It's a familiar refrain this time of year: Peace on earth, good will toward men. Really?
A few days ago, an older woman innocently stopped into an Australian chocolate café to have a sweet. Bloodied and disheveled, this same woman appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal and other international media, a victim of a self-proclaimed ISIS terrorist. She, as well as the other victims involved in the Sydney Lindt Chocolate Café incident in mid-December, certainly didn't expect that outcome.
Then, as a world looked on horrified, Pakistani Taliban terrorists massacred 141 people—most of them children—in an attack at a Peshawar public school on Dec. 16.
Today there seems to be no shortage of fanatics who seek "soft targets" for their prey. And all of this takes place while other areas of the world—including an estimated 2 million homeless refugees fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries—cook and bubble with mindless violence. And of course, we can't forget hundreds of thousands suffering in the winter cold in Ukraine from the Russia-induced violence. In my contact with Ukraine, I am given sober reports about funerals of military personnel and civilians.
What's the matter with our race? Why can't we get it together to get along? Why is it just getting worse?
Repetitive tragedy, mostly suffered by the common people, is confirming Isaiah's statement that "the way of peace they know not" (Isaiah 59:8). Jeremiah also commented about slogans that politicians and leaders like to use: "Peace, peace," he said they'll cry, "when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 6:14).
It's not in man's skill set to make and sustain peace. Isaiah wrote that about 2,700 years ago, and there has been no change in man's fundamental behavior. Platitudes abound decrying war, yet reality is building up and using arms. Peace accords are often not based on genuine peace but on selfish economic interest or gain. Nothing seems to bring long-standing peace.
What will bring peace, though? Where is the pathway to peace? How can we have hope, whatever the season? When things go insane around us, how can we have personal peace and confidence? Real peace is not simply the absence of war.
Again, man does not have it in him to create and bring peace. It must come from without. Peace is a fruit (outcome) of the Holy Spirit of God working in you (Galatians 5:22). The Holy Spirit comes from without, not from within, or from the mind of man.
The ingredients of true peace come from outside ourselves—they come from God. Peace begins when we come to ourselves and forsake the ways that lead to conflict. Through the Holy Spirit we gain understanding. We also have the discipline to practice the way that results in peace:
"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want" (Galatians 5:16-17).
Paul also made this statement about peace coming to Jew and Gentile:
"Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:12-14, New International Version).
Peace comes from without. It comes to us through the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. Real peace powerfully bursts forth when the root cause of violence, unrest and outright war is addressed. This is true for us personally, as well as collectively as a nation.
David, a man described as being after God's own heart, wrote: "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them" (Psalm 119:165, Authorized Version, emphasis added). The apostle Paul adds: "God is not a God of disorder but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33, NIV).
In this world, real peace—peace of mind—peace where harmony flourishes, and peace where prosperity is abundant, is difficult to find. Peter cites the words of David when he tells us that we must actively "seek peace and pursue it" (1 Peter 3:11). You must make a conscious stand to do the right things!
This is what the Lord says:
"Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls" (Jeremiah 6:16, NIV).
When we have allowed our minds, our thoughts, our actions to be yielded to God and directed by His Holy Spirit, the outcome is "life and peace" (Romans 8:6). Our minds are protected and comforted by none other than Jesus Christ Himself (Philippians 4:7). No matter what happens, no matter what trials and difficulties we face, we can have incredible, rock-solid, spirit-fueled peace.
What about you? If this quality of calming peace is not readily abundant in your life, may I invite you to read one of our critically important Bible study guides? It's titled The Ten Commandments, and it will explain how these divine principles, what James called "the perfect law that gives freedom" (James 1:25, NIV), will bring new peace and harmony into your life. You can order a free copy or read it instantly at www.ucg.org/booklet/ten-commandments/.
I also invite you to listen a sermon about peace that covers these and other practical points about how you can achieve the elusive peace that is not here on earth. You can find it at http://cincinnati-east.ucg.org/sermon/peace.
P.S. If you have a personal story about how God has brought you peace, I would like to know it. Please write to me at email@example.com.