Few subjects have been pondered more in our day than the question, Can we have peace in our time? This topic is being considered not only by Christians but by adherents of every type of religion, every type of belief or unbelief, and every type of political persuasion. It is not limited to the United States, nor to any color or culture. The whole world is seeking peace. All that is needed to have a headline on the front page of our papers is to have some Russian official smile a bit over something or other and immediately there is a wave of optimism that peace is around the corner. It reveals how close this matter is to the hearts of many people in the world.
In America, however, the need of peace has been only partially realized. We are remarkably comfortable and smug in this country. Most of us do not know what it is to be without homes, without food, and without any hope of the future as far as this world is concerned. No conqueror has ever come to our homes and told us to get out with only the clothes on our backs and to abandon all our earthly possessions. We have never lost our children through separation while fleeing from an enemy. But, in spite of the fact that we have suffered so little in comparison to many millions of the earth, even in America there is longing for peace. Nothing is more universal in the world today than the longing for peace.
Not only is there longing for peace politically, but if one examines the faces of people as they hurry along their way many of them tell the unspoken story of a longing for peace, for rest of heart, and for the lifting of some burden or trouble. There is much sorrow and difficulty even in our nation where we are blessed with so many material things. Peace of heart is a wonderful fruit of the Holy Spirit which is possible for believers in Christ. Even if war should come, Christians could have peace. This fact, so significant in itself, only emphasizes the need for world peace. Can the God who gives peace to the heart also give peace to the world? Can we have peace in our time? What does the Bible teach?
It is well to recognize that the Bible says a great deal about peace. It is unfortunate that many Christians do not know what the Bible teaches on this subject. Many passages in the Bible speak of a coming time when the nations of the world will be at peace one with the other. For instance, in Psalm 72 there are many references to peace which predict that the Lord Jesus Christ will bring peace at His second coming. In verse 3 it is revealed, “The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.” It is recorded in verse 7 of this Psalm that “In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.” It is clear that the Bible definitely predicts a time of peace.
In Isaiah, chapter 2, there is another promise of peace in relation to the time when the Lord will come to Zion. In Isaiah 2:4 it is written: “He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” This definite promise of world-wide peace is connected with the coming of the Lord. Another important reference is found in Isaiah 9:7 concerning the Son to be given to Israel, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” This is another sure promise of peace on the earth. These passages could be multiplied as they are not isolated references. There are many predictions in the Old Testament of the time of peace, a time when nations will give up their instruments of war and turn them into instruments of peace.
Why have these Scriptures predicting world peace not been fulfilled? Why is it that today, instead of beating our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruninghooks, we in America are spending seventy percent of our total national income on what we call defense, military weapons, and the upkeep of our military forces. The answer is that the world situation demands it. We need to defend ourselves. But it is a confession of the sense of insecurity that grips the hearts of leaders and populace alike. There is no peace in sight except an armed peace. Why is it that the peace predicted in the Bible has not come to the world?
The answer to this question is quite clear. The Scriptures reveal that the peace which is promised the world is connected with the coming of the Messiah who is the Lord Jesus Christ. History records the sad spectacle that when Christ came to the world, born of the Virgin Mary, and delivered His message to men, proclaiming Himself to be the Messiah of the Jews and the Savior of the world, the answer of the world was “Crucify him, crucify him!” There on the hill of Calvary our Lord and Savior was crucified between two thieves. Thus the One who alone could give peace was rejected. Why do we not have peace? The answer is that we do not have Christ. He alone is the Prince of peace.
A very natural question is “What can we do?” The Old Testament had this problem, as well as the New Testament. In the Old Testament Israel longed for peace and did not have it because they were not willing to yield their hearts and lives to God. They were not willing to believe the Word of God. As a result, many sad trials came to them. They were warned that they would lose their homes, be led off into captivity, and be separated forever from their children. They experienced all these pangs of heart because they were not willing to let God have His way. The prophets accordingly exhort the people to turn back to God. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 a typical word of exhortation and promise is given: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
This promise was given to Israel under the Old Testament order of things. In the Old Testament God said in effect: “If you want peace, come, confess your sins, yield your heart to me, obey my law, and I will heal your land.” In the Old Testament Israel was given specific promises. God told them: “If you obey me; I will give you peace; I will prosper you; I will cause your crops to prosper; I will give you rest among your enemies; I will keep you from pestilence and from disaster.” If they did not obey, God said that He would pour judgment after judgment upon them (Deut. 28-30). In spite of the plain warning of the Word of God, Israel turned its back on God. The result is recorded in historical sections of the Old Testament.
While the promises of the Word of God addressed to the Christian are somewhat different than those given Israel, it is clear that today, as yesterday, one cannot have peace without God. If one is looking for peace, he will not find it unless he finds it in God and in Christ. This is the only place where one can find peace. God is the author of peace, not man. How can man expect to have peace when he is at war with the Almighty God? The Scriptures, then, are perfectly plain why the world is in chaos today. The world is trying to get along without Christ. No amount of military arms will ever give us peace. It may serve as an expedient. We recognize the necessity of armed might, but it will not bring peace. Only Christ can bring peace. There will be no peace, according to the Scriptures, until Christ brings it.
Christ was once asked an important question by His disciples. They were concerned about the fact that the kingdom promises had not been fulfilled. The kingdom to them was the kingdom of righteousness and peace predicted in the Old Testament. They wanted to know when this would come, when the end would come of the age in which they were living, and when He was going to inaugurate this glorious kingdom. In Matthew 24 Christ gave them various signs, the things that would happen before the kingdom came to pass. One of the signs was mentioned in Matthew 24:6-7: “Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” Christ described in these words the character of the period between His first and second comings. This will also be the character of the time of awful tribulation and trouble predicted in Scripture. War will continue right up to the day the Prince of peace comes to establish peace.
The question is raised, What can we do about it? We must be practical about a program for peace. As long as we are living in a wicked world, there is some need for having armies and for spending money for defense. Few would recommend the abolishing of the police forces in our cities. It is recognized that while a police force should not be necessary, nevertheless there is a need for it under present conditions. Force must be used in order to maintain order in a wicked world. Likewise, in the world as a whole every effort should be made to maintain world peace.
On the other hand, there will not be any lasting peace for this world resulting from military force. We are merely putting crutches under a weak and sick world. It may stand up for a few more days, but it is not going to cure the disease. There is something fundamentally wrong with the world. It will be in war and trouble and turmoil until a new world order comes. This cannot be fulfilled until Christ returns and sets up His kingdom. Then, and then alone, nations of the world will abandon their instruments of war. Then only there will be peace and tranquillity over all the world for a thousand years when Christ will reign on the earth.
But what can be done about peace today? A very practical program concerning peace is revealed in the Scriptures. There is nothing man can do that will change fundamentally the course of world history. We are quite helpless to accomplish anything in the world except through prayer.
However, there is a way of peace which God has made wonderfully simple. It is a way of peace for the individual who is living in a war-torn world where uncertainties are the normal thing. While the future is unknown as far as ordinary history is concerned, there is a way of peace provided for us through the Lord Jesus Christ.
In that wonderful fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, our Lord Jesus Christ is pictured in His rejection and in His death by crucifixion as the Lamb of God sacrificed for us. In verse 5, it is written: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” There is a way of peace which has been bought by the precious blood of Christ. The Lord is able to bring peace with God for the sinner who is estranged, who is under God’s righteous judgment, and is without hope and without God. Peace is provided for the sinner who deserves to die, who deserves to be punished, and who does not have any merit. Christ died, and because He died there is a way of peace.
In Colossians 1:20 there is reference to this same truth in relation to Christ: “Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Again in Romans 5:1, it is written: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The greatest question in all the world as far as peace is concerned is not the question as to whether we can get along with Russia, or whether there will be another world war or not. These may be great questions, but they are not the greatest question. The greatest question is whether we have peace with God.
The Bible makes it clear that the only way one can have peace with God is through faith in Jesus Christ. If we have trusted in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and if we have accepted what Christ did for us on the cross, we can have peace. It is promised to us, “Being justified by faith, we have peace.” It is a present possession. The enmity is wiped out. The judgment is gone. We are at peace with God because we are accepted in the perfection of the person and work of His dear Son.
Oh the wonder and the joy of knowing that we have peace with God in spite of our unworthiness. Can we have peace in our time? We may not have peace with nations, but we can have peace with God. Peace with God is the position of every Christian. It is not so much an experience as it is a fact. One is either at peace with God or he is not at peace with Him. If one is saved, he has peace with God.
After one has peace with God, there is also the possibility of a vital experience of peace. Some Christians have peace with God who know very little about the peace of God, which is the experience of peace.
The Scriptures, however, speak of this aspect of peace frequently. In John 14:27, Christ was dealing with His disciples on the night before His crucifixion. The disciples were fearful. They did not know what the future held. They had sensed that something was impending, but they did not know what it was. They did not know that Christ would be crucified the next day. He had told them he was going to die, but they had not believed it. The Scriptures indicate that they were troubled. He had said in John 13 that He was going away, but they could not understand. In 14:1 He exhorted them, “Let not your heart be troubled,” but they still were perplexed. Now He tells them in verse 27: “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.”
Do you have the peace of God? It is God’s gift. You cannot earn it, and no amount of resolve on your part can secure it. It is something God has to do for you. In Galatians 5:22, we are told that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. The thing that astounds us is not that Christ simply gives us peace, but He said, “My peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). “My peace”! What is the peace of Christ? What is He talking about on this night before His crucifixion? Twenty-four hours later His body lay in a tomb, riven with the nails in His hands and feet, the spear wound in His side, and yet He speaks of “my peace.” What kind of peace is this?
None of us, of course, understand the peace of Christ. We cannot enter into the consciousness of the incarnate Son of God. But what did Christ mean when He said “My peace I give unto you”? How could Christ, knowing what was ahead for Him, have peace at this time? He knew that He would die on the cross the next day.
The peace of Christ, as nearly as we can define it, is the rest of heart that is God’s own experience. God has perfect confidence in His own wisdom, power, and love so that He knows that all things will work together for good to them that love God. The only way, then, one can have the peace of God is to attain perfect confidence in the God who gives peace. When one realizes that he is trusting One who is infinitely wise and powerful, who knows all about everything, who has perfect provision for every human need, then he can have peace. When one realizes that his life is in the hands of a God who loves him enough to send His Son to die for him, and that the Christ who died is risen and is interceding for him at the right hand of the Father, then he can have peace. When one believes that God has promised never to let him go until God has perfected His work and he is a trophy of grace throughout all eternity, he certainly can have peace. According to Ephesians 2:5, believers in Christ will be a living illustration throughout all eternity of what the grace of God can do.
The securing of the peace of God is more than an act of faith; it is a fruit of the Spirit. God Himself produces in us that wonderful experience of rest of heart. One cannot explain it, but one can enjoy and experience it.
How can we get this peace? There are three simple rules. The peace of God must rest upon implicit faith. In Isaiah 26:3, a familiar verse to many, there is this promise: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” When we lose this peace of God, it is always traceable to an imperfection in our faith. We have somehow taken our eyes off the Lord instead of trusting Him perfectly. We have begun to lean on the arm of flesh and to return to the principle that we have to do it, that it all depends on us. But how wonderful it is to rest: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.” This is one of the vital secrets of peace.
A second secret of peace in a practical way is prayer. In Philippians 4:6-7, a very familiar section, we read: “Be careful [or be anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Prayer is our part. In every circumstance, in everything, along with thanksgiving—the reminders of what God has done and is doing—“let your requests be made known unto God.” The promise follows: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” That is a wonderful promise. It is so complete. The heart of man, as we understand it in the Scripture, is the seat of our will, of our affection, emotion, attitudes, and love. We sometimes think our emotions are uncontrollable. God says He will keep our hearts at rest. But it also mentions our minds. Sometimes our problems are intellectual problems. What shall I do with my business? With my job? What shall I do with this problem, or with that problem? Mental problems are often the cause of much trouble. God says, however, I will give peace there, too. If God takes the mind of man and the heart of man and gives peace in both, there is certainly peace complete. It is a promise, but it will not be accomplished simply through prayer. The Philippian passage states that peace comes “through Christ Jesus.” When we have performed our part in prayer and in trust, God will undertake for us and give us this wonderful peace.
A third very simple rule is found in Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” It is a plain exhortation. It really is surprising, if we are willing to admit it, how some of us love to worry. If we did not have something to worry about, we would feel very unnatural. Some Christians are happy-go-lucky in their attitude toward the problems of life. Others may be inclined to be careful about everything. But this exhortation applies to all of us. “Let the peace of God rule.” Let it. In other words, God wants to give us this gift of “my peace.” He wants the Christian to have rest of heart. He wants us to experience that for which the heart of man naturally hungers. It is not for the apostles only. It is not for preachers, exclusively. It is for every trusting believer in Christ. Everyone who is willing to trust God and have peace with God through Jesus Christ can also have the peace of God.
It is rather a strange thing that we are willing to trust God for eternity, for heaven, for all the issues that stretch on as far as our mind can go. Many have no unrest of heart as far as eternal salvation is concerned and are perfectly satisfied that they have peace with God. But when it comes to thinking of ordinary, every-day problems, they cannot get rest of heart. We are willing to trust God for eternity, but when it comes to time we think we just have to worry along. Let us be reasonable. If God can save our souls and provide for us for all eternity, if He has manifested His love, His wisdom and His power unmistakably, the God of eternity is also the God of time, and he can give us peace.
The Scriptures are plain. God has never promised us an easy time in this life. Christ told His disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” As far as we know, every one of the eleven faithful disciples died a martyr’s death. The death of James is recorded. The deaths of Paul and Peter are predicted. Apparently, the others also died the death of a martyr. Is not this a pretty hard lot for those who had trusted Christ and had given their lives over to Him? “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” Christ not only promised us tribulation, but He said: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.” This is the peculiar characteristic of our Christian faith. In the midst of unrest, chaos, and uncertainty in a war-torn world, the Christian has the peace of heaven in his heart and in his daily experience. That is wonderful. In heaven we will have peace, and in heaven we will have rest of heart. But in heaven everyone will have peace. The marvelous thing now is that God has given us the opportunity of testifying to His wonderful grace in the midst of trouble, having in our hearts the peace of God that passeth all understanding.
Can we have peace in our time? The Scriptures teach that there can be no peace among the nations until Christ returns. He, the Prince of peace, will bring peace to the nations. But the Bible also teaches that here and now anyone who is willing to trust in Christ can have peace with God. Any Christian who is willing to let peace rule in His heart can have the wonderful peace of God.
There is an old saying, “The best way to avoid the shadows is to face the sun.” If you are facing the sun you do not see the shadows. If you are facing the Son of God, if your face is fixed upon Him, you can have peace even though you are in trial.
Christ is our peace; Christ made peace for us; Christ gives His own peace, “Let not your heart be troubled.” “My peace I give unto you.”