“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27). These are Jesus’ words.
Jesus had several points to make about peace. He noted there are two sources of peace. There is the peace that comes from Him and “the peace the world gives.” The source of peace makes all the difference when it comes to its quality. A peace whose source is other than God is sometimes based on our relationships, our circumstances, what we can do, or on our own determination to have it. These types of peace are shallow and easily lost. As it is lost and regained and lost again, the pursuit of an inferior peace takes shape.
Jesus said true peace will come from Him as His gift through “the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth” (John 14:17). But how do we go about getting this gift that is not from our world? Jesus bluntly and simply answered that question when He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). No matter how hard we try, we cannot force peace into existence. When we try to do so, we have substituted our activity for the Holy Spirit’s, shoved Jesus to the side, and gained nothing.
But there are things we can do that will keep us connected to Jesus and His gifts. Peace can be found as we read the Bible and as we pray—actions which join us directly with God. Come to the Father asking for His peace. As humans bound by the constraints of this world, we may not fully understand how the Holy Spirit gives us peace through prayer and God's Word, but we can experience the comfort of it.
There is another activity that helps us keep connected to Jesus, and it is clearly evident throughout the verses of John, Jeremiah, and most other books of Scripture. It is the act of obedience. God’s principles are not designed to bring us misery but to lead us toward genuine happiness and peace. When we are obeying, our lives may not be carefree or trouble-free, but they will be free of the excesses and consequences of our disobedience to the Lord’s guidelines.
Jeremiah and Zedekiah are two individuals whose lives prove out Jesus’ teaching about peace.
Jeremiah lived a life of hardship. He suffered one painful blow after another over a period of forty years—spanning the entire time he was God’s spokesperson. During those years, he was a social outcast; mocked, ignored, and unwanted. He had powerful enemies who hated him enough to kill him. He was beaten. He was unfairly imprisoned numerous times. He was thrown into a muddy cistern to starve to death. Jeremiah summarized the uniformity of his life with the understatement, “Lord, you know I am suffering for your sake” (Jer. 15:15).
Jeremiah suffered, but he did so willingly and with surety of purpose. In his faithful service to the Lord, Jeremiah found peace. “Your words are what sustain me. They bring me great joy and are my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty” (Jer. 15:16). And that is Jeremiah’s story.
Zedekiah was the last king of Judah. Although he was the king of a land under Babylonian siege, he still commanded great power within the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judah. His word was law, others lived or died at his command, and his attention was sought. He had the finest of what remained in the land: homes, furnishings, jewels, servants, livestock, and fields.
But Zedekiah was a man torn between what he wanted to do and what he knew was right. He wanted to outsmart the Babylonians and remain king. He wanted to live life by his rules and for his desires, ignoring Jeremiah and the Lord’s call for repentance and a changed life. But Zedekiah could not ignore the fact that the Lord was real, powerful, and deserving of obedience. He was a man at war with himself, with God, and with other nations.
During his reign, Zedekiah made one smart move when he asked Jeremiah to “Please pray to the Lord our God for us” (Jer. 37:3). Jeremiah did so, and God answered, telling Zedekiah what he needed to do to save his life and obtain peace. What was Zedekiah’s response? He said, “But I am afraid…”; afraid to obey, afraid to give up what he was used to trusting, and afraid to stop living life on his own terms (Jer. 38:19). Zedekiah’s vacillation lasted until his final day as king, the day his land was conquered and Jerusalem burned to the ground. After the Babylonians captured Zedekiah, they forced him to watch his sons being murdered; then they blinded him, leaving that gruesome scene seared into his mind’s eye before he was imprisoned for life. We are not told whether or not during his years of imprisonment Zedekiah finally accepted the peace that only God could give him.
Zedekiah, as king, had all that the world could offer, but real peace eluded him. Jeremiah, whose earthly possessions were meager and whose circumstances were constantly unsettling, had great peace through God. And so can we—even during times when it would seem impossible. It is a gift from Jesus, who has shown us the way.
© 2010 Arlina Yates