If there ever was an antonym to 2020, it would probably be peace. While we all went into the year excited, the hopes of the return of the glamorous roaring 20s were quickly dashed. First there was the threat of World War III and the Australian wildfires. Soon after, the corona virus pandemic took over. With that came personal economic crisis which will likely lead to an overall recession at best, depression at worst. People lost jobs, kids had to school at home, all events were put off or canceled. We have no idea when we’ll see an end to this. In the midst of this global crisis, riots broke out over racism. People of color who have be marginalized for hundreds of years in this country continued their cry of “enough” yet now it became now loud enough for the world to hear. Steadily the madness of the presidential election took space in our minds. Now we are becoming more aware of child trafficking and pedophilia. Our hearts mourn as people with power and influence are using their status for their own gain by abusing minors. Not even our children are safe anymore. This year has felt chaotic, uncertain, infuriating, heartbreaking, exhausting. Nothing about it has seemed peaceful.
Yet, we Christians are supposed to have peace. Even in 2020. This feels impossible, but God would not promise it to us as an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit if it were not possible. Nothing is impossible for God (Matthew 19:26, Luke 1:37, and so many more verses). Not even giving His people peace through the crazy of 2020, or perhaps one day something worse, is impossible for the God who created the universe.
Fixing our thoughts
Peace is so much more than a hippie’s mantra. Peace is a state of mind. God expressed this to us through the prophet Isaiah when he talked about there being a new community of God’s people. In Isaiah 26:3 he said, “You keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Perfect peace, whole peace that radiates harmony, quietness, and confidence, is the product of being a new creation in Christ and fixing our thoughts on Him.
Similarly, Paul writes to the church in Philippi, “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Paul exhorts his readers to abandon worry and anxiety because we have a direct connection to the one true God.
Because we have Christ living in us through the Holy Spirit, we can have a peace that doesn’t even make sense if we consider our surroundings. Paul continues in Philippians 4:8-9 saying, “and now, dear bothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all that you learned and received from me–everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the peace of God will be with you.”
In one sense, both the passage in Isaiah and Philippians seems like if we do enough works on our own, we can receive peace. But that doesn’t sound like the gracious fruit of the Spirit, does it? I don’t think that is at all what the prophet and apostle meant here. They both were speaking about people who have been made new by God. In the Old Testament, Isaiah was speaking of a future new people of God which I believe to be the people who will put their trust in Christ. In the New Testament, Paul was speaking of current church who recognizes Jesus as their Savior. These people, Christians, are marked by God as a new creation. No amount of work could earn God’s working in their lives.
Yes, both encourage us to fix our thoughts on God and things of God. But I believe this is equally supernatural. Have you ever found yourself continually thinking about things you wished you didn’t? I know I have. I know I need a godly renewing of my mind. Romans 12:2 states, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think…” It is the Holy Spirit in us that enables us to think differently. We can fix our thoughts on God, not out of our own efforts, but by His Spirit living in us. Thus, we have peace by fixing our thoughts on God and we can fix our thoughts of God because of God in us.
This year needs a course correction. While it seems we can do little to change the world to create peace, we can change our thoughts to embody peace. Just as the only way the world can change is through the mighty hand of God, our thoughts can only change by the Holy Spirit renewing our minds. As we let God change us, we will grow in an unshakable peace that hardly seems logical considering our surroundings. God can even give us peace in the midst of this broken world and this crazy year.