// DENISE HAGIN BURNS
TYPICALLY WHEN MANY of us think of peace, we think of being comforted by the Holy Spirit during a time of tragedy. We pray for peace, and it helps us in our time of need. There are times, however, when the turmoil and anxiety in our lives seem endless. And we need peace for more than just a moment, day, or week.
In John 16:33 (NLT) Jesus said, "'I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.' "
Bad things are going to happen. There's no way around it. Jesus told us ahead of time so that we wouldn't be surprised. He wanted to prepare us, so when hard times come, our response is peace. Jesus was letting us know that in Him, we could live in perpetual peace. However, the choice is ours to make.
Living a lifestyle of peace is not passive; it's active. Psalm 34:14 (NIV) gives us instructions on how to always have peace. "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." Pursuing something means to seek it over an extended period. Pursuing peace, therefore, is a lifelong process.
If you played the game hide-and-seek as a child, then you know you had to work to find what was hidden. You had to seek it out, run around, look under things, and maybe go into scary places.
Peace can be hidden because life can hide it. Even if something traumatic isn't going on in our lives, just the busyness of everyday life can conceal our peace.
That's why scripture says to seek peace because it can be easily hidden. Finding peace is more than saying, "I found it! It's mine." We have to pursue it all the time.
Experiencing peace boils down to making a decision. Colossians 3:15 (NLT) says, "And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts." We can allow fear, anxiety, sadness, busyness, strife, and anger to rule. Or we can let peace reign supreme and let it be how we answer every situation and thought.
Sometimes it might require more than a daily choice. We may need to make an hourly or even an every-five-minute decision, depending on what we are going through.
You may think that living in continual peace sounds great, but you're wondering how you can get to that place. For many, the struggle with staying in peace has everything to do with their mind. Our heart knows that we have the Greater One, the Prince of Peace living inside of us. But our mind gives us problems, because it always wants to side with fear, anxiety, and "what if."
What often keeps us anxious are the imaginations that get lodged in our mind. We start wondering, "What if this happens? What if that happens? And if that happens, is this going to happen?" That is an imagination gone wild!
The remedy for unrestrained thoughts is found in Second Corinthians 10:5, "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
We can't live in the "what ifs." That's not letting peace rule. If a thought doesn't line up with God's Word, it needs to be cast down and thrown out immediately. This is why spending time in scripture is crucial. If we don't, then we won't have any Word stored in our heart to combat the thoughts that come against us.
Truth or Trash
This is how peace can rule in our heart. It's not going to bubble up inside of us on its own. The enemy will try to bombard our mind with trashy thoughts that aren't true. But we have to determine what's truth and what's trash because the trash is what keeps us out of peace.
Often when scripture talks about peace, it also speaks of joy. Romans 15:13 (NIV) says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
When we trust God and let His peace reign in our heart, we will not only have joy, but we will also have hope in the midst of hopeless situations. When we think there is no way that any good can come out of our circumstances, God can turn them around. He finds ways to make good come out of them no matter how hopeless they seem.
First Peter 5:7 (NIV) tells us to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." God cares for us. He knows the torment that living in worry and fear can bring. He doesn't want that for us. When we cast our cares on Him, we give Him our concerns, and He gives us His peace. It doesn't get any better than that.
As we let God's peace dominate us and as we keep our eyes on Him—even though things around us may be going crazy—we will have peace. Focusing on Jesus causes us to see how He is working in the middle of our storm. He can do things that we've never imagined.
No matter what we face, God wants to be close to us and walk beside us. If we let the peace of God rule in our heart, He will come so close to us that we won't be able to fathom it.
God does not always make our storms go away, but He promised to always be there for us. He has shown us how to have peace, joy, and hope in the middle of our darkest times. All we have to do is choose it. We are one decision away from living a life of continual peace.
This article was adapted from Denise's Winter Bible Seminar 2018 Tuesday morning session. Go to bit.do/continual-peace to watch it in its entirety.