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Peace that is Beyond Understanding
By David A. DePra
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:4-7)
This is an oft-quoted verse, and a source of comfort. Paul is telling us that there is a peace of God which passes understanding Ė and the Greek means, "the peace of God which is BEYOND or POSSESSED ABOVE understanding. What we see is a picture of a peace that is completely DETACHED from our understanding or lack thereof. That is because it is a peace that is based in God Himself.
Now note something here. We all have an understanding. Even if we donít think we understand anything that is presently going on, then THAT is our understanding Ė one of confusion. Thus, whatever our present understanding might be, there is a peace of God that is beyond that Ė that is not determined by our understanding.
How is this possible? Well, we might put it like this: I may not understand, but I can trust that GOD DOES. This is faith, and brings the peace of God.
But you know, there is another way to look at this necessity of trusting God instead of our understanding. It is one thing to trust that God understands -- even if we donít. But do we realize that we need to trust God, and not our understanding, even if we think we DO understand?
You and I might have an awareness that we DONíT understand, and then turn to God in faith Ė and rest in the fact that God understands when we donít. During those times, we usually wonít trust in our understanding because we donít have much. But there are many other times when we THINK we DO understand! How about THEN? The fact is, we might be deceived. We might think we understand when we DONíT!
What Iím getting at is the fact that if we think we KNOW, we will feel comfortable. And it is true that we might know and understand. But where is our faith? In the fact that we KNOW? Or in God?
Actually, God will often bring a trial of our faith Ė even if we are right in what we believe Ė to set us free from trust in our own understanding. The end result will be a greater understanding, yes, but more than that, a greater faith in God that is beyond our understanding. The peace of God, in that case, will reign in our hearts.
Paul says Ė Donít trust in your understanding, even if you are RIGHT. Trust in God. And if you do, the peace of God, which is beyond and above all understanding, will keep you. Paul is talking about a peace which finds it source, not in our understanding of God, but in God Himself.
If you read the passage above from Philippians, you will see that everything in it is predicated on faith. You cannot rejoice in the Lord unless you have faith. You cannot believe the Lord is at hand in your situation unless, well, you believe. You cannot be anxious for nothing unless you have faith. And you certainly wonít bring your request before God unless you believe He will hear you Ė faith.
Faith is REST. In the end, it comes down to that. Notice that I didnít say faith is passivity. No, faith is REST. "Rest," means that I know I donít have to do certain things because God has done them, or is responsible for them. I REST in what He was done. Fundamentally, if I know God, I can REST in the fact that He will never betray me, or forsake me. He may not do what I want Him to do, but He will always seek to do HIS will for me. If I truly believe that, I will be able to REST in it. And isnít REST simply another way of describing PEACE?
If faith is real, it is not faith in my belief system. If faith is real, it is not faith in my understanding of God. Faith is trust in God Himself, to the point where I know that I can afford to risk everything upon Him. That will eventually translate into rest and peace. Ultimately, it is not possible to have faith without resting. And it is not possible to rest in Christ without having the peace of God. These things are a process, but this is where they all go in the end.
The Place for Understanding
God wants us to have understanding. We are not to check our brains at the door of the kingdom of God. But more than that, God wants us to have faith in HIM. As the writer of Hebrews says, "By faith we understandÖ." (Heb. 11:3)
Get that. BY FAITH WE UNDERSTAND. Not Ė if we first understand, then we can believe. This cuts across everything about us, but it is the Truth. If you want to understand God, you must first surrender to Him Ė you must trust Him.
The fact is, we cannot have LIGHT without the LIFE. And the only way to be enlarged in the LIFE of Christ is by dying Ė carrying our Cross. Thus, the formula, if you want to call it that, is DEATH=LIFE=LIGHT. And light is understanding. Life in Christ works in no other way. It cannot. But so often we try to make it: LIGHT=LIFE, i.e., we think that if we can just get to the right information and understand it, then it will gender the life of Christ in us. This is utter nonsense.
Think about a new born baby. Can a baby THINK or UNDERSTAND before conception? No. There has to be LIFE there before there can be LIGHT. It is the same with the new birth, and with all of the stages through which we pass as Christians. There must be LIFE before there can be LIGHT. But you cannot have LIFE, or a new release of LIFE, until there first comes DEATH.
All God ever asks us to do is bring ourselves and surrender to Him Ė to the Cross. That is all He asks for salvation, and that is all He asks in our on-going walk with Him. Iím not saying that we donít have to obey and do many other things. But Iím talking about how to come into real LIGHT and TRUTH and understanding. We have to come to the Cross and die. And then comes the LIFE, and on the heels of that, the LIGHT.
This is the place of true understanding: As the product of LIFE Ė as the product of CHRIST IN US being built up and edified. Then because we know Him, we understand.
The Peace of God
Peace is the result of a lack of conflict. But never think that if you have peace that this proves you are in Godís will. No. There are two kinds of peace: The peace the world gives, and the peace of God. Both result from a lack of conflict. The peace of the world is the result of me getting my way. The peace of God is the result of me getting Godís way. In both cases, I am at rest with what I have received.
We must see this: It is entirely possible for a person to completely disregard God and have peace. Sure, if all is well, and there is little to bring conflict in them. They will have the peace of the world. It is also possible to have peace because you are totally deceived. Sure. You have no clue as to your condition. But the peace of God is just that Ė the peace of God. It is the result of being ONE WITH HIM. And this peace is something the world cannot give.
There are many Christians who think that if they, "have peace," about something, that they must be in Godís will. There is, of course, a general principle here, but it is nonsense to base oneís life on such a thing. It is totally possible for you and I to have total peace about something, but to be WRONG Ė simply because we are at one with the principle that binds us. Indeed, if God brought in the Truth, it would DISTURB us. We need to grasp these possibilities.
The peace of God is the result, as stated, of me becoming one with God. I am no longer at odds with God. And just as is the case in the world, peace is the result of surrender. If I want to have the peace OF GOD, I must make peace WITH GOD. I have to surrender to Him.
We see bits and pieces of this in our passage from Philippians 4. Paul is talking about prayer and supplication. He is saying that if we bring before God all of our concerns that there will come a peace of God that operates completely independent of our understanding. Clearly, Paul is talking about an attitude towards God of, "Thy will be done." We have peace because we know that God will answer this prayer Ė He shall do His will. And that is what we want.
Paul tells the Colossians, "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful." (Col 3:15) This is one of those verses some Christians use to prove that IF they have peace, then they are in Godís will. This is NOT what the verse is teaching. Paul is not saying that peace indicates Godís will as much as He is saying Godís will produces peace. In short, we are to LET the peace of God rule in us by surrendering to God.
Again -- we cannot have the peace OF God until we make peace WITH God. And we make peace with God, not by striking a deal with Him. We make peace with God by unconditionally surrendering to Him Ė in every situation in life. This surrender will not result in passivity. It will result in relationship and peace.
In Jesus Christ
Paul said that the peace of God would keep our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. But this promise was conditioned upon, "being anxious for nothing" Ė the result of faith Ė and upon bringing all of our cares before God. If we do that, Paul says, we will have a peace. And that peace will keep our hearts and minds in Christ.
Notice this carefully: Paul does NOT say that our heart or mind Ė if we force them in a certain direction Ė will produce peace. No. That is how the natural man works. If you force yourself to think along a certain line, maybe you will calm down and have peace. But Paul reverses this. He says that if you put your faith in God that a peace is going to come that will keep your hearts and minds in Christ.
Have you ever noticed that if you stop fearing and start believing, that not only does a peace come from your surrender, but your thinking begins to clear up? Sure. Again Ė by faith we understand. If you bring everything to God and surrender yourself to Him, and really believe He has taken you, then out of that will come a moral sanity. You will have peace, which automatically will set you free from all of the clutter and confusion of fear Ė from all those things that cloud your thinking. The result is that your heart and mind will be kept in Jesus Christ.
The peace of God isnít a thing until itself, merely there to make us feel good, or remove the torments of inner conflict. Those might be good side effects. But ultimately, the peace of God that is beyond our understanding is the result of coming into a oneness with God Himself through faith and relinquishment. As we have said, the peace of God is possible only if we make peace with God.
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