Peace in a Restless World
Some thoughts and reflections from Fitfish Team member Pete Brookes, shared at our last Reflection Coffee and Conversation.
Philippians 4: 4-9
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Who would have believed, just 2 years ago, the impact that Covid has had on the world? As it started, we were still reeling from Brexit and now, as we are finally coming out of the pandemic, Putin has waged war on Ukraine. These are big world events, upsetting hearts and minds and taking our peace from us. And this is repeated at a much more personal level, in our day-to-day. People have lost family, lost jobs, and faced a whole host of other personal challenges too. The big question is: how do we react or respond to these situations and circumstances, global or personal?
It’s OK to feel overwhelmed, that everything is too much. It’s OK to not be OK. But do we sit in that overwhelm or do we use those experiences to move ourselves forward? God doesn’t ask or expect us to have all this figured out. He wants us to have faith and trust in him. He is the same yesterday, today, forever.
How does your world feel right now? Are you comfortable, or are you unsettled, and perhaps concerned by things you see in the news?
Imagine yourself as one of Jesus’s disciples, perhaps there is one of them that you particularly identify with. And imagine your life, pre-Jesus, a fisherman or perhaps a tax collector, going about your day-to-day activities, when a man appears and says, “Follow me! I want you.” He must have been pretty charismatic, there was something about Jesus that caused people to follow him to see where he took them.
It’s quite difficult to picture through our cultural view – giving up job, family, and home to travel with a guy like Jesus. He is a man who sometimes talks in riddles, parables and stories that you probably don’t fully understand. He performs miracles and you see things you’d never have believed – people are healed, water is turned into wine. And you think this Jesus is going to take on the world and become some conquering hero. You expect a this will end with a great uprising, but then Jesus is arrested and taken away to be crucified. He’s gone and the life you gave everything up for is not there anymore. Considering all this, it’s not so difficult to understand why, after Jesus’ death, the disciples were afraid, shocked and didn’t know what to do next.
We pick up the story in John 20 v19: It’s been a few days since they discovered and empty tomb and have hidden themselves away in a locked room. And on the evening of that first day of the week, Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you.” he said, and showed them his hands and side. And again, he said “Peace be with you”.
Jesus knew where they’d be, and this is a lesson for us all. He knows where we’ll be when our world has been rocked, he will come and find us. We don’t know how long jesus was with the disciples that evening, the passage doesn’t give us a lot of detail, but we do have this phrase: “Peace be with you.” And Jesus says it twice, so we know it’s significant. Whatever your situation, and especially if you are having a tough time, allow Jesus to speak these words to you: ‘Peace be with you: I’m coming into your situation to bring peace to you.”
And as we read on, in verse 24, we learn that one of the disciples, Thomas, wasn’t there that first time Jesus appears. But he comes to them again and repeats his words for Thomas’s benefit: “Peace be with you.” This was a personal message for them all, harking back to something he told them before his arrest and death, recorded in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
We might wonder how much the disciples thought about what Jesus had said before he died. He must have said lots of things to them but these are the words that were recorded and so we can assume them are the important bits!
He gives His peace – for you and for me. And he wants us to have it now; it’s not just reserved for when we are in heaven and see him face-to-face.
In Matthew 5:9, Jesus says: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons and daughters of God.” And when we receive that into our hearts, we can be peacemakers in the situations we are in. We have a choice: we can get wound up by difficult situations or we can work to de-escalate things; it is up to us how we respond.
In our modern world, some people strive to be influencers, making their money on Instagram or Tik Tok, alien as the idea may at first seem to many of us. Because Jesus wants us to be influencers too, not to make money, but to reflect back peace. Deep peace is what Jesus wants for our lives.
In Galatians 5, Paul writes about fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And in amongst all the others, peace can get missed. Paul described these gifts as fruits and fruit grows, so these are fruits that should grow in our hearts and lives. We should cultivate them, work on them, and encourage them in our lives.
What does it mean to be at peace? Other words to describe peace are tranquillity, calm, stillness, rest, contentment, and the opposite of these things are fear, worry noise, conflict, and irritation. We need to decide which camp we want to be in. We know which we should strive to be in, but we can often end up in the other one! It takes practice to shift out thinking; we don’t just stop worrying or being anxious and need to do this practice in the good times so we are ready for the bad times.
How did Jesus do it? He retreated to lowly places and prayed. He took time out to be with God and kept persisting in spending time with his Father. How often do we do that? There will be periods in our lives we are more intentional about this and some not so much! But Jesus is teaching us to shut off the noise and make space to be peacemakers.
In Philippians 4, Paul is writing about godly peace. He tells us not to be anxious, and to achieve that tells us to spend time with God, our Heavenly Father. He knew that was the key to his life. And he tells us that we might not necessarily ‘get it’. Peace transcends all understanding, so if people see you praying, worshipping, or reading your Bible, seen through worldly eyes, your actions might not make sense. But there is more to it and doing this will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
Paul tells us to think about good, admirable, praise-worthy things. It’s OK to switch off the news sometimes; it’s not always good to watch. It’s not that we don’t want to know or to ignore what’s happening, and we are called to do what we can, but there are also times we need to be aware of what we are drawing to ourselves. We need to think about things God would have us focus on rather than worrying about things we can’t do anything about and to have peace about it all. Time spent with Father is invested time, not wasted time. By investing in our hearts and minds, we know they will be protected and kept safe. So spending time in praise and worship is so important for our spiritual health.
And in verse 9, Paul is telling us to take what we have learned from those we look up to, and from our time with God, and practice those things; take them back out into the world so that we can pass on God’s peace to others. In some ways so simple to spend time with God, and in some ways really it’s quite difficult, but if we can carve out the time and put what we’ve learned into practice, when the challenges come, we can respond to it in the right way.
Our next Reflection, Coffee and Conversation is happening on Saturday 7th May, hosted by Claire Hollingsworth, one of the GPs on the Fitifish team. These sessions are free and you can register for your place here. We’d love to see you there!