As I start my fourth week writing these stories, I am finding that this blog is turning out much different than I thought it would. And that’s okay. I have a peace about it that surprises me. My life is a whirlwind and I am busy – heading out to Dallas on Monday, and returning on Tuesday, more appointments that I can track in my head, and yet, in the center of the whole thing, peace.
I was even thinking about a familiar phrase – how many times in my life, all the way back to my earliest days in Sunday school, have I heard people say “Peace be with you”, and then the familiar response, “And also with you.” Sometimes, we even nodded a little as we said it, remember? And it was something that I only heard in church; never in the community at large. But, the truth is, grace always comes first, then peace – however, we don’t think about it that way, because most of us didn’t learn it that way.
And that takes me to the Bible – and to the life of Paul. After all, Paul had quite a story. In the earlier years of his life, many theologians think that, as a contemporary of Jesus, it is possible that Paul attended the crucifixion. And certainly, it is possible that he was actually one of the people who watched Stephen stoned to death. And then, his encounter with God on the road to Damascus; where he was struck blind, and ultimately regained his sight. We learn that Paul, one of the most brutal adversaries of Jesus and his movement, eventually became one of Christ’s strongest proponents. What caused this huge shift in his thinking? He was a recipient of God’s grace, and then, yes, his peace.
But notice which came first – grace. Because until he had a real encounter with the living God, Paul was not about to change. Just like we won’t change until we have an encounter with the living God. It was only after a time of seclusion with Christ in Arabia and Damascus that Paul acknowledged the impact of Christ on his life (Paul tells us in Galations 1:18 that it was three years) – and he had a divine peace about it.
Paul teaches us that we can’t have true peace without first having that all important relationship with Christ. It is only after we accept the gift of grace, which is defined as undeserved favor, that we can really enter in God’s rest – His peace. Virtually all of Paul’s letters in the New Testament, within the first several verses, invoke Grace and Peace for the reader. And yet, it is something that we tend to glance over without really thinking about it. In Philippians 4:4-7, Paul even shares with us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Get it? “Rejoice in the Lord always” – that is the grace part; accept the free gift from God, and then celebrate it; and then, the “Peace of God, which transcends all understanding” – that is the peace part; because it will “guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus”.
So there you have it – an incredibly important Biblical principle that we all need to master. Because life is hectic, and sometimes we look for that elusive peace, without realizing that before we can find it, we have to remember the first part, God’s grace. As you start the new week, my encouragement today is that when you find yourself a little restless, or lacking peace, that you will spend a few minutes with God, realizing the gift of grace that you have already received, and then don’t be surprised when the peace of God sweeps over you like a warm, familiar, blanket of love. And my prayer is that this becomes something you long for, and search out, just as Paul did, and I do. So, here it comes; wait for it………..Grace and Peace to you………