Dr. Jim Denison
A friend sent me these first-grade proverbs. The teacher gave the kids the first half of the sentence, and they supplied the rest:
“Don’t bite the hand that … looks dirty.”
“If you lie down with dogs, you’ll … stink in the morning.”
“A penny saved is … not much.”
“Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and … you have to blow your nose.”
“Better to be safe than … punch a 5th grader.”
Even first-graders know that peace is valuable. And they’re right.
Here are some front-page headlines from this week’s newspaper: “5 shot dead at Oak Cliff home;” “19 die, dozens hurt in Mideast;” “Shooting victims’ family says suspect was abusive;” “NY to mark Sept. 11 with readings, flame;” “14 die in Colombia as leader sworn in;” “Holy Land’s assets will remain frozen.”
The one-year anniversary of the September 11 tragedy is one month away.
This week a bomb was discovered at the Olympic Stadium in Athens where the modern Olympic movement began and is scheduled to be celebrated again in two years. A movement to advance world peace has begun. $600 million will be spent for security there, the highest total in history.
Clearly, our world needs peace. Where do you? With whom are you at odds today? Where do you need a relationship to be healed? Where do you need peace?
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God,” Jesus promises. The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom:” peace with God, self and others. Today we’ll learn from God’s word where we find such peace for ourselves, and then how we can give it to the person with whom we need it most.
Make peace with God
Where can you find peace for your own heart, soul, and mind?
The Bible says, “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11).
Jesus promised us, “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).
Later he said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Peace is one of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). It is the result of the Spirit’s work, not human ability. One researcher has determined that in the last 4,000 years, there have been less than 300 years of peace in the world. We cannot create peace ourselves. We can only receive it from God.
How? Here are the answers I found in God’s word this week.
First, if you want peace, accept the love of God.
Actress Sophia Loren told USA Today, “I should go to heaven; otherwise it’s not nice. I haven’t done anything wrong. My conscience is very clean. My soul is as white as those orchids over there, and I should go straight, straight to heaven.” Listen, by contrast, to the word of God.
The prophet said of Jesus, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Paul added, “He himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).
When we accept Jesus’ forgiving love by faith, we receive God’s peace: “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
We cannot be at peace with a perfect God and live in his perfect heaven, unless we are made perfect ourselves. This is why Jesus died on the cross: to pay the penalty for our sins, to purchase our forgiveness. We can only be at peace with God by accepting his love, by making Jesus our Savior and Lord.
If you’re trying to be good enough for God—religious enough, moral enough, successful or significant enough—know that you’re not succeeding. Imagine what it would take for a human being to impress the God of the universe. But we can accept the atoning love of Jesus, and be made right with God. This is the first step to true peace.
Next, if you want peace, obey the word of God.
In a recent interview, musician Paul Simon said, “The only thing that God requires from us is to enjoy life—and love. It doesn’t matter if you accomplish anything. You don’t have to do anything but appreciate that you’re alive. And love, that’s the whole point.” Note the contrast between his statement and God’s word.
The Psalmist prayed, “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165).
God said through his prophet, “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river” (Isaiah 48:18).
God’s word gives the guideposts we need to live successfully. Here are the signs which point us to our destination and keep us out of ditches and dead ends. These principles are for our good, and they give us God’s peace. So meet God every day in the Scriptures. Measure your every decision by his truth. Obey his word, and you’ll have his peace.
Third, if you want peace, receive the forgiveness of God.
Dwight Moody gave a Bible to a friend, but first wrote these words on its flyleaf: “Either this Book will separate you from your sins, or your sins will separate you from this book.” When we obey the word of God, we judge ourselves in its light. We see ourselves as God does. The closer we are to God, the further away we realize we are. Then we seek and receive his forgiveness for our sins, and we have his peace.
God told the prophet, “There is no peace for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).