Monthly Message May 2019

A further reflection from SWBF Chairman, Tony Mason

“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding” Phil 4:7

“The pursuit of peace”, wrote the late John Stott, “is a universal human obsession, whether it is international, industrial, domestic or personal peace”. [1] There is abundant evidence of this pursuit in our society today: in recent days both the Government and members of the Royal Family and parts of the media have focused attention on mental health issues; people’s worries, disappointments and sense of injustice often feature in TV programmes; news coverage brings the devastation, suffering and horror of war and conflict right into our living rooms day by day. In fact, one has the impression that, overall, people are rather unhappy and that unhappiness is fuelled so often by gloomy pronouncements about Brexit, climate change, plastic pollution and so on. Does the media reflect our unhappiness or contribute to it, or both?

The ways in which people try to obliterate anxiety tend to be short-lived, empty and even positively harmful. Some will take to ‘recreational’ drugs; or try to obtain more money through the false promises of gambling; others imagine that to indulge in sex, without the commitment of marriage, will lead to being valued and recognised. But not only are these quests for some kind of peace short-lived, they are thoroughly deceitful, vain and empty promises and grow out of a failure to consider the nature, and the promises, of God. To seek peace anywhere but in God is to do so on our own terms, in ways under our own control and, therefore, in ways that are within the scope of our own understanding. But God offers a peace that “transcends understanding” (Philippians 4:7) – because it is all of grace.

The Hebrew idea of peace is a precious and positive thing. ‘Shalom’ is not peace in the sense of the absence of trouble, disturbance or conflict. It is the presence of, and the fullness of, every blessing that God can bestow. When Jewish people greet one another with: “Shalom!” they are saying, in effect, “God bless you abundantly and fill you with every conceivable blessing, every good thing!” Now wouldn’t that be peace?

Paul writes, in Romans 5 that “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. ‘Justified’ means we are declared not guilty, but not because we are sinless but because God has laid on Christ the iniquity of us all and all the unsearchable riches of that justification are ours when we put our trust in him for full and free salvation.

We don’t need to, indeed we cannot, justify ourselves; we turn our back on the empty, deceptive promises of money, drugs and illicit sex; we do not place our ultimate hope in politicians and scientists, nor even in our own success and popularity but in God who has saved us from the past, keeps us in the present and will preserve us for a glorious eternity – and all that is in Christ! He and he alone is our peace.

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:7)

[1] John Stott: “The Message of Romans”  (BST) IVP 1994 p139