The book of Isaiah can be a tough read. It spans the rule of four kings over Judah, and most of the time God’s people are suffering. In fact, He sent most of their suffering, but that’s one of the truths that draws us and keeps us in the book. We, too, suffer and wonder, “Lord, what are You doing?!” Like the Israelites, then, most of us today struggle under sharp oppositions, long seasons of fruitlessness, and depression or anxiety with no quick relief in sight. Why?
The short answer is that God always disciples (teaches) those who claim to be His people, and His discipline has one of two results. Those who trust Him are softened and shaped to be even more like Christ in humility, turning from the world’s wickedness, serving the powerless, and waiting for God to fulfill all of His promises perfectly. Those who do not trust Him become even harder unit He crushes them, banishing them from all of His blessings forever. Suffering reminds God’s people that this world is not our home; it reveals our true hearts; and it reconnects us to depend on the Lord and to be interdependent with other believers. All of this sets the stage for God to bring peace to His people as only He can. It’s noteworthy that the words most often translated as “peace” in the Old Testament’s Hebrew (shalom) and the New Testament’s Greek (eirene) both communicate “completeness” or “wholeness”. This peace that only God can give implies perfect restoration with Him, with His people, with all of His creation. He gives a taste of that peace through His Holy Spirit who transforms our hearts, but we will only have perfect peace when Jesus returns to destroy this world and establish the new heavens and new earth for those who live for Him now and long for Him then.
Listen to the physical imagery of barren wilderness and supernatural “water” that the Lord uses to describe our need for His peace and the work of His Spirit. It’s a common way that Scripture describes the work of the Holy Spirit in Psalm 1, Ezekiel 47, Revelation 22, and more. Jesus makes this especially clear in John 7:37-39.
“But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’and name himself by the name of Israel.” (Isaiah 44:1-5)
Since Adam and Eve sought independence from God Scripture has described our discipline like wanderings in an arid, fruitless wilderness, with enemies around us and emptiness within us. For real and lasting peace we need the supernatural work of Christ in the power of His Holy Spirit. For example, Isaiah 11 tells us what the Holy Spirit’s work is; Isaiah 32:9-20 tells us when we should expect the Holy Spirit to work lasting peace; Isaiah 42 tells us how the Holy Spirit works; and Isaiah 61 tells us in whom the Holy Spirit works. Let’s walk through each of these passages briefly.
Isaiah 11:1-12 reminds us that soul-changing knowledge of God (real relationship, not just head knowledge) comes by His Holy Spirit who changes former enemies from the inside-out so that they actually become friends. Verse 12 makes it clear that the Lord and His prophet were talking about Israel and Judah at the time, but verse 11 includes many others. Note the supernatural nature of the peace that the Holy Spirit brings. The contrast of animals is extreme: the formerly violent and the vulnerable. Only God’s Spirit can change the heart.
Isaiah 32:9-20 is brutally honest about our suffering in the wilderness of this world. It seems that the Lord wants His people to long for renewal, for real and lasting peace that this corrupt and decaying world cannot give. In fact, Romans 8:18-30 emphasizes that God Himself frustrated all of creation so that His people would not desire this world but would long to be with Him in paradise. Isaiah 32, Isaiah 65:17-66:2, Romans 8, and elsewhere in Scripture tell us that a key peace from the Holy Spirit is to give us greater passion and strength to wait for this future rest when He will destroy this world and bring His people into a new world of paradise. Only then and there will He being perfect peace to His people,
Isaiah 42:1-9 describes the character of the Messiah (chosen one) as supremely peaceful, and His gentleness is directly tied to the Holy Spirit. For when the Lord calls His people to live in humility, He’s calling us to live in His image as a peace-maker. Of course, when God promised to send a meek Messiah, that in no way implies weakness in God. The passage also describes the Lord as ruling over the heavens and earth in sovereign power. What an incredible display of undeserved love that the Almighty God would send sinners His gentle Messiah to rescue them, but we would have to hope of peace otherwise. We need a Prince of Peace, and His Holy Spirit of peace rests upon Him in full power.
Isaiah 61:1-3 tells us in whom God’s Holy Spirit works His peace: the poor, broken-hearted, captives, the mourning, etc. As Jesus told some scribes of the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Jesus did not come to transform the wilderness of this world.
He came to bring peace at the heart level, by His Holy Spirit of peace, for the brokenhearted who long for His peace.
Other passages to consider…
- Isaiah 32:15-17 – “… until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”
- Romans 5:1-2 – “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
- John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
- Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
- Philippians 4:4-7 – “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
- John 16:33 – “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Opportunities For Chaplains
This particular subject (peace / anxiety / stress) might be the perfect time to ask a Chaplain to come speak at your PWOC. They counsel military personnel with stressful jobs and dangerous deployments.
Consider inviting your Family Life Chaplain or Installation Chaplain to talk about this topic(s).
Check out the Philippians 4:2-9 study “A Life Worthy of the Gospel” from Cru.org.
Paul deals very sharply with issues that go beyond our outward behavior. He demands that on a heart level we experience joy, peace, and understanding. This is of course possible because of God’s grace to us in Christ. Jesus is the supreme source of joy, and since we are in him we have every reason for thanksgiving and endless excellent things to dwell upon.
How could you utilize this study guide for your ladies to help them understand peace and joy?
The Character, Endurance, and Joy of Peace
Thanksgiving – 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Purpose – 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8
- Break into small groups.
- Play the I am Blessed game – icebreakerideas.com
- Have each lady define ‘whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, etc.’ in your life.
RenovatedFaith.com has a helpful section on fear and anxiety HERE.
Subscribe to the Library for free and get downloadable scriptures, like the one below, to frame as reminders that peace comes from the Lord.
This, Not That
The Peace of God
4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:4-6
What if we viewed peace from a different perspective … a lifestyle rather than a feeling? Use these examples as ways to talk about what we see in the world around us. Create small groups that could be prompted by questions such as the ones below.
- How might we change our own relationship with others to reflect the peace of Christ?
- How do I show that my peace is found in the Lord?
David Murray says,
“While we all crave inner peace, and recognize that the Holy Spirit is its only source (Isa. 32:15-17), we often fail to really grasp how it’s produced in the soul. Yes, the Holy Spirit gives peace, but He uses means; He uses different ingredients to produce this inner tranquility, ingredients that can be cultivated and mixed together, some of which are identified below.
The peace of forgiveness instead of guilt. Forgiveness quietens the disturbing dread of just judgment for our sin.
The peace of friendship instead of fear. God used to be a terrifying enemy to us, but now He is our Father and even our best friend.
The peace of acceptance instead of rejection. Before faith, no matter how hard we tried to please God, we were rightly rejected and resisted. But after faith, we are 100% accepted in Christ. The striving and struggling is over.
The peace of doing what I can instead of doing what I can’t (Mark. 14:8). I can stop trying to be a Martha and enjoy being a Mary (Luke 10:42). Instead of spending life rushed off my feet, I can sit calmly at Jesus’s feet.
The peace of God-glorifying instead of self-seeking. Calm comes when we give up on self-promotion and aim only at God-promotion.
The peace of love instead of hate. Before regeneration we are full of malice and ill-will. But love stills that ugly storm and sends gentle ripples through the soul.
The peace of peace-making instead of vengeance-taking. No longer do I have to get even. Vengeance is God’s – I give it all over to His repayment department.
The peace of contentment instead of envy. When I never have enough, I never have serenity. When I am content, I know peace that passes understanding.
The peace of presence instead of loneliness. No matter how alone I am, I am never lonely, because God is with me everywhere.
The peace of patience instead of impatience. We no longer get agitated and annoyed at every delay, but rather wait calmly on God’s better timing. His clock is more accurate than mine.”
Check out the rest of the peace comparisons from David Murray at The Ingredients of Inner Peace
The Names of God Prayer Stations
could also be utilized for this topic.
Check out the Program Resources for “My Name Will Guide You“.
Marrriage and Peace
Check out Christian Marriage 205 HERE
“True peace through Christ will manifest in good relationships with others.
Love toward others is the result, not the beginning of peace with God.” – Chaplain Jeff Dillard
Have a Valentines Dinner or Marriage Celebration. Ask your Chaplain to talk about peace in marriage and how it reflects our relationship with the Lord. Play games such as these:
- Fruit Of The Spirit Charades – Write the fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 on heart-shaped cards, one on each card. These include love, joy, peace, longsuffering or patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. You can also use a contemporary version of the Bible to clarify what each word means. Divide those attending the Valentine’s Day banquet into teams. You could create teams with men against women. You can also divide by couples with two or three couples per team. Each team draws a card. The teams have five minutes to decide how best to act out the fruit of the spirit on their cards. In turn, teams act out their fruit. The team that makes the most correct guesses wins.
- Scrambled Love Phrases – On a sheet of paper scramble phrases from I Corinthians 13:4-8, but don’t give the reference. Some of these include, “Love suffers long,” “love is kind” and “love does not envy.” These can be scrambled as “ffusre gnlo vleo,” “idnk si olev “and “elvo tno osde vyne.” Scramble both words and their order in the phrase. The couple who figures out the scrambled phrases first and can tell where they belong in the Bible wins.
- Play Family Fued (with a twist) – Here’s a Familiy Fued PPT Template that you can manipulate with your own questions about scripture, The Chaplain’s talk, peace, marriage, or just about anything. It might be eye opening how little we really know about Biblical peace.
- 7 Team Building games for a winning marriage from Focus on The Family-Ca.
*Have your Bible study classes each provide a part of the meal and decorate a certain amount of the tables themselves.
*If able to, give couples each a copy of Kevin D. Young’s book Crazy Busy (A Mercifully Short Book About a Really Big Problem)