Turn up the PEACE please

In our always on-the-go and hurry-hurry culture, there are two aspects of the fresh life that seem to be constantly in short supply.  What’s more, they seem to be very difficult to obtain.  Let’s take a look again at the list of qualities that are evidence of a fruitful life:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Peace and patience (forbearance).  When I look around me, I don’t find an abundance of these two.  When I look inside me, I don’t find an abundance of them either.  What’s up with that?  Let’s break this down a bit.  

Peace is not the absence of trouble

Jesus, only hours before his arrest, betrayal, abandonment, beating, and crucifixion, huddled together with his followers and said this:

I have told you these things [i.e. the work of God’s Spirit…], so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Ever have one of those terrible, horrible, no-good very bad days?  We don’t usually experience peace in those moments.  But Jesus did.  And he said you can, too.  

No, peace is not the absence of troubles…

Peace is the absence of anxiety and hurry

It’s one thing when there are troubles around us.  Financial uncertainty, relationship problems, career obstacles, failing health, family fights, etc. are external, even when we are deeply connected to and concerned about their outcomes.  

But internally? This is where peace resides, or it CAN.  Listen again to the words of Jesus:

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. John 14:27

Do not let your HEART be troubled.  It’s one thing to have troubles, it’s another to be troubled internally.  When that occurs, peace is nowhere to be found. Another way of describing a troubled heart is anxiety.  Listen to this familiar passage from Scripture, and see the connection to real peace:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

And we have zero shortage of anxiety.  Here’s one of the primary reasons…and it connects our two virtues today:  

We’re in a hurry.  

That shows up in our struggle with patience. We are determined to do more, faster.  But we often forget that hurry, and its constant companion of anxiety, are the primary components of impatience.   When asked how to avoid the pitfalls that so often accompany the dog-eat-dog, success at any cost, performance driven culture, and actually thrive, the philosopher and author Dallas Willard said it powerfully:

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.  You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. 

You can ignore that…but you can’t ignore that and experience the fruit that includes patience and peace.  

Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.  (Carl Jung, quoted in Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, p.20)

Which is probably the reason there’s a Finnish proverb that says:

God did not create hurry.  (Comer, p. 22)

Peace is not the absence of trouble.  Peace is the absence of anxiety and hurry.  Peace and patience work together.  If you find a person of true peace, you will find someone who is also patient.  If you find a person of genuine patience, you will find a person who is also bearing the fruit of peace.  

So why do we struggle so much here?  

Maybe because we desire to have patience NOW! There are plenty of places in life where we lack patience for patience.  Your career.  Your spouse.  Your attempts to maintain fitness.  Your long term financial goals.  Your commute.  Your kids.  Your own destructive habits.  Your past wounds and hurts that refuse to heal or go away.  

Hurry becomes the enemy of the fruitful life.  

As much as we want a “hack” for the fresh/fruitful life, it’s gonna take time to cultivate fruitfulness. But here’s something to help:

Patience requires a purpose 

Otherwise it’s not patience, it’s tolerance.  You tolerate the rude behavior of someone in public, but you have patience when it’s your child, because you have a greater purpose…you want them to become something that they currently are not.  Tolerance is good…it keeps you out of jail.  😊  But patience is even better, because it’s building a better future. 

God is a very patient God, as evidenced through his long troubled relationship with humanity.  But there’s a purpose.  Peter describes it like this:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

God’s purpose of redeeming humanity gives fuel to his immense patience. 

If you have a purpose, it’s easier to be patient.  What kind of purpose can help you cultivate patience, and peace?  Let me suggest two options. 

Purpose 1 – To live humanly 

One of the reasons we struggle with patience is that we struggle with our limits.  We want to be able to do more, go further, go faster, accomplish our goals, be the best, be the first, be the exception, and be the one who proves our critics wrong.  We want to control our destiny, our relationships, our calendar, our opponents, our career, our reputation, and our secrets.  

But this is not human.  Because humans have limits.  We are God’s creation, not his replacement.  This is at the heart of the struggle that we’ve discussed in this series already.  The struggle between the “flesh” (living apart from God’s rule), and living according to his Spirit.  

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6

Therefore, what is the purpose of patience as fruit?  Among other things it helps us live with our limitations, which is part of being human.  “Give us this day our daily bread,” reminds us that we rely on the providence of God…since we have limited capabilities and resources.  

To live with limits will require patience, and will open the doorway to peace.  That’s how we were created.  That’s part of what it means to live “humanly.”  

Purpose 2 – To love generously

There is one virtue that can be described as the most important: Love.  But guess what?  All of these virtues/qualities are interconnected.  You may choose to keep your different foods separate on your plate, but in life, these different qualities run together.  You can’t develop them in isolation.  And love has this fascinating connection to patience.  

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:3-4

If love is patient, what is impatience?  Can you love when you’re impatient and in a hurry? Can you love when you are living without peace?  

What if you chose to make this your purpose…to be someone who loves generously, who is able to work for the best interest of those around you (isn’t that what love is?)?  Which, ironically, is another way of describing what it means to live humanly.  

Is a life of impatience, anxiety, and hurry really how you want to live?

Choose one area in your life where peace/patience are in short supply, but in high demand.  I want to encourage you to remember that these qualities are the result of the work of God’s Spirit and the power of that same Spirit. 

What if instead you could tap into the life and power of the Spirit of God.  Make it a habit to live by, be led by, and walk in step with the Spirit.

What if you thought differently about those situations (external and internal) that so often keep you from a life of peace and patience, and embraced those as a way of learning how to live humanly, and to love generously?

It won’t happen overnight.  But by the persistent, consistent work of the Spirit, you can begin to see the fruit of peace and patience emerging from your life and changing the world around you. 

Here is my prayer for you:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13