“I have peace about this, so I know God is leading me there.” Ever heard that? Or perhaps you’ve said the opposite: “I just don’t have peace about this.”
That seems to be the standard in Christian circles for knowing whether or not you are making the right decision. It’s as if someone says that and it’s sealed by God as the final answer. No one should offer a different opinion because the correct one has already been issued.
But is that true? Is a feeling of peace the ultimate goal for knowing what to do next?
The Verses that Promise Peace
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. ~
Christians use a few different verses to defend the use of having peace as the ultimate decision-maker. Let’s look at a few of them.
First, we have Philippians. The apostle Paul wrote the letter to the church at Philippi likely near the end of his imprisonment in Rome in AD 61 or 62. As Pastor Chuck Swindoll says, “he wrote to express his appreciation and affection for the Philippian believers. More than any other church, the believers in Philippi offered Paul material support for his ministry. Paul’s affection for these people is clear throughout the letter as he encouraged them to live out their faith in joy and unity.”
Philippians 4:6-7 says, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Letter to the Thessalonians.
We should also consider 2 Thessalonians 3:16, which says, Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica wasn’t as joy-filled as the letter to Philippi. It’s apparent that the apostle received reports of problems and questions he wanted to address. He assured them, as Pastor Swindoll writes, “that their hope in Christ’s future return should serve as an encouragement to them in their suffering, motivating them to live responsibly for Him.”
The Letter to the Colossians.
And we can’t forget Colossians 3:15. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Also written by Paul after he discovered that false teachers in the church at Colossae attacked Jesus’s deity. Chuck Swindoll points out, “Though Paul had never been to the church itself, he addressed these issues head-on. The nature of Jesus Christ as Creator and Redeemer was nonnegotiable, . . . It was critical to him that this church know God in His greatness and glory.”
Didn’t I Prove We Should Have Peace?
Well, yes. Absolutely. And no, not exactly. Confused? Stick with me.
First, let’s look a little more critically at the verses in question. The Philippians verse may be the one used most to justify waiting for peace before moving forward in any decision. But read the passage again, a little more slowly. Consider, does it actually infer that God will give you peace as an indicator of His answer? Or merely that when you go before God in prayer, He will give you peace?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Similarly, in the verses from Thessalonians and Colossians, do you see Paul say that you should hold on decisions until you receive peace? Or that peace is its own end?
2 Thessalonians 3:16.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Next, ask what Paul meant by peace in these verses?
According to The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, the Greek word used in Philippians 4 for peace “does not primarily denote a relationship between several people, or an attitude, but a state, i.e., ‘time of peace’ or ‘state of peace,’ originally conceived of purely as an interlude in the everlasting state of war.” Authors Louw and Nida write in their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament that this word means “a set of favorable circumstances involving peace and tranquility—‘peace, tranquility.’”
Now, think back to the verse in Philippians. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. If you choose prayer with thanksgiving over being anxious, you will have an attitude of peace given to you by God like an interlude in the midst of turmoil.
What about the other verses?
Guess what? It’s the same word in both 2 Thessalonians 3 and Colossians 3. In fact, it’s the exact same word Paul uses in Romans 5:1 when he writes, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Think through that slowly, allowing me to move around the order of the phrases.
- We have peace with God.
- Through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Because we have been justified through faith.
This is a beautiful promise of peace completely separate from whatever decisions we have to make today because it points back to the ultimate decision to honor and obey God. To follow Christ. To learn to hear the Holy Spirit. As God’s children, adopted into His family and co-heirs with Jesus, we have all the peace we need. All the peace we could want. Regardless of our feelings or the situation around us.
The peace of God is first and foremost peace with God; it is the state of affairs in which God, instead of being against us, is for us. ~
If you are looking for peace over a decision, stop and breathe. Pray, asking God for wisdom and clarity. You can certainly ask for advice from those who you believe God speaks to and through, but relax, understanding that your heart’s focus is far more important to God than whatever decision you are about to make.
Ultimately, seek God, the giver of peace. Determine to know Him better through both reading the Bible and prayer. Stop and enjoy the peace He gives even in the midst of whatever turmoil surrounds you at this moment.
What if your problem isn’t so much that you struggle to find peace to make a decision, but rather you keep losing it because the season you are in is so difficult? Carrie understands. In Living in the Shadow of Death, Carrie shares more of her story, answering difficult questions that the Christian world doesn’t always like to wrestle with.
Does God have a purpose for the turmoil or tragedy you are experiencing? Does a good God allow loss and send pain? How can that lurking feeling of dread for tomorrow be part of abundant life with Christ?
Grief hits us unexpectedly. A job loss, a failed relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected move, a rebellious teen, and other difficult circumstances force themselves upon us, demanding our attention. Fear, insecurity, and loneliness intimidate us into quiet submission and attempt to dictate our choices.
But what if we could shove them out our front door?
With loving concern and unyielding devotion for those facing a loss they never imagined, Carrie opens up her heart to reveal the biblical truths she’s learned through the heart-wrenching turbulence in her own life. She answers questions many Christians struggle with but dare not admit:
- Is God really good?
- Does the presence of pain and loss cancel out the abundant life promised to us?
- How can we follow God when life seems to only bring heartache?
- Is He even trustworthy?
If these are your questions, take heart! Within these pages, Carrie shares some of her very unchristian-like doubts and how she developed an intense faith and abiding trust even while Living in the Shadow of Death.
And don’t forget the companion journal so you can write down your thoughts as you read!
Foerster, Werner. “Εἰρήνη, Εἰρηνεύω, Εἰρηνικός, Εἰρηνοποιός, Εἰρηνοποιέω.” Ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological dictionary of the New Testament 1964– : 400–401. Print.
Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996: 246. Print.