“The Peace of God that excels all thought”
“The Peace of God that excels all thought” (Philippians 4:7). This article is the first in a series of articles examining the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. As the Fruits of the Holy Spirit are vital for all true Christians let us take some time to investigate what the Bible says and see what we can learn that will help us in a practical way. This will assist us to not only exhibit this fruit but also benefit personally from it.
We will examine:
What is Peace?
Peace! What is peace? A dictionary defines it as “freedom from disturbance, tranquillity”. But the Bible means more than this when it talks about peace, and especially so for the peace of God. A good place to start our investigation is by examining the Hebrew word usually translated as ‘peace’.
- safety and soundness in body,
- welfare, health, prosperity,
- peace, quiet, tranquillity,
- peace and friendship with humans, with God, from war.
If we greet someone with “shalom” we are expressing the desire that all these fine things come upon them. Such a greeting is far more than a simple greeting of “Hello, how are you?”, “How do you do?”, “What’s happening?”, “What’s up?” or “Hi” and similar common greetings used in the Western World. These greetings are acknowledging them. It is also asking the person how life has been treating them. It is not hoping or wanting (or wishing) that good things would come upon them.
The meaning of “shalom” is most likely why the Apostle John said in 2 John 1:9-10, regarding those who do not remain in the teaching of Christ, that we should not receive them into our homes or say a greeting to them. Why? It is because it would effectively be asking a blessing from God and Christ on their wrong course of action by greeting them and showing welcoming hospitality and support. This in all conscience we could not do, neither would God and Christ be prepared to carry out this blessing on such a person. However, there is a big difference between calling a blessing upon them and speaking to them. Speaking to them would not only be a Christian act but necessary if one was to encourage them to change their ways so they could gain God’s blessing once again.
The Greek word used for “peace” is “Eirene” translated as “peace” or “peace of mind” from which we get the Christian name “Irene”. The root of the word is from “eiro”, to join or tie together into a whole, hence wholeness, when all essential parts are joined together. From this, we can see that as with “Shalom”, it is not possible to have peace without many things coming together to be united. This shows that there is a need to see how we can get those important things to come together.
What kind of Peace do we really need?
- Physical Peace
- Freedom from excessive or unwanted noise.
- Freedom from physical assault.
- Freedom from weather extremes, such as heat, cold, rain, wind
- Mental Peace or Peace of Mind
- Freedom from fear of death, whether premature due to disease, violence, natural disasters, or wars; or due to old age.
- Freedom from mental anguish, whether due to the death of loved ones or by stress caused by financial worries, or other people’s actions, or the results of our own imperfect actions.
For true peace, we need all these things to come together. These points are focused on what we need, but, by the same token most other people desire the same, they also desire peace. So how can both we and others achieve this goal or desire?
What is needed for True Peace?
Psalm 34:14 and 1 Peter 3:11 give us an important starting point when these scriptures say, “Turn away from what is bad, and do what is good; Seek to find peace and pursue it.”
Therefore, there are four key points to take from these scriptures:
- Turning away from bad. This would involve a measure of other fruits of the holy spirit such as self-control, faithfulness, and love for goodness to enable us to have the strength to turn away from the enticement of sin. Proverbs 3:7 encourages us “Do not become wise in your own eyes. Fear Jehovah and turn away from bad.” This scripture indicates a healthy fear of Jehovah is the key, the desire not to displease him.
- Doing what is good would require displaying all the fruits of the holy spirit. It would also involve displaying justice, reasonableness, and not having partial distinctions among other qualities as highlighted by James 3:17-18 which says in part “But the wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.”
- Seeking to find peace is something that depends upon our attitude even as Romans 12:18 says “If possible, as far as it depends upon YOU, be peaceable with all men.”
- Pursuing peace is making a real effort to seek it. If we search for it as for hidden treasure then Peter’s hope for all Christians would come true as he wrote in 2 Peter 1:2, “May undeserved kindness and peace be increased to YOU by an accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,”.
You will have noticed though that many of the causes of a lack of peace or requirements for true peace are outside of our control. They are also outside the control of other humans as well. We, therefore, need assistance in the short term to cope with these things, but also in the long-term intervention to eliminate them and thereby bring about true peace. Hence, the question arises who has the power to bring true peace to us all?
The One True Source of Peace
Can man bring about peace?
Just one well-known example demonstrates the futility of looking to man. On September 30, 1938, on his return from meeting the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain the British Prime Minister declared the following “I believe it is peace for our time.” He was referring to the agreement made and signed with Hitler. As history shows, 11 months later, on 1st September 1939, World War II broke out. Any peace attempts by mankind while commendable, fail sooner or later. Humans cannot bring about long-term peace.
Peace was offered to the nation of Israel while in the Sinai wilderness. The Bible book of Leviticus records the offer Jehovah made to them in Leviticus 26:3-6 where it says in part “‘If YOU continue walking in my statutes and keeping my commandments and YOU do carry them out, … I will put peace in the land, and YOU will indeed lie down, with no one making [YOU] tremble; and I will make the injurious wild beast cease out of the land, and a sword will not pass through YOUR land.”
Sadly, we know from the Bible record it did not take the Israelites long to leave Jehovah’s commandments and actually start suffering oppression as a consequence.
The Psalmist David wrote in Psalm 4:8 “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For you yourself alone, O Jehovah, make me dwell in security.” From this, we can clearly conclude that peace from any other source than Jehovah (and his son Jesus) is just a temporary illusion.
More importantly our theme scripture Philippians 4:6-7 not only reminds us of the only true source of peace, God. It also reminds us of something else very important. The full passage says, “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let YOUR petitions be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard YOUR hearts and YOUR mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” This means that to gain true peace we need to acknowledge the role of Jesus Christ in bringing that peace.
Is it not Jesus Christ who is called the Prince of Peace? (Isaiah 9:6). It is only through him and his ransom sacrifice on behalf of mankind that the peace from God is able to be brought about. If we all but ignore or downplay Christ’s role, we will not be able to find peace. Indeed, as Isaiah goes on to say in his messianic prophecy in Isaiah 9:7 “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom in order to establish it firmly and to sustain it by means of justice and by means of righteousness, from now on and to time indefinite. The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.”
Therefore, the Bible clearly promises that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God is the mechanism through which Jehovah will bring about peace. But can we put trust in those promises? Today we live in a world where promises are broken more often than kept which leads to a lack of trust. So how can we build up our trust in the one True Source of peace?
Build up our trust in the One True Source
Jeremiah went through many trials and lived in perilous times leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. He was inspired to write both the following warning and also a message of encouragement from Jehovah God. Jeremiah 17:5-6 contains the warning and reminds us “This is what Jehovah has said: “Cursed is the able-bodied man who puts his trust in earthling man and actually makes flesh his arm, and whose heart turns away from Jehovah himself. 6 And he will certainly become like a solitary tree in the desert plain and will not see when good comes; but he must reside in parched places in the wilderness, in a salt country that is not inhabited.”
Therefore, putting trust in earthling man, any earthling man, is bound to end in disaster. Sooner or later, we would end up in a desert without water and inhabitants. Surely that scenario is a recipe for pain and suffering and potentially death rather than peace.
But Jeremiah then contrasts this foolish course with that of those who trust in Jehovah and his purposes. Jeremiah 17:7-8 describe the blessings of following such a course, saying: “7Blessed is the able-bodied man who puts his trust in Jehovah, and whose confidence Jehovah has become. 8 And he will certainly become like a tree planted by the waters, that sends out its roots right by the watercourse; and he will not see when heat comes, but his foliage will actually prove to be luxuriant. And in the year of drought he will not become anxious, nor will he leave off from producing fruit.” Now that certainly describes a tranquil, beautiful, peaceful scene. One that would be refreshing not only to the “tree” itself (us), but to others that visit or come into contact with or rest under that “tree”.
Putting trust in Jehovah and his Son Christ Jesus requires a lot more than obeying his commands. A child can obey its parents out of duty, out of fear of punishment, or out of habit. But when a child trusts the parents, it will obey because it knows the parents have its best interests at heart. The child will also have experienced the fact that the parents want to keep the child safe and protected, and that they really care for it.
It is likewise with Jehovah and Jesus Christ. They have our best interests at heart; they want to protect us from our own imperfections. But we need to build up our trust in them by putting faith in them because we know in our hearts that they really do have our best interests at heart. They do not want to keep us at a distance; Jehovah wants us to view him as a Father, and Jesus as our brother (Mark 3:33-35). To view Jehovah as a father we, therefore, need to build a relationship with him.
Build a relationship with our Father
Jesus taught all who desired to, how to build a relationship with Jehovah as our Father. How? We can only build a relationship with our physical father by speaking regularly to him. Likewise, we can only build a relationship with our Heavenly Father by going regularly to him in prayer, the only means we currently have of speaking to him.
As Matthew recorded in Matthew 6:9, commonly known as the model prayer, Jesus taught us “You must pray then, this way: ’Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come, let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth”. Did he ask us to say, “Our friend in the heavens.”? No, he did not, he made it clear when speaking to all his audience, both disciples and non-disciples when he said, “Our Father”. He wanted his disciples to take the opportunity to feel closer to God, to view him as a loving father. Jesus was desirous of the non-disciples, the majority of his audience, to become disciples and benefit from the Kingdom arrangement (Matthew 6:33). Indeed, as Romans 8:14 reminds us “For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons.” Being peaceable with others is also vital if we are to become “God’s sons” (Matthew 5:9).
This is part of the “accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2), which brings an increase of God’s grace and peace upon us.
Acts 17:27 talks about seeking “God, if they might grope for him and really find him, although, in fact, he is not far off from each one of us.” The Greek word translated “grope for”  has a root meaning of “touch lightly, feel after, to discover and personally investigate”. A way to understand this scripture is to imagine you are looking for something important, but it is pitch black, you cannot see anything. You would have to grope for it, but you would make steps very carefully, so you do not walk into anything or step on or trip over anything. When you think you may have found it, you would gently touch and feel the object, to find some identifying shape that would help you recognize that it was the object of your search. Once you found it, you would not let it go.
In a like manner, we need to carefully search for God. As Ephesians 4:18 reminds us, the nations “are in darkness mentally and alienated from the life that belongs to God”. The problem with darkness is that someone or something can be right next to us without us realizing it, and with God, it can be the same. We can and should therefore build up a relationship with both our Father and his Son, by getting to know their likes and dislikes from the scriptures and by prayer. As we build up a relationship with anyone, we begin to understand them better. This means we can have more confidence in what we do and how we act with them as we know it will be pleasing to them. This gives us peace of mind. The same applies to our relationship with God and Jesus.
Does it matter what we were? The scriptures show clearly it does not. But it does matter what we are now though. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, many of them had been doing many wrong things, but that had all changed and was behind them (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). As Paul wrote in the latter part of 1 Corinthians 6: 10 “But YOU have been washed clean, but YOU have been sanctified, but YOU have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.” What a privilege to be declared righteous. No, need to worry about wrong things that we did in the past in ignorance of God’s requirements.
For example, Cornelius was a Roman centurion and likely had much blood on his hands as a soldier of the brutal Roman Empire. Maybe Cornelius even had some Jewish blood on his hands from quelling riots and so forth as he was stationed in Judea. Yet an angel told Cornelius “Cornelius, your prayer has been favourably heard and your gifts of mercy have been remembered before God.” (Acts 10:31). When Apostle Peter came to him, Peter said to all present “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34-35). Would not that have given Cornelius, peace of mind, that God would accept such a sinner as him? Not only that but also Peter was given confirmation and peace of mind, that something that was taboo for a Jew and thus hitherto, to him, that of speaking to Gentiles, was henceforth not only acceptable to God and Christ but vital for all Jewish Christians.
Without praying for God’s Holy Spirit, we will not be able to find peace by just reading his word, because we are unlikely to understand it well enough. But does this mean we need the help of other men? No, rather does not Jesus suggest it is the Holy Spirit that helps teach us all things? It helps us to understand and remember what we have learned as well. Jesus’ words recorded in John 14:26 are: “But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach YOU all things and bring back to YOUR minds all the things I told YOU”. Additionally Acts 9:31 indicates that the early Christian congregation gained peace from persecution and were built up as they walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 records the Apostle Paul’s desire of peace for the Thessalonians by saying: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give YOU peace constantly in every way. The Lord be with all of YOU.” This scripture shows that Jesus [the Lord] can give us peace and the mechanism of this has to be by means of the Holy Spirit sent by God in Jesus’ name as per John 14:24 quoted above. Titus 1:4 and Philemon 1:3 amongst other scriptures have similar wording.
Our Father and Jesus are both desirous of giving us peace of mind. However, they will be unable to do so if we are in a course of action contrary to their commands, so obedience is vital.
Obedience to the commandments of God and Jesus brings Peace
In building a relationship with God and Christ we will then start to nurture the desire to obey them. As with a physical father, it is difficult to build a relationship if we do not love him, nor want to obey him and or apply his wisdom in our lives. Confirming this principle, in Isaiah 48:18-19 God pleaded with the disobedient Israelites: “O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. 19 And your offspring would become just like the sand, and the descendants from your inward parts like the grains of it. One’s name would not be cut off or be annihilated from before me.”
It is, therefore, vitally important to obey the commandments of both God and Jesus. Hence it would be beneficial to briefly examine some of God’s commandments and principles that bring peace.
- Matthew 5:23-24 – Jesus taught that if we want to bring a gift to God, and we remember our brother has something against us, we should first of all go and make peace with our brother before going on to offer the gift to Jehovah.
- Mark 9:50 – Jesus encouraged his disciples that they “Have salt in yourselves and keep peace between one another.” Salt makes food that is otherwise unpalatable, tasty, and also preserves it. Likewise, by being seasoned with salt ourselves (in a metaphorical sense), then we will be able to preserve peace between one another, and be more palatable to others when it might have otherwise been difficult.
- Luke 19:37-42 – If we do not discern the things having to do with peace, by studying God’s Word and accepting Jesus as the Messiah, then we will fail to find peace for ourselves.
- Romans 2:10 – The Apostle Paul wrote that there will be “glory and honor and peace for everyone who works what is good”. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 amongst many scriptures, discusses what some of those good works are.
- Romans 14:19 – “So, then let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.” Pursuing things means making a real continuous effort to obtain these things.
- Romans 15:13 – “May the God who gives hope fill you with all joy and peace by your believing, that you may abound in hope with power of Holy Spirit.” We need to firmly believe that obeying God and Jesus is the right thing to do and the beneficial thing to practice.
- Ephesians 2:14-15 – Ephesians 2 says about Jesus Christ, “for he is our peace”. How so? “he who made the two parties one and destroyed the wall in between” referring to the Jews and the Gentiles. What was the wall? It was a barrier between the Jews and the Gentiles stopping them from becoming one flock under one shepherd. The non-Christian Jews in general hated the Gentiles and barely tolerated them at best. Even today Ultra-Orthodox Jews will avoid even eye contact with “goyim” to the extent of noticeably turning away their heads. This is an attitude hardly conducive to peace and good relations with non-Jews and certainly one not required by the Mosaic Law, but rather by human traditions. Yet first century Jewish and Gentile Christians put aside such prejudices and became “one flock under one shepherd” to gain God and Christ’s favor and enjoy peace (John 10:14-17).
- Ephesians 4:3 – The Apostle Paul entreated Christians to “walk worthily of the calling … with complete lowliness of mind, and mildness, with long-suffering, putting up with one another in love, earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” Improving the putting into practice of all of these qualities of the Holy Spirit will help bring us peace with others and with ourselves.
Yes, obedience to the commandments of God and Jesus as conveyed in God’s word, will result in a measure of peace with others now, peace of mind for ourselves, and the great potential for complete peace while enjoying everlasting life on earth in the future.
We have already touched on the role of the Holy Spirit in helping us find peace. Let us explore the role of the Holy Spirit further.
God’s Spirit helps us develop Peace
Should we yield to the leadings of the Holy Spirit to help us develop peace? Perhaps the initial reaction may be “Of course”. Romans 8:6 speaks about “the minding of the spirit means life and peace” which is something done by positive choice and desire. The Google dictionary definition of yield is “give way to arguments, demands, or pressure”.
We, therefore, need to ask some questions:
- Would the Holy Spirit argue with us?
- Would the Holy Spirit demand that we allow it to help us?
- Would the Holy Spirit pressure us against our will to act in a way of peace?
The scriptures show absolutely no indication of this. Indeed, resisting the Holy Spirit is associated with opposers of God and Jesus as Acts 7:51 shows. In the scriptural record there we find Stephen giving his speech before the Sanhedrin. To the Jewish religious leaders in the Sanhedrin, he said “Obstinate men and uncircumcised in hearts and ears, YOU are always resisting the holy spirit; as YOUR forefathers did, so YOU do.” Yes, they were always resisting the holy spirit, failing to heed it and working against it. What about us? We should not have to yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit. To yield means to give way to arguments or demands or pressure. Therefore, to yield to the Holy Spirit would imply that we are resisting but then give up, perhaps grudgingly. By contrast, we should be desirous of and willing to accept the leadings of the Holy Spirit. We certainly would not want to be found resisters like the Pharisees, would we?
Indeed, rather than yielding to the Holy Spirit, we would want to consciously seek it by praying to our Father for it to be given us. If we take this course of action Matthew 7:11 makes clear the result when it says, “Therefore, if YOU, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to YOUR children, how much more so will YOUR Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him?” This scripture shows clearly that as the Holy Spirit is a good gift when we ask for it from our Father, he would not withhold it from anyone of us who are asking in sincerity and with the desire to please him.
We also need to be living our lives in harmony with his will, which includes showing due honor to Jesus Christ. If we do not give due honor to Jesus, as God’s son, and the one to whom God has given all power and authority, then how can we be in union with Jesus and benefit from what Romans 8:1-2 brings to our attention. It says “Therefore those in union with Christ Jesus have no condemnation. For the law of that spirit which gives life in union with Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” It is such a wonderful freedom to be set free from the knowledge that as imperfect humans we are condemned to die with no redemption possible because now the opposite is true, life through redemption is possible. It is a freedom and peace of mind not to be spurned. Even if we are in the sad situation where perhaps our human family and close friends and relatives have rejected us, perhaps because we no longer believe the same as them, we can still have this peace of mind. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that our Grand Creator and his Son love us and want us to live forever.
Should we not, therefore, rather cultivate and build up our confidence in the hope that through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus we will be able to have peace in everlasting life. Also, that Jesus will use the Holy Spirit to make that possible for us, providing we remain in union with Jesus’ commandments to love one another.
What is another way in which God’s spirit can help us find peace? We are helped to develop peace by reading God’s inspired Word regularly (Psalm 1:2-3). Psalms indicates that as we take delight in the law of Jehovah and read his law [his Word] in an undertone day and night then we become like a tree planted by streams of water, giving fruit in due season. Does not this verse conjure up a peaceful, tranquil scene in our minds even as we read it and meditate on it?
Can the Holy Spirit help us to understand Jehovah’s thinking on many matters and thereby gain peace of mind? Not according to 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 “For ‘who has come to know the mind of Jehovah, that he may instruct him?’ But we do have the mind of Christ.”
How can we as mere insignificant humans comprehend the mind of God? Especially when he reminds us “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than YOUR ways, and my thoughts than YOUR thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)? Rather God’s spirit helps the spiritual man to understand God’s things, his word, and his purposes. (Psalm 119:129-130) Such a person will have the mind of Christ, by desiring to do God’s will and helping others to do the same.
Through God’s spirit as we study his word, we also come to know God is a God of Peace. That indeed, he desires peace for us all. We know from personal experience that peace is what we all desire and makes us happy. He likewise wants us to be happy and at peace, just as Psalm 35:27 reads, “Let Jehovah be magnified, who takes delight in the peace of his servant”. In addition, Isaiah 9:6-7 says in part in the prophecy about Jesus as the Messiah that God would send, that the Messiah would be called “Prince of Peace. To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end”.
Finding peace is also linked to the fruits of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in our introduction. Not only is it named as such, but developing the other fruits is vital. Here is just a brief summary of how practicing other fruits contributes to peace.
- If we do not have a love for others, we will have difficulty in obtaining a conscience that is at peace. Love is the quality that manifests itself in so many ways that affect peace.
- A lack of love would lead to us being a clashing cymbal according to 1 Corinthians 13:1. Literal Cymbals disturb the peace with a harsh jarring penetrating sound. A figurative cymbal would do the same with our actions not matching our words as a professed Christian.
- A lack of joy would lead us to be troubled mentally in our outlook. We would not be able to be at peace in our minds. Romans 14:17 links righteousness, joy, and peace together with the Holy Spirit.
- If we are unable to be long-suffering, we will always be getting upset at our own and others’ imperfections (Ephesians 4:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). As a result we will be agitated and unhappy and not at peace with ourselves and others.
- Kindness is a quality that God and Jesus desire to see in us. Being kind to others brings God’s favor which in turn gives us peace of mind. Micah 6:8 reminds us it is one of the few things God is asking back from us.
- Goodness brings personal satisfaction and hence some peace of mind to those practicing it. Even as Hebrews 13:16 says “Moreover, do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” If we please God, we will have peace of mind and he will surely desire to bring peace to us.
- Faith gives peace of mind as “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” (Hebrews 11:1). It gives us confidence that prophecies will be fulfilled in the future. The past record of the Bible gives us reassurance and hence peace.
- Mildness is the key to bringing about peace in a heated situation, where the air is filled with emotion. As Proverbs 15:1 advises us “An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.”
- Self-control will help us avoid stopping stressful situations get out of hand. A lack of self-control leads to anger, indiscretion, and immorality among other things, all of which destroy not only one’s own peace but that of others. Psalm 37:8 warns us “Let anger alone and leave rage; Do not show yourself heated up only to do evil.”
From the above, we can see God’s Holy Spirit can help us to develop peace. However, there are occasions when our peace is disturbed by events outside our control. How can we deal with this at that time and find relief and peace when we are distressed?
Finding Peace when we are distressed
Being imperfect and living in an imperfect world there are times when we may temporarily lose the measure of peace we may have gained by applying what we have learned.
If this is the situation, what can we do?
Looking at the context of our theme scripture what was the Apostle Paul’s reassurance? “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God;” (Philippians 4:6).
The phrase “do not be anxious over anything” carries the meaning of not being distracted or worried. Supplication is to display a heartfelt, urgent, and personal need, but despite having such a need we are gently reminded to be appreciative of God’s kindness that he bestows upon us (grace). (Thanksgiving). This verse makes it clear that everything that worries us or takes away our peace can be communicated in every detail with God. We would also need to keep on letting God know of our heartfelt urgent need.
We could liken it to visiting a caring doctor, he will listen patiently while we described the problem(s), the more detail the better to help him better diagnose the cause of the problem and be better able to prescribe the right treatment. Not only is there truth in the saying a problem shared is a problem halved, but we would be better able to receive the correct treatment for our problem from the doctor. The doctor’s treatment in this instance is that recorded in the following verse, Philippians 4:7 which encourages by saying: “the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”
The Greek word translated “excels” literally means to “have beyond, be superior, excel, surpass”. Thus, it is a peace that surpasses all thought or understanding that will stand guard around our hearts and our mental powers (our minds). Numerous Christians can testify that after intense prayer in emotionally difficult circumstances, they received a feeling of peace and calmness that was so different to any self-induced feelings of calm that the only source of this peace truly had to be the Holy Spirit. It is most certainly a peace that surpasses all others and can only come from God via his Holy Spirit.
Having established how God and Jesus can give us peace, we need to look beyond ourselves and examine how we can give others peace. In Romans 12:18 we are exhorted to be “If possible, as far as it depends upon YOU, be peaceable with all men.” So how can we be peaceable with all men, by pursuing peace with others?
Pursue peace with others
Where do we spend the majority of our waking hours?
- In the family,
- in the workplace, and
- with our fellow Christians,
however, we should not forget others such as neighbors, fellow travelers, and so forth.
In all of these areas, we need to strive to get the balance between achieving peace and not compromising Bible principles. Let us therefore now examine these areas to see how we can pursue peace by being peaceable with others. As we do so we need to bear in mind that there are limits to what we can do. In many situations, we may have to leave some of the responsibility in the other person’s hands once we have done all we can do to contribute to peace with them.
Being peaceable in the family, workplace, and with our fellow Christians and others
While the letter of Ephesians was written to the Ephesian congregation the principles mentioned in chapter 4 apply in each of these areas. Let’s just highlight a few.
- Put up with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
- The first is verse 2 where we are encouraged to be “with complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering, putting up with one another in love”. (Ephesians 4:2) Having these fine qualities and attitudes will reduce any friction and potential for friction between us and our family members, with fellow Christians, and with our workmates and clients.
- Having self-control at all times. (Ephesians 4:26)
- We may be provoked but we need to apply self-control, not allowing any anger or wrath even if one feels it is justified, otherwise this could lead to retaliation. Rather being peaceable will lead to peace. “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with YOU in a provoked state” (Ephesians 4:26).
- Do unto others as you would be done by. (Ephesians 4:32) (Matthew 7:12)
- “But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another, just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”
- Let us always treat our family, workmates, fellow Christians, and indeed all others the way we would want to be treated.
- If they do something for us, thank them.
- If they do some work for us at our request when they are working secularly then we should pay them the going rate, not expecting it for free. If they waive payment or give a discount because they can afford to, then be thankful, but do not expect it.
- Zechariah 7:10 warns “defraud no widow or fatherless boy, no alien resident or afflicted one, and scheme out nothing bad against one another in YOUR hearts.’” Therefore, when making commercial agreements with anyone, but especially our fellow Christians, we should make the agreements in writing and sign them, not to hide behind, but to make things clearer as a record as imperfect memories forget or only hear want the person wants to hear.
- Speak to them as you would like to be spoken to. (Ephesians 4:29-31)
- “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of YOUR mouth” (Ephesians 4:29). This will avoid upset and keep the peace between us and others. Ephesians 4:31 continues this theme saying, “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from YOU along with all badness.” If someone screams abusively at us, the last thing we feel is peaceable, so likewise we risk disrupting peaceful relations with others if we act like this towards them.
- Be prepared to work hard (Ephesians 4:28)
- We should not be expecting others to do things for us. “Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work, that he may have something to distribute to someone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28). Taking advantage of others’ generosity or kindness, especially on a continual basis without regard for their circumstances is not conducive to peace. Rather, working hard and seeing the results give us contentment and peace of mind that we are doing all we can.
- “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith …” (1 Timothy 5:8) Not providing for one’s family will only sow discord rather than peace amongst family members. On the other hand, if the family members feel well cared for then they will not only be peaceable to us but will have peace themselves.
- Be honest with all. (Ephesians 4:25)
- “Wherefore, now that YOU have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of YOU with his neighbor”. (Ephesians 4:25) Dishonesty, even about small upsetting things, will make the upset and damage to peace worse when discovered compared with upfront honesty. Honesty is not only the best policy, it should be the only policy for true Christians. (Hebrews 13:18) Do we not feel peaceful and unafraid when we can trust people to be honest, perhaps in our home when we are away, or lending something to a dear friend to help them out with something, knowing their promises are genuine?
- Only make promises you can keep. (Ephesians 4:25)
- Peace will also be assisted when we “Just let YOUR word Yes mean Yes, YOUR No, No; for what is in excess of these is from the wicked one.” (Matthew 5:37)
How will True Peace Come?
At the beginning of our article under the heading “What is needed for True Peace?” we identified that we need intervention by God and that some other things are also needed for true peace to be enjoyed.
The book of Revelation gives prophecies yet to be fulfilled which assist us to understand how this will come about. Also, Jesus gave a foretaste of how peace would be brought to the earth. He did this by his performing miracles while here on earth.
Freedom from weather extremes.
- Jesus showed he has the power to control weather extremes. Matthew 8:26-27 records “getting up, he rebuked the winds and the sea, and a great calm set in. So the men became amazed and said: ‘What sort of person is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” When he comes with Kingdom power, he will be able to extend this control worldwide eliminating natural disasters. No more fear of being crushed in an earthquake for example, or drowned by a hurricane, thereby having peace of mind.
Freedom from fear of death due to physical assault, violence, or wars.
- Behind the physical assaults, wars, and violence is Satan the Devil. With his influence at liberty, there can never be true peace. Consequently, Jesus in Revelation 20:1-3 foretold a time when there will be “an angel coming down out of heaven … And he seized the dragon, the original serpent, … and bound him for a thousand years. And he hurled him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him, that he might not mislead the nations anymore …”
Freedom from mental anguish due to the death of loved ones.
- Under this government, God “will wipe out every tear from their [peoples] eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor paid be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
Finally, a new world government will be put in place which will rule in righteousness as Revelation 20:6 reminds us, “Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; …. they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”
The results if we seek peace
The results of seeking peace are many, both now and in the future, both for us and those we have contact with.
However, we do need to make every effort to apply the Apostle Peter’s words from 2 Peter 3:14 which says “Hence, beloved ones, since YOU are awaiting these things, do YOUR utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace”. If we do this then we are surely much more encouraged by the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:9 where he said “Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God.’”.
What a privilege indeed is available to those that “turn away from what is bad, and do what is good” and “seek peace and pursue it”. “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous ones and his ears are toward their supplication” (1 Peter 3:11-12).
While we await the time for the Prince of Peace to bring that peace to the whole earth, let us “Greet one another with a kiss of love. May all of you who are in union with Christ have peace” (1 Peter 5:14) and “may the Lord of peace himself give you peace constantly in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
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