Transcendent Peace

Since the very beginning, Christians have been known for having a surprising amount of peace in their lives. They have been able to look danger and difficulty in the eyes and continue on, holding fast to their faith and finding in it the security and courage they need. But why? Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.” Is this really the secret to how Christians have peace?

In the book of Acts, the Bible relays one of the first examples of this transcendent peace. It tells us in Chapters 6 and 7 that Stephen was “a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people” (6:8; NIV), and that when members of the synagogue began to debate with him, they could not win because Stephen was full of the Spirit. So, instead, they began to spread rumors, and they even went so far as to say he blasphemed Moses and God. So Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin, but it does not say he was worried or afraid. Stephen answered their questions and connected their beliefs about Moses and the law with who Jesus was— ending with a very convicting statement:

“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” (7:51-53)

The members of the Sanhedrin then dragged Stephen out and stoned him, but the text does not indicate that Stephen was regretful or worried— instead it reads that while they were stoning him, he prayed: “‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’” (7:59-60). Stephen did not pray for relief or escape, he prayed for those who were killing him. Before his death, it says that Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and that he saw the glory of God. If God Himself was with him and in him, it is obvious why Stephen had so much peace in his death. Stephen trusted that his life, both his physical and eternal life, was safe in His hands.

Stephen is not the only example. All through history, there have been examples of Christians who have been killed, persecuted, and gone through many other difficulties, but still found peace in Christ. Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna in 150 A.D., was burned at the stake for refusing to deny Christ. When the soldiers grabbed him to nail him to the stake, Polycarp stopped them, and the book 131 Christians Everyone Should Know records him saying, “‘Leave me as I am. For He who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails’” (page 361). And the record says that he did not move, even as he was burned alive.

Reverend John Harper is a more recent example. He was a passenger on the Titanic in 1910, going to speak at a church in America. The article John Harper’s Last Convert tells the story well, saying that after the Titanic had sunk and Harper was in the water, he floated by another man and cried out, “Are you saved?” When the man replied no, he shouted, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you will be saved!” After giving his life jacket to someone who did not have one, Harper drowned, and the man Harper converted before he died later gave his testimony. Harper knew his soul was saved, and was selfless enough to give up his life to try and save those who were not. Like Stephen, he had full faith in God’s grace and salvation, and that knowledge enveloped him in peace, even in death.

Christians today also feel this peace. Even though Christians in America have not experienced persecution as terrible as in the days of the early church, they have still gone through very difficult and stressful times. When interviewed about peace, this is what Gabi Martin, a Christian from a small church in Oregon, said she had experienced:

Over the course of our marriage, my ex-spouse confessed many very difficult things to me. All of the times after the first two, God put such a shield of peace around me! Each time, I would feel this overwhelming compassion for my husband, as if I were looking at an injured child instead of my enemy. I would feel amazing amounts of grace and forgiveness for him in these moments that would last a few days until reality set in. Once this period of peace was over, I would feel that God had cushioned the blow for the initial time, until I had the strength to face the truth and reach out to Him. This still happens with other people in my life and I know not to question it, but to embrace the gift of peace, and then prepare for the three or four day realization. God is so kind to give me this gift of grace! I feel it is a gift for the receiver and myself.”

And she is not the only Christian who has felt the peace of God while managing relationships. A young Christian shared how she was able to feel peace when she was struggling:

“I’ve noticed before that the peace isn’t always immediate… There were times I had some intense relationship struggles. I was very stressed and upset about them. But Philippians 4:6-7 was always brought to mind. If I took time to pray about it, process through it, and give it to the Lord, that time would end with so much peace that I was able to continue through my day. Even if there was residue exhaustion from the stress, it was overcome with the realization that God’s got this and I don’t need to live in a frenzy.”

How are Christians able to feel such abiding peace even when it is hard? It seems to be by learning to surrender their lives and by fully trusting the love and goodness of the One they serve.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Sep 07, 2016 @ 17:56:41

    I love this Mary! Thank you :)

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Daisy Virginia
    Sep 08, 2016 @ 13:14:28

    This is so powerful!! Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person


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