“May You Have Peace”
“Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them: ‘May you have peace.’”—JOHN 20:19.
1. Why are man’s efforts to bring world peace doomed to fail?
“THE whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) This was true in John’s day, and it is even more apparent today, with the appalling increase in personal violence, terrorism, wars, and corruption. John’s inspired statement also rules out any hope of reaching world peace by human endeavor, despite the efforts of the pope, of national leaders, and of the UN. Why? “‘There is no peace,’ my God has said, ‘for the wicked ones.’”—Isaiah 57:21.
2. What does the word “peace” imply, especially in Hebrew and Greek?
2 However, the word “peace” can mean something other than just the absence of war. Peace also can be “a mental or spiritual condition marked by freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions: calmness of mind and heart.” Yet, the Hebrew word for “peace” (sha·lohmʹ) and the Greek word (ei·reʹne) have an even wider meaning. They also denote welfare, as in the parting words, “Go in peace.” (1 Samuel 1:17; 29:7; Luke 7:50; 8:48) This helps us to appreciate Jesus’ loving concern for his disciples during the traumatic period surrounding his death.
3. How did Jesus show deep concern for his disciples after his resurrection, and with what effect?
3 Jesus died on Friday, Nisan 14, in the year 33 C.E. On Sunday, Nisan 16, he was resurrected. Being, as always, deeply concerned with his disciples’ welfare, he then sought them out. Where did he find them? They were behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” Understandably, they were anxious, fearful. But Jesus said: “May you have peace.” (John 20:19-21, 26) Later, strengthened by holy spirit, they fared well. They boldly tackled their preaching assignment, helping many to attain godly peace.
Godly Peace Today
4. How can Jehovah’s people maintain peace of mind and heart in these critical times?
4 We live in the time of the end, in “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) The horsemen foretold in Revelation are riding through the earth—as you can see from the wars, food shortages, and death from sickness. (Revelation 6:3-8) Jehovah’s people are also affected by the conditions around them. So how can you maintain godly peace of mind and heart? By keeping close to the great Source of comfort and peace. As the previous article showed, this requires frequent prayer and supplication. In that way “the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
5. Why was Paul sure that “the peace of God” could guard our hearts?
5 The apostle Paul, who wrote those words, had himself endured dangers and difficulties. He had been imprisoned and beaten by Jews and Romans. He was stoned and left for dead. Traveling in those days was risky; Paul was shipwrecked three times, and often he was in danger from highwaymen. He spent many sleepless nights and frequently suffered from cold, hunger, and thirst. Beyond all of that, he daily felt “anxiety for all the congregations.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28) So Paul knew from wide personal experience how important is “the peace of God” that can guard our hearts.
6. Why is it vital to establish and maintain a warm, intimate bond with our Creator?
6 “The peace of God” can be explained as a sense of tranquillity and serenity, reflecting a good relationship with God. This is so important for Christians, especially when they face persecution or tribulation. Why? Well, all of us are imperfect; hence, when harassed by problems, stress, opposition, or various kinds of setbacks, we could easily become fearful. That might lead to our failing to keep our integrity. Such would bring reproach on God’s name, would cost us Jehovah’s favor, and could lead to our loss of everlasting life. So how vital it is to strive to gain “the peace of God” that will assist us in facing such challenges successfully. That peace certainly is one of the ‘good gifts and perfect presents’ made available by our heavenly Father.—James 1:17.
7, 8. (a) On what is “the peace of God” based, and how does it ‘excel all thought’? (b) How was such peace exemplified in the case of one African brother?
7 You may have seen that some people go through life calm and confident. Often this is due to natural ability, family influence, wealth, education, or other such factors. “The peace of God” is very different. It is not based on favorable circumstances, nor does it result from human ability or reasoning. It emanates from God and “excels all thought.” J. B. Phillips’ rendering of Philippians 4:7 is that “the peace of God . . . surpasses human understanding.” Worldly people are often amazed at the way Christians face serious problems, physical harm, or even death.
8 A modern example of this was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who was conducting a Christian meeting in an African land where the Witnesses, largely at the instigation of local Catholics, were accused of being terrorists. Suddenly, military police with fixed bayonets appeared. They sent the women and children home but began beating the men. The Witness recalls: “I do not have words to describe the manner in which we were treated. The corporal in charge openly declared we would be beaten to death. I received such blows with a wooden club that later I vomited blood for 90 days. But my concern was for the lives of my companions. In prayer I asked Jehovah to care for the lives of these, his sheep,” who all survived. What an example of keeping calm in terrible adversity and of lovingly considering others! Yes, our loving heavenly Father does answer the requests of his faithful servants, granting them his peace. One of the puzzled soldiers in that case remarked that the God of the Witnesses “must be the true one.”
9. What effect can reading the Bible and meditating on it have?
9 In these difficult times, many Christians have problems that make them feel frustrated and discouraged. A fine way to retain peace of mind is to read the Bible and meditate on it. It can infuse one with the strength and determination to push on and stand firm. “The word of God is alive and exerts power.”—Hebrews 4:12.
10. How could being able to recall scriptures be a blessing?
10 Yet, what if adversity overtakes us when the Bible is not available? For example, a Christian might be arrested suddenly and clapped into jail with no Bible. In that case, it would be a real blessing to be able to recall texts such as Philippians 4:6, 7; Proverbs 3:5, 6; 1 Peter 5:6, 7; and Psalm 23. Would you not deeply appreciate being able to recall and ponder over such passages? In the grim setting of a prison, it would be as though Jehovah himself were talking to you. God’s Word can heal hurt minds, fortify faint hearts, and replace mental anguish with peace. (See Psalm 119:165.) Yes, it is very important to implant scriptures in our minds now while we still have opportunity to do so.
11. How did a brother in the Netherlands manifest a need for spiritual food?
11 Arthur Winkler was one who deeply appreciated the Bible, especially during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, when the Witnesses had to carry on their Christian activity underground. The Gestapo had been hunting for Brother Winkler. When they finally captured him, they tried to make him compromise but failed. They then beat him into unconsciousness. With his teeth knocked out, lower jaw dislocated, and body beaten raw, he was put into a dark cell. But his guard was sympathetic and friendly. Brother Winkler sought Jehovah’s guidance in prayer. He also felt deeply a need for spiritual food and asked the guard for help. Later, the cell door opened, and a Bible was thrown in. “What a joy it was,” recalled Brother Winkler, “daily to enjoy the pleasant words of truth . . . I felt myself getting stronger spiritually.”*
Godly Peace Will Safeguard You
12. Why is there a special need for us to guard our hearts and mental powers?
12 Jehovah promises that his peace “will guard your hearts and your mental powers.” (Philippians 4:7) This is so vital! The heart is the seat of motivation and emotions. In these last days, our hearts can easily be weakened by fear or anxiety, or entice us to do wrong. The general pattern of life is deteriorating rapidly. We have to be on our guard constantly. In addition to needing strong hearts, we must also have our “mental powers” strengthened and directed by God through his Word and his congregation.
13. What benefits can come from having our mental powers guarded?
13 According to W. E. Vine, the Greek word noʹe·ma (rendered “mental powers”) has the thought of “purpose” or “device.” (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words) Thus, God’s peace can strengthen our Christian purpose and guard us against any tendency to weaken or change our minds without good reason. Discouragement or problems would thus not easily put us off. For example, if we have purposed to serve Jehovah in some special capacity, such as by being a full-time pioneer minister or moving to serve where ministers are greatly needed, “the peace of God” will be a great help to us in persisting toward that goal. (Compare Luke 1:3; Acts 15:36; 19:21; Romans 15:22-24, 28; 1 Thessalonians 2:1, 18.) To strengthen your mental powers further, devote ample time to studying God’s Word and to Christian association. You thus feed your mind and heart with clean, upbuilding thoughts. Are you able to devote sufficient time to involve yourself with God’s inspired “sayings”? Should you give them more attention?
14. To what inspired counsel should we give careful heed, and why?
14 You can see that both the heart and the mind, or mental powers, are involved in acquiring and benefiting from “the peace of God.” This is borne out in the divine advice: “My son, to my words do pay attention. To my sayings incline your ear. May they not get away from your eyes. Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those finding them and health to all their flesh. More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.”—Proverbs 4:20-23.
15. What part does Jesus play in our having “the peace of God”?
15 “The peace of God” that results from a warm, intimate bond with Jehovah guards our hearts and mental powers “by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) What role does Jesus play in this? Paul explains: “May you have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from the present wicked system of things according to the will of our God and Father.” (Galatians 1:3, 4) Yes, Jesus lovingly gave his life that we might be ransomed. (Matthew 20:28) So it is “by means of Christ Jesus” that we can be acceptable to Jehovah as his dedicated servants and be in position to enjoy that godly peace that can be our safeguard.
Dangers That Threaten Godly Peace
16. What counsel did Paul give that can help us to retain “the peace of God”?
16 Once having received and enjoyed peace from God, we must exercise care that we retain it. Many factors can rob Christians of peace. Among the most common, and certainly most dangerous, are youthful desires. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, who at that time was likely in his early 30’s, he included this counsel: “Flee from the desires incidental to youth, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.”—2 Timothy 2:22.
17. What has often happened regarding Jehovah’s provision of sex?
17 Those desires include the sexual impulse, which has an honorable place within marriage. Throughout history, though, this impulse has been misexpressed in premarital or extramarital sex relations, both of which are disapproved by our wise Creator. (Hebrews 13:4; Genesis 34:1-3) The danger of giving in to sexual immorality threatens Christians today, both young people and older ones. In these last days of a debauched world, sex has for many come to mean merely fleshly passion, often with practices common among homosexuals, male and female.—Romans 1:24-27.
18. Why are the hearts of some not yet steady, and to what may this lead?
18 The fact that we live in such a climate underscores how vital it is for us to have strong, steady hearts devoted to Jehovah. Some who have accepted the Kingdom message, believe the Bible’s basic truths, and regularly associate with Jehovah’s people do not develop deep appreciation for Jehovah, his Word, and his worldwide congregation. Their hearts are not yet steady. They can easily be sidetracked by “desires incidental to youth.” Some of them may resist temptations to commit fornication or adultery, but they become, as Paul warned, “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:4) They spend far more time watching TV, reading novels, or listening to wild music than in personal study, Christian meetings, or Kingdom service. This easily leads to spiritual debility and, eventually, falling into serious sin.
19. What must we do to avoid drifting away?
19 Such ones, like a boat with no anchor, are drifting in a current flowing toward disaster. What must they do? Paul advises: “That is why it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1) So those in danger should “pay more than the usual attention” to studying God’s Word, preparing for Christian meetings, and sharing Kingdom truths with others. Of course, it would be easy to think, ‘That is good advice, but I am not in that condition, so it doesn’t apply to me.’ How much wiser it would be for each of us to consider seriously how we might further cleanse our hearts, innermost thoughts, and desires and “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22) Above all, we should ask God for guidance and the fortifying help of his spirit.
20. What should anyone who commits gross wrongdoing do?
20 If any do become guilty of gross wrongdoing but cover it up, they will clearly lose Jehovah’s approval and “the peace of God” that they had. They will also lose their own peace of mind. (Compare 2 Samuel 24:10; Matthew 6:22, 23.) You can see, then, why it is imperative that any Christian who has fallen into serious sin confess that to Jehovah and to loving elders, who can promote spiritual healing. (Isaiah 1:18, 19; 32:1, 2; James 5:14, 15) When a person who has lost spiritual balance on the slippery path of sin seeks help from mature brothers, he will not continue to have a troubled conscience or be without godly peace.
21. What cause for deep gratitude to Jehovah do we have today, and what should be our determination?
21 What a privilege it is to be one of Jehovah’s dedicated Witnesses today! All around us, this satanic world is breaking up and becoming a shambles. It will soon pass away. Many people are “faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” But we can raise our heads because we know that our “deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:25-28) To show how grateful we are to Jehovah for his “peace . . . that excels all thought,” let us do our utmost to serve faithfully “the God who gives peace.”—Romans 15:33; 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Points for Review
□ How does “the peace of God” help us today, and how does it ‘excel all thought’?
□ What factors enable us to retain peace of mind?
□ What subtle danger threatens many Christians today, and to what may it lead?
□ If a Christian commits a serious sin, what should he do?
[Box/Picture on page 18]
She Learned It to Be True
During World War II the Nazis sent Elsa Abt’s husband to Sachsenhausen concentration camp because of his Christian preaching. Then in May 1942, the Gestapo came to her home, took away her little daughter, and sent Elsa to work and suffer in various camps. She gives this personal testimony:
“My years in German concentration camps taught me an outstanding lesson. It is, how greatly Jehovah’s spirit can strengthen you when you are under extreme trial! Before I was arrested, I had read a sister’s letter that said that under severe trial Jehovah’s spirit causes a calmness to come over you. I thought that she must have been exaggerating a bit. But when I went through trials myself, I knew that what she had said was true. It really happens that way. It’s hard to imagine it, if you have not experienced it. Yet it really happened to me. Jehovah helps.”
[Picture on page 16]
Paul knew from experience that God’s peace can guard our hearts
[Picture on page 19]
Are you in danger of drifting spiritually?