BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV).
One of the covenant names of God is Jehovah-shalom, which means “The-LORD-Is-Peace.” The Bible talks about two kinds of peace: The peace the world gives, and the peace that God gives. Jesus talks about these two types of peace in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (NKJV).
There is a type of peace that the world gives and another type that only God gives. The peace this world gives is a function of favourable circumstances, but the peace of God is not dependent on favourable circumstances. Even amid unfavourable circumstances, one can still enjoy the peace of God.
The New Living Translation describes God’s peace as “far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Similarly, the New Century Version describes God’s peace as the peace “which is so great we cannot understand it” (Philippians 4:7).
Examples of peace amid unfavourable circumstances
Let me show you some instances where some Bible characters enjoyed the peace of God despite the negative circumstances they found themselves.
1(a). Jesus sleeping in the midst of the storm on the sea. This is recorded in Matthew 8:23-27: “Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a terrible storm came up, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ And Jesus answered, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he stood up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly all was calm. The disciples just sat there in awe. ‘Who is this?’ they asked themselves. ‘Even the wind and waves obey him!’” (NLT).
Both Jesus and the disciples were in the same situation but reacted differently. The disciples were worried and panicked, but Jesus had the peace of God. He wasn’t disturbed by the disturbing storm – he was enjoying his sleep and even remained calm after he was eventually woken up from his sleep by the panic-stricken disciples. The reaction of the disciples showed that they had no peace of God. But the peace of God demonstrated by Jesus in that situation passed their understanding.
(b) Jesus as he was dying on the cross. In serious pain and agony, Jesus was not bitter; he even prayed for those who conspired to crucify him. “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’” (Luke 23:34 NKJV). That response didn’t reflect someone who was tensed up or destabilized. He had the peace of God though He was beaten, humiliated and crucified on the cross.
2. The three Hebrews in the burning fiery furnace. They refused to renounce their faith in God; they didn’t bow to any graven image. They were not afraid of the threat of being thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up’” (Daniel 3:16-18 NKJV).
These three Hebrews were unruffled or moved by the king’s threat to throw them into the furnace of fire. They refused to renounce their faith in God; they didn’t bow to any graven image.
3. Stephen, the first Christian martyr as he defended himself before the Jewish Council and was eventually stoned to death. Stephen maintained inexplicable peace in the face of impending death. The peace he demonstrated must have been beyond the understanding of his murderers and onlookers. “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:54-60 NKJV).
Just like Jesus Christ, Stephen was not bitter. Rather, He prayed to God not to charge his killers with murder. In church history, there are similar acts of courageous and unflinching faith in God by martyrs as they faced death. They were unapologetic about their faith in Jesus Christ.
The peace of God that the persecuted saints had was beyond the understanding of the spectators at their persecution and even the persecuted saints themselves.
How to enjoy the peace that surpasses understanding
1. Give your life to Jesus and have faith in God. You must be born again (John 3:3, 7). When you give your life to Jesus, you are born again or anew. You become a child of God and He has a responsibility to you as your Father. As a child of God, you must have faith in Him and not be ruled by fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Faith is not moved by what it sees. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (NKJV). Faith in God will give you victory over fear. Jesus, who was woken up by his disciples, rebuked them for their lack of faith (Matthew 8:26).
David said in Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (NKJV). He also said in Psalm 27:3, “Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, In this I will be confident” (NKJV).
The writer of Psalm 56 says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (verse 3 NKJV). Trust in the LORD or have faith in Him and you will enjoy the peace which surpasses understanding. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (NLT).
2. Constantly meditate on the Word of God and His promises. The Word of God can never fail; His promises shall come to pass (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). God is faithful. He will see you through whatever unfavourable condition you’re going through; He’ll not abandon you. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you” (NKJV).
Constantly fix your thoughts on the Word of God. Put your trust in the LORD and his promises. “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105 NLT). Make the LORD your refuge and your shield; make His word your only source of hope (Psalm 119:114 NLT).
3. Don’t be anxious but pray with thanksgiving. Worry solves no problem. Take to God in prayer whatever unfavourable circumstance that is trying to make you anxious. Someone has rightly said that the shortest distance between a problem and a solution is the distance between your knees and the floor. That, in a way, is emphasizing the importance of prayer. But don’t just pray, pray with thanksgiving. When you stand up from such prayer, the condition may not have changed but you would have changed because the peace that surpasses understanding – your understanding and the understanding of those aware of your condition – would have entered your heart. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV).
4. Live a life of obedience to the word of God. If you’re living in disobedience to the Word of God, you cannot enjoy a surpassing peace. Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions” (NLT). Isa 48:22 says, “‘There is no peace,’ says the LORD, ‘for the wicked” (NKJV).
Part of the curses for disobedience in Deuteronomy 28 is fear and lack of peace. “Your lives will hang in doubt. You will live night and day in fear, with no reason to believe that you will see the morning light. In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were night!’ And in the evening you will say, ‘If only it were morning!’ You will say this because of your terror at the awesome horrors you see around you” (Deuteronomy 28:66-67 NLT). Even today, no disobedient child of God will enjoy the peace that transcends human understanding.
5. Listen to the voice of God. Amid a violent storm, Paul maintained his peace because he had heard from the Lord. An angel of God had appeared to him assuring him it shall be well. Acts 27:21-26 says, “But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar, and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island” (NKJV).
Thereafter, in verses 33-36, Paul urged everyone on the ship to eat because they had abstained from food for fourteen days and they ate. Just as Paul had been assured, there was no shipwreck. Listen to what God is saying.
6. Endure unfavourable circumstances as you await divine intervention. Persevere when you’re facing the storm of life. 2 Peter 1:6 says to add to knowledge self-control and to self-control perseverance. This is necessary because God uses it to build character in you. Paul says, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4 NKJV).
Jesus was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). Paul said, “being persecuted, we endure” (1 Corinthians 4:12b NKJV He said in 1 Corinthians 9:12b that he had not used his right to be supported by the Corinthian church, but endured all things so that the gospel of Christ would not be hindered. In 2 Timothy 2:10, he said, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (NKJV).
Don’t be the complaining type; endure. Endure for the sake of the Kingdom of God; endure for the sake of eternity, etc. Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:3, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (NKJV). He further said, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (verse 12 NKJV). Remember that only those who endure to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:13). Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5b).
Conclusion: We live in an imperfect world full of violence and other negative, unpredictable events capable of causing tension and fearful reactions. But we must never forget the promise of Jesus to give us peace not as the world gives. His promised peace is such that can make you maintain your calm in this midst of fearful events. My prayer is that you will enjoy that surpassing peace and no circumstance shall rob you of it. I pray for you the prayer of Paul that the Lord of peace Himself shall give you peace always in every way (2 Thessalonians 3:16). The LORD shall lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace (Numbers 6:26).
The LORD said to Jeremiah that He had taken away His peace from the people of Judah because of their sins (Jeremiah 16:5). The LORD will not withdraw His peace from you. He will give you peace in your land such that you’ll be able to sleep without fear (Leviticus 26:6).
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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