For the kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17)
When you are born again – when you have made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life and you have entered the kingdom of God – then the fruit of that relationship will be righteousness (which comes as a result of salvation), peace, and joy. You can expect peace and joy to become a part of your daily life when you are a Christian – but just like all the other benefits of the kingdom of God, these attributes come at a price.
During the darkest days of the Revolutionary War, as George Washington tried to regroup during the winter of 1776, the great English writer, Thomas Paine, wrote a stirring essay on a drumhead that encapsulated the monumental struggle of that conflict. It was called “The American Crisis,” and it so moved George Washington that he ordered his officers to read it to every soldier in the Continental Army, hoping that it would inspire them not to give up hope.
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of their country. But they that stand it now, deserve the love and thanks of men and women. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. But the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. Heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods. It would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.
It is the same with the other “celestial articles,” like peace and joy, and the other fruits and gifts of the Spirit. Things of great value, both natural and spiritual, come at a great price.
In response to an article I wrote on God’s guidance for CBN.com, I received this e-mail question:
Years of making choices from voices that I thought were from God ended up causing me misery, grief, and heartache. Through years of experience, I realized that the voice I heard ended up just being from my own mind. Why does God make it so difficult for us to find Him or understand Him or to know we are hearing His voice?
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not easy. God’s salvation may be free, but discipleship is costly. The gifts of the Spirit may also be freely given, but they are not cheap. In some ways, it is easier to be in the world. Our preparation for God’s eternal purpose is as rigorous spiritually, as an Olympic athlete’s training is, naturally – even more so, because the outcome of our training has eternal ramifications. Learning to hear God’s voice is a lifelong process. God’s preparation in our lives is part of His eternal design – and only He knows what that purpose will be.
There is a scene in the movie A League of Their Own in which Gina Davis’ character wants to quit the women’s baseball team to be with her husband who has returned wounded from World War II. Tom Hanks, who plays the manager of the team, travels to her house to try to talk this star player into coming back for the remainder of the season. She begins to cry at the thought of returning to the road with the baseball team, and she protests that “it is just so hard.” Tom Hanks’ character gets right in her face and spouts back at her, “Of course it’s hard. That’s what makes it great.”
Our walk with the Lord is hard. There are some, like the writer of this e-mail, who find that it is so difficult that they want to give up and go back to the pleasures of the sinful life. But Jesus said, No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). We can’t look back. We must press on in this walk with Christ – we must learn to hear His voice and obey His commands. Only then will we experience His joy and peace – and only then will we be the effective ministers of reconciliation that He wants us to be, and that the world needs us to be.
Being Led Forth in Peace
Without great trials, we would have no great victories. The Lord reveals Himself in the difficulties of life as our Deliverer, our Sufficiency, and our Lord. The psalmist tells us, Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers [us] out of them all (Psalm 34:19).
If you are really serious about walking with God, He will teach you, and guide you, and comfort you, and yes, you will know His peace in your life. In fact, as you mature in your walk with the Lord, peace and joy will be multiplied to you. It is an interesting paradox that our heavenly Father orchestrates in our lives. On the one hand, our trials increase as we grow stronger in the Lord. On the other hand, the fruit of the Spirit – including peace and joy – develop to the point that we are given grace to weather the trials, and the rest of our lives are filled with harmonious fellowship with God.
We should expect to experience God’s peace in our lives. If you are not walking in peace, it may be as a result of several different scenarios. It may be that you are in the midst of a particular test or trial sent from God. Or you may be under attack from the devil. Or you may have an area of your life that you have not yet surrendered completely to God. The Lord intends for you to have peace. If you are not experiencing God’s peace on an ongoing basis, you may need to ask the Holy Spirit to show you:
- if you are experiencing a test that should be submitted to;
- if you are under an attack that you should resist; or
- if there is an area of continual sin, unforgiveness, anger, or some other hindrance that should be renounced and repented of.
Most pastors will teach that when you are seeking to find God’s will, you can identify the leading of the Holy Spirit when you sense God’s peace about a matter. I agree, and I believe that is absolutely true. The peace of God is one of the key indicators of God’s guidance. Colossians 3:15 tells us to let the peace of God rule in [our] hearts. Peace is the umpire of our heart, telling us if we are “safe” in God’s will, or “out,” following our own path or the deception of the devil.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace (Isaiah 55:12). God’s best for our lives is that we will be led forth in peace and joy. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m not going to allow these circumstances to rob my joy?” In making this declaration they are being absolutely biblical – peace and joy are our possessions when we are born again. The only way that you will walk in unrest as a mature believer is if you allow circumstances or the devil to rob you of your joy.
Larry Tomczak says, “You are the only being in the universe that can cause defeat in your life.”
You may say, “The devil robbed my joy.” The truth of the statement is that the devil attempted to rob you of your joy – but he only succeeded if you allowed him to. The life of the Christian is one of peace and joy.
- That is why Paul and Silas could sing praises to God in the Philippian jail (Acts 16:25).
- That is why the apostles praised the Lord after being beaten by the teachers of the law, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame in Christ’s name (Acts 5:40-41).
- That is why Stephen could praise the God of heaven as he was being stoned for his bold witness (Acts 7:55-60).
- That is why the apostle Peter wrote, But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4:13).
- That is why the apostle Paul, at the eve of his martyrdom, could write, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3).
You’ll notice that the promise of peace carries with it a condition – to trust in God. Once again we come back to the necessity of living a lifestyle of faith. Paul wrote to the Romans, For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:6). A carnally minded person is one who is self-interested, self-indulgent, and self-sufficient. There is no peace in the selfish life. The spiritually-minded person puts God in the center of their life. They are interested in doing the will of Christ. They are motivated by the Lord to minister to others. They recognize that they are nothing outside of Christ – He is their sufficiency. It is from this attitude of surrender to the lordship and headship of Jesus Christ that peace comes into our lives.
There are times, when we are seeking the will of God and we reach the point of decision that we experience supernatural peace. This is an important aspect of discerning between good an evil, and it comes by reason of use (Hebrews 5:14). The peace of God is like a compass for our souls, leading us in the direction that the Holy Spirit intends for our lives. We can take great comfort in knowing that the sovereign God is so involved in our lives that He would supply us with this internal compass as we seek to do His will.
At the same time, the mature Christian will recognize that there is another way that God uses the fruit of peace to direct our steps. As we surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives, He brings us to a place where we experience His blessed peace on an ongoing basis. Instead of anxiety, anger, or depression, the peace of God becomes the normal state of mind for the Christian.
I have a friend named Daryl, and when I meet him in the hall at work, I ask him how he’s doing. In a declaration of our biblical position in Christ, he always quotes the famous hymn, “It is well with my soul.”
If I am in Christ, it truly is well with my soul. I am at peace with God, and I should be walking in peace in this world. That’s not to say that each one of us won’t have our share of problems – and sometimes we will have even more difficulties because of the spiritual warfare that swirls about us – but because we are God’s children, and His Spirit comforts us and guides us, we can be at peace in spite of the circumstances.
So as maturing believers, when we are seeking after God’s plan for our life, we must also be sensitive to a lack of peace in a particular direction. This absence of God’s peace in the form of anxiety, stress, anger, or confusion, is also a strong indicator warning us that we are stepping out of the will of God. Just as the Lord will grant special peace to the believer when he or she discovers His plan, He will also remove His peace when a Christian strays away from His course for their lives.
Now I need to clarify that you don’t leave your problems behind when you come to Christ. It might take years of working through the issues of your life until you come to the point where you are experiencing the peace of God on an ongoing basis – but it is God’s desire for you. Even when you reach the maturity level where you are walking in God’s peace, you will continually experience the testing of your faith.
I remember a song on Michael W. Smith’s first album that illustrated our experience in Christ remarkably well. “On the day you were saved heaven and hell marked it down. Angels praised; devils raged; life became a battleground. So when hell starts to move and the enemy marches on you, stand strong, it’s a fight. You’ve been marked by the army of night. You’re a target.”
But the song doesn’t end with the battle. It continues, “When things get bad and you can’t stand to look, it’s time to read to the end of the book. Don’t put it down ’till you get to the end, when Jesus comes and His kingdom begins”
“for the kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). The peace comes in knowing that the kingdom of God is here and now, and yet to come.