By David Faust
When the chemical engineer Alfred Nobel died in 1896, his will established a trust fund for rewarding outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, literature, and medicine, as well as the famous Nobel Peace Prize. Ironically, Nobel gained a significant portion of his fortune from inventing dynamite and explosives used in war. It’s an apt illustration of human nature. We talk about peace, but we create explosions. We long for peace of mind while sticks of emotional dynamite have their fuses burning inside of us.
The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, implied health, safety, prosperity, and well-being. It was used as a friendly greeting: “Shalom, my friend.” It appeared in prophecies about Jesus, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) and in passages like Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
Jesus told his 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).
What Peace Isn’t
Peace isn’t easy. Immediately after Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” he pronounced a blessing on those “who are persecuted because of righteousness” (Matthew 5:9, 10). The apostle Paul wrote about “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17), but his enemies hounded him day and night. Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34), for doing what is right sometimes means others will turn against you. Pearl S. Buck said, “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”
Peace isn’t merely an escape. An entrepreneur created a start-up business called a “serenity salon.” Customers paid several dollars to lie on a couch surrounded by soothing lights and music. The business didn’t succeed, though. Too much competition, I suppose, from “serenity saloons.” Alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, expensive vacations, excessive work—they’re shallow attempts to escape from reality, and they don’t lead to genuine peace.
Peace isn’t a human invention. We can’t manufacture it; we must receive it from God. We won’t experience it fully as long as we have guilty consciences and rebellious hearts. “There is no peace . . . for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).
What Peace Is
Peace is calmly trusting God, even in the face of adversity. Since Christ has “overcome the world,” we find peace in him even when troubles come (John 16:33).
Peace means being reconciled with God. It isn’t an emotion as much as it’s a condition of the soul. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Reconciliation with God then leads to reconciliation with others. “For he himself is our peace, who has . . . destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).
Outside of fellowship with God, we’re tormented on the inside by guilt and on the outside by our circumstances. We worry about explaining, excusing, or defending our actions. But when by grace we’re at ease, at home, in shalom with God, we experience a peace so profound that it can’t be measured.
Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein observed, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” And nothing counts much more than the peace that passes understanding, which is a gift from God.
1. Are you currently experiencing God’s shalom in your life?
2. How can you be a force for peace in your network of relationships this week?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for December 8, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Job 25, 26
Hosea 7, 8
Hosea 13, 14
Joel 2, 3
Amos 1, 2