Is the Christian life a happy life? Is it full of rest and peace?
You may have come away this past Sunday wondering if such is the case. In Sunday school, I spoke about the need to fight and discipline ourselves in the process of sanctification. Meanwhile, Pastor Babij began the book of Jude and introduced our need to contend like a boxer or soldier for the truth of the Christian faith. These are exhortations toward hard struggle, and someone might hear these and suppose the Christian life must be only a joyless and wearying war. However, while there is indeed a war aspect to the Christian walk, there is also, crucially, an aspect of peace.
Consider one of Jesus’ famous invitations to downcast sinners in Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Jesus promises all those who come to him a life of deep soul-rest, even an “easy” yoke and a “light” burden. And note that this experience is linked to Jesus’ own person: he gives us both the “yoke” and the “rest” according to his own “gentle” and “humble” heart.
Or consider another famous passage: Psalm 23:1-6. In the Psalm, David says that the Lord, like a good and gentle shepherd, provides all David’s needs and leads David into places of peace and abundance. And David is not simply describing a life of pleasant circumstances, for David also notes how God leads David into the valley of deep darkness and into the presence of enemies (vv. 4-5). Yet David also finds comfort and refreshment in the midst of difficulty. Notice that this comfort comes again by personal connection to the Lord: “For you are with me,” “Your rod and your staff…comfort me,” and “You prepare a table before me.”
Truly, God himself—and not good circumstances—is the fountain of peace and joy for his people (cf. Phil 4:7). Simply knowing God (Jn 17:3; Phil 3:7-11); abiding in his love (Jn 15:9-10; 1 Jn 4:16); and believing in what he has done, is doing, and will do for his people (Eph 2:1-10; 1 Thess 5:23; Rev 21:1-8) imparts a profound lightness to life even amid trouble. Indeed, without the soul-settling peace of God, believers would not be able to persevere in the war of the Christian walk. Just like our Lord and like the many spiritual heroes of Hebrews 11 who came before us, it is by faith and the expectation of a greater and lasting reward with God that we overcome (Heb 12:1-3).
Thus, the Christian life exhibits a supernatural mystery, an apparent paradox. We in Christ are the ones simultaneously at war and at peace, or as Paul describes in 2 Cor 6:4-10:
In everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.
Questions to Consider:
1. Why is spiritual peace necessary to successfully fight the spiritual war?
2. Why won’t a Christian experience spiritual peace without engaging in spiritual war?
3. Are the aspects of war and peace both evident in your spiritual life? How can you grow in these aspects?