depression, disease, decay, death, and unhealthy desires. Positively, this peace is full of joy, propriety, beauty, serenity, unity, harmony, order, health, wholesomeness, love, obedience, and laughter.
This peace of God was instated at Creation, yet ever since our representatives disrupted the peace by rebelling against the Creator of peace, these qualities seem to be in a constant state of lack. How is one to feel this peace of God in a world fraught with disharmony? This comes about with the reinstatement of peace through the Peacemaker – Jesus Christ. In a world filled with chaos, and personally feeling the brunt of that with a multiplicity of temptations and sufferings, Jesus came to reinstate peace to a crumbling world. Making peace with God the Father on behalf of man through his finished work, Jesus reinstated peace where peace is most needed – in the relationship between God and man. For all those in relationship with Christ, God has granted them peace through their representative’s relationship with the Father. When this personal peace is realized and experienced in a community, society gets to experience the inbreaking of peace in hope that the society at large will be led to the Peacemaker. But what Paul is addressing here is this personal experience of peace when anxieties abound. So how has this reinstatement of peace through the Peacemaker make its impact when we are experiencing unjust suffering?
As Paul lays out before and after, peace is felt in how we go about handling our anxieties. Do we consider that “the Lord is at hand” and that He encourages us to bring our anxieties before Him (vv. 5-6)? Or do we think we must handle all of it on our own, functionally believing and acting like God does not care for His children? Further, in times of anxiety and hurt, we are called to think on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (v. 8). This does not mean denying our problems. In fact, while we think on these things, it may lead us to face and embrace our predicaments in a bold way, whereas our natural tendency may be to ignore or neglect facing what is true and just. We may instead reinterpret truth in order to avoid bold action and risky situations. Simply stated, the peace of God helps us to come to terms with our surroundings. Having this peace helps us to accept and embrace reality, not neglect, ignore, or reinterpret it. Knowing that the Lord is near, we can be strong and take courage comforted by the fact that we are not alone in facing our troubles.
When the peace of God enables us to accept and address our predicaments, and when we remember the reality that the Lord is present with us in times of trouble, our hearts and minds are guarded. We are guarded in how far our emotions would drive us to despair, discouragement, and depression or anger, hate, and bitterness. We are guarded in how far our thoughts would send us away from the truths of our God in considering the multiple potential outcomes of conversations and interactions. In other words, the peace of God reminds us that while we are surrounded by turbulent storms, we are being guarded by the power of God. So while God knows, appoints, and allows all things, he is revealing the genuineness of His children’s faith and guarding His children that they might not fall away. This leads to the last phrase in the verse, “in Christ Jesus.”
Paul conveys the purpose of the peace of God – to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. This reveals not only a present aspect of the peace of God, but also a definite aspect as well. Being in Christ means that God’s peace is permanently made available to us. It is never removed. It is never limited. It is always available and abundant. Since Christ has finished the work it took to reinstate peace in the world, then all those who are his followers have a never ending supply of this peace. This doesn’t mean that His followers will not experience trials, troubles, difficulties, hurts, pains, and aches. The Lord allows these for our good (see the previous blog post). Rather, it means that in the best of times and in the worst of times, the peace of God is offered to us in fullest measure for us to draw upon, be assured of His nearness, be assisted in dealing with truth and proper action, be guarded in our present distresses, and be preserved until our distresses are finally no more.