April 25, 2020
by Maria Fontaine
Biblical principles are timeless, because no matter what our circumstances or our age or the times we live in, they hold true as much today as ever. The Bible says that God wants to give us His perfect peace in place of our anxiety, stress, and fear.
Recently, the Lord drew my attention to an article which is almost like a mini-course on how to access and grow that peace that God offers us. The author of the article, J. R. Miller, looks at each step in the process of applying and developing this wonderful gift in our lives as Jesus intends for us to do.
Yes, Jesus will help you when you cry out to Him in times of crisis, but He also wants to help you to live in a way that allows His peace to permeate your life on a daily basis. In order to do this, it’s necessary to exercise that gift of peace. This takes time and effort.
The life of faith is filled with crises and hardships, successes and failures. However, through them all, what matters is that we learn to trust Him and find that perfect peace no matter what we face. I have found that the more I fill my heart and mind with God’s words, the easier it gets to trust Him, and the more peace I have.
I encourage you to read the following article. Even if you have to divide it into a few sittings, I think it will be more than worth your while. The short anecdotes, examples, and poems scattered throughout offer illustrations of the steps we can take to continue our growth in His peace, built not on hoping, but on knowing that He is there, ready to help us and keep us.
This article is not copyrighted, as it is public domain, so feel free to pass this on to your friends and acquaintances and anyone who needs help to relieve stress or fear. You can send them quotes or sections from it or the whole thing as you feel led.
Please enjoy it! Read it, study it, apply it, share it, and may it be a blessing to you in every way.
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Adapted from “In Perfect Peace,” by J. R. Miller, 19021
“Perfect peace!” That is what we all want. That, too, is what Christ offers us in His gospel. Among His farewell words we find this bequest: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). After His return from the grave, on three occasions He gave the same blessing to His disciples, “Peace be unto you” (John 20:19, 21, 26). Peace is thus part of the blessed gospel, and an essential element of true and full Christian life. Christ desires us to have peace. If we do not have it, we have missed part of the blessing of being a Christian, part of our inheritance as children of God. It is not a peculiar privilege which is only for a favored few; it is for everyone who believes in Christ and will accept it.
Yet do all Christians possess peace? Have all taken into their heart and life this blessing from the Master? How many of us really have Christ’s peace today? How many of us lived in the peace of Christ the past week? How many of us are kept in perfect peace through all the circumstances and experiences of our changing lives?
What is wrong? Is the gospel really not what it claims to be? Are the blessings it promises only lovely dreams which never are fulfilled, which cannot be fulfilled? Is grace not able to help us to attain that peace? The Bible is full of great words like rest, joy, peace, love, hope. Are these words only illusions? Or can these beautiful things be attained? Do Christians as a rule expect to get these divine qualities into their lives in this present world?
We can say with perfect confidence that these words paint no impossible attainments. For example, peace—it is not a mocking vision which ever flees away from one who tries to clasp it and take it into one’s heart. It is not like the sunbeam which the child tries to gather up off the floor in its chubby hand, but which only pours through its fingers and slips from its clasp. Nor is it merely a heavenly attainment which we must wait till we die to get. It is a state into which every believer in Christ may enter here on the earth, and in which he may dwell in all life’s changes.
It is well worth our while to think what is meant by peace, as the word is used in the Scriptures, and then ask how we may obtain this blessing. The word runs through all the Bible. We find it far back in the Old Testament, in the benediction used by the priests—“The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:26). Here peace is offered as the gift of God, a blessing dropped from heaven into trusting hearts. In Job, in the words of Eliphaz the Temanite, we have the exhortation, “Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace” (Job 22:21). According to this word, the way to find peace is by getting acquainted with God. It is because we do not know Him that we are not at rest. In the Psalms are many words about peace. For example, this: “The mountains shall bring peace to the people” (Psalm 72:3). The mountains take the storms which beat in fury about their tall peaks. Down at the mountain’s base, however, the sweet valleys lie in quietness, meanwhile, sheltered and in peace. So it is that Christ met the storms, which exhausted their fury upon Him, while those who trust in Him nestle in security in the shelter of His love.
We have a beautiful illustration of this in two of the Psalms which stand side by side. The Twenty-Second is called the Psalm of the Cross. It tells the story of the crucifixion. Its first words, certainly, were used by the Redeemer when He was passing through His dying agony. The Psalm is full of the experiences of Calvary. The storms are sweeping fiercely about the mountain’s brow.
Then how quietly and beautifully the Twenty-Third Psalm nestles in the shadow of the Twenty-Second, like a quiet vale at the mountain’s foot! It shows us a picture of perfect peace. We see the shepherd leading His flock beside the still waters and making them lie down in the green pastures. Even in the deep valley there is no gloom, for the shepherd walks with His sheep and quiets all their fears. This Sweet Shepherd Psalm could come nowhere but after the Psalm of the Cross.
The prophets also tell us much about peace. In Isaiah, especially, the word occurs again and again. The Messiah is foretold as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Farther on, we come again under the shadow of the cross, and read that “the chastisement of our peace was upon him” (Isaiah 53:5). The security and eternity of our peace are pledged in a wonderful promise which says, “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee” (Isaiah 54:10).
But it is in the New Testament that the wonderful fulness of the meaning of peace is disclosed. On every page the word shines. The angels sang at the Redeemer’s birth, “On earth peace” (Luke 2:14). At the close of His ministry, Jesus said to His friends, “In me ye might have peace” (John 16:33). Over eighty times the word appears in the New Testament, half of these being written by Paul, the homeless, persecuted apostle.
The picture of peace
An artist sought to portray peace. He put on his canvas a sea, swept by storms, filled with wrecks, a scene of terror and danger. In the midst of the sea he painted a great rock, and high up in the rock a cleft, with herbage and flowers, in the midst of which he showed a dove sitting quietly on her nest. These same elements—the rock, the cleft, the soul’s hiding place—we have in the hymn:
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.”
For Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The Christian’s peace is not found in a place where there is no trouble—it is something which enters the heart and makes it independent of all outside conditions. In the ruins of many old English castles a well is found down deep among the foundations. Thus, water was provided for use in the castle in time of siege. The enemy might cut off the streams which ordinarily supplied the people in the castle with water. They might shut the gates, so that no one could go out to bring in water from any stream or spring outside. But the defenders within the walls cared not for any siege while the well in the foundation gave its copious supply of pure, fresh water. So it is with the Christian in whose heart the peace of God dwells. He is not dependent upon outside conditions and circumstances, for he carries in himself the secret of his joy, hope, peace, and strength.
It is very evident that we cannot hope to live in this world without troubles. No such life is possible. Nor can we hope for a life without sorrow. To love is to weep some time in the journey. Religion does not shelter us from grief. But the peace promised is an experience which neither trial nor sorrow can disturb—it is something that changes sorrow into joy.
A tourist writes of finding a fresh-water spring beside the sea, as sweet as any that ever gushed from amid the rocks on the mountainside. He took his cup and drank of the water that bubbled up in the sand. Soon the tide rolled in again; pouring its brackish flood over the little spring, and burying it out of sight for hours. But when again the bitter surf flowed out, the spring was found sweet as ever. So it is with the peace of God in the believer’s heart. It dwells deep. In the day of joy it sings and is glad. Then sorrow comes and the salt floods pour over the life, covering it. But when the sorrow is past, the heart’s peace remains sweet and joyous as ever.
A party of tourists were traveling along a country road. As their carriage approached a cottage near the drive, they heard singing. The voice that sang was sweet and rich, and of wondrous power. The members of the party were entranced. They stopped to listen as the notes of the song rose higher and clearer. Presently a young girl came out of the cottage with a basket on her arm.
“Please tell us who is singing so sweetly in your cottage,” one in the party asked of her.
“It is my Uncle Tim, sir,” answered the girl. “He has just had a bad turn with his leg, and he is singing away the pain.”
“Is he young? Can he ever get over the trouble?” asked the young man.
“Oh, he is getting a bit old, now, sir,” replied the girl. “The doctors say he’ll never be any better in this world—but he’s so good it would make you cry to see him suffering his terrible pain, and then hear him singing the more sweetly the more he is suffering.”
That is what the peace of God will help us to do. It gives us “songs in the night.” It puts joy into our hearts when we are in the midst of sorest trouble. It turns our thorns into roses.
The life of Christian faith is not freed from pain, but out of the pain comes rich blessing. The crown of thorns must be worn by the Master’s friends who follow him faithfully, but the thorns burst into sweet flowers as the light of heaven’s morning touches them.
“God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
“But God has promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing kindness, undying love.”
The secret of peace
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isaiah 26:3). There is music in these words of the old Hebrew prophet. Why can we not get the music into our lives? Why do we not all have this perfect peace in our hearts? Why do we lose the quiet and the calm of our spirits so easily in the world’s distractions and troubles? Let us see if we cannot learn the secret of peace which lies in the prophet’s words. The secret is in two parts.
One is that the keeping is of God, not us. We cannot keep ourselves in peace. There is a majestic power in self-control, and we should seek to have that power. Not to be master of our own life is to be pitiably weak. We should learn to control our feelings, our emotions, our appetites, our passions, our desires, our temper, our speech. He that rules his own spirit is the greatest of conquerors, greater than he that captures a city (Proverbs 16:32). No doubt perfect self-mastery has much to do with keeping the heart quiet in danger, calm and undisturbed in sudden trial. But this is not the real secret of peace. Our self-control reaches but a little way. One may have it and remain unmoved in the face of the most disturbing experiences, and yet not have the peace of God.
“How shall I quiet my heart? How shall I keep it still?
How shall I hush its tremulous start at tidings of good or ill?
How shall I gather and hold contentment and peace and rest,
Wrapping their sweetness, fold on fold, over my troubled breast?
“The Spirit of God is still, and gentle, and mild, and sweet;
What time His omnipotent, glorious will guides the worlds at His feet,
Controlling all lesser things, this turbulent heart of mine
He keeps as under His folded wings, in a peace serene—divine.”
That is the secret of peace which the old prophet’s words reveal. God keeps us. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.” The Bible teaches this truth of the divine keeping as the source of all true security and confidence. There is no other keeping that really avails. It is only when God is our refuge and strength that we can say, “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:2). There is a story of a saintly old man who desired that the only epitaph on his grave should be the word “Kept.” This word contained the whole history of his life. In one of the psalms the lesson is written out for us in full. “The Lord is thy keeper.” “He that keeps thee will not slumber. … The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul” (Psalm 121:3, 5, 7). It is God who keeps us—it is God alone who can keep us—in perfect peace.
Only God is eternal, the same yesterday and today and forever, and only when we rest in God and trust in Him can we have a peace which cannot be disturbed. “Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4). When we are held in the clasp of His love, we are safe from any disturbance, for He is omnipotent. Our refuge is secure forever, for He is from everlasting to everlasting.
We have the same teaching concerning the divine keeping in a passage in one of the epistles of Paul, in which he also gives us the secret of peace. “The peace of God … shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 ASV). The figure is military. Men sleep in quiet confidence in their tents, in the darkest nights, in time of war, in the presence of the enemy, because sentinels wake and watch through all the darkness. God’s own peace keeps guard over our hearts and thoughts, so that nothing shall ever disturb us or alarm us. Nothing ever can disturb God. He looks without fear upon the wildest storms. He is never dismayed by things which seem to us calamitous. His infinite and eternal peace will guard us and keep us in the shelter of its own blessed quiet and calm.
This is part of the great secret of peace which we are trying to learn: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.” It is God’s omnipotence that keeps us. It is God’s Spirit who broods over the turbulent floods of life and brings order out of chaos. It is God’s Son who stands on the vessel, amid the wild storms, and compels them to become quiet and still at his feet. It is God’s grace that enters into the believer’s heart and abides there as a well of living water within, springing up into everlasting life. We cannot command our own spirit and compel it to be at rest, when sorrow or peril is on every side. God alone can keep us in peace. Nothing that is not infinite and eternal can be a safe and secure hiding-place for an immortal life.
The mind of peace
But there is another part of the secret of peace which is also important for us to learn. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isaiah 26:3). There is something for us to do. There is no doubt that God has power to keep us in perfect peace. He is omnipotent, and His strength is a defence and a shelter to all who hide in Him. But even God will never compel us into submission—we must yield ourselves to Him. Even omnipotence will not gather us into its invincible shelter by force—we must be willing in the day of God’s power (Psalm 110:3). All we need to do is to stay our minds upon God. That means to trust Him, to rest in Him, to nestle in His love. We remember where John was found the night of the Lord’s last supper with His disciples—John was leaning on Jesus’ breast. He crept into that holy shelter and reposed upon the infinite love which beat in that bosom. John simply trusted, and was kept in holy peace.
A beautiful story is told of Rudyard Kipling during a serious illness. The nurse was sitting at his bedside on one of the anxious nights when the sick man’s condition was most critical. She was watching him intently and noticed that his lips began to move. She bent over him, thinking he wished to say something to her. She heard him whisper very softly the words of the old familiar prayer of childhood, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” The nurse, realizing that her patient was not needing her services, and that he was praying, said in apology for having intruded upon him, “I beg your pardon, Mr. Kipling; I thought you wanted something.” “I do,” faintly replied the sick man; “I want my heavenly Father. He only can care for me now.”
In his great weakness there was nothing that human help could do, and he turned to God, seeking the blessing and the care which none but God can give. That is what we need to do in every time of danger, of trial, of sorrow—when the gentlest human love can do nothing—creep into our heavenly Father’s bosom, saying, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” That is the way to peace. Earth has no shelter in which it can be found, but in God the feeblest may find it.
“Let not your heart be troubled,” said the Master; “believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1).
This is the one great lesson of Christian faith—“Believe.” “Into thine hands I commit my spirit” (Psalm 31:5, Luke 23:46). “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.” Stayed on Thee! These words tell the whole story. They picture a child nestling in the mother’s arms, letting its whole little weight down upon her. It has no fear, and nothing disturbs it, for the mother’s love is all around it. “Stayed” means reposing. It suggests also the thought of continuousness of trust and abiding. Too much of our trust is broken, intermittent—this hour singing, the next hour in tears, dismayed. If we would have unbroken peace, we must have unbroken trust, our minds stayed upon God all the while.
The God of peace
God is strong, omnipotent. We need not fear that His power to keep us will ever fail. There never is a moment when He is not able to sustain us. When the question is asked, “From whence shall my help come?” the answer is, “My help cometh from Jehovah, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1, 2 ASV). He who made all the world and can surely bear up one little human life and protect it from harm.
God is wise. We are not wise enough to direct the affairs of our own lives, even if we had the power to shape things to our minds. Our outlook is limited—cut off by life’s close horizons. We do not know what the final outcome of this or that choice would be. Oftentimes the things we think we need, and think would bring us happiness and good, would only work us harm in the end. Things we dread and shrink from, supposing they would bring us hurt and evil, are oftentimes the bearers to us of rich blessings. We are not wise enough to choose our own circumstances, or to guide our own affairs. Only God can do this for us.
He not only has strength, He has also knowledge of us and of our need and of our danger. He knows all about us—our condition, our sufferings, our trials, our griefs, the little things that vex us, as well as the great things that would crush us. The following lines give the lesson of faith:
“The little, sharp vexations,
And the briars that catch and fret—
Why not take all to the Helper
Who never has failed you yet?
“Tell Him about the heartache,
And tell Him the longing, too;
Tell Him the baffled purpose
When you scarce know what to do.
“Then, leaving all your weakness
With the One divinely strong,
Forget that you bore the burden,
And carry away the song.”
God is love. Strength alone would not be enough. Strength is not always gentle. A tyrant may be strong, but we would not care to entrust our life to him. We crave affection, tenderness. God is love. His gentleness is infinite. The hands into which we are asked to commit our spirit are wounded hands—wounded in saving us. The heart over which we are asked to nestle is the heart that was broken on the cross in love for us. We need not fear to entrust our cares and our lives to such a being.
God is eternal. Human love is very sweet. A mother’s sheltering arms are a wondrously gentle place for a child to nestle in. A loving marriage is a haven of joy to the couple within its encircling embrace.
All that human love can do, all that money can do, all that skill can do, avails nothing. Human arms may clasp us very firmly, yet their clasp cannot keep us from the power of disease or from the cold hand of death. But the love and strength of God are everlasting. Nothing can ever separate us from Him (Romans 8:38–39). An Old Testament promise reads: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” If we are stayed upon the eternal God, nothing ever can disturb us, for nothing can disturb Him on whom we are reposing. If we are held in the clasp of the everlasting arms, we need not fear that we shall ever be separated from the enfolding.
These arms are always underneath us. No matter how low we sink, in weakness, in faintness, in pain, in sorrow, we never can sink below these everlasting arms. We never can drop out of their clasp. The everlasting arms will be underneath the feeblest, most imperiled child of God. Sorrow is very deep, but still and forever, in the greatest grief, these arms of love are underneath the sufferer. Then when death comes, and every earthly support is gone from beneath us, when every human arm unclasps and every face of love fades from before our eyes, and we sink away into what seems darkness and the shadow of death, we shall only sink into the everlasting arms underneath us.
The word “are,” too, must not be overlooked—“Underneath are the everlasting arms.” This is one of the wonderful present tenses of the Bible. To every trusting believer, to each one, in all the ages, to you who today are reading these words and trying to learn this lesson, as well as to those to whom the words were first spoken, God says, “Underneath you are now, this moment, every moment, the everlasting arms.”
The rest of peace
“Whose mind is stayed on thee.” That is the final secret of peace. The reason so many of us do not find the blessing and are disturbed so often by such trifles of care or sorrow or loss is because our minds are not stayed on God. We are distressed by every little disappointment, by every failure in plan or expectation of ours, by every hardness in our circumstances or our condition, by every most trivial loss of money, as if money were life’s sole dependence, as if man lived by bread only. A trifling illness frightens us. The most trivial things in our common life disturb us and send us off into pitiable fits of anxiety, spoiling our days for us, blotting the blue of the sky and putting out the stars. The trouble is, we are not trusting God, our minds are not stayed on Him. That is what we need to learn—to rest in the Lord, to be silent in Him, to commit our way to Him.
Paul puts it very clearly in a remarkable passage in which he tells us how to find peace. “In nothing be anxious” (Philippians 4:6 ASV). That is the first part of the lesson. “Nothing” means really nothing. There are to be no exceptions. No matter what comes, in nothing be anxious. Do not try to make out that your case is peculiar and that you may rightly be anxious, even if others have no reason for worry. “In nothing be anxious.”
What then shall we do with the things that would naturally make us anxious? For there are such things in every life. Here is the answer: “In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6 ASV). Instead of carrying your trials and troubles yourself, and worrying about them, take the frets and vexations to God, not forgetting to mingle praise and thanksgiving with your requests. Get them completely out of your hands into God’s hands, and leave them there.
“Yes, leave it with Him.
The lilies all do
And they grow—
They grow in the rain,
And they grow in the dew—
Yes, they grow;
They grow in the darkness, all hid in the night;
They grow in the sunshine, revealed by the light;
Still they grow.
“Yes, leave it with Him.
’Tis more dear to His heart,
You well know,
Than the lilies that bloom
Or the flowers that start
’Neath the snow.
What you need, if you ask it in prayer
You can leave it with Him, for you are His care—
You, you know.”
The path of peace
The staying of the mind upon God suggests that we are to let ourselves down upon His strength, into the arms of His love, and to rest there without fear, without question. But this does not mean that we shall drop our tasks and duties out of our hands.
Always, in every exhortation to trust God, obedience is implied and presupposed. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness,” said the Master. When we do this, He continued, we need never be anxious, for then all our needs shall be supplied.
If our peace is disturbed by some sudden trial or sorrow, or by overwhelming trouble, God very gently helps back into the nest those who have been thrown out of it by any such experience. One day President Lincoln was walking beside a hedgerow, and came upon a young bird fluttering in the grass. It had fallen out of its nest in the bushes and could not get back again. The great, gentle-hearted man stopped in his walk, picked up the little thing, sought along the hedge until he found the nest, and put the bird back again into its place. That is what Christ is seeking to do every day with lives that have been jostled out of the nest of peace. With hands infinitely gentle He would ever help us back to the peace we have lost awhile.
Love is the law of spiritual life. We do not begin to live in any worthy sense until we have learned to love and to serve others. Selfishness is always a hinderer of peace. Peace is the music which the life makes when it is in perfect tune, and this can be only when all its chords are attuned to the keynote of love.
Peace gives such blessedness to the heart, and is such an adornment to the life, that no one ever should be willing to miss it. Whatever other graces God has bestowed upon us, we should not be content without peace, the most beautiful of them all. However beautiful a character may be, if it has not peace it lacks the highest charm of spiritual adornment. And the Master is willing to bestow upon the lowliest of us the divinest of all graces—peace, His own blessed peace.