I listened to an incredible Tim Keller sermon while I was walking Morton this morning. It really hit home because, well, I was laid off from my job last week. Needless to say, I've been feeling a higher level of stress the past week than I normally experience. This is the second sermon of his on peace that I've listened to this week, and both are just so good.
The one from today was talking about how we all desire to feel peace in our lives. And some of us try to force it (lots of yogis) by pushing away the bad stuff and only focusing on our inner "being." I come across that train of thought a lot in the yoga world, but also in the regular people world.
Basically, I'm just going to talk about a couple major things I pulled from the sermon. (I'll put links below so you can listen to the full audio. He's much more eloquent than I am.)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
"There is a difference between a morally changed heart and a spiritually transformed heart. There is a difference between suppressing the natural self-centeredness and the insecurity of the heart through willpower, and seeing it permanently changed through the power of the Holy Spirit." - Tim Keller
The peace of God isn't calculated, it's bestowed.
The Character of Peace
His sermon started off with trying to define what peace really is. How would you define it? Think about that for a minute.
Keller starts to define peace by saying what it's not: the opposite of peace is fear and worry (Eph 4:6). That's tough for me to hear because I am SUCH a worrier. I am the type-A girl who likes to know logistics months in advance. Having the rug ripped out from under me is not part of the plan, and it gives me anxiety.
While it's perfectly valid for me to be sad and disappointed, I shouldn't be afraid. I should trust God. (Easier said than done, right?)
God's peace allowed Paul to face torture and death with complete composure and equilibrium. Paul tells us that he wasn't born with some innate talent of steadfastness. He learned it. Peace can be acquired. **there's hope for us, worriers!**
Peace isn't just the absence of fear, it's also a sense of being protected -- like a fortress surrounded by a huge army. When you feel safe and protected, there is no reason to worry. You can sleep easy.
2 Types of Peace
There are two types of peace: avoidance peace and thoughtful peace (Keller calls them "stupid peace" and "smart peace," but I think that's a little harsh.)
Most traditional thought would tell you that, when you're dealing with anxiety, you should practice meditation or go on a relaxing vacation to take your mind off the worries of life. They tell you to take a load off and kick back a couple martinis. That should do the trick.
The main thing with this kind of peace is that it is attained by not thinking. It's not realistic. When you practice this, you're avoiding dealing with the truth of mortality, suffering, and failure. You're trying to manipulate your mind into pretending to be peaceful.
God's peace is thoughtful peace. Like in the passage above (1 Thessalonians), Paul says that when you think about all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy; the peace of God will be with you. If you want peace, think about doctrine, the teaching of the Bible, God, sin, God's plan for the world, and salvation. Meditating on the truth that God created us for fellowship with him in a perfect world, but because of our sin the world is broken. So God sent his son to redeem us, that we may be restored to fellowship with him.
When you put your hope and your love into the immutable, steadfast God of the universe (rather than in your own success/efforts), peace will overcome you.
Keller says, "If you're a Christian and that doesn't give you peace, you're not thinking."
God's peace is true. And with it comes all of the other fruits of the Spirit.
If you want more, please listen to Keller's full sermons. He explains all of this is greater/more intelligent detail.