God of peace
‘Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all’ (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
In this verse Paul is expressing his heart’s desire for the Christians at Thessalonica. He prays that they may know peace ‘at all times’ and ‘in every way’. How does this become possible? It must be given them by our Lord.
God is eternal, all-wise, uncreated and always at peace, no matter what occurs in time and space. He is God, and nothing disturbs, unsettles or perplexes him. He has made us for himself and he is the one in whom ‘we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28). His will for us is to know the reality of his peace in our lives.
Prince of peace
We serve and worship the risen Lord Jesus Christ, who is ‘wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father, prince of peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). This same Jesus said, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you’ (John 14:27).
How are we to know for ourselves the peace that is in our Saviour’s heart? Through ‘the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name’ (John 14:26), he says. The Spirit dwells in our hearts so that the wonderful peace of the Lord Jesus becomes ours also.
Peace with God is the eternal possession of all God’s children through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary. However, the peace of God is not automatic. Each Christian must undertake to make it a resident in his heart: ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.
‘He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it’ (1 Peter 3:10-11). How are we to do this? Colossians 3:15-17 answers this question.
First of all, ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace’. His peace is to rule in our hearts.
To ‘rule’ means to govern, hold sway and make decisions. It is my Lord’s peace that is to be the arbiter of my words and actions, through God the Holy Spirit. If my heart is at peace with God knowing all is well in his sight, then I truly am at peace.
What is ‘peace’? The dictionary comes up with words like ‘stillness’ and ‘serenity’, and the phrase ‘peace of mind’, meaning an absence of anxiety.
Another helpful phrase, which I like, is ‘a state of harmony’. Harmony between whom? Surely, first and foremost, it is between God and me. If I cultivate a tender conscience towards my Lord and my desire for peace with him takes precedence over all other considerations, then I will be very careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit within me.
There is the little word at the beginning of Colossians 3:15, ‘let’. I am to submit my heart and mind to the gentle leading of Jesus’ peace, a beautiful peacefulness that ‘transcends all understanding’ (Philippians 4:7).
And then, second, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (Colossians 3:16). We must not think of peace as something that comes from how we feel.
Our Creator has given us emotions and feelings, and they are a vital part of what makes us human. The feelings we have must be on board for the journey, but they are not competent to drive the bus!
Our minds must drive our words and actions, and the thoughts which fill our minds must be in harmony with God’s Word. The exhortation to submit to the peace of Christ is followed by the exhortation to submit to the word of Christ.
Are we not given the example of Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus eager to hear what he had to say? Jesus assures us, as he assured Mary, ‘It will not be taken away from her’ (Luke 10:42).
Here is a wonderful promise from our God concerning the place his Word is to have in our lives: ‘Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble’ (Psalm 119:165).
Third, have you noticed in Colossians 3:15-17 that all three verses speak of thanksgiving: ‘and be thankful’ (v.15); ‘sing … with gratitude in your hearts to God’ (v.16); and ‘giving thanks to God the Father’ (v.17)? A vital element to knowing the peace of God is being thankful to him for it.
If I am to submit to the peace of Christ, it follows that it must be possible for me to rebel. This is why the Word says, ‘Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul’ (1 Peter 2:11).
If I allow attitudes and thoughts that are unworthy of my calling to intrude into my life, my conscience will be troubled and my peace stolen. The Spirit within us always leads us to our Lord Jesus, and away from things which would grieve him; we must submit to his lordship.
‘So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature’ (Galatians 5:16-17).
Who among us does not struggle with the temptation to worry? Our loving Father tenderly says to us, ‘In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’ (Philippians 4:6).
We must bring our needs to our Father, who already knows what is on our minds and is far more ready to give to us than often we are to ask.
To lay it all before him and to know the reality of his peace, a peace which is beyond what anyone can fathom standing guard over our hearts and minds! No wonder the great servants of God down the centuries have prized the gift of prayer so highly!
A heart that is at rest, which knows stillness despite all the turmoil and chaos of this world, is a heart which trusts in God. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’ (John 14:27).
A life that hallows the Lord Jesus Christ is lived out in a childlike trust in God who has made himself known in the Bible. ‘Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation’ (Isaiah 12:2).
The prophet also says, ‘You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal’ (Isaiah 26:3-4).
Over recent weeks, the pastor of the church I belong to has been teaching me about prayer, centred upon the model prayer given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.
This prayer begins by reminding us that we pray to our loving Father in heaven and then states that we should make our primary desire the hallowing of God’s name.
When you pray for your brothers and sisters in the Lord, what blessing do you ask our Father to give them? I am sure we think about various ways in which God can display his grace to them, all of which bring praise to his name.
Personally, I can think of no greater blessing for dear brothers and sisters than that they know God’s peace in their hearts and minds. And I have this wonderful promise, ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
‘And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of him’ (1 John 5:14-15).
To a watching world, as well as within the church, the possession of Jesus’ peace in our lives will hallow our Father’s name.