Topical Scripture: Matthew 5:9
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 fifth grader.”
Even first-graders know that peace is valuable. And they’re right. It has been estimated that in the last 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, constituting 8 percent of recorded history.
Clearly, our world needs peace. Between the floods on the Gulf Coast, rising tensions in the Persian Gulf, and challenges with Iran’s nuclear programs, it seems that turmoil makes the news every.
Where do you need more peace in your life? 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, “May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” (Psalm 29:11).
Jesus promised us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Later he said, “I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. 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.
Clearly, we cannot create peace ourselves. We can only receive it from God. How? Here are some answers from God’s word.
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, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5).
Paul added, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).
When we accept Jesus’ forgiving love by faith, we receive God’s peace: “Therefore since we have been justified by 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.
Musician Paul Simon once told an interviewer, “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 those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165). God said through his prophet, “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;” (Isaiah 48:18).
God’s word gives the guideposts we need to live successfully. Herein 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: “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”
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). He added: “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.” (Isaiah 57:20). And he warned: “The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.” (Isaiah 59:8).
His word is clear: “Be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). So confess your sins to God if you want to have peace with him. He is waiting to forgive you, cleanse you, and set you free. He loves you that much. But you must ask.
Fourth, if you want peace, trust the will of God.
Advice from the Book of Job: “Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you.” (Job 22:21). Paul agreed: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15).
Trust the will of God, and you’ll say with the prophet: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3).
Are you at peace with God this morning? Have you accepted his love? Are you obeying his word? Have you received his forgiveness? Are you trusting his will?
H. G. Wells was right: “If there is no God, nothing matters. If there is a God, nothing else matters.” He promises you his peace and tells you how to receive it. The decision is yours.
Make peace with others
Now, how do we give this peace we receive from God? How do we become “peacemakers” with others? With whom do you most need peace today? Think of that person and take these biblical steps toward the peace you need.
First, initiate pardon.
As we learned from the fifth beatitude, we are to choose not to punish whatever wrong has been done to us. God’s word instructs us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:18-19).
Later the apostle adds, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Initiate pardon. And you will be a peacemaker.
Second, seek reconciliation.
Jesus teaches us, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23–24, emphasis added).
If someone has something against you, whether you believe their anger is justified or not, go to them. Seek reconciliation. And you will be a peacemaker.
Third, choose peace.
Whether the person accepts your pardon or receives your attempts at reconciliation, choose peace. Give them to God and choose his peace.
The Bible says, “God has called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15). It exhorts us: “Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:13). Our Master tells us, “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (Romans 15:7).
God commands us: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God, and that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:14–15).
When we have God’s peace in our heart, we can give it to others. And when we give peace to others, we find it in our own heart. As we love God, we love our neighbor. As we love our neighbor, we love God.
And then we “will be called sons of God.” Jesus does not say that we become sons of God—that would be works righteousness. But people will know that we are God’s children as we give his peace to them: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Is your soul at peace with those who matter to you? Would you seek peace with God, and with them? Your life will be forever different if you will.
Consider John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church. He rode enough miles on horseback preaching the gospel to circle the globe ten times. He preached more than forty thousand sermons. You can buy more than ninety-five books containing his writings in English. He was clearly one of the greatest Christian leaders in history.
But his story did not begin the way it ended.
As a young man, Wesley went to America as a missionary but was not himself converted. He wrote in his journal, “I went to America to convert the Indians, but oh! who shall convert me?”
Then he encountered Moravian missionaries on board a ship bound for America. He notes in his journal that one day, the group had just begun to sing a psalm of worship when “the sea broke over, split the main-sail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans [Moravians] calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, ‘Was you not afraid?’ He answered, ‘I thank God, No.’ I asked, ‘But were not your women and children afraid?’ He replied mildly, ‘No; our women and children are not afraid to die.’
“From them I went to their crying, trembling neighbours, and pointed out to them the difference in the hour of trial, between him that feareth God, and him that feareth him not. At twelve the wind fell. This was the most glorious Day which I have hitherto seen.”
Wesley later testified that the Moravians’ peace contributed directly to his conversion.
Who will see the peace of Christ in you this week?