Long ago a man sought the perfect picture of peace. Not finding one that satisfied, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide. Finally, the great day of revelation came. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, while the viewers clapped and cheered. The tensions grew. Only two pictures remained veiled.
As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd. A mirror-smooth lake reflected lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Undoubtedly this was the winner.
The man with the vision uncovered the second painting himself, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace? A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice; the crowd could almost feel its cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-gray clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind, and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power. A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her eggs. With her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones, she manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil.
The very picture of the bird resting among a chaotic surrounding makes us long to have such kind of peace. Is it possible to have it? According to the Bible, the answer is a resounding “Yes.”
However, we need to understand that the Bible talks about two kinds of peace—peace with God and peace of God. The key is to realize that one cannot experience the peace of God unless they are first at peace with God. Let us briefly look at the two kinds of peace.
1. Peace with God.
A famous rock guitarist of the late 1960s led a promiscuous life, indulging in drugs and behaving outrageously on and off the stage. At the end of a concert in 1970, according to some reports, the musician smashed his guitar. The audience screamed and applauded, but suddenly the applause stopped. The guitarist had fallen on his knees and was staying in that position motionless. He broke the stillness by asking, “If you know real peace, I want to visit with you backstage.” However, nobody responded to his startling invitation. Several days later he died after an accidental overdose of drugs. Peace, real peace, eluded him.
However, real peace is not elusive. Anyone can have it. First, one must realize that their sins have separated them from God, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” [Isa 59:2]. As a result, they are under God’s wrath, “All of us also lived…at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath” [Eph 2:3].
Second, they must realize that Christ by bearing God’s full punishment for sin on the cross can offer complete forgiveness to those that would repent of their sins and put their trust in him [Col 1:21-22; Eph 2:14].
Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “justified” means to be declared “not guilty” and thus receive a “right standing before God.” It is an instantaneous and once-for-all completed process [“have been justified”]. Justification happens right at the moment when an individual by faith turns from their sins and places their trust in Christ and his once-for-all payment for sin on the cross. Thus, one can have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The word “peace” mentioned here is not merely a matter of inner tranquility, but an absence of hostility and also a sense of well-being. It is a state of being reconciled with God, i.e., having a right relationship with God.
2. Peace of God.
Many in vain seek the peace of God without being at peace with God. That’s the reason they never experience real peace. However, when one is at peace with God through Christ, they immediately qualify to receive the peace of God.
On the night of his betrayal, Jesus promised his troubled disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” [John 14:27]. Jesus clearly differentiates between the peace that the world gives and the peace that he offers. The peace that the world provides is always based on circumstances. In contrast, the peace that Christ offers is not dependent upon circumstances but is dependent upon the giver himself—the one who transcends all earthly circumstances. That is why Christian peace is described as the “peace of God, which transcends all understanding, [that] will guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus” [Phil 4:7].
Yes, there may be times when we fail to experience the peace of God entirely. That does not mean that we are not at peace with God. Justification is a once-for-all completed act. Our lack of experiencing the peace of God could be due to various reasons—letting anxiety conquer us, failing to pray, walking in sin. That is why we are commanded to put away sin and by faith apply the principles of Philippians 4:6—to continually pray with a thankful heart and not let anxiety control us in order to experience the peace of God.
Isaiah 9:6 describes Jesus as the “Prince of Peace.” Have you discovered that fame, money, self-indulgence, drugs, alcohol or any other means doesn’t bring inner serenity? Prayerfully, then, you need to make another discovery. Only through a trustful surrender to Christ—the Prince of Peace can you experience peace with God [Rom. 5:1]. Then when life’s challenges seem to overwhelm you, you can experience the peace of God–the very tranquility of heaven in the depths of your soul. Isaiah 26:3 reminds us, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep trusting in his power, love and promises to calm your fears and fill you with his peace!