How to Find and Keep Peace
How to Find and Keep Peace
In 1555, Nicholas Ridley, a former Bishop of London, was burned at the stake in Oxford because of his beliefs. On the night before Ridley's execution, his brother offered to remain with him in the prison chamber to be of assistance and comfort. Nicholas declined the offer and replied that he meant to go to bed and sleep as quietly as ever he did in his life. Because he knew the peace of God, he could rest in the strength of the everlasting arms of his Lord to meet his need.
Peace is a great blessing. ‘Peace’ is a word of huge significance in the Bible. The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, translated by the Greek word eirene, means far more than the absence of war or hostility. It is not just an absence of certain circumstances but the presence of God and his reign. It means wholeness, soundness, well-being, oneness with God – every kind of blessing and good.
In order to bring peace to others, we first need to find and hold on to peace within ourselves.
Peace with GodPsalm 101:1-8
‘Peace’ and ‘silence’ – in the good sense of the word – often go hand in hand. This psalm speaks of the slanderous and the wicked being ‘put to silence’ (vv.5–8).
David sings of God’s ‘love and justice’ (v.1a). We talk a lot about God’s love but not so much about his justice, which is as important. Love without concern for justice is not true love, as love cries out for justice.
Only the ‘blameless’ (vv.2,6) can ‘dwell’ with him (v.6b), ‘minister to’ him (v.6c), ‘stand’ in his ‘presence’ (v.7). Slander (v.5a), pride (v.5b) and ‘deceit’ (v.7) are sins of the mouth, heart and action. They bring us under God’s judgment.
Thank God for the cross where ‘love’ and ‘justice’ mingle – truth and mercy meet. This is where God is both ‘just’ and justifies the one who has faith in him (Romans 3:23–26). Without the cross, we would be cut off from the Lord (Psalm 101:8).
Father, thank you that through our Lord Jesus Christ I have been justified by faith and have peace with you (Romans 5:1). Help me to bring this message of love, justice and peace to the world.
Peace in the church1 Corinthians 14:20-40
‘God is not a God of disorder but of peace’ (v.33). The apostle Paul is clear that the creativity and spontaneity of the gifts of the Spirit, do not give licence for disorder in church meetings. ‘When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony’ (v.33, MSG).
Paul describes the way to peaceful, harmonious and orderly meetings in the church – ‘everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way’ (v.40). It may involve an appropriate keeping quiet (v.28) in order to let others speak.
This gives us some sense of what church meetings were like in the early church. Clearly, there was an expectation that the gifts of the Spirit would be exercised regularly: ‘When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation’ (v.26).
Gifts need to be exercised in an orderly way. There shouldn’t be anything weird or hyped up about spiritual gifts. It may surprise some that the singer Katy Perry once said, ‘Speaking in tongues is as normal to me as “Pass the salt”. It’s a secret, direct prayer language to God.’
Paul’s comments about prophecy and tongues being a ‘sign’ often cause confusion. He seems to say one thing in v.22 (tongues are a sign for unbelievers; prophecy for believers), and then the opposite in v.23! It is unlikely, though, that Paul would contradict himself.
It seems to me that Paul is saying that both the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy should be used only in their appropriate ways. Throughout this chapter, Paul is giving instructions for the orderly use of tongues and prophecy in the church. When used inappropriately, both can be a source of chaos (vv.6–12 and vv.29–33), in which case unbelievers will think we are out of our minds.
If used appropriately within the context of church meetings, both tongues and prophecy can be an amazing indication of God’s presence (vv.22–25). Prophecy can be a powerful ‘sign’ for unbelievers that ‘God is really among you!’ (v.25). We have often seen this to be the case.
Whereas singing in tongues is a corporate activity, speaking in a tongue is an individual activity that requires an interpretation. Therefore, people ‘should speak one at a time and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speakers should keep quiet in the church and speak to themselves and God’ (vv.27–28).
Likewise, prophecy should be taken in turns. There is no limit to the number of prophecies. The speaker is always in full control: ‘The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets’ (v.32). In the demonic world, ‘spirits’ take over a person and they lose control. Not so with the Holy Spirit. A person speaking in tongues or prophesying is in full control. They can start when they choose and they can stop when they choose to do so. ‘For God is not a God of disorder but of peace’ (v.33).
Many explanations have been put forward for Paul’s instruction that women should remain silent in the churches (v.34). It is important to remember that Paul’s focus here is not on gender roles but on the conduct of public worship. He is addressing a series of specific problems that have arisen in the Corinthian church. He has already made it clear that he did expect women to speak in meetings. He writes, ‘Every woman who prays or prophesies...’ (11:5).
What is clear is that people, both men and women, did not come just as consumers but as contributors. The question we should ask is not ‘What am I getting out of church?’, but ‘What am I giving out at church?’ They did not come just to receive but also to help others. ‘When you gather to worship, each of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all’ (14:26, MSG). If we all come to church with this attitude of being a contributor it will totally transform our services of worship.
Lord, help us in all our services and other meetings to exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit in such a way that when people come into the church they will ‘fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”’ (v.25).
Peace in the nation2 Chronicles 13:1-15:19
War devastates nations (15:5,6). It brings death, destruction and usually poverty. On the other hand, peace allows a nation to build and to become prosperous (14:7).
When Asa became King of Judah, ‘The country was at peace for ten years’ (v.1). This peace was a gift of God, ‘God kept the peace’ (v.6 MSG).
How does this peace and rest come about? The answer, which the chronicler gives is at least threefold:
- Seek God wholeheartedly
It was when they ‘prayed desperately to God’ (13:14, MSG) that God ‘delivered them’ (v.16). Asa ‘commanded Judah to seek the Lord’ (14:4). He said to the people, ‘We have this peaceful land because we sought God; he has given us rest from all troubles’ (v.7, MSG)
The prophet Azariah says, ‘If you seek him, he will be found by you’ (15:2). ‘In their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them’ (v.4). ‘They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul’ (v.12).
They sought God wholeheartedly and ‘God gave them peace within and without – a most peaceable kingdom!’ (v.15, MSG).
- Obey God fully
When Asa heard the prophecy, ‘he took courage’ (v.8). Asa said to Judah, ‘Obey [God’s] laws and commands’ (14:4). The prophet Azariah said, ‘If you forsake him, he will forsake you’ (15:2). This passage is an example of God’s faithfulness to us when we do choose to obey him fully.
- Rely on God totally
‘The men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors’ (13:18). ‘They trusted God’ (v.18, MSG). ‘Asa called on the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you”’ (14:11).
This is what it means to be ‘fully committed to the Lord’ (15:17). The result was that Asa’s work was rewarded (v.7) and the Lord his God was with him (v.9). There was peace and rest.
Lord, I want to seek you wholeheartedly, obey you fully and rely on you totally. I pray for rest and peace in my own life, in the church, in our land and between nations.
2 Chronicles 15:5
‘In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil.’
We are blessed to live in a time when travelling around the UK is safe most of the time. There are many parts of the world today where there is ‘great turmoil’ – people escaping from persecution, wars and brutal regimes. We need to keep praying and support those working for change.
Verse of the Day
‘… be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded’ (2 Chronicles 15:7).