THE STORMS OF LIFE
The Peace That Passes Understanding Philippians 4:6-7
I’m trying to remember if I have ever heard in my faith experience a reasonable explanation of what this “peace that passes all understanding” is. I can’t think of it. Most explanations focus on what it’s not. Well that doesn’t help as I don’t need someone to tell me why an apple isn’t an orange I can figure that out myself! I need someone to tell me what makes the apple an apple! Lets take a stab at this together and step into the deep!
I’ve heard verses like John 14: 27 used to describe this “peace” and again referring to what it’s not Jesus, talking to his disciples says “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.” Ok so it’s obvious the “peace that passes understanding” is not world’s idea of peace but again what is it? Here’s my take away, most Christians don’t know because most Christians don’t have an answer!
And I’m not even sure they could answer it because it is so misunderstood and convoluted with what we desire for ourselves and what we think would give us peace.…..
From my experience in faith, (I’m fifty two now) fraught with failures, and half baked seasons of my life following Christ I haven’t found a “blissful” feeling that took all of life’s troubles away. In fact when life was the toughest, bliss was the farthest from my mind! I think back in 2002 when I was on a cruise once I experienced complete bliss and when I was sixteen and working as a cowboy one summer in the mountains of Colorado I experienced bliss but honestly as far back as I can remember there hasn’t been a lot of bliss!
I’m going to use two verses to try and get a handle on what I think our focus verse, Phil 4:6-7 and what Jesus was saying in John 14: 27 means. At least you won’t leave this read with a sales job on obtaining something that doesn’t exist. What’s that you ask? Well I’m glad you did!
It’s some half baked idea that tries to synthesize an idea of worldly peace sending followers of Christ scrambling for “moments of emotion” that are nothing more than the absence of turmoil replaced with emotional happiness that is then packaged as “peace.”
Jesus never taught that. So if you’re an emotion addict this probably won’t sit well with you!
Let’s add Isaiah 26: 3 to the mix. “He will keep thee in perfect peace who’s mind is stayed on thee,” to the verses in consideration. It’s important we do this as Christians also tend to carve the New Testament like amputating an arm from the Old Testament and forget the same God who exists through both doesn’t change in character! ( Hebrews 13: 8 Malachi 3:6)
All three verses clearly tell us what this “peace that passes understanding” is.
It is a life over time lived out in relationship with the Father. Philippians 4:6-7 is talking about complete surrender “In all things” brought before God. It’s a way of living, not a knee jerk reaction to stress. Jesus statement in John likewise is a statement made to His disciples telling them what He’s giving them as opposed to what the world has already given them over the course of their lives. Isaiah makes it clear as well “who’s mind is stayed on thee.” That means not only focused but consistently dependent again over time on God.
Our life lived out in community with God is a supernatural occurrence; it’s not something we’ve accomplished. The peace that passes understanding is that supernatural occurrence maintained by God in His power in an over the course of your life. We talk a lot about Grace in the modern church and well we should, but here’s one definition of it we don’t hear much and its lock stock and barrel part of the definition of the word used for grace in the New Testament which happens to be “charis” (pronounced “khar’ee” for you Bible scholars) and its used exclusively 128 times in the New Testament WHENEVER the subject of grace is discussed.
Grace is: “an act of the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in your life…” It’s funny we hear the unmerited favor part of the definition of grace all the time. It’s accurate as well but in itself, not only is it incomplete its actually found later in the definition of the word “khar’ee.” I found by the way, its not being reminded of how little merit I have that gets me through the storms of life, I get that already, that’s why I got saved in the first place! What gets me through is the supernatural knowledge of God working out His reflection in my life. That’s the peace, it’s a confidence in this truth that is meant to accompany the believer in their walk of faith. It has nothing to do with and I repeat nothing to do with “feeling good” although when I focus, contemplate, and acknowledge this truth meditatively I certainly experience a deep sense of peace in my soul even when my emotions feel quite the opposite.
Isn’t it interesting right before the description of the peace Jesus is offering in John 14: 27 is John 14: 26. He promises to give the Holy Spirit to His followers. He says” But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” You can’t separate the two statements. The expression of God’s grace in your life is because He sends the Holy Spirit in response to simply believing in Jesus, you don’t earn it, and no one gives you it through laying on of hands. It is an amazing relationship like the bride is to the husband that occurs in the spirit that penetrates into who you are an allows you to walk with God through Jesus. The peace that passes all understanding is this supernatural relationship that now exists as the Holy Spirit resides in you. You and I determine the quality of that relationship as we respond to God freely and gratefully to allow His Spirit to express who He is though our lives. Let’s stop chasing after a form of peace in life Jesus and the Bible never taught! It’s a set up for frustration! When we see each other in church, in Bible study or at coffee, lets remember this supernatural occurrence is working itself out in the lives of those who follow Christ. It will probably prevent us from comparing ourselves to each other as well! Who wants to try and be someone else? Isn’t life tough enough just being ourselves?!