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"GREAT PEACE"
by Philip Owen

            We read about colleges and universities creating “safe zones” or “safe places” where students may go to recover from or to avoid altogether hearing something with which they disagree.  Just within the last several days, we have seen a national poll revealing that in the opinion of a significant percentage of those same students violence is a justifiable response to hearing something that offends them.  Setting aside the issue of free political speech, those of us of an older generation are generally quick to heap scorn and even contempt on such thoughts.   Assuredly, there is no justification for squelching free speech (the founders had in mind speech of a political nature).  And admittedly, many of these advocates are either profoundly ignorant or maliciously rabble-rousing.  But what many of us may fail to see is that these tantrums spring from the godless, evolutionary worldview with which these young people have been inculcated.  Faced with genuine existential threats on every hand, a life that they have been taught is meaningless, and an eternity of oblivion, it is little wonder that many live in real apprehension, even fear.  There is no antidote for this or any other kind of anxiety apart from the “peace that passeth understanding” to be found in the saving work of Christ that brings redemption from sin and peace with God.  Furthermore, once we have been born again and experience that peace with God, we may also bask in the peace of God day by day.  The Word of God is replete with promises of peace for the believer; for example, “Those who love your law have great peace” (Psa. 119:165a).

            This verse bears the absolute stamp of inspiration because no human would ever concoct such an idea.  Our thoughts and efforts turn automatically to the natural plane.  We are inclined to think, “Those who have good health or a pleasant family life enjoy great peace.”  Or, “Those who have no financial worries and are successful have great peace.”  Or, “Those who live in a secure country or a safe neighborhood have great peace.”  Or even, “Those who have learned to think positive thoughts have great peace.”  Each of those ideas focuses on our circumstances or attempts to manage how we view them.

            But our text sets forth God’s view.  Peace is not to be found in good circumstances, in learning to manage them, or in training ourselves to view them in a more positive light.  Admittedly, any of those elements might tend to reduce our fears, but the psalmist goes far beyond a mere suggestion of modifying our discomfort:  he promises “great peace.”  He is not speaking of mere window-dressing, of sugar-coating, of putting on rose-colored glasses to provide an artificially-improved appearance.  He is speaking of that rest of soul, that quietness of mind, that strong and comforting assurance that all is well and all will be well, even when circumstances are unpleasant.

            And what does God, through the psalmist, tell us about the means of obtaining such peace?  He assures us that “great peace” is the fruit of loving God’s law, both the promises and the commands, the “do’s” and the “don’t’s”.  Those who love God’s law have come to know Who He is and believe the Word is truly for their blessing.  They know that heeding God’s warnings keep them out of danger, obeying His commands gives purpose and results in blessing, and that resting in His promises gives peace, comfort, assurance, joy, and confidence.  Faith has shown them and experience taught them that the Book is true and perfect.  They have learned that its pages contain a portrait of their God and Savior and that learning of Him and entering into the fellowship of His presence is the chief joy of life, a joy that provides solid-as-a-rock peace.  No amount of psychological mind-altering will bring such peace.  Nor can even the most naturally perfect set of life circumstances do so.  The best they offer is a paper-thin veneer that erodes with the first friction of trials.  On the other hand, God offers a peace that trials serve only to burnish.  May we all genuinely love the law of the Lord:  not only will we have peace, but we will honor the “Law-Giver.”

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