Q & A With Sister Swaggart - VII
If Jesus gave us His peace, why don’t we have it?
We live in troubling times, and many Christians are struggling to experience the peace that the Lord promised to every believer. In John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”
As my husband explains in his commentaries, it is important to understand that there are actually two types of peace incumbent upon the believer: peace with God and the peace of God.
Peace with God comes to the believer at salvation. When the sinner hears the Word of God and is convicted by the Holy Spirit, he is made to feel his wrong against God. This is where repentance comes in. Upon faith by the sinner, all sin is washed away by the blood of Jesus, with the enmity between God and unredeemed man instantly removed. The new believer now has justifying peace—the result of justification. That’s what the phrase, “making peace with God” means. Paul spoke of this justifying peace—a legal standing with God, which does not and cannot change—in Romans 5:1, which says, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So every born-again believer has peace with God, but many Christians do not have the peace of God, even though Jesus plainly made it ours in John 14:27, “not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”
The world defines the word peace like dictionaries do: a state of tranquility, freedom from civil disturbance, a state of security, freedom from oppressive thoughts or emotions, and harmony in personal relations. If we flip that around, we could say that those living without peace experience the opposite: anxiety, fear, conflict, strife, discord, unrest, turmoil, upheaval, and worry.
Several times a week, I read emails just like this one: “I battle fear and have very bad anxiety. I am a Christian, and I know that the Lord lifted me out of that pit of depression years ago. When fear and anxiety creep in, I pray for the Lord to give me peace. My question is, why do I feel like I keep having this same battle over and over again with fear and anxiety?”
This person prays for peace, but, like so many other believers, does not seem to receive it. Why?
Study of the phrase, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you,” shows that this has to do with sanctifying peace, which is actually a fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith…”
The Holy Spirit produces His own fruit in the life of the believer as that believer trusts and cooperates with Him in His work of sanctification. In fact, the Holy Spirit alone can do this.
As a fruit of the Spirit, the peace listed in this verse is not simply the absence of trouble, anxiety, or worry. Rather, it is the serenity that results from living in a right relationship with God, men, and oneself.
This sanctifying peace, which Paul speaks of in Galatians 5:22, does not come easily or quickly, but ultimately it will come as the believer consecrates himself to the Lord. And when it does come, it cannot be destroyed by problems or difficulties, providing the believer keeps his faith in the finished work of Christ. Understand that this kind of peace is a process; it actually means, “to bind together.” Through the blood of His cross, Christ Jesus binds together the two who were separated by human sin: the sinner who puts his faith in the Lord Jesus, and God.
There is another difference between these two types of peace. Justifying peace is static and never fluctuates, but sanctifying peace is up and down because it has to do with the amount of trust we have in the Lord, which has the potential of changing hour to hour. But the more we mature in Christ, the more we learn to trust Him, all of which has to do with sanctification and our sanctifying peace.
How can the believer maintain the peace of God in our lives?
In Philippians 4:6, the apostle Paul exhorts believers to “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” This is immediately followed by that beautiful promise, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
These two consecutive verses show us that prayer and peace are linked. Without a proper prayer life, one cannot have proper peace. Prayer is the condition, and peace is the consequence.
Bible scholar Albert Barnes says of this verse, “The way to find peace, and to have the heart kept from trouble, is thus to go and spread out all before the Lord. The word rendered here shall keep, is a military term, and means that the mind would be guarded as a camp or castle is. It would be preserved from the intrusion of anxious fears and alarms.”
Guarding the heart is the result of a proper prayer life. There is a paradoxical quality in this peace, in the sense that it exceeds our capacity for understanding it. We can experience it and know its ingredients in part, but we cannot encompass the total.
We believe that Horatio Spafford experienced both peace with God and the peace of God. In the early 1870s, Spafford was a successful attorney and entrepreneur, married, and the father of four girls. In 1873, he booked a family trip to Europe with plans to spend Christmas in Paris. When urgent business held him in New York, Spafford sent his wife, Anna, and the girls ahead. At 2 a.m. on November 22, their ship collided with a Scottish clipper. Despite Anna’s attempts to keep her daughters together, all four girls were lost. When the survivors arrived in Wales, Anna sent word to her husband in a telegram that read, “Saved alone. What shall I do?” Spafford left immediately to join his wife. It is said that when his ship passed over the same place where his daughters had died, he was overcome with calm and peace. He went to his cabin and penned the hymn we know so well:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
IIt is well, it is well with my soul.
If your life is shipwrecked and sinking, you can call on Christ Jesus—the Prince of Peace. Following His resurrection, the first thing Jesus said to His disciples was, “Peace be unto you.” That proclamation declares that all is well. It implies quietness and rest. And it means “to set at one again” offering believers new mission and purpose. Jesus Christ is our peace!