Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:1-11)
One Sunday morning, Pastor McGee noticed 6 year-old Alex was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the church. The plaque had crossed American flags over the words “Honored Dead – Rest in Peace”. It was covered with names. Alex had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside him and said quietly, “Good morning, Alex.”
“Good morning, Pastor,” replied the boy, still focused on the plaque. “Pastor McGhee, what is this?” Alex asked.
“Well, son, it’s a memorial to all the men and women who have died in the service.”
Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Little Alex’s voice was barely audible when he finally managed to ask, “Which one, the 9:00 or 10:30 service?
The Apostle Paul was a purveyor of peace. In 12 of his 13 Epistles, he greeted his recipients in variations of “grace and peace be unto you.”
The foundation of His theology is that all men are enemies of God, but through Christ and the believer’s acceptance of the Savior’s offer, we who were enemies are received as sons and daughters. That means that the war is over. It means that we have peace with God.
The fact that we have peace with Almighty, Omnipotent God is the dominating truth of our lives. Nothing compares with the magnitude of this reality. It is true that from the moment we place our lives in Christ’s hands, we have what Jesus promised:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
In possession of the peace of God, nothing in this world can trouble you. You notice I said “can trouble you”. The word “can” carries the intent of authority, the scope of possibility. None of the cares of the world have the authority to trouble us. In Christ, it is impossible for lack of money, the enmity of other people, disease, the vicissitudes of old age, or even threat of death to steal our peace in Christ.
But you also notice that Jesus gave us the responsibility to preserve the peace He gives,
Let not your heart be troubled. (John 14: 1a)
It is by permission that the troubles of this fallen world plague us, and cause us distress, anxiety and grief. Peace is a gift we must own.
Imagine that you have a very rich and generous relative. With Christmas coming, she gives you an extraordinary gift. The wrapping is exquisite. The paper is so beautiful that you don’t want to tear it. The bow is so lovely that you don’t want it destroyed by untying it. You place it under the tree to admire. Christmas Day comes, but the present is so beautiful that you leave it under the tree. When you put away the Christmas decorations, the present so admirable you place it on display.
Since you have not opened the wrapping, you have not possessed the gift. Until you make the effort, the gift will never really be yours. That is the way with God’s gift of peace. God has given it to us, but we must own It. We must accept it and make it our own.
In Romans 8:1&2 Paul states the truth for the believer,
There is therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8: 1-2)
This follows from Paul’s great ladder of peace in Romans 5:1-5:
Paul was not speaking in a vacuum. He was a Pharisee, a scholar of the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings, what we have called the Old Testament. Isaiah taught Paul,
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3)
This is a conditional promise: perfect peace is the nature of the believer; however, it is necessary to keep that perfect peace by keeping our minds “staid on” Christ. To have our minds focused on the Father, on Jesus, on the Holy Spirit makes all the world recede in importance.
Years ago, in Guidepost magazine, I read the testimony of a woman who was washing dishes, praying and looking at the clouds through the window over the sink. There appeared the smiling face of Jesus superimposed on the clouds. His face was vivid, His smile filled her heart with joy. After several minutes of gazing she turned away. Jesus’ smile was like the bright spot that remains after looking at a bright light. He with His smile was superimposed over everything she saw. It didn’t interfere with her sight, it just kept her in perpetual joy. It was after a few days that the world distracted her so she gradually lost His smile.
Keeping our mind and heart “staid” on Jesus is the proper stance of life for the believer. Our main problem with doing that is that we are material beings in a material world. The tactile, the feel of our bodies and the world around us dominates our senses. We are constantly being bombarded by sense stimuli and ideas that demand our attention, drawing us away from a “staid on Jesus” stance of life.
I find that I am easily distracted. I will be in the midst of prayer, notice something that I haven’t done, yet. I immediately begin to think about doing it. I have a stack of unfinished work on the corner of my desk. As I am worshiping, I find my attention drifting so my prayer and worship become rote and my focus is on the work. As soon as my inattention to God comes to my attention, I apologize to my Savior and concentrate on Him. It takes constant effort to focus on the Holy Spirit’s purposes. “Staid on Jesus” comes about only by discipline, by repetition, by self-correction, and by the Holy Spirit’s reminding.
Brother Lawrence was a 17th century French monk. He desired to live constantly in the presence of God. His book “The Practice of the Presence of God”, gives important insight into a life of consecration, being “staid on Jesus”. He was not a contemplative, or a hermit sitting alone and navel-gazing all day. He was a menial in the monastery. He scrubbed floors, washed dishes, tended the garden, did hard manual work twelve hours a day.
Nevertheless, he developed a life in the Presence of God. It took effort, but he loved God and wanted to be with Him. He began by bringing himself into the awareness of God at least once and hour. When that became a habit, he found his heart eager for more.
As the hart panteth after the water brooks, So panteth my soul after thee, O God. (Psalms 42:1)
He began to keep God in his thoughts for 5 minutes each hour. When that goal was achieved, Brother Lawrence, tried 10 minutes an hour. With the background of that discipline, he was able to expand, again and with discipline, to hold God in the forefront of his attention all his waking hours. This, despite all the worldly and social obligations that come with living in the world.
God will keep any believer in peace, who longs for His Presence in his or her life. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He is the source of peace. But the concerns, difficulties, frustrations and troubles of the world evoke anxiety, which disrupts the peace that God gives.
Paul taught us that we were to have no anxiety.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Thus, as we live in peace, staid on Christ, we have peace to give to others that are harried and fretting. When we pass our peace on to others, it pleases God. The joy He gives fills us with thanksgiving. Trusting in future grace settles peace in our hearts.
Once we release all our cares to God, He will bestow his peace. It is not the peace of the world, i.e. the lack of conflict. There may very well be conflict raging around us, but it doesn’t engage us. Why not? Because we have God’s peace at heart.
How was it that Paul and Silas could sing and praise God in prison with their backs beaten bloody, their feet in stocks (Acts 16:25) ? They could sing and praise, because their hearts were staid on Jesus. They were not free from pain and suffering, but their hearts were at peace.
Multiple persecutions swept periodically through the Roman Empire. How is it that early Christians could walk into the Coliseum to face ferocious, hungry animals, face being burned at the stake, face being crucified, but had the perfect peace to sing and praise God? They could, because they had already died in Christ. The deaths that faced them, although horrific and agonizing, were doorways to Christ. They were walking into terrible danger, but they were safe in Christ, and had peace at heart.
What’s so special about a believer? Paul makes that clear. We, who have given our hearts to Christ, have become new creatures. We are no longer of this world; we are only in it. What is the new creature we have become?
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5)
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)
Let me repeat, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Paul was hearkening back to the Isaiah:
“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is staid on You.” (Isaiah 26:3)
One thing special about believers is that they have peace with God and therefore have access to the fruit of the Spirit, one of which is peace.
Another thing that is special about believers is our relationship with God – He is our Father!
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:5-9 & 14-18)
Believers are adopted by a loving Father. Our God has called us to everlasting life as his sons and daughters. His promise is that we will have a place with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, one God. That is our secure future.
His peace engendered by that secure future is ours to possess, when we live in Christ. Keeping our minds staid on Jesus, living constantly in His Presence is a matter of choice, and discipline.
We have eternity of peace before us; therefore, the troubles of this life are not worth getting anxious over or upset about. We will be with our gracious Lord and Savior Who will wipe away our tears and who will cause us to forget our grief and sorrow. There we will live in joy, love and peace.
Lord God, Jesus Christ, give us a hunger for Your Presence. Give us a healthy disregard for all that is ungodly in our lives. Teach us so to be in Your presence that we will be the calm in the center of the storm. Grant us the Fruit of peace to grace our lives, so that not only will it give us security in life, but will enable us to share peace with those around us who are troubled by the world and difficulties of life.
Thank You our Father. Hallelujah! We Praise You!