Peace is an absence of strife or anxiety. It is tranquility and serenity. Most of us long for a larger dose of it in our lives, both individually and globally. When I imagine peace, I picture my anxieties put to rest. All is right within me and in the world around me. My relationships are harmonious, my surroundings are orderly and there is nothing to cause stress or discord. It seems, however, that these moments of peace are rare, mostly because they are based on exterior circumstances that are not within my control.
In both First and Second Thessalonians, Paul describes the Father as “the God of peace” (1 Thessalonians 5:23, NIV) and “the Lord of peace” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, NIV). Sometimes we want to interpret this to mean our lives will be free from difficulty. However, it’s no secret that the world is full of strife and discord. It’s been that way since Adam and Eve’s first bite of the apple in the garden.
We can be assured, however, that God will give us peace, regardless of our circumstances. When we surrender our illusion of control and trust Him, we’ll find a peace that “transcends all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7, NIV)
Beth Moore reminds us that we can trust in God’s peace even as spiritual battles rage all around us. “Peace never means more than in the context of war. Maybe one day in eternity God will let us see what was going on over our heads in the unseen realm while we were just trying to get through another day.” (Children of the Day, p. 206)
Paul gives a clear illustration of the weaponry we need to fight and defend ourselves in spiritual battle:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18, NIV)
Among the items listed in our spiritual armor are “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Verse 15) This contrasts the usual image I have of peace as being restful. I picture peace involving kicking off my shoes and lying down to relax. Here, however, peace comes from the readiness of putting on shoes and preparing for battle. And what is it that makes us ready? Knowing the “gospel of peace.” This kind of peace comes from Truth planted deep inside us that is based on trust in God. It is nothing like the peace that comes from exterior circumstances and the absence of strife. It is being ready for anything that comes our way because we know the almighty God has fit us for battle.
Beth Moore’s lesson on peace in Week 8, Day 4 of Children of the Day cites several verses in Deuteronomy that reassure us in times of battle. All of them say essentially the same thing: “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” (Deuteronomy 3:22, NIV) God goes before us and fights the battle for us. We get to reap the benefits of His victory.
Giving some context to these words in Deuteronomy is helpful. God gives these promises to the Israelites as they are traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land. In order to take the land, they will have to engage in battle. God reassures them that He will go before them and fight for them.
Beth Moore’s lesson doesn’t mention what happens next, but I think it’s a good warning for us. Despite God’s many promises, the people give in to fear and do not trust Him. He reassures them numerous times, but they fail to believe He’ll come through for them. The Old Testament book of Numbers 14 tells the sad story of the Israelites losing heart when they reach the Promised Land. Before entering it, they send in spies to scout it out. The spies return saying: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large… We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” (Numbers 13:27,28,31, NIV)
The Israelites panic upon hearing the spies’ report. “That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, ‘If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?’” (Numbers 14:1-3, NIV) They want to return to the land where they and their ancestors were enslaved for four hundred years. In response, God pronounces this judgment against them: “For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.” (Numbers 14:34-35, NIV)
God never promised the people peaceful circumstances, but He did promise He would go before them and that He would be with them. Instead of finding peace in that, they put their trust in their own logic. The odds looked like they were against them and they weren’t willing to believe the Lord, despite the fact that He’d never failed them before.
God equips us with what we need every time He invites us to grow past our comfort levels. However, we have a choice to make. Will we trust Him and fit our feet with the readiness of the gospel of peace or will we shrink back in fear?
It’s unlikely that He’s called you into a literal battle recently, however there are many other places He may be urging you to go with Him. Maybe it’s…
-Walking into the hospital room of a loved one
-Gearing up to have your contentious college student home for the holidays
-Facing a challenging situation at work
-Dealing with a relationship fraught with tension
-Preparing for a medical procedure you’re dreading
-Figuring out your finances and making a plan to get out of debt
-Answering the call to serve somewhere outside your comfort zone
-Pushing through your hesitation and sharing Jesus’ love with a hurting person
-Receiving the diagnosis you dreaded hearing
-Hosting houseguests with a gracious attitude
-Navigating the emotions of your unpredictable teenager
-Facing another sleep-deprived day caring for your little ones
-Showing grace to extended family members who make the holidays a challenge
Wherever your feet take you, I hope you’ll be praying as you put on your shoes each morning. Try something simple like this: “God please fit my feet with the readiness that comes from gospel of peace.” Take time to examine His word and to arm yourself with Truth as you face your day. Then, rest assured that God is with you wherever you go.
If you’re in a quiet, contemplative mood, you’ll be blessed by Laura Story’s song “Perfect Peace.”
If you’re looking for a song that will make you stand up and shout, don’t miss Chris Tomlin’s “Whom Shall I Fear?”
Moore, Beth; Children of the Day; Lifeway Press, 2014