The Gift of Peace
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
I once visited a restaurant with my family where we encountered a waiter whose favorite response was “no problem!” When we gave him our order he replied: “no problem!” When we asked if we could substitute one side for another he said: “no problem!” When we asked for extra napkins he made sure we knew it would be: “no problem!” He said it so often that it started to become annoying. He was going out of his way to make sure that our meal was without issue, but his effort to convince us was having the opposite effect.
That phrase, along with the more recently adopted “no worries,” is a common catchphrase in our culture. The implication is that a life without problems would be ideal – the very essence of peace. We all know, however, that such a life does not exist. In spite of our best efforts, human character makes it impossible. Genuine peace is a priceless commodity, and its value is increased by the perception that it is essentially impossible to attain. Yet the verse I quoted above implies that it is readily available to every individual. So, what is peace, and how can it be found?
Peace, like joy, has an intrinsic character. It is not the absence of conflict, pain, trouble or disappointment, nor is it the result of our human efforts or manipulation. The verse above describes it as a gift that resides in the heart of a person. The things after which we seek (freedom from worry or fear) are the result, rather than the cause of our peace. In essence, the peace comes first, and has nothing to do with the presence or absence of adverse circumstances in our lives.
Jesus spent 3 ½ years with his disciples. They traveled with Him, ate with Him, watched Him perform numerous miracles, listened to His teaching for hours on end, and grew to love and trust Him. John 13-16 describes an intimate meeting Jesus had with His disciples to prepare them for what was about to happen, and give them the necessary tools to survive and prosper under severely difficult conditions. In this discourse He explained that He was going away and, this time, they could not go with Him. They would be together again because He would be coming back to get them. In the meantime He had a job for them to do. It would not be easy and there would be persecution (John 15:18-25). He also informed them that He was not leaving them alone. A Comforter would come, “even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father” (John 15:26). The Comforter would provide the wisdom, discernment, and discipline necessary to navigate the treacherous path ahead. Finally, He offered a prayer for them (John 17:6-19). Then He left to spend some time praying alone before Judas betrayed Him in the garden, and He was led away to be crucified.
Before He spoke of the challenges and persecution they were to face, He gave them a priceless gift: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:” (John 14:27). They did not need to avoid the trouble and persecution to secure peace; they needed the peace to deal with the trouble and persecution.
Paul addressed the issue in his letter to the church at Philippi when he said: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). He does not say that leaving your burdens with the Lord will remove your burdens. Instead he emphasizes that leaving them there will provide peace “which passeth all understanding.”
It would be great if we could enjoy the benefits of a life which was characterized by the phrase “no problem.” While such a life is, without question, impossible, attaining peace is not. It is abundantly available to every believer who is willing to appropriate God’s gift of peace, understanding that peace is secured by God’s grace, rather than a life without problems.