While attending a concert, my mind detoured to a troublesome issue that insisted on my attention. Thankfully, the distraction was short-lived as the words of a beautiful hymn began to reach deep into my being. A men’s a capella group was singing “Be Still, My Soul.” Tears welled up as I listened to the words and contemplated the restful peace that only God can give:
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side! Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain.
When Jesus was denouncing the unrepentant towns where He had done most of His miracles (Matt. 11:20-24), He still had words of comfort for those who would come to Him. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened . . . . learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (vv. 28-29).
This statement is striking! Immediately following His strong words for those who were rejecting Him, Jesus extended an invitation to all to draw near to Him to find the peace we all yearn for. Jesus is the only one who can calm our restless, weary souls.
My friend’s words stung. Trying to sleep, I battled to stop mulling over her pointed comments about my strong opinions. As I lay there, I asked for God’s wisdom and peace. Several weeks later, still concerned about the matter, I prayed, “I hurt, Lord, but show me where I need to change. Show me where she’s right.”
My friend had acted as God’s sandpaper in my life. My feelings felt rubbed raw, but I sensed that how I responded would lead to the building of my character—or not. My choice was to submit to the smoothing process, confessing my pride and stubborn stance. I sensed that my bumps and imperfections didn’t glorify the Lord.
King Solomon knew that life in community could be difficult, a theme he addressed in the book of Proverbs. In chapter 27, we see his wisdom applied to relationships. He likens the sharp words between friends as iron sharpening iron: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (v. 17), shaving off the rough edges in each other’s behavior. The process may bring about wounds, such as the hurt I felt from my friend’s words (see v. 6), but ultimately the Lord can use these words to help and encourage us to make needed changes in our attitude and behavior.
How might the Lord be smoothing out your rough edges for His glory?
Fear sneaks into my heart without permission. It paints a picture of helplessness and hopelessness. It steals my peace and my concentration. What am I fearful about? I’m concerned about the safety of my family or the health of loved ones. I panic at the loss of a job or a broken relationship. Fear turns my focus inward and reveals a heart that sometimes finds it hard to trust.
When these fears and worries strike, how good it is to read David’s prayer in Psalm 34: “I sought the
This awe of His goodness helps put our fears into perspective. When we remember who God is and how much He loves us, we can relax into His peace. “Those who fear him lack nothing” (v. 9), concludes David. How wonderful to discover that in the fear of the Lord we can be delivered from our fears.
When a British scholar called on the world’s religions to work together for worldwide unity, people everywhere applauded. Pointing out that the major religions share a belief in the Golden Rule, she suggested, “The chief task of our time is to build a global society where people of all persuasions can live together in peace and harmony.”
Jesus cited the Golden Rule in His Sermon on the Mount: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12). In the same sermon, He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (5:44). Putting those radical commands into practice would indeed go a long way toward peace and harmony. But immediately following the Golden Rule, Jesus called for discernment. “Watch out for false prophets,” He warned. “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (7:15).
Respect for others and discernment of the truth go hand in hand. If we have the truth, we have a message worth telling. But God extends to everyone the freedom to choose Him or reject Him. Our responsibility is to lovingly present the truth and respect the personal choice of others just as God does.
Our respect for others is vital to winning their respect. It’s an important step in gaining an opportunity to convey the message of Jesus, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
A women’s prayer group in my country holds regular monthly prayer sessions for Ghana and other African countries. When asked why they pray so incessantly for the nations, their leader Gifty Dadzie remarked, “Look around, listen to and watch the news. Our nations are hurting: war, disaster, diseases, and violence threaten to overshadow God’s love for humanity and His blessing upon us. We believe God intervenes in the affairs of nations, so we praise Him for His blessings and cry for His intervention.”
The Bible reveals that God indeed intervenes in the affairs of nations (2 Chron. 7:14). And when God intervenes, He uses ordinary people. We may not be assigned huge tasks, but we can play our part to help bring about peace and the righteousness that exalts a nation (Prov. 14:34). We can do that through prayer. The apostle Paul wrote, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:1–2).
As the psalmist exhorted the ancient Israelites to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6), so may we pray for the peace and healing of our nations. When we pray in humility, turn from wickedness, and seek God, He hears us.
During World War II my dad served with the US Army in the South Pacific. During that time Dad rejected any idea of religion, saying, “I don’t need a crutch.” Yet the day came when his attitude toward spiritual things would change forever. Mom had gone into labor with their third child, and my brother and I went to bed with the excitement of soon seeing our new brother or sister. When I got out of bed the next morning, I excitedly asked Dad, “Is it a boy or a girl?” He replied, “It was a little girl but she was born dead.” We began to weep together at our loss.
For the first time, Dad took his broken heart to Jesus in prayer. At that moment he felt an overwhelming sense of peace and comfort from God, though his daughter would always be irreplaceable. Soon he began to take an interest in the Bible and continued to pray to the One who was healing his broken heart. His faith grew through the years. He became a strong follower of Jesus—serving Him as a Bible-study teacher and a leader in his church.
Jesus is not a crutch for the weak. He is the source of new spiritual life! When we’re broken, He can make us new and whole (Ps. 119:75).
“I’m not surprised you lead retreats,” said an acquaintance in my exercise class. “You have a good aura.” I was jolted but pleased by her comment, because I realized that what she saw as an “aura” in me, I understood to be the peace of Christ. As we follow Jesus, He gives us the peace that transcends understanding (Phil. 4:7) and radiates from within—though we may not even be aware of it.
Jesus promised His followers this peace when, after their last supper together, He prepared them for His death and resurrection. He told them that though they would have trouble in the world, the Father would send them the Spirit of truth to live with them and be in them (John 14:17). The Spirit would teach them, bringing to mind His truths; the Spirit would comfort them, bestowing on them His peace. Though soon they would face trials—including fierce opposition from the religious leaders and seeing Jesus executed—He told them not to be afraid. The Holy Spirit’s presence would never leave them.
Although as God’s children we experience hardship, we too have His Spirit living within and flowing out of us. God’s peace can be His witness to everyone we meet—whether at a local market, at school or work, or in the gym. Amy Boucher Pye
David and 400 of his warriors thundered through the countryside in search of Nabal, a prosperous brute who had harshly refused to lend them help. David would have murdered him if he hadn’t first encountered Abigail, Nabal’s wife. She had packed up enough food to feed an army and traveled out to meet the troops, hoping to head off disaster. She respectfully reminded David that guilt would haunt him if he followed through with his vengeful plan (1 Sam. 25:31). David realized she was right and blessed her for her good judgment.
David’s anger was legitimate—he had protected Nabal’s shepherds in the wilderness (vv.14-17) and had been repaid evil for good. However, his anger was leading him into sin. David’s first instinct was to sink his sword into Nabal, even though he knew God did not approve of murder and revenge (Ex. 20:13; Lev. 19:18).
When we’ve been offended, it’s good to compare our instincts with God’s intent for human behavior. We may be inclined to strike at people verbally, isolate ourselves, or escape through any number of ways. However, choosing a gracious response will help us avoid regret, and most important it will please God. When our desire is to honor God in our relationships, He is able to make even our enemies to be at peace with us (see Prov. 16:7).
No one can afford the price of war. One website reports 64 nations are currently involved in armed conflicts. When and how will they end? We want peace, but not at the expense of justice.
Jesus was born during a time of “peace,” but it came at the cost of heavy-handed oppression. The Pax Romana (“Roman Peace”) existed only because Rome squashed all dissent.
Seven centuries before that time of relative peace, hostile armies prepared to invade Jerusalem. From the shadow of war, God made a remarkable pronouncement. “On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned,” the prophet declared (Isa. 9:2). “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . . Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end” (vv. 6-7). Matthew tells us that Isaiah’s prophecy found fulfillment in the Christ-child (Matt. 1:22-23; see also Isa. 7:14).
We adore the tiny baby in the manger scene. Yet that helpless babe is also the Lord Almighty, “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Isa. 13:13 nlt). He will one day “reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness” (9:7). Such a regime will be no oppressive Pax Romana. It will be the reign of the Prince of Peace.