It’s worth beginning with an observation of the context in which Paul speaks of peace. Throughout the New Testament where Paul is teaching, he speaks of peace so often in the context of tension. These tensions exist within the church, between believers and therefore when speaking about peace we remember how this was accomplished by God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5). However, this doesn’t rule out his prayer for the Thessalonian church to be blessed with God’s peace and how that peace will be given to them and remain with them at all times and in every way. Therefore the peace which God gives covers all circumstances, everything from tension in a church to being worried about any particular issue.
Given not produced
As we consider the phrase “Lord of peace” (2 Thess 3:16) we learn that the origin of peace and as Paul says in Colossians, is a peace that is to rule in our hearts (Col 3:15) is God himself. Peace is an attribute of God and therefore when the Lord of peace gives us peace it is no less than the giving of himself to our condition. It is a peace which cannot be produced by human hands, obtained through human purchase, or received from any person. The peace of God is a gift but many are not always sure what it is that they have received, or even if they have received it given that they still worry. Does this peace put an end to worry? If so, then why hasn’t it? Since God is peace and is never worried, why might we be? Given that His peace has been given, the prayer has been answered?
The prayer is that God would give us peace at all times, yet many never feel at peace all the time. Why is this? God it would seem, will never interrupt the peace that He gives us and yet there are plenty of interruptions and long periods where there is no peace at all. The point that Paul is making is that the peace of God is always available to us, it is constantly available but that does not mean that it cannot be interrupted and for many, they know this to be true already. Those interruptions are caused by us giving in to the flesh, and where our minds are occupied by beliefs which don’t seem to make any difference. It’s not that biblical beliefs aren’t vital but rather they have become a store of information rather than a means of grace.
There are too many interruptions to mention and deal with here, however, we can deal with all of them in one fell swoop by stating how we must trust the Lord. Now, for those who consider this as something to believe alone, any peace you receive will soon be interrupted when anything comes along to cause you to think differently because the follower of Christ, is not the sum total of their beliefs and therefore worry has plenty of other open doors to make its way into our lives.
Is it true
Can we have peace at all times? Can we have that peace in every way? This answer is of course and the way to keep it that way is by trusting God in everything and turning away from trusting everything else. Without faith, it is impossible to please God and without faith, it is impossible not to worry, but again this cannot be reduced to a store of knowledge, telling us what to believe, it must have its effect to a greater extent than the worry has in our lives. It is not difficult at all to see how worry occupies the lives of any man, woman, boy or girl, but neither is it difficult to see why the peace of God can be with us at all times.
We must, however, distinguish between true peace and false peace and COVID-19 can serve as the best current background for such a point to be made. Since God is always in control and therefore never out of control, never finding it difficult to make the right decision for all is planned. However, when we don’t keep this in mind, we plan as if we are in control and only ask for peace once that illusion of control has been shattered by an illness or a change in circumstance. Then in a mantra-like fashion, we try and convince ourselves that God has everything in control, He does and He did. False peace dissolves in difficulties whereas the peace of God rules in such circumstances. Therefore the call to let the peace of God rule in our hearts (Col 3:15) guarding our hearts and mind is God ruling in our hearts and mind and nothing less.
When worry rules
To address the negative impact of worry we must address the truth that worry cannot be addressed by a psychological reorientation, medication in order to deal with the stress or the avoidance of thinking about a particular issue which in the end is all much the same thing. Worry likes the attention it gets and book sales alone on the subject would support this claim. Yet while worry draws attention to self it does so in the same way a child goes to his mother looking for an answer and refusing to go away until he gets one. Worry asks us “what can we do differently”, it says that “we must be able to do something” and many believe that such worry can be defeated with a positive mindset, one that can conceive, believe and you will achieve, but worry will even tell you’re not even doing this right (not that it works). When worry rules, a written post like this will have more attention and when it doesn’t we happily read other things.
When worry rules a false hope is produced. It does not encourage us to believe and trust in the all-powerful God but forces us into a pathetic mantra of “everything will be ok”. When this is said by the one who trusts in God it is said with conviction, that’s its a matter of fact, certainty; but said when worry is ruling our lives it is an unconvincing mantra.
Trusting God and understanding that His Word and Spirit is sufficient for us to live the lives that he has given us without worry as He desires us to do, is the only solution to worry and it is a solution. God cannot be reduced to something which we try to stop our worrying and yet much of God’s word for so many is reduced to practices, applications, methods and even mantras. The solution for when our peace is interrupted by worry is to first ask if the peace is God’s peace in you and the second is for us to trust in the Lord of peace, who cannot be reduced to practice but who we are always relating to either in trust or doubt. The call is for us to trust him with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding.