Peace and Providence


[a continuation from the peace of Christ]

It used to be the case (and this was a statistical reality) that if you were from a Judeo-Christian background, your experience of stress would be significantly less than all other groups. The reason stated for this was that in your worldview, even if you were only a nominal Christian, you had an awareness of the sovereignty of God. Sadly today, for many Christians at least, I suspect this may no longer be the case. Our trust in and Biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty has been diminished and this has had serious implications for faith and life. As a result many Christians today are given to worry. We have made worry a respectable sin. Worry, to not trust in God’s sovereignty, is a sin. We miss the mark, we take our eyes off of Him, or view Him as less than we should, we struggle to see the truth in Jesus words (Matt 6:25-34). Closely linked to God’s sovereignty is His providence. Question 27 of the Heidelberg Catechism reminds of this:

  1. What do you understand by the providence of God?
  2. God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.

One of the issues that can cause our modern day worry is how we view trials. Instead of recognizing that all things come to us “by his fatherly hand” and that James 1:2 tells us to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (because such trials deepen our relationship with God and fashion our Christ like character so we will be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”) we throw up our hands in despair and cry “where is our God?” Now I am not suggesting I have never asked God why, but aim to encourage us all towards a maturing faith that has a high view of providence. John Newton (the author of Amazing Grace) wisely said these words:

“[One of the marks of Christian maturity which a believers should seek is] an acquiescence in the Lord’s will founded in a persuasion of his wisdom, holiness, sovereignty, and goodness….So far as we attain to this, we are secure from disappointment. Our own limited views, and short sighted purposes and desires, may be, and will be, often over-ruled; but then our main and leading desire, that the will of the Lord may be done, must be accomplished. How highly does it becomes us, both as creatures and as sinners, to submit to the appointments of our Maker! And how necessary is it to our peace! This great attainment is too often un-thought of, and over-looked; we are prone to fix our attention upon the second causes and immediate instruments of events; forgetting that whatever befalls us is according to his purpose, and therefore must be right and seasonable in itself, and shall in the issue be productive of good. From hence arise impatience, resentment, and secret repining’s, which are not only sinful, but tormenting; whereas, if all things are in his hand, if the very hairs of our head are numbered; if every event, great and small, is under the direction of his providence and purpose; and if he has a wise, holy, and gracious end in view, to which everything that happens is subordinate and subservient; – then we have nothing to do, but with patience and humility follow as he leads, and cheerfully to expect a happy issue…How happy are they who can resign all to him, see his hands in every dispensation, and believe that he chooses better for them than they possibly could for themselves!”[1]

Consider Jesus’ words as He approached the cross in Mk 13:36. Jesus did not shrink from asking His Father what He humanly may have desired as advantageous (the removal of the pain of bearing God’s wrath because of our sin, the passion and the cross) but conceded that that which came from the Father’s hand was best and said “but not my will but yours be done.” I desire the sweetest blessings for all people, but in this world of sin it would be naïve to think trials will not come nor that God is not using them for His eternal purposes. Jesus never said following Him would be easy—far from it— but He did say “my grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9).

We do indeed live in a world raging in sinful chaos. Where we place our trust will determine whether we stand by faith in Christ or fall in our pride and ignorance (Mt 7:14-27). But instead of committing the respectable sin of worry may we resolutely affirm with the psalmist:

In peace I will lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Ps 4:8 ESV)

And with Isaiah:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD God is an everlasting rock. (Isa 26:3-4 ESV)

O, on Christ the solid rock I stand, on which, though the waters rage, Christ will keep me immovable.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] Newton, John. Letters of John Newton. (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1960), 137.

The Peace of Christ


A number of weeks ago we visited the Jurassic Coast along the English Channel. I saw this rock out from shore being battered by these impressive aqua-blue waves and asked our friend who was travelling with us if she might get a shot such as this (she is a photo-journalist). I was impressed how though the sea raged the rock remained firm. This image coincided with my rediscovery that the Biblical principle of peace is actually synonymous with “order.”

Everyone is searching for peace in a troubled world. Many people look for it in unhelpful places. Such places give the allusion of calm waters for a time but when the waves roll in again those quiet waters are churned back into chaos. Sometimes we seek peace in our comforts and vices. Other times we proactively seek exercise, vacations, lifestyle changes and meditation, which are all examples of our attempts to find peace through the latest fad: inner peace, relational peace, societal peace, peace in the transcendent. Eastern religions (i.e. Buddhism, Zen, Yoga, etc) are very popular ways in which people seek peace. Hard work, meditating to “empty oneself” and to find nirvana (literally soul extinction) and to balance your “zen” with the world. Such “new age” religious attempts to find peace are very attractive to many westerners, Brits included. To quote my friend, “It meets their needs to believe that they can deal with their own difficulties by technique and hard work; it tickles their interest in the esoteric and it removes the need for them to relate to a God who might break into their [self-satisfied, God denying] mindset” Accordingly, many Christians are led to mix religions and find the Hebrew term shalom an easy Christian bridge to link the Church with the new-age.

The noun שלומ (shalom), often translated as “peace,” comes from the verb שלמ (Sh.L.M). The verb shalam means to “restore” in the sense of replacing or providing what is needed in order to make someone or something whole and complete. The noun שלומ (shalom) is one who has, or has been provided, what is needed to be whole and complete. Scripture speaks of God being the primary agent for such peace and thus Biblically speaking peace is not something we attain to or even find but something that we are given. True and lasting peace comes not from within but from without. People, interested in the concept of shalom (minus God) crop the word to suit their selfish wants and desires for a spiritual completeness and high without Him. Yet to find true shalom means to get real with God. Peace is synonymous with order. The reason our lives have chaos is because we have rebelled from God and are not living under his good order and rule. No God, no peace, no shalom.

The Bible actually says that God is a God of peace. In 1 Cor 14:33 we find that “God is not a God of confusion but of peace [or order].” This echoes Ro 15:33, 16:20; Phil 4:9; 1 Thess 5:23; Heb 13:20, etc, etc). Peace is an attribute of God! If God is peace then it would follow true peace can only come from Him. Isaiah 48:22 is the key to understanding how we can find true peace. It says, “There is no peace,’ says the LORD, ‘for the wicked.” Humans are not at peace in our hearts or with our neighbours all because we are not first at peace with God. We have all “sinned and have fallen short of the glory [standard] of God” (Ro 3:23) and are enemies of God (Ro 5:10, Col 1:21). Thankfully God provided a remedy for our disorder, He sent His Son. At Christmas we often read from Isa 9:6, “for unto us is born a child…and He shall be called prince of peace” and from Lk 2:13, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” How nice, all is now calm, all is now bright! I can continue to placate God with my selfishness and disinterest in Him and all will be well, NO. The reason why Jesus is called the prince of peace is because He came to die on a Roman Cross to pay the penalty of our rebellion before a holy God so that by believing in Him we might have peace with God (Ro 5:11) and eternal life instead of death (Jn 3:16-18). Our rebellion against God has led to the disorder of our hearts, relationships and society. Believing in Jesus is the first step to submitting our lives to Christ’s benevolent rule and finding peace. Further to dying so believers might have peace with God Jesus promises to give believers the gift of His Spirit (Eph 3:17). In Gal 5:22 we see that the result [fruit] of the Spirit being given to us is that it will produce peace in our life: peace with God, peace with others and peace within that comes from our conscience being freed from the guilt of sin and delighting in God and His ways. So much more could be said of the wonderful benefits and workings of such peace!

When we receive peace with God through faith in Jesus, and through the gift of His Spirit grow in peace, we can peacefully say that in such wisdom “are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Prov 3:17).

May you know the peace of Christ,

Pastor Chris