Peace is hard to come by these days. It seems like everywhere you turn there is unrest and turmoil. Wars are being fought on foreign soil. Rumors of wars are discussed between heads of states. Our 24-hour news cycle provides us with an endless supply of reasons to not have peace. For those who keep themselves in the know about current events, fear and anxiety can easily become a natural response. Where can we find peace in this life? Is it possible to have peace of mind and heart in the middle of a world that appears to be going off the rails?
I believe the answer is yes. But where does a peace that does not depend on worldly circumstances come from? We find the answer in God’s word. In the gospel of John chapter 14 and verse 27, Jesus says: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
In one short verse, Jesus makes a powerful declaration about the source of true peace. He compares two different sources of peace, peace that comes from him and "peace" that comes from the world. Jesus says that the peace that he offers is different from the world's idea of peace. The typical definition of peace is a freedom from disturbance, or quiet and tranquility. Cessation of wars or violence is what most people would describe as peace. These forms of peace, however, are only temporary. This is the "peace" that the world tries to give. The world can only offer momentary tranquility through earthly experiences. People will run to relationships, careers, money, possessions, hobbies and pleasures, all in an attempt to find peace and happiness. Scripture tells us that worldly peace is inadequate. Isaiah 48:22 says: "There is no peace says the Lord, for the wicked." In Romans chapter 3 we see that the way of the wicked is not the "way of peace." Verses 16 - 17 say: "In their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known."
It is impossible for the world to find true peace within themselves or from outside temporary sources. The truth is, to experience peace in this life we must first be at peace with God. Peace from God in our everyday life is founded upon being in right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
The biggest problem with the false peace of the world is that it ignores the most important realities of life. Worldly peace ignores eternal realities. Any kind of temporary feeling of tranquility or pleasure that disguises itself as true peace ignores the fearful reality of a life separated from God for eternity. In that light, the false peace of the world is not just a distraction from what matters most but is a tool from Satan to keep people from recognizing the reality of their true condition apart from Christ. Our true condition apart from Christ is one of hostility. Apart from faith in Jesus, God’s word says that we are enemies of God. Scriptures say in Romans chapter 3 that "all have sinned and fallen short" of God’s perfect standard of righteousness. None are righteous, not even one. No one can be made right with God or be at peace with God by trying to be good enough. We all fall short.
The good news, however, is that enemies of God can be reconciled to enjoy eternal peace with Him through faith in Jesus. Contrary to what the world tells us or false religious systems tell us, we cannot be made right with God or be at peace with God through self-effort or good works. Being at peace with God does not come through trying hard enough to eliminate negativity or by restraining sinful desires. There is only one means by which God has provided for sinful humanity to be reconciled to right relationship with him, to be at peace with him. Faith is the means. Faith in Jesus and his work on the cross on our behalf is the means that God has provided for us to be at peace with him.
This is the peace the world is looking for. It is a peace of the soul that seems to be continually out of their grasp. This is why people chase after empty things to try to find peace and fulfillment. The truth is that peace with God produces the peace of God. Peace of mind and heart in the middle of a world gone mad is available. God is ready to fill our hearts with a peace that surpasses all worldly circumstances. It will never be had though, through temporary pursuits. Peace of mind and heart is only available on the foundation of the right relationship with God.
In my next article, we will look at how the believers in Jesus Christ, those who are at peace with God, can walk in peace during difficult times.
The Rev. Ben Bufkin is pastor of Living Word Church in Schriever.