Peace. We all want it. But, often peace seems out of reach. There are many reasons to feel anxious, apprehensive, fearful, or just plain out of balance. Needs, problems, sin, tragedies and suffering—they are before us every day. We may have health challenges, difficult relationships, work stress, personal loss, fear of the future, emotional weariness. In addition, we tend to worry about our children and grandchildren each waking moment.
For millions seeking a sense of inner peace, the self-help section of a bookstore or library is the logical place to go for help. There, hundreds of titles offer ways to relieve stress, anxiety, and/or fear in life. Empty your mind. Simplify your life. Relax. Meditate. Certainly, all of these can be helpful in some way. The “empty your mind” advice can be especially appealing. Just stop thinking about it.
And, what better place to empty our minds than that perfect beach, staring into the waves for hours and eventually catching a glorious sunset? The ocean is one of my favorite places to be and my soul rests when there. It is natural to want to get away from demands and noises of everyday life. But, even here in our favorite “get away” place, the foundation for real peace can elude us.
One rare rainy afternoon in Maui, we sat on our lanai, watching the waves crash into the lava rocks. In searching for a Christian podcast about peace, one by Tim Keller appeared. The title sounded perfect. “Peace.”
Keller talked about how, contrary to many self-help materials, the key to peace is not emptying your mind. It is filling your mind. It is an act of the will and takes discipline. You can’t merely “empty your mind” and expect peace to come.
“The opposite of peace is anxiety,” says Keller. “Christian peace is not ignoring facts or the reality of a situation. It is not the absence of negative thoughts but the presence of something else.”
Keller examined the apostle Paul’s response to the stresses and challenges in his life. Paul modeled how Christian peace comes from thinking about the implications of our beliefs. Recall, Paul had been persecuted, stoned, imprisoned, ship-wrecked. And yet, he says not only is there cause for joy, he stirs up others to joy.
“Christian peace comes from thinking about the implications of your beliefs.”
Paul’s ability to be content was not a natural talent. It was learned behavior.
Phil 4:12 “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Learned or not, this had to be difficult to do.
Paul had an inner calm, poise, and equilibrium. He was the same in any situation because he had a sense of being protected. Paul took it beyond meditation. He modeled the secret of peace by consistently practicing three disciplines of peace—thinking, thanking, loving.
The Discipline of Thinking—Think about the big picture of life. In Philippians 4:8, Paul says to “think on these things.” The Greek word means to “pound, meditate, chew over”—more powerful than merely thinking. The first three we are to “chew over” are those things which are true, noble, and right.
Paul is talking about doctrine. Ask yourself the big questions…
Who are you?
What is the true meaning of life?
Where have you come from and where are you going?
Think doctrine. Become convinced of the things that are true.
Paul is saying exactly the opposite of “empty your mind.” Without thinking, the next two will not come easy.
The Discipline of Thanking—“In everything, give thanks and make your requests known to God with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).”
Thank him as you make the request. If you love God, He is working everything together for your good and His glory.
The Discipline of Loving—Love the right things.
St Augustine said, “God alone is the place of peace, that which cannot be disturbed…Only love of the immutable can bring tranquility.”
Tim Keller includes a helpful definition for peace…
“Peace is confidence and trust in God’s wise control of your life…Christian peace is not the absence of troubles; it is a peace that is unshakable even in the midst of troubles.”
Listen to Tim Keller: