“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
When the apostle Paul mentions “peace” as a fruit of the Spirit, he is not talking about a world where there is no war, or a home where there is no tension, or a person who is experiencing no conflict. That may be peace as the world defines it—in fact, one dictionary defines peace as “freedom from disturbance; tranquility.” Rather, what Paul is referring to is an inner peace that does not (necessarily) reflect what is going on around us.
This is a peace, first, with God. This aspect of our peace comes from knowing that we are His. He has made us His through the sacrificial death of His son, and He is fully, compassionately involved in every aspect of our lives.
Second, we have a peace within ourselves that allows us to face even the most difficult circumstances. Paul calls this a peace “which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). This is the peace which only God can give you when you face cancer, or the grave illness of a loved one, or even imprisonment for your faith. This is the peace Paul talked about when he said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).
Paul could say this, and you can too, because he firmly trusted in his God to be aware of his needs. He knew, as you can know, that “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
That’s pretty heady stuff, isn’t it?
And, trust me, I know it isn’t easy! A few years ago when I was undergoing treatment for cancer, I really struggled with anxiety. As I sat in the waiting room every day, day after day, waiting for treatments, I would repeat every verse I had ever memorized over and over and over. Intellectually I was aware that I should “be anxious for nothing,” that I should “cast all my care on him, because he cares for me”; that “lo, I am with you always.” But somehow, sitting in that waiting room, those promises had a hard time getting into my mind.
What Corrie ten Boom said is so true: “Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling abound a center of fear… Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” In the end, I was able to cling to God’s sure promise that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). And, sure enough, I was able to use those lessons God taught me during that time to comfort others I knew as they went through similar circumstances.
But there’s one more aspect of this peace that we need to address. God calls us not only to have peace, His peace, within us, but He also expects us to be peacemakers. The idea of how important peace is can be seen in the fact that the word for peace, eirene, occurs 80 times in the New Testament. It is mentioned in every single New Testament book but one (1 John). Peace with God, yes—“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Peace within ourselves, yes—“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). But also, peace between ourselves and others. Just a few examples:
- Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
- Romans 12:18 – If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
- Romans 14:19 – Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
- 2 Corinthians 13:11 – Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.
- Ephesians 4:3 – Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
- Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
- Hebrews 12:14 – Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy…
- 1 Peter 3:11 – They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.
One last point. This type of peace is not optional for the Christian. God has called us to live at peace. But it must also be clearly understood that this type of peace does not come naturally without the power of the Holy Spirit living and working in us.
You have most likely heard the story behind the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.” The story reads rather like a relatively modern-day Job. Horatio Spafford lost a significant fortune in the Chicago fire in 1871. Around the same time, his four-year-old son died of scarlet fever. He sent his wife and four daughters off on a ship to England in an effort to improve their spirits, planning to join them after completing some business.
But during the crossing the ship was involved in a collision and sank. All four daughters were lost. He received a message from his wife, “Saved alone.” Horatio took the next available ship to join his wife. As he passed the spot where his daughters died, he wrote these incredible words:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll—
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.
How very true the words of John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”