Christ Gives Us Peace

Dr. Brian Allison

I received a phone call from a young man in the area. He had been to the Church on a previous occasion. He called with a specific request. He asked if I would have time to visit his ill father. His father had come from Jamaica, afflicted with prostate cancer. He had come to receive treatment. In treating the problem, it was discovered that the cancer had spread throughout his body. He was given 3 to 6 months to live. Apparently, this elderly gentleman is a strong Christian. This young man said that his father is at peace with the situation, and with his destiny. He has no fear and no concerns, though his body is diseased and degenerating.

When we are confronted with tribulation, hardship, suffering, or difficulty, what will sustain us at that time? What will cause us to persevere with a smile on our face and joy in our hearts? – the peace of Christ. John 14:27 records the words of Jesus, "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, nor let it be fearful." These are very comforting words; words that we need to hear when life is not going well. Jesus spoke these words to His disciples who were distraught and worried. Jesus was on the verge of departing from this world via the cross. He was going to be separated from His disciples. Jesus had said to His disciples that He would not leave them alone as orphans, but that He would come to them by His Spirit. The disciples were promised that they would continue to enjoy Christ's presence and companionship by the Spirit.

With the news of Christ's imminent departure, the disciples began to experience separation anxiety. Last year, we took my wife's brother and sister-in-law to the airport, at the conclusion of their vacation, for their return to Scotland. It had been 15 years since my wife had seen her brother. At the airport, before they went through the gate to board the plane, the tears were streaming down their faces. The pain of separation occurs between those who love each other very dearly. Accordingly, in anticipating His departure, and realizing how these disciples – His friends – were going to feel, Jesus spoke these powerfully consoling words, "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, nor let it be fearful."

The gift of Christ's own peace

Christ gives His people peace – "Peace I leave with you." When I think of peace, my mind turns to Psalm 23:2 – a graphic picture of peace – "He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters." When we think of peace, we think of rest, a quiet disposition, calmness of soul, tranquillity of mind. Trouble and upheaval often characterize our lives, and we desperately desire peace. The words that Jesus communicated to His disciples, He communicates to us now by His Spirit. This peace is primarily internal in nature, not external – a peace that is able to guard our hearts and our minds, a peace that steels our spirits, so that we can stand strong and remain stable in the face of the most horrendous circumstances.

The peace that Jesus gives us is a gift – "Peace I leave [behind] with you." He bequeaths us an inner rest. Accordingly, this peace is not something we must strive after, nor work for, nor struggle for. It has absolutely nothing to do with self-effort. It is a gift. We simply have to receive it. I have heard the testimony of various believers who, anxiously standing around the hospital bed of their dying loved one, experienced an indescribable peace come into their hearts. In the face of deep grief, there was a divine calm that entered them and sustained them. Jesus has given us an enduring legacy of peace.

Having tread on this earth, and having experienced pain and suffering, Jesus enjoyed a peace that sustained Him. Jesus gives this very peace to His people – "My peace I give to you." Jesus is not only the source of peace, He communicates His own peace. The peace that Jesus experienced in His heart, He gives to our hearts. Of course, this speaks to spiritual union. As we live in Christ, and Christ lives in us, His life flows in us and through us. It is no wonder, having made this statement, Jesus goes on to talk about Himself as the vine, and we as the branches which must abide in the vine – the wonder of mystical union.

This gift of peace is an expression of the Saviour's love; that is one way He cares for us. Are you enjoying this peace? Do you know this peace right now? God knows that we need peace. We live in a hostile world; we live in an unfair world. I often said to my children – in response to their complaint, "That is not fair!" – "Life is not fair, get used to it." We have something to sustain us in the midst of a world that is not fair, as well as in a life that is often unpleasant, and in an environment that can be incredibly adverse.

A special kind of peace

Jesus gives us a special kind of peace; it is incomparable. This kind of peace cannot be found in the world – "Not as the world gives, do I give to you." I do not deny that you may find some kind of peace in the world, but it will not be like Jesus' peace. There is a stark contrast between Christ's peace and the world's peace. First, the world offers a superficial peace. Yeltsin, the Russian president, stormed out of a gathering of world leaders recently because these leaders were criticizing his political policies; there was the absence of peace, but nothing that an apology wouldn't resolve or correct. But that kind of peace is only as good as the words used to produce it; and words are cheap. The world offers a superficial peace. On the other hand, the peace of Jesus is deep. His peace reaches to the very core of our being so that we are even amazed that we can stand in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, being unflustered and unflappable. This peace sustains us in the midst of our deepest pain and suffering.

Second, the world offers a circumstantial peace. We may enjoy peace because of the good things that happen to us. At different times, we find ourselves in happy circumstances; but one day is different from another. We may receive a pay raise today, but be terminated tomorrow. Circumstantial peace is fleeting. My daughter received her interim school report a little while ago. She was ecstatic because her grades were high; but the results at the end of the semester may be substantially lower. The peace she enjoyed recently may be a faint memory then. Circumstantial peace is based on happy situations, but often we are faced with trying circumstances. On the other hand, the peace of Jesus is persistent – a peace that perseveres through the unfortunate circumstances of life, a peace that stabilizes the mind in the face of disappointment and loss. This peace is not connected with, related to, or rooted in the shifting circumstances of life. This peace is rooted in the very heart of Christ.

Third, the world offers a transitory peace, and this relates to the circumstantial – here today, gone tomorrow. We may have an onerous outstanding bill, which may occasion much stress; an unexpected cheque may come along, and the result may be peace. But we will receive another bill tomorrow, and next week, and next month; yet may be uncertain where the money will come from to cover it. The peace of today will not be there then. The world's peace is transitory. On the other hand, the peace of Jesus is enduring. The seriousness of the situation does not matter, the unpredictableness of the circumstance does not matter, the apparent hopelessness of the issue does not matter, for the peace of Jesus endures because it is an eternal, divine peace. God Himself is not affected by the perplexities of this life. There is no problem for Him. Our heavenly Father is never in need; and so we do not need to worry.

Receiving the gift of Christ's peace

Many Christians are not enjoying Christ's peace. The problem is not that Jesus has not given peace to us, the problem is that we have not received it. If you are not enjoying Christ's peace, do not blame Jesus; it is not His fault. Even though we have the peace of Christ as a gift, we have a responsibility to appropriate it. Someone may buy you a gift, bring it to your house, set it at your front door, but unless you open the door and actually take it, you will not enjoy it. We have a responsibility to appropriate Christ's peace. Thus, we read, "Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."

So, Jesus gives this exhortation on the basis of the gift which He has given to us. He does not leave us to fend for ourselves. This exhortation is given on the backdrop of His spiritual provision. Jesus never exhorts us to do something that He does not first provide for us – He is loving. Now, the question is: How do we appropriate this gift? We do not need to work for it, we do not need to strive for it. We simply have to receive it. Having acknowledged the truth that Christ gives us peace, having understood and appreciated that Jesus provides us with His own peace, we must trust Him for it, we must simply accept it by faith. Thus, we read a parallel thought in John 14:1, "Let not you heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me." Have you believed Jesus for this peace? You must believe that Jesus has provided for you, you must believe that He is caring and loving, you must believe that He wants the best for you, that He has given you this precious gift, and that all you need to do is say, "Thank you, Lord. I simply accept this peace, and I trust You to make the experience real in my life." Oswald Chambers writes, "There are times when our peace is based upon ignorance, but when we awaken to the facts of life, inner peace is impossible unless it is received from Jesus. When Our Lord speaks peace, He makes peace, His words are ever 'spirit and life' is a peace which comes from looking into His face and realizing His undisturbedness...We get disturbed because we have not been considering Him" (My Utmost, p. 239).

Now, there are usually certain means by which this peace is actually conveyed and sustained; and again, this touches on our responsibility. First, the experience of this peace is typically associated with reading, meditating on, or hearing the Word of God. As we give ourselves to the Word of God, we put ourselves in an appropriate situation for understanding and receiving this peace. John 16:33a reads, "These things I have spoken to you [the communication of truth], that in Me [in spiritual or mystical union with Me] you may have peace." We will enjoy this peace by understanding, reflecting on, the words or teachings of Christ. So, Jesus further says in this verse, "In the world you have tribulation [anguish, agony], but take courage; I have overcome the world" (16:33b). Jesus has overcome the world, and there is absolutely nothing that surprises Him or defeats Him; and if you really believe that, you will know His peace. Similarly, Philippians 4:8 reads, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. ["These things" centre on Jesus and the Gospel, what God has revealed to us.] The things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you."

Further, prayer is also means by which the peace of God is conveyed and sustained. Show me someone who has a vital prayer life, and I will show you someone who is at peace. I am not talking about praying five or ten minutes a day, but someone who knows how to labour in prayer. Thus, Philippians 4:4ff. reads, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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 comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." In the mystery of prayer, knowing the presence of God in the Most Holy Place, we discover a peace which defies description. God has not only ordained the ends, but He has also ordained the means.

Experiencing Christ's peace is not automatic, but it is by the Word of God and the practice of prayer. We do not have to be overcome by the trials and tribulations of life. If we are, then we are doing something wrong. We read, "Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." It is possible to experience freedom form trouble and fear. The apostle John uses the term 'trouble' a number of times in his Gospel; it is mostly used in reference to Jesus' emotional life. Jesus was disturbed at different times. He knew what it was like to suffer emotional pain. Concerning the death and burial of Lazarus, we read, "When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled" (Jn. 11:33). Thus, to be troubled is an emotion associated with a loss; it is the emotion of grief and sorrow. We also find this term in John 12:27, in the setting of Jesus facing the cross because His final hour had come, "Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour." Thus, to be troubled is an emotion associated with stress; it is also the emotion of heaviness, disconsolation, and depression. We again find this term in John 13:21, the context of Jesus' betrayal, "When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me'." Thus, to be troubled is an emotion associated with disappointment; it is the emotion of hurt. Jesus Himself experienced the hard realities of the human condition.

And so, when our Lord gives this teaching and exhortation not to be troubled, it is not simply coming from His head, but from His heart. He knew what it was to experience inner unrest and emotional turmoil. Also, we are not to be fearful – "nor let [your heart] be fearful." The original term translated 'fearful' is only found here in the New Testament. The exhortation may be translated this way, "Do not let yourself be cowardice," or "Do not let yourself be timid." When I think of the characteristic of timidity or cowardice, I think of Gideon. Gideon needed constant reassurance. He was a man who tended to withdraw from conflict. He was concerned about his own safety and well-being. Many of us can identify with him. Jesus says, "Do not be a coward." As He Himself set His face like a flint to Calvary, He calls us to set our face like a flint in the midst of trying and difficult circumstances. His peace can allow us to do that.

Jesus calls us to receive and enjoy His peace. Colossians 3:15 reads, "And let the peace of Christ rule [arbitrate] in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful." This peace is the legacy of every believer, if he or she will have it. Thomas Watson writes, "The godly man, when he dies, 'enters into peace' (Isaiah 57:2); but while he lives, peace must enter into him." Maybe you are not enjoying this peace. Can I invite you to bring your problems, your difficulties, your stresses, your hardships, and your struggles to the foot of the cross, and surrender them to Jesus; and, by faith, receive the gift of His peace. Won't you do that now?