Not so long ago I was chatting with a friend who is going through a difficult time, and he said to me that the thing he most longed for was peace. He felt, I think, that he could do anything, even difficult things if he had peace. The trouble was that he was not happy with the way the Lord (and others) were managing the situation in which he found himself, and this was affecting His trust in God’s good hand in his life and situation. And he didn’t have peace. He knew with his head that the Lord is good and to be trusted, but his feelings were at odds with that. I am sure that we have all been there at some time in our lives, maybe many times!
In this context I was very impressed reading 2 Peter 1:2-4 ‘Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ’. The ‘THROUGH’ strikes me strongly. Peace and Grace don’t regularly come on us like dollops of cream from God, in some sort of dissociated way, they come through our knowledge of Him. And that knowledge is a combination of knowledge of the truth of His word, His character, and an experiential relationship with Him. The word ‘knowledge’ in the bible often carries with it an implication of intimate relationship. (Genesis 4:1, Matthew 1:25).
I think that we often forget that, and so we may sort of pray “give me peace Lord”, rather like someone may say to their doctor ‘give me some valium doc’. Now valium works, anxiety does fade and you do feel more peaceful – for a while – till it wears off. Likewise God in His grace, like the tender shepherd He is, does give us peace when we cry out to Him, even at times when we are off kilter and not in the greatest place with Him. But it probably won’t last if we don’t reconnect with Him by faith in spirit (in relationship and intimacy) and truth (His promises, word and character).
Surely this is the power of Jesus’ call and promise in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” “Yes Lord” we say “your rest and peace, thank you”. But we may miss the “Come unto me.” Just as in Peter’s letter, the rest and peace is closely linked to relationship. ‘Come and be close’ says Jesus. But there is more, and in verses 29 and 30, it seems to me that Jesus is saying, “if you want ongoing rest and peace for your souls you need to stay close (‘take my yoke upon you’) – being yoked means being close. And even more ‘learn from me’ stay close and learn and be changed. Lasting, ongoing peace can’t be divorced from being, staying and growing close with the Lord Jesus in spirit and in truth.
Back to 2 Peter 1:3, ‘His divine power has given us everything (including peace) we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.’ There it is again, everything we need including peace comes THROUGH our knowledge of Him. Again it is knowledge of the truth of His word, promises and character in our un-peaceful situation, and ‘relationship’ knowledge of Him and His great love. And it is peace both in life (“Oh help I need someone to mend my broken heating boiler”) and in godliness (my spiritual challenges, battles and journey).
Now where does thanksgiving come into this? Well let’s be reminded of Romans 15:13, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him (in believing – NASB), so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’. ‘All joy and peace’ sounds exactly like what I want. And ‘the power of the Holy Spirit’ is a big factor in that, after all joy and peace are both fruit of the Holy Spirit. So what’s a huge connector in the middle? ‘As you trust in Him’ or ‘In believing’. There we go, yet again, faith and trust are so important in receiving peace and living in peace in our Christian lives, in an ongoing way.
As I have realised afresh, and much more, over this year of reflecting on these blogs, thanksgiving is one of the best, the most powerful and the most effective ways of growing in faith. Also, and this is important for me, (and probably you) it is a very available and practical way to feed faith. Sometimes it seems very hard to muster up faith. Faith can feel nebulous, hard to grasp, and too spiritual to grip onto some days, especially in the hard times and in adverse circumstances. But thanksgiving is ‘easy’ in the sense that it’s a bald choice, I just need to decide to do it, regardless of feelings and circumstances (which is the hard, maybe very hard, part).
It is solid, I can decide to open my mouth and say “Thank you” or “I will rejoice in you and be glad” like David did repeatedly in the Psalms, in good times and bad. And as I do, things start to change on the inside, knowledge of the truth dawns afresh, faith begins to rise, I sense the love of my lover the Lord Jesus again, and by the power of the Spirit, joy and peace grow afresh for me. No wonder Paul exhorted his friends in Philippi to ‘Rejoice in the Lord’, Philippians 3:1, and was unabashed to say it again twice more, ‘again I say rejoice’ in Phil 4:4, closely followed by (and there it is again) ‘thanksgiving ‘ (v6) and then peace (v7).