February 7, 2007

Don't worry, be peace-filled

The last few times my to-do list was checked off ahead of normal, some sort of calamity happened to eat up the extra time gained. I’m ahead of things today, and as I sat down with my Bible, I felt a bit of apprehension. What now? What will happen this week?

Things have been going well—marvelous birthday party, great time with family as I gave some of them their “verse for the year” (a tradition God started me doing a few years ago), and for once I am not feeling totally overwhelmed with responsibility.

But I tend to look on the dark side. Our daughter has a flu virus and has been home from work for nearly a week. I’m a bit worried. Isn’t that what mothers do? She is really sick.

The reading today is familiar since I’m teaching the topic in my Sunday class. It is from John 14: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word ‘salom’ or ‘shalom’ was used as a greeting or a goodbye that wishes the recipient well-being and prosperity. For God’s people then, peace was external, a lack of conflict. It didn’t have the idea of an internal calm, an inner rest.

In the New Testament, these external meanings are still attached, but the meaning of peace goes deeper by adding two new ideas: peace with God and the peace of God.

Peace with God is for those who have been reconciled to Him through faith in Jesus Christ. Their sins are forgiven and they possess eternal life all because Jesus bore God’s wrath against sin and died on the cross for it. He secured our peace with God.

The peace of God is given to those who belong to Him as a guard for our inner thoughts. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.”

Don’t worry. Talk to God about the things that scare me, and don’t forget to be thankful. Thankful about what? Thankful that He is in control, that He hears my concerns and can change or do whatever He wants with anything that bothers me, that He is active in my daughter’s life and is taking care of her, that He is answering my prayers.

And that peace is incredible. My Bible says it “surpasses all understanding.” Some versions say it exceeds, transcends, goes beyond anything we can understand. I agree. I’ve had occasions when I should have been fearful or highly emotional, anything but at peace, and God has given me His incredible peace without me even asking for it.

Without a doubt, this peace is from Him. It is a sense of His care, power and control—erasing all fear and filling me with hope and confidence. This peace passes understanding because it is there even when the problems don’t go away; it is peace in the middle of them. Sometimes it happens without asking for it, and sometimes, as these verses from Philippians say, I have to pray about my problems before the worries are lifted and replaced with peace.

The world’s peace, of which there is precious little, depends on externals, on lack of conflict and all being rosy. Life isn’t like that, but it doesn’t matter. With God in control of life, and with knowing He is good and wants the eternal best for each of us, I can pray about my worries, stop ‘letting my heart be troubled’ and remember that Jesus also said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

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