The Battle for Peace

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“Peace.”

In the New King James Version of the Bible, that word appears in nearly 400 distinct verses. It’s a topic God inspired the writers of the Bible to focus heavily on, perhaps because it is a subject so integral to the human condition. Ever since the first man and the first woman robbed themselves of their God-given peace, the whole of recorded human history has been underscored by a continual and often fruitless endeavor to reclaim that state of existence. In one form or another, every human being since the dawn of time has been searching for a road that will lead them to peace.

Why then has it been so categorically impossible for us to find? Why has something that so many desire remained so elusive? Some of the world’s brightest minds are disassembling the universe’s most intricate layers and writing papers on their findings that would melt Albert Einstein’s brain—so why should such a relatively primitive concept so consistently elude us? Why can’t we find peace?

Defining the terms

Peace is not an object. It cannot be examined directly by any of the five senses. It isn’t a unit to be measured in a lab, reproduced and reverse-engineered in an experiment. And yet as physical beings, we tend to view it in physical terms: If two groups of people aren’t actively shooting at each other, then that must be peace. Now we have our standard: To achieve peace, we have to end violence. If we can just get these two person A to stop punching person B, we’ll have achieved peace.

And that is perhaps the most fundamental misconception about what peace truly is. Peace is not the absence of conflict. We cannot define peace in physical terms because peace isn’t physical. It’s a spiritual concept, and to truly understand it, we need to look at it in spiritual terms.

To do that, we’ll need to talk about a boat.

Calm in the storm

This particular boat was having a less than ideal day. Its only real job in life was to make sure it and its contents stayed on top of, rather than underneath, the water—but today, circumstances seemed bent on keeping that from happening. More than a few of its passengers were shaking in panic as wave after wave battered the poor vessel, flooding it with the very water it was trying to stay above. Again and again, the mighty tempest rattled the boat, threatening to capsize it and send it to the bottom of the sea. As conditions worsened, all those aboard the vessel began to despair of making it out alive—all, that is, except one.

This particular passenger on this particular boat was fast asleep. In a storm. A storm that was making grown, burly fishermen all but wet themselves. This particular passenger was not particularly worried, because this particular passenger was God.

You may recognize this story from the gospel accounts (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25). While crossing the Sea of Galilee, a tempest came out of nowhere and wreaked havoc with the disciples’ boat. While they panicked and feared for their lives, Jesus Christ was taking a nap in the stern. In the middle of a fearsome storm that was bringing professional fishermen to a state of total panic, Christ was grabbing some shuteye.

Do you want to talk about peace? Let’s start here. It’s one thing to be snoozing in an idyllic meadow with a gentle breeze wafting by, but quite another when the closest thing you have to solid ground is tossing you around like a hacky sack. The world around Him was in total chaos, but Christ was at peace. So let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about a state of mind that allows you to sail through a vicious tempest so unfazed that sleep is an option. Christ’s actions in these gospel accounts give us some vital insight into the requirements for true, lasting, tempest-proof peace.

Peace requires perspective

Before Christ came to this earth as God in the flesh, He co-inhabited eternity with God the Father as the preexistent Word. John begins his gospel account by explaining, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3). In short, the member of the Godhead that became Jesus Christ was responsible for the creation of the entire universe. Whereas His disciples saw only a life-threatening storm, Christ was able to see a storm operating on mechanics He designed, occurring on a sea He created, nestled in a continent He shaped, resting on a planet He called into existence, spinning around a star He crafted, travelling through a galaxy He set in place, floating in a universe He sustains. That storm was nothing more than a speck of dust swirling on a slightly larger speck of dust—both of which were made possible by Him.

It’s true that we can’t look at things the same exact way. We don’t inhabit eternity. We didn’t call the universe into being or design its intricacies. But the God who does and who did has personally called us to join His family. When we encounter problems in our lives, we see them from our limited human perspective: immediate, overwhelming, hopeless. It’s hard to cultivate peace with such an outlook. Rather, we have to learn to step back and see things from God’s perspective. As the Creator of the universe, He retains total mastery of His creation—and the trials we might face, however fearsome, have been fashioned out of that same creation.

On our own, the storms of life are enough to shipwreck us beyond hope. We cannot expect to battle them on our own, for, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:6).

When we begin to see our storms as subject to the God who cares for us, we take a step toward peace.

Peace requires faith

In their panic over the storm, the disciples woke Christ up and asked the question that was on all their minds: “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). Another account  records a heartfelt, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” (Matthew 8:25). In response, Christ asked them a question that must have remained in their thoughts for quite some time:

“Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26).

The waves were batting this boat around like a cat bats around a cornered mouse, and Jesus paused in the middle of it all to ask them, “What are you so afraid of? Where’s your faith?” His questions provides us with another ingredient of true peace: Alongside perspective, we must also have faith. As great as it is that we’re able to step back and see our problems on a more cosmic scale, if we aren’t trusting God to take care of it, that perspective is useless. It’s not a matter of knowing only that God can take care of it—it’s believing that He will.

During His ministry on earth, Christ gave us some insight into how God the Father operates: “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). God pays so much attention to detail that He has not lost count of even one little sparrow—and you are so much more important to Him than those sparrows. Later in the same passage, Christ tells us that “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

God wants to give you the Kingdom. He wants you to get there. He’s already sent His Son to accept the death penalty in your place; do you think for one second He will be have His hands tied by any trial you are now or will ever face? If you are determined to reach that Kingdom, do you honestly believe that there is any obstacle, earthly or otherwise, He will refuse to aid you in overcoming?

As it is written, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

When we begin to develop a steadfast faith that God is able to and will guide us through our storms, we take another step toward peace.

Peace requires warfare

Though this final point may sound almost paradoxical in nature, warfare is absolutely required to maintain a state of peace. As perspective and faith are requirements for peace, we must also be aware that we face an enemy eager to damage both those components as often and as seriously as we allow him. Satan the devil knows God’s plan for you and is eager to sabotage it in any way possible. Therefore “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Make no mistake; this is a war. The battle is a spiritual one, and Satan has been waging it for more than six millennia. His dearest wish is to make casualties of the whole human race—to convince the called and chosen to give up on God’s plan for them. To this end, he will attack every weak spot he can find—and your perspective and faith will be among his first targets. If he can dismantle—or even significantly shake—your peace, he’ll have an opportunity to warp your perspective, shatter your faith, and convince you to give up on the greatest gift you’ve ever been offered in your life.

But God has not left us to fight these battles alone. On the contrary, He stands ready to provide us with every assistance necessary to hold our own against our adversary. Because “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12), we have been given access to “the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). That armor, examined in verses 14-18, is and ought to be a study in its own right—disregarding it is spiritual suicide.

On our own, we are easy prey for the snares of Satan, and whatever peace we might find is quickly snatched from us—but when we stand with God and fasten tightly His armor, living by His every word, that roaring lion we face will quickly find he has no angle to land an attack (though not from a lack of trying).

True peace

The world would have you believe that peace is what happens when everyone stops fighting and starts accepting every other way of looking at life—believing that truth differs from person to person and accepting that we all view things differently.

The world is wrong. Peace does not mean compromising your morals. Peace does not mean turning a blind eye to sin. And peace certainly does not mean accepting wickedness into our lives. Peace requires us to see things as God sees them, to trust in Him, and to take up the sword of His word as the ultimate and only standard—rejecting whatever contradicts it.

Yes, if we truly desire a true spiritual peace, then we must be prepared to fight a spiritual war—but unlike a physical war, this is one we are guaranteed to win so long as we keep our eyes on the Kingdom and our minds and hearts on the perfect law of God. Satan may be relentless, but he is in the end just another storm…and the God we stand with is so much greater. So long as we continue to bring our perspectives in line with God’s point of view, allow ourselves to trust more and more in His might and love for us, and daily refasten the armor He has provided for us, we will win this war—and we will have peace along the way.

To quote the apostle Paul, “the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Romans 16:20).

Keep fighting the good fight.

Until next time,
Jeremy

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