by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
Question #2: How is it provided?
When we examine John chapters 14-17, we find two specific ways Jesus provides this peace, first through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Consider the following verses:
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:25, 26).
“But when the Helper [Holy Spirit] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).
“Helper” refers to someone who has been called to come alongside to help and plead the cause of someone else. This is exactly what the Holy Spirit did in the lives of the apostles as He continually provided them with wisdom, guidance and strength. In fact, Jesus goes on to say that it was for their advantage that He leaves them and sends the Holy Spirit (see John 16:7). How could it be an advantage for the disciples that Jesus would leave them? What could be more spiritually advantageous than literally walking and talking with Jesus? The advantage is that this would force the disciples to step out of their comfort zone and begin to trust God in a deeper way and experience the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
My sister and brother-n-law recently had to go through the tough transition of seeing their only son leave for the Navy. With tears in their eyes and wanting him to stay home, they knew that this was part of the process of watching their son grow up. Knowing that they had raised him to love the Lord, the sadness of seeing him go also brought with it the joy and confidence that God would continue to work in his life in a deeper and more powerful way.
As seen in the lives of the disciples and my nephew, sometimes the only way to grow is to step out of our comfort zones and encounter the uncertainties of life with faith and trust. Thankfully, we do not have to do this in our own strength, because we have the active presence of the Holy Spirit who right now can strengthen and empower us to boldly live for Jesus Christ. As Paul says in Ephesians 3:16, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”
The second way Jesus’ provides His peace is through the fellowship (unity) of believers. As Christians, we are not designed to live as islands unto ourselves. Instead, we are called to live out our faith within the community of other brothers and sisters in Christ. Before Jesus faced his arrest, trial, and crucifixion He specifically prayed for the unity of all believers.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20, 21).
Unity within the body of Christ occurs both on a doctrinal level (what we believe) and on a practical level (how we live out our faith). It is on this practical level where – when we go through uncertain and difficult times – it is our function as a body to encourage and bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
I have several friends with whom I meet on a monthly basis to pray. Facing the uncertainty of my daughter’s situation with her back, my wife’s job and health benefits, and my father-in-law’s need of a liver transplant, the members of this prayer group have provided me with strength and encouragement. They have been a source of peace in my life, as I have been for them when they have faced times of uncertainty.
In America, we currently face major problems divided, not unified. As a result, this has produced the fruit of hostility and not of peace. In contrast, as the body of Christ, Jesus wants us to face our life problems unified, so we may experience the peace that comes through the support and love of each other. As believers in Jesus Christ, may we be unified during this time of uncertainty so we can be instruments of hope and peace to a world desperately needing it.
Question #3: How can I experience this peace?
If you want to experience the peace of Jesus right now, the very first thing you must do is repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit will dwell within you and begin to produce the fruit of His Spirit in your life – one of which is peace (Galatians 5:22, 23).
Secondly, you must place your trust in God and not your circumstances. This act of trust will require you to yield your will to God’s will. Jesus provides the best example of this as He prepared for His death. While praying in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed the following, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). In the agony of what Jesus was about to experience He surrendered His will so that He could fulfill the will of His Father. This same attitude is what we need to display when we face times of uncertainty. We need to trust God and yield to His will, even when it does not line up with what we want. Happily, we have the confidence that we are surrendering ourselves over to a sovereign God who is not only in control of every detail of our lives, but truly has our best interests at heart.
In this time of uncertainty, we should be more than just striving to have peace for ourselves but also to be used by God to bring hope to others. I recently read an article that discussed how previous pandemics in history caused major shifts in the world. Two of these impacted the Roman Empire in the 2nd century and 3rd century A.D. causing a major shift in the Empire’s worldview. According to the author, these pandemics had a mortality rate of about 25-30% of the empire’s population. At this time the empire was pagan; the majority of people worshipped multiple gods. Christianity was less than 1% of the population. The response of the Pagans and Christians to these pandemics was starkly different. The Pagans opted to live in self-isolation with the goal of self-preservation, while the Christians sought opportunities to minister to the sick and hopeless. This response by the Christians, along with several other factors, effected the Roman empire so dramatically that the author concludes by saying, “in roughly a span of a century, an essentially pagan empire found itself well on its way to becoming a majority Christian one.”
While we need to use wisdom during this pandemic, especially those of us who have underlying health risks, let us not waste the opportunity God has provided for us at this time in history! In a world overcome with uncertainty and fear, may we be living testimonies of the HOPE and PEACE that comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:
“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).