“Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives you do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled] John 14:27 (AMP).
God intends our walk with Him to be a journey … a traveling from one place to another that usually takes a rather long time. Our goal on this journey is to reach greater spiritual maturity. While we will never reach Christ’s perfectly exemplified maturity, we can certainly grow in our own. I believe our spiritual maturity really takes root when our prayers change from “God, give me” to “God, make me.”
For most of my life, my peace was tied directly to my circumstances. Only when things were going well was I peaceful and happy. When faced with difficult circumstances, I lost all peace and lived in utter turmoil. As a result, I created turmoil around me. Instead of managing my emotions, I allowed my emotions to manage me. I lived a life filled with stress, regret, worry, bitterness, anger, resentment, and frustration. I lamented over yesterdays and fretted over tomorrows. I desperately desired peace, but I did not know how to achieve it. My friends, can you relate?
While I am still a work in progress (and always will be), I have made strides in becoming less emotionally reactive to my circumstances by instead staying fixated on God. The Bible teaches us that peace of mind … freedom of the mind from annoyance, distractions, anxiety, and obsession … must precede (come before) peace in all other areas of our lives. Isaiah 26:3 promises perfect and constant peace to those of us who keep our minds on God. “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You” (AMP).
Over the years, I have learned that God concerns Himself more with our responses to these circumstances than the circumstances themselves. Let me be clear … I am not suggesting that God does not care about our circumstances. Certainly, He loves us perfectly and wants us all to have wonderful lives. I believe, however, He sometimes uses our circumstances to help us grow in our relationship with Him. He wants us to learn to trust in Him completely and continuously. “Lean on, trust in and be confident in the Lord with all of your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6 (AMP).
The Bible teaches us we are to seek and pursue peace. Psalm 34:14 says we are to “[d]epart from evil and do good; seek, inquire for, and crave peace and pursue (go after) it!” (AMP). This biblical concept of peace is not about the absence of trials (see John 16:33, “… you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration …”). It is unrelated to our circumstances. It is a peaceful, joy-filled life untouched by outside happenings. Even in the midst of great trials, the Bible tells us we can have perfect, constant peace. “Now may the Lord of peace Himself grant you His peace (the peace of His kingdom) at all times and in all ways [under all circumstances and conditions, whatever comes]. The Lord [be] with you all” (emphasis mine) II Thessalonians 3:16 (AMP).
At this point, you may be wondering how we go about achieving the peace God promises. Before offering a number of practical suggestions that have helped me in my own life, first allow me to ask you what I hope are several thought-provoking questions. How important to you is peace? Do you agree that nothing else really matters without peace? Are you willing to make whatever changes in your life are necessary to achieve real peace? If you are hungry for peace like me, I hope you answered the last question in the affirmative.
Following are several, practical ways I have enjoyed increased peace in my life. While not exhaustive, I hope these suggestions help you in increasing and maintaining peace in yours.
FIRST – put God first! In order to have true peace, we must go deeper with God. The deeper our relationship, the more we understand who we are in Christ and His unconditional love for us. By knowing God’s character and through experience, we learn to trust Him more and more. Putting God first means spending time with God and studying His Word. How often do we use the excuse that we do not have time? We are all given the same amount of time each day, so how is it then that some of us are so busy accomplishing so little? How many of us are like hamsters on a wheel busily getting nowhere? Arrange your schedule around God and not God around your schedule. If we have time to spend posting to or pursuing social media daily, or we never miss our favorite television shows, can we honestly say we do not have time to spend with God? The harsh reality is, we do what is important to us. Jesus called us to be fruitful, not busy.
SECOND – consider what it is you are chasing. Are you feverishly pursuing financial wealth or independence, a particular job promotion, recognition amongst your peers, or worldly possessions? If yes, consider the consequences and decide whether those pursuits are worth sacrificing your peace. For example, are you plagued with guilt after having missed your child’s sporting events or bedtime? Do you regret having to cancel a long awaited date night with your spouse who feels distant and neglected? Are you losing sleep and sacrificing good health? The truth is nothing … not the money, promotion, reputation, or possessions … matters without peace. Certainly, I understand we all have financial commitments and families to support. What I am suggesting is that we consider what may be selfish or unnecessary wants and what are actual, important needs.
THIRD – be quick to forgive. Forgiveness is really for your benefit, not the benefit of the other person(s). Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (ESV). If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.
FOURTH – overcome procrastination. We must stop living by our feelings. If we wait until we feel like doing something, chances are we will accomplish little. We then become overwhelmed by mounting tasks. If we will just learn to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, we will enjoy more times of rest.
FIFTH – mind your own business. I talked about this in my previous post (see Fruits of the Spirit – JOY if you missed it). Imagine the peace we would have if we just allowed people to be who they are and stopped trying to run everyone else’s life.
SIXTH – learn to say no. Oftentimes, we take on more than we should because we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves and saying no is uncomfortable. We need to ask for God’s wisdom in knowing what we should and should not take on. When we take on too much, we lose our peace. We become stressed and frustrated. Any joy that might have been obtained from helping quickly will be lost if we become out of balance.
There is no way around it. In life, we will endure storms. Our goal, while weathering these storms, is to have the perfect and constant peace God promises. The Bible makes clear that we are to seek and pursue peace. “Let him turn away from wickedness and shun it, and let him do right. Let him search for peace (harmony; undisturbedness from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts) and seek it eagerly. [Do not merely desire peaceful relations with God, with your fellowmen, and with yourself, but pursue, go after them!] I Peter 3:11. Tonight, I pray we come to realize the importance of peace … that nothing in this life matters without it …, that we begin following God’s commands to eagerly pursue peace, and that we start cooperating with God to make whatever changes are necessary to achieve it in our own lives.
© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills. All rights reserved.