Last night I spoke at King’s Church about peace. Here’s a summary of what I said.

Peace = ?
What is peace? It’s not simply the absence of conflict. At the end of the Second World War, the governments could say ‘There is peace’ but in reality there was covert tension between east and west Europe, the economic burdens of desperate warfare, and the psychological hangovers of all that had been done and endured.

Is today much better? Even before 9/11 and the current economic crisis, things were hardly peaceful. We crave what we don’t have, our jobs are more stressful and less secure, relationships come and go, we’re always worrying. Above and beyond and within this is the fact that the world that is out of sync with God. Mankind in general, consciously or not, is at war with God, and that means strife for all societies and cultures because God is the source of all peace.

God = peace
One of the titles for God in the Bible is “The Lord is Peace” (Judges 6:24). The Father, Son, and Spirit – God in three Persons - exist forever in perfection and unity, they have no need of anyone or anything else. God is content in Himself. Moreover, no-one knows better than God how in control of everything He is, and so no-one is as peaceful as He is. Contentment in God and confidence in God: that’s why God is peaceful and that’s what we need.

Jesus owns the title, ‘Prince of Peace’, it was promised of Him that “Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end...” (Isaiah 9:6-7) So when He came to earth, He brought peace to those who wanted it: healing bodies and minds. He made ultimate peace possible for us by dying rising again so that we could be reconciled to God. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.” (John 14:27)

Receiving peace = tricky
Even those of us who accept the wonderful rescue that Jesus has made possible struggle to experience peace. We live in a world full of conflict, and our lives are often damaged: peace is not our default. Moreover, God has not promised Christians an easy life any more than Jesus’ time on earth was easy, which confuses us as we wrongly equate peace with ease.

We need to ask for peace, and then make an effort to receive it. In the same way that you can’t ask God for a long healthy life and then sit on a sofa all day eating pies, we have to take steps to receive the peace God has for us. The Bible explains:
“The Lord is at hand; 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)
Remember, Paul was in prison when he wrote this!

I think there are two things here. Firstly there’s the applied logic of reminding ourselves that God is in control: we have to do the mental exercise of telling ourselves the truth about who God is and what He is doing right now because we forget so easily.

Paul goes on to promise that we’ll experience something that doesn’t make sense to us: a peace “which surpasses all understanding”. This peace is not simply an automatic consequence of reading about Him being in control, it’s a gift. When this happens to me (after I’ve panicked and then realised that I need to pray) I experience a feeling, almost of relaxation, that God will work everything for good. Sometimes I notice this, sometimes I only realise later that it has happened.

It’s like suddenly being warm on a freezing cold day. Like standing still whilst the world around you shakes.

The Bible calls peace a fruit of the Spirit: something supernatural that grows in Christians. We have to make sure the plant is well fed and watered with truth – but it’s God who makes it grow by His Spirit.

Our peace = good for others
Having this peace is an amazing demonstration of God. Anxiety is common at any time, all the more so with what’s happening in our country at the moment. The world needs people of peace to help it recognise true hope. Not because their jobs are secure, or their relationships are perfect, but because they know Jesus and have His peace: they’re content and confident in God.

As an example of this peace in action, the story of Horatio Spafford in the video below takes some beating. Don’t see it and think, ‘Oh I couldn’t do that’ – Spafford was given peace by grace, the same can be true for us.