In Perfect Peace
By J. R. Miller
"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You."
"Perfect Peace!" That is what we all want. That, too,
is what Christ offers us in his gospel. Among his farewell words we find
this bequest: "Peace I leave with you—my peace I give unto you." After his
return from the grave, he said to his disciples, three times repeating the
same benediction, "Peace be unto you." Peace is thus part of the blessed
evangel, and an essential element of the true and full Christian life.
Christ desires us to have peace. If we do not have it—we have missed part of
the blessing of being a Christian, part of our inheritance as children of
God. It is not a peculiar privilege which is only for a favored few;
it is for everyone who believes in Christ and will accept it.
Yet do all Christians possess peace? Have all taken into
their heart and life, this blessing bequeathed to them by the Master? How
many of us really have Christ's peace today? How many of us lived in the
peace of Christ the past week? How many of us are kept in perfect peace
through all the circumstances and experiences of our changeful lives?
What is wrong? Is the gospel really not what it clams to
be? Are the blessings it promises, only lovely dreams which never are
fulfilled, which cannot be fulfilled? Is saving grace not able to help us to
the attainment of peace? The Bible is full of great words like rest, joy,
peace, love, hope. Are these words only illusions? Or can these
beautiful things be attained? Do Christians as a rule expect to get these
divine qualities into their lives in this present world?
We may say with perfect confidence, that these words
paint no impossible attainments. For example, peace—it is not a
mocking vision which ever flees away from him who tries to clasp it and take
it into his heart. It is not like the sunbeam which the child tries to
gather up off the floor in its chubby hand, but which only pours through its
fingers and slips from its clasp. Nor is it merely a heavenly attainment
which we must wait until we die to obtain. It is a state into which every
believer in Christ may enter here on the earth, and in which he may dwell in
all life's troubles and changes.
It is well worth our while to think what is meant by
peace, as the word is used in the Scriptures, and then ask how we
may obtain this blessing. The word runs through all the bible. We find it
far back in the Old Testament, in the benediction used by the priests, "May
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you—and give you peace." Here peace is
offered as the gift of God, a blessing dropped from heaven into trusting
hearts. In Job, in the words of Eliphaz the Temanite, we have the
exhortation, "Acquaint yourself with Him—and be at peace." According
to this word, the way to find peace is by getting acquainted with God. It is
because we do not know him—that we are not at rest. In the Psalms are many
words about peace. For example, this: "The mountains shall bring peace to
the people." The mountains take the storms which beat in fury about their
tall peaks. Down at the mountain's base, however, the sweet valleys lie in
quietness, meanwhile, sheltered and in peace. So it is that Christ met the
storms, which exhausted their fury upon him, while those who trust in him
nestle in security in the shelter of his love.
We have a beautiful illustration of this in two of the
Psalms which stand side by side. The Twenty Second is called the Psalm of
the Cross. It tells the story of the crucifixion. Its first words,
certainly, were used by the Redeemer when he was passing through his dying
agony. The psalm is full of the experiences of Calvary. The storms are
sweeping fiercely about the mountain's brow.
Then how quietly and beautifully the Twenty Third Psalm
nestles in the shadow of the Twenty Second, like a quiet valley at the
mountain's foot! It shows us a picture of perfect peace. We see the shepherd
leading his flock beside the still waters, and making them lie down in the
green pastures. Even in the deep valley there is no gloom, for the shepherd
walks with his sheep and quiets all their fears. This sweet shepherd psalm
could come nowhere, but after the Psalm of the Cross.
The prophets also tell us much about peace. In Isaiah,
especially, the word occurs again and again. The Messiah is foretold as the
Prince of Peace. Farther on, we come again under the shadow of the
cross, and read that "the chastisement of our peace was upon him." The
security and eternity of our peace are pledged in a wonderful promise which
runs "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my
unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be
removed," says the Lord, who has compassion on you." A hundred and seventy
five times, does the word "peace" occur in the Old Testament.
But it is in the New Testament that the wonderful
fullness of the meaning of peace is disclosed. On every page the word
shines. The angels sang at the Redeemer's birth, "On earth peace." At the
close of his ministry, Jesus said to his friends, "In me you shall
have peace." Eighty times the word appears in the New Testament. Paul,
alone, the great homeless, persecuted apostle—uses the word more than forty
An artist sought to portray peace. He put on his canvas a
sea, swept by storms, filled with wrecks, a scene of terror and danger. In
the midst of the sea he painted a great rock and high up in the rock a
cleft, with herbage and flowers, in the midst of which he showed a dove
sitting quietly on her nest. "These things have I spoken unto you, that in
me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation—but be of good
cheer; I have overcome the world." We have the same picture of peace in the
hymn—the rock, the cleft, the soul's hiding place–
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee."
The Christian's peace is not found in a place where there
is no trouble—it is something which enters the heart and makes it
independent of all outside conditions. In the ruins of many old English
castles, a well is found down deep among the foundations. Thus water was
provided for use in the castle in time of siege. The enemy might cut off the
streams which ordinarily supplied the people in the castle with water. They
might shut the gates, so that no one could go outside. But the defenders
within the walls cared not for any siege while the well in the foundation
gave its copious supply of pure, fresh water. So it is with the Christian,
in whose heart the peace of God dwells. He is not dependent upon outside
conditions and circumstances, for he carries in himself the secret of his
joy, hope, peace, and strength.
It is very evident that we cannot hope to live in this
world without troubles and cares. No such life is possible. The larger and
more important the place we are called to fill, the more troubles and cares
must we have. Nor can we hope for a life without sorrow. To love is to weep
some time in the journey. One of every two friends must hold the other's
hand and stand by the other's coffin. True religion does not shelter us
from grief. But the peace promised is an experience which neither care nor
sorrow can disturb—it is something that changes sorrow into joy.
A summer tourist writes of finding a fresh water spring
beside the sea, as sweet as any that ever gushed from amid the rocks on the
mountainside. He took his cup and drank of the water that bubbled up in the
sand. Soon the tide rolled in again; pouring its brackish flood over the
little spring, and burying it out of sight for hours. But when again the
bitter surf flowed out, the spring was found sweet as ever. So it is with
the peace of God in the believer's heart. It dwells deep. In the day of joy
it sings and is glad. Then sorrow comes and the salt floods pour over the
life, covering it. But when the sorrow is past, the heart's peace remains
sweet and joyous as ever.
A party of tourists were driving one day, along the road
to Killarney. As they approached a cottage near the road, they heard
singing. The voice that sang was sweet and rich, and of wondrous power. The
members of the party were entranced. They stopped to listen as the notes of
the song rose higher and clearer. Presently a young girl came out of the
cottage with a basket on her arm.
"Please tell us who is singing so sweetly in your
cottage," one of the party asked of her.
"It is only my Uncle Tim, sir," answered the girl.
"He has just had a bad turn with his leg, and he is
singing away the pain."
"Is he young? Can he ever get over the trouble?"
"Oh, he is getting a bit old, now, sir," replied the
"The doctors say he'll never be any better—but he's so
godly, it would make you cry to see him suffering this terrible pain—and
then hear him singing the more sweetly, the more he is suffering."
That is what the peace of God will help us to do. It
gives us songs in the night. It puts joy into our hearts when we are
in the midst of sorest trouble. It turns our thorns into roses.
The life of Christian faith is not freed from
pain—but out of the pain comes rich blessing. The crown of thorns must be
worn by the Master's friends who follow him faithfully—but the thorns burst
into sweet flowers as the light of heaven's morning touches them.
"God has not promised
Skies ever blue,
Flower strewn pathways,
Always for you.
God has not promised
Sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow,
Peace without pain.
But God has promised
Strength from above,
And undying love."
"You will keep him in perfect peace—whose mind is stayed
on you." There is music in these words of the old Hebrew prophet. Why can we
not get the music into our lives? Why do we not all have this perfect peace
in our hearts? Why do we lose the quiet and the calm of our spirits so
easily in the world's distractions and troubles? Let us see if we cannot
learn the secret of peace which lies in
the prophet's words. The secret is in two parts.
One is that the keeping in peace is God's work,
not ours. We cannot keep ourselves in peace. There is a majestic
power in self-control, and we should seek to have that power. Not to be
master of our own life—is to be pitiably weak. We should learn to control
our feelings, our emotions, our appetites, our passions, our desires, our
temper, our speech. He who rules his own spirit, is the greatest of
conquerors, greater than he who captures a city. No doubt perfect
self-mastery has much to do with keeping the heart quiet in danger, calm and
undisturbed in sudden trial. But this is not the real secret of peace. Our
self-control reaches but a little way. One may have it and remain unmoved in
the face of the most disturbing experiences, and yet not have the
peace of God.
That is the secret of peace which the old prophet's words
reveal. God keeps us! "You will keep him in perfect peace."
The Bible everywhere teaches this truth of the divine keeping as the
source of all true security and confidence. There is no other keeping which
really avails. It is only when God is our refuge and strength
that we can say, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in
trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the
mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging!"
There is a story of an old and saintly man who desired
that the only epitaph on his grave should be the word "Kept." This word
contained the whole history of his life. In one of the psalms the lesson is
written out for us in full. "My help comes from the Lord, who made the
heavens and the earth! He will not let you stumble and fall; the one who
watches over you will not sleep. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never
tires and never sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands
beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not hurt you by day, nor
the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all evil and preserves your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever!"
Psalm 121:2-8. It is God who keeps us—it is God alone who can keep us—in
Our peace never can be more secure—than that on which it
depends. Our trust never can be more sure—than that on which it leans. God
alone is eternal, the same yesterday and today and forever—and only when we
rest in God and trust in him can we have a peace which cannot be disturbed.
"Trust you in the Lord forever; for in the Lord Jehovah is an everlasting
rock, a rock of ages." When we are held in the clasp of his love, we are
safe from any disturbance, for he is omnipotent; and our refuge is secure
forever, for he is from everlasting to everlasting.
We have the same teaching concerning the divine
keeping in a passage in one of the epistles of Paul, in which he also
give us the secret of peace. "The peace of God, which transcends all
understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ
Jesus." The figure is military. Men sleep in quiet confidence in their
tents, in the darkest night, in time of war, in the presence of the enemy,
because sentinels wake and watch through all the darkness. God's own peace
keeps guard over our hearts and minds, so that nothing shall ever disturb us
or alarm us. Nothing ever can disturb God. He looks without fear upon the
wildest storms. He is never dismayed by things which seem calamitous to us.
His infinite and eternal peace will guard us and keep us in the shelter of
its own blessed quiet and calm.
This part of the great secret of peace which we are
trying to learn: "You will keep him in perfect peace." It is God's
omnipotence which keeps us. It is God's Spirit who broods over
the turbulent floods of life, and brings order out of chaos. It is God's
Son who stands on the vessel, amid the wild storms, and compels them to
become quiet and still at his feet. It is God's grace that enters
into the believer's heart and abides there as a well of living water within,
springing up into everlasting life. We cannot command our own spirit and
compel it to be at rest, when sorrow or peril is on every side. God alone
can keep us in peace. Nothing that is not infinite and eternal—can be a safe
and secure hiding place for an immortal life.
But there is another part of the secret of peace which it
is also important for us to learn. "You will keep him in perfect peace—whose
mind is stayed on you." There is something for us to do. There is
no doubt that God has power to keep us in perfect peace. He is omnipotent,
and his strength is a defense and a shelter to all who hide in him. But even
God will never compel us into submission—we must yield ourselves to him.
Even omnipotence will not gather us into its invincible shelter by force—we
must be willing in the day of God's power.
All we need to do, is to stay our minds upon God. That
means to trust him, to rest in him, to nestle in his love. We remember where
John was found the night of the Lord's last supper with his disciples, the
darkest night the world ever saw, the deepest sorrow men ever knew—he was
leaning on Jesus' breast. He crept into that holy shelter to find quiet. He
reposed all his weight upon the infinite love which beat in that bosom. John
was kept in perfect peace during all those terrible hours. Everything
appeared to have slipped away, and there was nothing that seemed abiding.
But John crept into the shelter of love and simply trusted—and was kept in
A beautiful story is told of Rudyard Kipling during a
serious illness a few years since. The nurse was sitting at his bedside on
one of the anxious nights when the sick man's condition was most critical.
She was watching him intently and noticed that his lips began to move. She
bent over him, thinking he wished to say something to her. She heard him
whisper very softly the words of the old familiar prayer of childhood, "Now
I lay me down to sleep." The nurse, realizing that her patient did not
require her services, and that he was praying, said in apology for having
intruded upon him, "I beg your pardon, Mr. Kipling; I thought you wanted
something." "I do," faintly replied the sick man; "I want my heavenly
Father. He only can care for me now." In his great weakness there was
nothing that human help could do, and he turned to God and crept into his
bosom, seeking the blessing and the care which none but God can give. That
is what we need to do in every time of danger, of trial, of sorrow—when the
gentlest human love can do nothing—creep into our heavenly Father's bosom,
saying, "Now I lay me down to sleep." That is the way to peace. Earth has no
shelter in which true peace can be found—but in God the feeblest may find
A passenger on an ocean steamer, exposed for three days
to a winter's cyclone of terrific violence, was standing on the deck in one
of the fiercest moments of the storm, and saw a little sea bird flutter an
instant in the face of the gale, and then settle down on a wave and fold its
wings in restful quiet. So may the believer in Christ do in the darkest hour
of trial. "Let not your heart be troubled," said the Master; "believe in
God; believe also in me."
This is the one great lesson of Christian
faith—"Believe." "Into your hands I commit my spirit." "You will keep him in
perfect peace—whose mind is stayed on you." Stayed on you! These
words tell the whole story. They picture a child nestling in the mother's
bosom, letting its whole little weight down upon her. It has no fear, and
nothing disturbs it, for the mother's love is all about it. "Stayed" means
reposing. It suggests also—the thought of continuousness of trust and
abiding. Too much of our trust is broken and intermittent, this hour
singing—the next hour in tears, dismayed. If we would have unbroken peace—we
must have unbroken trust, our minds stayed upon God all the while.
God is strong, omnipotent. We need not fear that
his power to keep us will ever fail. There never is a moment when he is not
able to sustain us. When the question is asked, "From whence shall my help
come?" the answer is, "My help comes from Jehovah, who made heaven and
earth!" He who made all the worlds and keeps them all in being—can surely
bear up one little human life and protect it from harm.
God is wise. We are not wise enough to direct the
affairs of our own lives, even if we had the power to shape things to our
minds. Our outlook is limited—cut off by life's close horizons. We do not
know what the final outcome of this or that choice would be. Ofttimes the
things we think we need, and think would bring us happiness and good—would
only work us harm in the end. Things we dread and shrink from, supposing
they would bring us hurt and evil—are ofttimes the bearers of rich blessings
to us. We are not wise enough to choose our own circumstances, or to guide
our own affairs. Only God can do this for us. He not only has strength—he
has also knowledge of us—and of our needs—and of our dangers. He knows all
about us—our condition, our suffering, our trials, our griefs, the little
things that vex us, as well as the great things that would crush us.
God is love. Strength alone would not be enough.
Strength is not always gentle. A tyrant may be strong, but we would not care
to entrust our life to him. We crave affection, tenderness. God is love. His
gentleness is infinite. The hands into which we are asked to commit our
spirit—are wounded hands—wounded in saving us! The heart over which
we are asked to nestle—is the heart that was broken on the cross in love for
us! We need not fear to stay ourselves on such a being.
God is eternal. Human love is very sweet. A
mother's bosom is a wondrously gentle place for a child to nestle in. The
other day two letters came from the same hospital. One was from a young
wife, married only last summer, now fighting a battle with cancer. She wrote
hopefully, referring to the many hemorrhages she had had, but saying that
now she was surely recovering. She then spoke of her desire to get well
enough to go home soon to her husband. "Surely He will not separate us so
early," she wrote; "We are so happy together!" The other letter was from the
sick woman's friend who is with her. She wrote that the doctors have no hope
of her recovery.
So frail is human strength, though behind it is
tenderest, truest love. All that love can do, all that money
can do, all that skill can do—avails nothing. Human arms may clasp us
very firmly, yet their clasp cannot keep us from the power of disease—or
from the cold hand of death. But the love and strength of God are
everlasting. Nothing can ever separate us from him. An Old Testament promise
reads: "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting
arms." Deuteronomy 33:27. If we are stayed upon the eternal God, nothing
ever can disturb us, for nothing can disturb him on whom we are reposing. If
we are held in the clasp of his everlasting arms, we need not fear that we
shall ever be separated from the enfolding.
The position of the everlasting arms in this
picture is suggestive—"Underneath." They are always underneath us. No matter
how low we sink, in weakness, in faintness, in pain, in sorrow—we never can
sink below these everlasting arms. We never can drop out of their clasp. A
father tired to save his child in the waves, wildly clasping his arms around
the loved child. But his arms, though nerved by most passionate love, were
too weak, and the child slipped away from them and sank down in the dark
waters. But evermore, in the deepest floods, the everlasting arms will be
underneath the feeblest, most imperiled child of God. Sorrow is very
deep—but still and forever, in the greatest grief, these arms of love are
underneath the sufferer. Then when death comes, and every earthly support is
gone from beneath us, when every human arm unclasps and every face of love
fades from before our eyes, and we sink away into what seems darkness and
the shadow of death—we shall only sink into the everlasting arms underneath
The word "are," too, must not be overlooked—"Underneath
are the everlasting arms." This is one of the wonderful present tenses of
the Bible. To every trusting believer, to each one, in all the ages, to you
who today are reading these words and trying to learn the lesson, as well as
to those to whom the words were first spoken, God says, "Underneath you are
now, this moment, every moment, the everlasting arms!"
"Whose mind is stayed on you."
That is the final secret of peace. The reason so many of us do not find
the blessing, and are disturbed so often by such trifles of care or
sorrow or loss—is because our minds are not stayed on God. We
are distressed by every little disappointment, by every failure in plan or
expectation of ours, by every hardness in our circumstances or our
condition, by every trivial loss of money, as if money were life's sole
dependence, as if man lived by bread alone. A trifling illness frightens us.
The most trivial things in our common life disturb us and send us off into
pitiable fits of anxiety, spoiling our days for us, blotting the blue of the
sky and putting out the stars! The trouble is, we are not trusting God—our
minds are not stayed on him! That is what we need to learn—to rest in the
Lord—to be silent before him—to commit our way to him.
Paul puts it very clearly in a remarkable passage, in
which he tells us how to find peace. "In nothing be anxious." That is the
first part of the lesson. "Nothing" means really nothing. There are
to be no exceptions. No matter what comes—in nothing be anxious. Do
not try to imagine that your case is peculiar and that you may rightly be
anxious, even if others have no reason for worry. "In nothing be
anxious." No excuse is left to any believer in Christ, who would claim a
right to be anxious. It is our privilege and duty to be always free from
anxiety—and to show the sad world only victorious joy!
What then shall we do with the things that would
naturally make us anxious? For there are such things in every life. Here is
the answer: "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let
your requests be made known unto God." Instead of carrying your trials and
troubles yourself, the things which would fret and vex you, and worrying
about them—take them to God, not forgetting to mingle praise and
thanksgiving with your requests. Get them altogether out of your hands—into
God's hands—and leave them there!
That is the lesson we should learn—the duty of
peace and the secret of peace. It is the duty of every
Christian to have peace. Not to have it—is to reject the Master's
bequest—"Peace I leave with you—My peace I give unto you." It is to refuse
his gracious gift—a gift he died for, so that he could give to us. Not to
have peace is to fail to have the fruit of the Spirit in our lives,
for part of this fruit is peace. Everyone of us should have peace. If we
don't have it—we are living below our privileges; we are missing one of the
great blessings of salvation!
That is one part of our lesson. The other is that we can
only get this peace by having our minds stayed on God, that God may keep us
in peace. For even he cannot keep us—unless we put ourselves into his hands
and leave ourselves there. The staying upon God is our part in securing the
blessing which is promised. It must be a voluntary reposing. It must
be an unbroken confiding. To trust and sing today, and then to fear and
doubt tomorrow, is not the way to find perfect peace. "Trust in the Lord
forever," is the lesson that is set for us.
Then the peace never shall be broken. It may be disturbed
for a little while by some sudden trial or sorrow, or by overwhelming
trouble; but God very gently helps back into the nest, those who have been
thrown out of it by any such experience. One day President Lincoln and a
friend were walking together beside a hedgerow, and came upon a little bird
fluttering in the grass. It had fallen out of its nest in the bushes and
could not get back again. The great, gentle hearted man stopped in his walk,
picked up the little thing, sought along the hedge until he found the nest,
and put the bird back again into its place. That is what Christ is seeking
to do every day with lives that have been jostled out of the nest of peace.
With hand infinitely gentle, he would ever help us back to the peace we have
The staying of the mind upon God suggests repose.
We are to let ourselves down upon his strength, into the arms of his
love—and to rest there, without fear, without worry, without question. But
this does not mean that we shall drop our tasks and duties out of our hands.
Always, in every exhortation to trust God, obedience is implied and
presupposed. "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness," said the
Master. When we do this, he continued, we need never be anxious, for then
all our needs shall be supplied. It is only in the faithful doing of God's
will—that true peace ever can be found. We cannot commit either ourselves or
our affairs to God—unless we have done our own part faithfully or are ready
to do it.
Far more really than we think, is work a helper of peace.
The will of God is to be done, not only suffered, as some people seem to
think, but done in unbroken obedience and service. Work is a law of life,
and no life can be truly healthy which is not active. Work thus becomes a
means of grace. We grow under burdens. Exercise develops the
There is a satisfaction also in the consciousness of
having faithfully done one's duty and performed one's part in the world,
which is an essential element of peace. Love is the law of spiritual
life. We do not begin to live in any worthy sense—until we have learned to
love and to serve others. Selfishness is always a
hinderer of peace. Peace is the music which the life makes, when it is in
perfect tune, and this can only be—when all its chords are attuned to the
keynote of love.
We can stay our minds upon God only when the will of God
has been done by us—or endured patiently and cheerfully. The bosom of God is
a holy place, and nothing unholy ever can nestle there. No disturbed
conscience can find quiet there. There must be peace in the heart, first—or
even leaning on Christ's breast will not impart peace. Only thus can any one
find perfect peace. Even God cannot give it to one nestling in the shelter
of his love, whose heart is filled with strifes, or with fears, or with
reprovings of conscience. The peace must be in us—or we cannot be
kept in peace.
Peace gives such blessedness to the heart, and is such an
adornment to the life—that no one ever should be willing to miss it.
Whatever other graces God has bestowed upon us, we should not be content
without this, the most beautiful of them all. However beautiful a character
may be, if it has not peace—it lacks the highest charm of spiritual
adornment. And the Master is willing to bestow upon the lowliest of us, the
divinest of all graces—peace, his own blessed peace!