I hear this stuff all the time from Christians, “God gave me a peace”, “I don’t have a peace”, or “I’m looking for a peace” and early in my Christian days, I said it too. I know many of you did (or do) as well. It takes different forms but ultimately, it’s the same message. Internal peace equals God’s enthusiastic permission slip for whatever issue I’m dealing with. Peace is the ultimate trump card and if you disagree with it, you may just find yourself disagreeing with God Himself. That’s the conclusion. But is the premise sound? Is peace a good indicator of God’s will?
Maybe a better would be, “Does God want me to be happy?” Many would answer with a resounding, borderline aggressive, “OF COURSE!” It’s viewed as a “Duh!!” statement. God, as a perfectly good Father, naturally wants His children to be happy. And, so the thought process goes, since God doesn’t speak audibly to His kids, how does He show His approval for the thing that will make me happy? Answer, by giving me His “peace.” But when you start looking at Scripture, the biblical worldview chimes in with a radically different understanding of being happy and having peace.
God’s design and ultimate goal for His universe, and everything in it, is to give Himself glory. He’s not shy about that. That’s also not an arrogant action, but right in its direction. One should always give glory and praise to the thing of MOST value. The reason humans shouldn’t be given glory is that there’s something more glorious than ourselves. When it comes to God, however, that’s not true. The glory stops with Him – there’s nothing higher or greater. So, God isn’t trying to connect our happiness with things that are beneath Himself. To do so would be a lie. It would be to say that looking for ultimate satisfaction in lesser things is right. God’s not interested in false happiness for us. He wants us to have our greatest affections, or “happiness”, found in Him as the supreme value of the universe. This reality He reveals CONSISTENTLY in His Word and not through feelings of “peace.” Why not look to my heart for this direction? Because my fallen heart is naturally at war with God. My heart is a desire factory and, if left to itself, it pumps out consistent desires that are contrary to God. That means that doing things God’s way is going to be a battle as a Christian.
I created this animation piece (not peace) to highlight the two realities I see that are at odds with each other when it comes to biblical decision-making: Western Cultural Christianity vs. Biblical Christianity. Now, to be fair, there is overlap. Western Christianity doesn’t ALWAYS get it wrong. When you look at the Church in America, for example, you’ll find many pastors and congregations deeply rooted in the Word of God and earnestly trying to live out its message. To see many of the failures of the American Church and immediately apply that to ALL of the American Church is simply inaccurate and dishonest. What I’m speaking about here is more of the mindset that us Westerners have as a default – the mindset of inherent SELF-SUFFICIENCY. To recognize this is important, as my famous childhood mentor G.I. Joe said, “Knowing is half the battle.” I was born into a culture that sees the value of “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps” to create my desired result. And this view of self-sufficiency is inconsistent with the Gospel and a biblical worldview.
The Bible speaks of the RADICAL dependent relationship creatures have with their Creator. Paul wrote in Colossians 1: 16-17, “For by him (Christ) all things were created, in heaven and on earth…And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Do you see the depth of his claim? It’s not just that Christ created all things (as though that’s not MIND BLOWING enough), but that Christ CONTINUES to “hold” all things together. In other words, the only reason the molecules that make up the person that I am today are holding together is because Christ is actively holding them together. And if there were ever a single moment that He should release His hold, even for a split second, I cease to exist. To say human creatures are dependent on Christ for ALL things is the understatement of the universe. And the only reason I know any of this to be true is because God revealed that truth to all of us in His Word. God is trustworthy.
So how does this relate to peace as a decision maker? The answer is found in how God, the literal Creator of everything that is, describes the human heart. Jeremiah 17: 9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” and Proverbs 28: 26 says, “Whoever trusts in his own heart is a fool.” We see the Designer saying that our hearts aren’t trustworthy. This should cause our guard to be up whenever feelings, including “peace”, are involved in decision-making. Feelings are dangerous and, in the natural, will lead us astray.
When the Christian needs to make a decision, start with a firm grounding in the Word of God. This is ALWAYS step one. Always. There is no life situation in which God has failed to sufficiently supply everything we need from Scripture. It may also prove wise to consult those who also spend their time being faithfully grounded in God’s Word. Look to biblically-qualified elders and/or pastors in your local church. These men will be least likely to cater to our feelings and have a God-given authority over our souls.
A common thread in the life of a biblically faithful Christian is not being led by internal “peace” as a barometer for approval, but in the internal BATTLE to daily trust God’s desires over my own.