“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.”
I often wonder about the man who wrote these words, Horatio Spafford. It is not so much the tragedy that moved him to pen these words that awes me; but the fact that a man – any man – could write such words, regardless of the circumstances he had faced in life. The misfortune that overtook Mr. Spafford was horrific in its own right; but the fact is, many of us can hardly show a fraction of the kind of inner peace that he demonstrated when we find ourselves undergoing the slightest discomfort. There are some of us, saints, for whom even an itch is enough to wipe away all the peace in their lives. We will utter every kind of selfish baloney simply because there probably is not enough hot water to wash away the sweat that is causing our itch!
The Bible talks a lot about peace. Let us consider a few scriptures in this regard.
In practically every epistle of his, except the letter to the Hebrews, the first sentence that the Apostle Paul invariably begins his letters with is:
“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the Book of Hebrews, he ends by saying:
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus…”
Paul talks of “the God of peace”; how important this peace must be to us, then!
To the beloved sons – Timothy and Titus – that he had begotten in the Spirit, Paul added the word “mercy”. In his first epistle to Timothy, he writes:
“Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Tim. 1:2)
And in 2 Timothy he writes:
“To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2 Tim. 1:2)
To Titus he writes:
“To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Tit. 1:4).
Let us digress a little bit and ask, why “mercy” specifically to these two?
The word “mercy” talks of compassion. This word, therefore, reflects how dear Paul held these two disciples of his. They were his own “blood and flesh”, so to speak, in the Spirit.
And compassionate he had to be towards them, not just on account of having begotten them in the Spirit, but, more importantly, because he was aware that, as men who led others, they would of necessity have to walk the same road that he had walked for the gospel’s sake. He knew all too well how tough that road was, and His heart yearned for them; indeed, yearned for God’s mercy to be upon them as they would literally pass through the “valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4).
Paul uses the word “mercy” here in much the same way that Jesus used the word “lambs” to refer to his sheep, the church, when He addressed Peter in John 21:15. It is a sign of inexpressible love.
But… back to deliberating on the peace of God.
You will notice that the Apostle Paul ended up talking about grace and peace more than joy in his epistles. It therefore beats God the way we emphasize on joy rather than peace in our sermons. You invariably hear more in church about “the joy of the Lord” than “peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It shows that we have fallen short in our understanding of God. Had the Apostle Paul understood God the way we do, he would have began his letters with “joy” rather than “peace”. Moreover, there are 51 references to “peace” in the Pauline epistles, compared to only 26 references to “joy”. That’s nearly double the number! Not that joy is less important. But this emphasis, coupled with Paul’s salutations of “grace and peace” to the churches, gives us an understanding of the foundational importance of both these Godly attributes in our lives. (Paul uses the word “grace” 99 times in his letters!)
Grace and peace are the basis of everything else that we can bear in the Spirit for the Kingdom of God. Grace is the tap root. Peace are the primary roots. Everything else in our lives depends on these two attributes in our lives.
If we do not have peace in our hearts, we cannot accomplish anything in the Spirit. Let us go on and notice further the strange way the Bible emphasizes the word “peace”:
“And the way of peace have they not known” (Rom. 3:17).
Is that not so much like many of us? Even though we have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, yet the peace of God seems to elude us on so many fronts. Much of the time we seem to have peace only when things are going our way.
“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Rom. 8:7)
Notice, here, that life and peace are placed on an equal pedestal in the eyes of God.
And how about:
“but God hath called us to peace.” (1 Cor. 7:15)
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 14:17)
In other words, of the many things that the Kingdom of God consists of, peace is right there, among the top three. How important the peace of God is, then, to us as children of God; and how much we should make sure this peace is there always in our hearts for us to be effective in the Kingdom of God.
[“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:7]