“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” (Acts 9:31) What a beautiful truth expressed here to us of the growth of the first century church. There seems to be a direct connection to peace and increase. What a lofty goal for every church to strive for, but in the midst of a world of division; how can a church “enjoy” peace?
Perhaps first, the church (each member of it) needs to consciously decide that they desire it. And all true disciples will choose peace because that’s what the Lord wants. “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50) “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18) “Live in peace with one another.” (I Thessalonians 5:13) The Lord commands peace amongst His people. Hopefully we all want peace - individually and collectively. Here’s how.
1) Pursue - Peace doesn’t happen by accident. It is a worthy pursuit of the Lord. “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which on one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) “So then, pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” Peace is purposeful and we must be pursuing it to attain it, and continue on pursuing to maintain it. Here are some more of those “things which make for peace…”
2) Purity of Heart - “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (II Tiomothy 2:22) How can you separate those who call on the Lord from a pure heart vs. those1) who are not pure? By what they are pursuing. Those who profess Christ but pursue sin, division, animosity, vitriol, etc. may profess Christ, but are not pursuing Christ. Not from a pure heart. Impure hearts lead to arrogance, pride, selfishness -all the attributes that are the foundation of divisiveness. Pure hearts are filled with faith and truth and love that bind hearts together in the peace of our Lord.2)
3) Perspective - “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace,” (Romans 8:6). Do we have a worldly fleshly mindset or do we have an godly spiritual mindset? Our mindset is our perspective, and having a perspective of godly spirituality will lead us to a life of peace. It will lead us to the knowledge of peace. A love for peace. A spiritual mindset will help us to have a perspective of pursuing peace in all situations so far as it depends upon us. If we want to have peace we must maintain the proper spiritual perspective.
4) Practice - “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Paul was writing this letter from prison. Men were at war with Paul, but Paul continued to bring the peace of the gospel to men. To be at peace with God, with the world, with our brethren, (even within ourselves) - needs taking the knowledge, wisdom, and grace we learn from God and putting those into practice. Without practicing the word of God the God of peace will not be with us. Without practicing what we know from God the peace of God will not be in us.
5) Plant Wisdom - “But the wisdom from above is first pure, the peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18) We have to plant (sow) peace to bear peace. That means that peace is not something that “happens to us”, it is something that we bring about. Something that needs to be cultivated. Godly wisdom brings about godly peace. The reason the first century church in Acts 9 “enjoyed peace” was because wisdom had been planted by the peacemakers. Let’s be those peacemakers.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) What greater peace could we ask for than that - to be called sons of God? What comfort, what joy, what peace. “Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (II Corinthians 13:11) May we be a people of peace and may peace be with you.