“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
How can you make “peace” a New Year’s resolution? Glance out at the world that we live in and you see the opposite of peace. Terrorism, hatred between political parties and their supporters, gunshot violence, starving nations, and natural disasters paint a picture of turmoil, not peace. A lot of children live in divided families, and when mom and dad do see each other, bitterness and resentment and vicious language have long since replaced any peace that once existed. Even within ourselves we are at war. The struggles against anxiety, depression, loneliness, resentment, bad health, self-loathing, and irksome or habitual sins are present—at least in part—within us all.
Right before those previous words of Jesus, recorded in the Gospel of John, do you know what Jesus had literally just told his disciples? He had told them that the time had come when they would all be scattered. They would, each and every one, abandon Jesus. They would leave him all alone, by himself, to face his fate. Yet Jesus tells them to have peace. They would all fail that night, but they should be at peace. What in the world, Jesus? Shouldn’t you be telling them all to watch their backs, that their betrayals wouldn’t go unnoticed, that you’ll have your revenge in the end? My goodness, all it took was somebody cutting me off on the highway yesterday and I was ready for a fight! Jesus is telling them to have peace? It’s all good?
Peace isn’t such an easy thing. In fact, sometimes it’s remarkably difficult. Sometimes peace is impossible for us to achieve.
Our relationship with God was one area where peace was simply not possible for us to achieve. Entirely. No amount of self-sacrifice could earn peace. Nothing could silence the guilt in my heart, guilt that I knew God held me accountable for. In fact, everything I try to do to make up for guilt, or to offer as my apology—“I’m sorry, God. Whoops! Here, now I’ll do this for you, buddy.”—just winds up offensive to him. And peace slips away, slips away, like a man who falls overboard into the ocean, whom nobody heard yelling for help, just watches the boat slip further and further across the waves and away from him.
Peace is what Jesus gave his disciples that night. Peace is what he won on his cross the next day. Peace is what he extends to us because of his victory over death and the devil and sin and guilt. We now have peace where it matters, peace with Jesus, peace with our Father in heaven.
It’s that peace—peace with God Almighty, peace that I am his own adopted heir—that encourages me to have peace in a world that seems entirely peaceless. Not only that, but I can be a promoter of peace by being a promoter of Christ. Here in the year 2016 I have the awesome status of an ambassador. Paul tells the Corinthians that “we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Because we are his disciples, Christ sends us in his stead as his ambassadors to declare the message of our king. That message is that he has a peace treaty which has absolutely no conditions on our end because he already took care of it all.
In one of my favorite movies, The Last of the Mohicans, love interest Cora Munro makes this statement: “The whole world is set on fire.” I agree. It’s a scary place to live. Sometimes even my inside thoughts and heart are equally scary. But take heart, because Jesus has won our peace. All the hellish terrors and trials that our neighbors or country or godless world throw at us are nothing beneath the wings of that peace.
Grab a blank piece of paper. Sometime over the next 24-hours, write down in the center of that piece of paper all of those things in your heart, your life, or in the world surrounding you which strip you of your sense of peace. Then open up to Psalm 103. Around the margins of the paper and around those things which cause your heart troubles, I’d like you to write down all the promises—past, present, and future—which God declares to you there. Finally, say a prayer that God would replace your peaceless thoughts with those of Psalm 103 which bring true and lasting and real peace.
I’ll admit it. Making a New Year’s resolution to think and feel a certain way is a lofty goal. Certainly it won’t be without its bumps along the road. In fact, you’ll likely never have a perfect sense of peace this side of heaven. But just because you don’t feel a certain sense of peace, doesn’t mean you don’t possess peace. Thanks be to Jesus that peace is and always will be ours, and that nobody can ever take that away! He has overcome this world, its prince the devil, and all evil! Take heart, people of God, no matter your troubles. Peace belongs to you.