Bill Crowder tells the story about the time he was scheduled to teach at a Bible conference outside the US and was waiting for his visa to be approved. It had been rejected once, and time was slipping away. Without the visa, he would lose the opportunity for ministry, plus his colleagues in that country would have to find another speaker at the last minute.
During those stressful days, a co-worker asked Bill how he felt about it all. Bill told him he was experiencing “peaceful anxiety.”
When the friend reacted with a quizzical look Bill explained: “I have anxiety because I need the visa and there is nothing I can do about it. But I have great peace because I know that, after all, there is nothing I can do about it!”
“Peaceful anxiety?” It sounds like an oxymoron. But in a way, it speaks to our troubled times. Tension among nations. Racial divide. Societal upheaval. Mass murderers. And now shootings in places of worship.
Facebook is filled with good brethren debating over whether churches should have security plans in place. Should we lock the doors during worship? Carry weapons? Hire security guards.
I don’t know. But I do know peace is one of life’s elusive goals. Nations make treaties to restore it. Communities pass laws to keep it. And conflicted people will do anything to find it.
God promises peace to believers. “Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:6-7).
Dr. Thayer says the word peace means “tranquility, exemption from rage and havoc; harmony, concord, security, safety, and felicity.” In the Bible, it refers to “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot.”
Peace begins with our relationship with God. He is called “the God of peace” (Rom 15:33). William Hendriksen expressed it this way. “This sweet peace originates in God who himself possesses it in his own being. He is glad to impart it to his children. It is, therefore, “the gift of God’s love.” He not only gives it; he also maintains it at every step. Hence, it has every right to be called “the peace of God.” It is founded on grace. It is merited for believers by Christ (John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19, 21, 26).
Peace is the product of prayer. In the previous verse, Paul admonished, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6).
Worry impedes our relationship with God, weakens our faith, and gives birth to doubt that dampens our hope. Anxiety diminishes our focus and distracts us from spiritual priorities. In fact, brooding can lead us down a dark road of discouragement, depression, and finally despair. So when we pray, anxiety is replaced by peace.
Peace serves as a guard to the heart. When Paul wrote these words he was chained to a Roman soldier and guarded day and night. Similarly, God guards His people. God guards the hearts and minds of Christians. He watches over them. Protects them. Keeps them from fear, worry, and anxiety.
Divine peace is beyond our comprehension. Just like the love of God surpasses the length, breadth, depth and width of our human understanding (Eph. 3:14-19), so does His peace. It transcends human insight and experience.
Much of what happens in this sin sick world is out of my personal control. Whether or not you “pack heat” when attending worship is your decision. I will leave security plans to the judgment of local churches where it belongs. But one thing we can do all and should do, is trust the God of peace. Seek His Divine favor. And as much as possible live all peace with all men.
Puritan author Thomas Watson was right when he wrote, “If God be our God, He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman