Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part 12: Clarity about the Fruit: Peace
Peace is an elusive quality in the lives of many followers of Jesus. Chaos, disruption, anxiety, and uncertainty seem to be the more common experience. Yet Paul tells us that peace is something that the Spirit brings to fruition in our lives. So what does this mean for you and me?
I cannot help but think of a scene from the magical film, Mary Poppins. Taking charge from the moment she arrives in the lives of Jane and Michael, she demands they put the nursery in order before they go off on a fun trek to the park. They look dismayed because their living quarters look like Hurricane Irma passed through. Mary is not dissuaded but encourages them with a display of her power to make order out of a mess. Before you know it, everything is in its place.
There is a parallel between this film scene and Jesus calming the storm. In response to his disciples’ terror, he awakens from sleep and stares down the storm with the command, “Peace! Be still!” Mark 4:35-41 (ESV). And it does go still. Suddenly, everything is as it should be. Everything is in order. The disciples are astounded that even the wind and the waves obey his voice.
But in case you missed it, Jesus was experiencing peace before the twelve unceremoniously interrupted his slumber. He was so not worried about the storm that he could sleep as they panicked. Why? Because everything between him and the Father was in order.
This is what peace is. It is not the absence of scary storms in life, or “. . . trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword,” as Paul says in Romans 8:35 (NIV). Collectively, humankind has made living in a world affected by the Fall a hard place to live. So, if you define peace as being in a place where nothing bad is happening, nothing troubling is brewing, nothing disturbing is going on, you will never have it.
Peace is instead wholeness of your mind, soul, and heart produced by the gospel of peace and empowered by the Spirit. If you are aware on your faith journey, you will notice that the development of peace inside you by the Spirit corresponds to how healthy your soul is becoming.
And the only example of the fullness of this is Jesus himself. In the transformational classes my team offers, we talk about the Heart Chart, which is a simple visual tool we use to teach everyone their story. If you ever take this training, you will hear us tell how the hurt in your heart, which you have been accumulating since you were born, binds with the sin in me choices you make to comfort yourself, which in turn produces the outward symptoms that indicate how damaged you are. Some of the symptoms you have are not currently causing you pain, but others have gone on to become addictive, which means they are in charge of you and painting a false picture of who you are.
One of my trainers decided to do a Heart Chart for Jesus. His list of hurts that Jesus experienced when he lived on earth included being mocked, ridiculed, abandoned by family, betrayed and run out of towns. He was tempted deeply by Satan to deny God’s reign over him. Religious leaders wanted him dead, put him on trial and wrongly accused him. He was beaten mercilessly and crucified as a criminal. His disciples ran away and even denied him.
What did Jesus choose to comfort himself with? In the words of the writer of Hebrews, Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (4:15 NIV) Instead of choosing sin to comfort himself, Jesus continually turned to the Father for everything, no matter what his life circumstances. And this produced in him the character that we call the fruit of the Spirit. Not symptoms of damage, distortion, and destruction, but of love, joy, and peace. His world made perfect sense to him. It was completely in order, even though those around him, including his disciples, were often confounded by his unperturbability.
If you are keeping in step with the Spirit, remember that peace is a by-product of his work in you, not the goal. You are not trying to learn how to be in peace the world. You are surrendering to the Spirit’s work to change you from the inside out so that you conform to the likeness of Jesus. The quicker you surrender, the quicker you will become a peace-filled person.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NIV)
If you would like to see a presentation of the Heart Chart, visit http://churchequippers.com/tools/heart-chart/