Recently an avante-garde artist was interviewed. She said, ‘My art comes from my angst’. Angst is a pervasive, almost inexplicable anxiety or fear which can envelop lives, and if not dealt with, can produce dreadful, even tragic consequences. The believer is not exempt from this plague. Elijah knew this feeling as he fled from the threatenings of Jezebel. Although this mighty man of God had seen the hand of God working miraculously on Mount Carmel, he was reduced to fleeing from a woman, 1 Kgs. 19. 3, 5. It was only after the Lord had given the prophet peace and reassurance, that Elijah regained his spiritual focus and confidence.
If this could happen to Elijah it can certainly happen to us. Angst can take at least three forms: fear of failure, fear of the unknown, and an unhealthy sense of introspection. These three can conspire to create spiritual chaos and confusion in a believer’s life so that our eyes are taken from the Lord and the enjoyment of His blessings, and we are plunged into a seemingly bottomless pit of misery and despair.
However, as the title of this article indicates, there is a cure, and this is found in peace. The New Testament, particularly, has much to say on this subject. It is my purpose here to draw out six aspects of peace.
The Proclamation of Peace
The angels heralded the coming of the Lord with these words ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men’, Luke 2. 14. The cynic would argue that Christ has patently failed to live up to this proclamation of peace on earth: if anything, war and violence have increased. However, this is to fail to understand the point. Christ would not effect this proclamation of peace through political means, but through His own death and resurrection. This peace is spiritual. Such peace would prefigure the global peace that will characterize Christ’s millennial reign of righteousness and justice. This proclamation of peace therefore signals the clear, inexorable movement of divine and eternal purposes to that perfect day. Therefore, this should clearly assure the hard pressed believer of the supreme and almighty power of God, in transcending and simultaneously working through the most terrible of human situations.
The Power of Peace
Sometimes, when we are in a seeming abyss of misery and despair, the experience of such a grand sweeping truth can often be lost. We need to see God’s power demonstrated on a smaller, more personal scale. An example is found in Mark 4. 35-41. The disciples believed they would perish in the storm. Having forgotten the power and character of the Lord, the disciples began to panic. ‘Master, carest thou not that we perish?’ They mistook the Lord being asleep for a sign of indifference. However, this was a sign of divine confidence. A moment later it was displayed in His authoritative words, ‘Peace, be still’. There was an immediate calm. Then the Saviour spoke, ‘Why are ye so fearful? How is it ye have no faith?’
We are not promised an easy life as Christians, one in which we are spared heartache, pain and suffering; but we must remember the Lord is still ‘in the boat with us’. It is often in these terrible situations that we make progress as Christians, and learn to appreciate the Lord even more.
The Promise of Peace
The peace of God is also rich in its promise. ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’, John 14. 27. This peace for the disciples was not something distant to be enjoyed in the future; it was to be enjoyed in the present. What the Lord is promising is, that no matter how unpleasant and seemingly hopeless the situation may become, the reassuring and calming nature of His peace would remain constant and undiminished. How could the disciples know the validity of this promise? Quite simply, that when God wills something, then it is already as good as done. Therefore, when Christ offered His promise of peace to His disciples, it was on the strength of His knowledge that He would have complete victory over sin, Satan and death.
The Purchase of Peace
The purchase of peace was essential, if we were to know the cure for an angst-ridden life. Without the purchase of peace all we have said has no meaning. Colossians 1. 20- 22, clearly shows our natural state before God. We were enemies of God through our disobedience and sin. Therefore, there was the need for peace and reconciliation. The only way in which this could take place was that our disobedience and sin must be dealt with. A substitute needed to be fully man so He might understand and experience the condition and needs of humanity, apart from its sin. Such an one also needed to be God, so that He would know the character and holy standards of a sin-hating God. Such was the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet it was not enough that Christ should merely understand and experience humanity: He must first take the punishment on Himself that we deserved, and die the death that should have been ours.
The phrase ‘having made peace through the blood of his cross’ demonstrates that it was an act of sacrifice; a sacrifice which took the form of an accursed death. In that death Christ endured the punishment of our sin in His own body. However, because He was the sinless Son of God, sin, Satan and death had no hold on Him and He rose again. He achieved a perfect reconciliation between God and men. He is the only Mediator, 1 Tim. 2. If He were less than God or less than total man, our salvation and peace would always be in question and in fact if He were less than God, our very act of worship of Him as Saviour would be an act of idolatry.
Many of us have had times when we have doubted our eternal security. However, our salvation, our peace with God, is not dependent upon ourselves but upon the perfect work of permanent reconciliation between God and man which Christ effected for us. As a result it is His desire ‘to present us holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight’.
The Peace of His Presence
The question then may be raised by the anxious believer, ‘O why do I have a lack of enjoyment of the peace of God?’. Our enjoyment of the peace of God is dependent upon the closeness of our walk with the Lord. A lack of the peace of God is not always due to deliberate sin. It can result from questions regarding the power of God, or an absence of faith in His plans. We can so easily develop a frame of mind where only ‘seeing is believing’. This was Thomas’ problem, John 20. 24-29. This disciple is often harshly criticized for not believing in the witness of his fellow-disciples. The Lord, in His grace, appeared again especially for the benefit of Thomas issuing the profound greeting, ‘Peace be with you’. We must remember that although the Lord had been raised from the dead there must have still been much apprehension on the part of the disciples as they contemplated what the future held for them.
The Lord, in His wisdom, immediately dealt with Thomas’ scepticism and, in turn, the apprehension of the other disciples concluding with the words ‘be not faithless, but believing’. Here was One who had died, been buried and rose again. The physical nature of His resurrection was plain to see. This was a resurrected body: a body which consisted of flesh and bones, but also one which could appear at will. Thus the risen Christ proved that the victory He had won was complete. Such was the awesomeness of Christ’s appearing, that Thomas was constrained to utter these five profound words: ‘My Lord and my God’. Here is where doctrine and worship meet.
The Perfection of Peace
Often the fear which plagues many people, believer and unbeliever alike, is the fear of death. The unbeliever has just cause to fear death because it anticipates divine judgement and punishment. The believer has no cause for such fear as is clearly taught in 1 Thessalonians 4. 13- 18. Here Paul indicates that the passing of a loved one, though saved, can be a very painful experience. However, our sorrow is different from that of unbelievers, for we have a victorious hope. As Christ was raised from the grave so those believers who have already died will also be raised. The phrase used, ‘sleep in Jesus’, indicates a number of things for our encouragement. Firstly, it indicates that although believers may go through death, death has no real hold on them. Secondly, it indicates that this state is one of complete peace and rest, for it is a peace controlled by the presence and power of Christ. Thirdly, it presupposes that this ‘sleep’ will end in a rise to a glorious awakening. This glorious awakening is the Lord’s return when all who have died in Christ will be raised, with glorified bodies, and with those Christians who are alive, will be taken to be with the Lord for ever. Even though this passage does not explicitly use the word ‘peace’, it was written with the express purpose of revealing to us the perfection and the completion of peace and hope.
Angst is a powerful force, but our Lord is infinitely more powerful. We are only denied the blessing of His peace when we take our eyes from the Lord, and begin to sink in our own doubt and despair. So, let us continue to enjoy this peace, ‘looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,’ Heb. 12. 2.
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