One of the greatest desires of most any person is to have a sense of peace. I say “most” because there are some folks, as witnessed by the mass murders that fill our news, who are so filled with hate and rage that all they seem to want is to destroy and create bedlam. Perhaps even they are searching for peace in a warped sort of way.
Where can real peace be found? Israel and their neighbors have fought for thousands of years and they still can’t find peace. Other nations continue to rise against one another, rival factions within countries battle day after day, and in our country political parties, people with different ideologies, even kids on the playground can’t seem to get along. Obviously, mankind does not possess within itself the qualities necessary to live in peace.
Peace with one another is a by-product of something significantly more important – peace with God. Since the fall of man into what is referred to in theological circles as “moral depravity” there has been but one way for the human spirit to live in peace with God’s Spirit. In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he speaks to this subject of peace:
“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and prover character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).
Clearly, the Word of God declares to us that peace with Him comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ – not religion, a relationship. That relationship is the gift we receive when we have the faith to accept that gift as the only means of righting ourselves with God. The greatest sense of peace imaginable is ours when we are in right relationship with God.
In these verses, Paul not only points to the peace which is ours through Jesus, he says that grace is ours as well. Grace can be defined as “unmerited favor” or an unearned, undeserved gift. The person who has received the gift of forgiveness and eternal life has a joy because of the hope we have in God’s precious promises. It is a joy which can withstand all manner of afflictions, because the believer knows that our trials produce endurance, or in other words, the tough times help us to grow stronger in our faith and resist the temptation to give up on God. Just as the body strengthens through exercise, exercising our faith results in stronger faith!
Paul also says here that our strengthened endurance then results in proven, or tested, character. Character here means the moral “core” of a person which determines how that person responds to everything which happens around him. The more we experience God through faith, the more our character grows in likeness to His.
Finally, Paul says that his proven character produces hope. All of this growth in our endurance and character results in a complete and total trust in all of God’s promises, including eternal life with Him in heaven, and the abundant life Jesus speaks of in John 10:10. His Holy Spirit, which indwells every true believer, acts like a conduit as God’s love flows into our lives to the point of overflowing to the lives of those around us.
Peace, hope, and love . . . sounds like everything we really need and want, and it all comes in one package – Jesus!