Is Perfect Peace Attainable and What Does It Mean?
You keep completely safe the people who maintain their faith, for they trust in you. (NET)
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (KJV)
The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. (NASB)
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (ESV)
The above verse is Isaiah 26:3 and it’s always been one that draws you in. On one hand, it tells us that the person who keeps his mind on God will find perfect peace in that endeavor. Why? Because the person who keeps his mind on God does so because He places his trust in Him.
I think we can all agree though there is often a gap in the way we feel as Christians and the truth of Scripture. For many of us, being in “perfect peace” is not something that we experience all of the time. Too often it seems, we Christians reel under the pressure from all the evil that exists in the world as we watch it expand throughout global society. It is disheartening to say the least and tends to affect us emotionally.
Even Jesus was a Person who was closely acquainted with sorrows as Isaiah states in what is known as the Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah 53.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not, Isaiah 53:3.
I don’t think this refers only to the actual physical suffering that Jesus experienced at the hands of ungodly and unrighteous men during the final days of His life on earth that led up to the crucifixion. I believe that Jesus, more than anyone, understood the grief that our sin had brought upon not only all of humanity, but on the Creation as a whole. As we read through the gospels, it is clear that He was often misunderstood, maligned, mistreated, and there were numerous attempts on his life, long before the crucifixion occurred. This was during His three or so years of public ministry.
Jesus knew what it was to suffer hardship, to experience fatigue, hunger, and to take temptation to its limit without ever giving into it. I think alongside those experiences, He was in perfect peace though He was often in turmoil inside. So what does that mean?
It is admittedly difficult to wrap our brains around this because so many of us would love to be in “perfect peace” all the time. The imagery connected to this is that in spite of what we are going through, our emotions are always at peace. But is this really what it means? I think that it can mean that, but there are several requirements on our part in order for that to occur.
First, we must have our minds on God all the time. I’m not talking about some metaphysical “practicing God’s presence” that Brother Lawrence made famous, whereby he simply conjured up God’s presence throughout the day until the experience overtook him. I’m talking about the act of worshiping through prayer and praise that we direct to God, which should be our normal demeanor. However, this is difficult to achieve, even though Paul also commands us to do this (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
I believe that this particular statement from Isaiah 26:3 speaks to our standing before God. Because we have salvation (for those who do), our status has legally changed from being unrighteous to righteous. Because Christians have literally crossed over from the one side to the other, we are now at peace with God. There is no thought by God to pour out His wrath on those who trust in Jesus as Savior. When the Father sees us, He sees us through the lens of the righteousness found in Jesus. How then can the Father want to pour out His wrath on us since He already poured out His wrath on Jesus as Jesus hung on Calvary’s cross? It cannot happen because that debt has been fully paid. Through faith, we provide God with the reason to apply that righteousness to our lives. Once applied, it cannot/will not be removed and our legal standing is forever changed. Never ever will we experience God’s wrath.
In this sense then, we are fully at peace with God. We will never be punished for our sin because our sin was placed upon Jesus as He hung on the cross. There, God the Father’s wrath was poured out on Him instead of on us.
John Gill has this to say about being kept in perfect peace.
Peace with God in Christ through his blood, in a way of believing, and as the fruit and effect of his righteousness being received by faith; this is not always felt, received, and enjoyed in the soul; yet the foundation of it always is, and is perfect; and besides, this peace is true, real, and solid; in which sense the word “perfect” is used, in opposition to a false and imaginary one; and it will end in perfect peace in heaven: moreover, the word “perfect” is not in the Hebrew text, it is there “peace, peace”; which is doubled to denote the certainty of it, the enjoyment of it, and the constancy and continuance of it; and as expressive of all sorts of peace, which God grants unto his people, and keeps for them, and them in; as peace with God and peace with men, peace outward and peace inward, peace here and peace hereafter; and particularly it denotes the abundance of peace that believers will have in the kingdom of Christ in the latter day…
The truth of the matter seems to be that this peace that we have ultimately means that we have an unwavering, constant peace with God that will never change. It is due completely to the work of Christ on our behalf.
I have noticed – and I’m sure you have as well – that as we mature in Christ, there appears to be a more obvious dichotomy between the reality of evil in the world and the future reign of Jesus on earth. In other words, it is very difficult for Christians to experience growth in Christ and not at the same time, understand the potent reality of evil in this world. As we continue to draw closer to Jesus, this evil will become more pronounced to us. We will see things more clearly.
The goal then of the Christian is to continue to mature in Christ and to be a witness for Him on all fronts while in this evil world. We’ve noted previously in an article the fact that all in life is really vanity, and that it is so because of our outlook. We constantly plan and run to and fro because we have things “to do” and it seems that we place a very high prize on accomplishments. Yet, it is clear – or should be – that in reality, it really shouldn’t matter what a person does to make a living (provided of course, the means by which is not in the immoral realm), but whatever a person’s lot in life is, the overriding goal is not found in the job or career itself, but in the evangelism. This world is heading toward its own death and multitudes with it.
Is it possible our direction in life is wrong? Are we still continuing to focus on things that really don’t matter? We worry about our careers or which job has the most “opportunity” instead of simply trying to discern what direction God would have us move in.
As a musician and someone who has acted in plays at various times throughout life, I’m always amazed when I learn of actors or musicians who state they have finally completed their goals in life. Whether it’s to receive that Academy Award or to be nominated and achieve the best drummer, guitarist, or band, these people place way too much stock in what they do and not in who they are. There is nothing eternally valuable in receiving an Academy Award or Best Singer/Musician/Group award. While that is fine to be recognized, so much of it is simply political anyway that it’s hardly worth anything compared to eternity. Too many put way too much stock in things of that nature.
Is it possible we Christians do the same thing? Not only is it possible, but I think it happens way too often. You see Christians accepting awards for their acting in some religious movie or because of their CD as a singer or band. Many act as though they have “arrived” because they can now scratch off things from their bucket list.
But the truth is that those things do not bring joy. A person who is driven to gain humanity’s accolades and awards has their mind on temporal things, not eternal.
This world is evil because it is under the sway of Satan (1 John 5:19). Our emotions will never be in perfect peace because of it and the fact that too many of us are focusing on the wrong things.
I sometimes wonder what we’ll be doing in the coming eternal state. I know we won’t be having awards ceremonies once we get beyond the Bema Judgment Seat. We won’t be worrying about climbing the corporate ladder either. The eternal state will be a theocracy where our needs will be cared for and where we will all be useful members of that society.
The life we live now isn’t even close to the life that is coming. Because of the way things are designed here, we are often too concerned about things that don’t really matter. God will see to our needs in this life. Our job is to see to it that we are involved in the Great Commission. That is the job at hand and truthfully, God places us where He needs us to best be used in the spreading of that gospel.