The peace proclaimed on that first Silent Night was meant for more than first-century followers. Jesus promised to give peace that is “not as the world gives.” How is His peace different?
The world’s peace usually means an absence of war or conflict. But we know that there is more to peace than that. The peace that was foretold in Luke 2 and personally promised by Jesus in John 14 goes beyond an outward hostility and brings inner accord. Peace is promised, and peace is commanded.
We all want it, but how do we get it? What prevents us from experiencing it? Two recent circumstances have greatly disturbed my personal peace. The first is the upheaval of this election season. Apparently, I am not alone. The turmoil is so bad that one therapist even coined the term Election Stress Disorder to describe the negative impact of this election cycle. The election is over, but it has engendered stress and tension that will have a lasting influence on us individually and our country in general.
As I write this article, I am also experiencing my second source of stress. I just finished serving on a jury for a murder trial. The images displayed and the defendant’s testimony were disturbing. They flooded my mind, both in and out of the courtroom. My heart pounded, my stomach knotted, and I longed to forget them. After four weeks of the trial, I found myself merging my research on peace with my lack of its presence. I began quoting Scripture that I had been reading, repeating in my mind, “Rejoice in the Lord always” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It suddenly occurred to me that peace is not passive; it requires work. I must fight for peace, whether to counter the election stress or to neutralize the trial-related stress. According to Romans 14:19, we should “pursue [chase] the things which make for peace.” In John 14:27, Jesus says He is leaving us His peace, but He adds, “Do not allow your heart to be troubled, nor allow it to be fearful.” Experiencing His peace is in our control, and it involves choices that we make. In Philippians 4, Paul offers a recipe for peace that serves well all who make the correct choices.
We can choose what we focus on and rejoice in. Philippians 4:4 commands us to rejoice in the Lord, always. It is easier to not be anxious (v. 6-7) when we are rejoicing. Verses 8 & 9 tell us to meditate on the positive, the honorable, the right things. Quote or read encouraging Scriptures. Sing uplifting Christian songs. Take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), and ask if it is a thought that edifies. Do all you can to “set your mind on the Spirit” (Romans 8:6).
We can choose the impact of our environment. Luke 10:5-6 addresses the importance of a peaceful, positive (Philippians 4: 8-9) environment. Monitor the TV you are watching, the Facebook items you are reading or posting, and the negative people you spend time with. Watch the tone of your conversations. Play Christian music, loudly if that helps. It is your choice to tune-in or turn-off distractions.
We can choose to pray. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us to be anxious for nothing but to pray about everything, even if we need to do it repeatedly in supplication. We are instructed to pray for those in authority, that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We may not like the presidential authority, now or in the future, but we have the confidence that God can “turn the heart” of any king (Proverbs 21:1).
We can choose to be a Barnabas. In Acts 4:36, a Cyprian Levite named Joseph was nicknamed Barnabas, which means son of encouragement. Joseph’s selling his land and donating the proceeds was a big encouragement to the early Church. We can choose to do the “good things” of Philippians 4:8 to encourage, bring peace, to each other. Paul says we can comfort others in the same way we have been comforted (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). When you find something that has helped you regain peace, share it with others who have lost theirs. Matthew 18:15-18 gives a procedure to follow to win back a brother who has sinned. The process is often unpleasant, but it makes for peace. It is part of the “as far as it depends on you” directive of Romans 12:18 to “be at peace with all men.”
What choices will you make to experience God’s peace?
By Donna Walker