Know Peace - Acts 16:31-40 NIV
Continue our Acts study - Sequel & Requel. Our 43rd today. I titled today's talk "Know Peace" because I fear way too many Christians know about peace without really knowing peace themselves. An unexpected swerve of life comes along, or an unwelcome personal attack, and all hopes of peace go out the window. We wrongly think that peace is the absence of conflict. Given all we've learned about the Christian life being lived in enemy territory, conflict is rarely absent. Real Christian peace is enjoying peace despite the conflict. We see the perfect example of this today with Paul & Silas.
3 Practical Ways to really know Christian peace...
#1 - Know ____________________ .
You can't really know Christian peace unless you know the Christ! You must know the gospel. You must believe.
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household." Acts 16:31 NIV
This is the offer from Paul to the jailer, but it is also the beginning of real peace. There is an aspect of this peace that goes beyond explaining...
"The peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard
your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7 NIV
This peace of God guards our hearts. This is the work of the Holy Spirit and is not the work of our determination. It comes by faith, by believing!
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,..." Galatians 5:22 NIV
This peace is a by-product of the Spirit alive within us. So the starting point of real peace is a real relationship with God through Christ! With that being said, there is also a "cooperation" that must take place between us and the Lord for us to experience this peace. For example...
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace." Colossians 3:15 NIV
At first glance this verse may seem to be at odds with the verses we read before. Do I have peace or not? Here is the stunning truth. All Christians have the peace of Christ within them. BUT not all Christians choose to allow that peace to rule in their hearts. We must choose. Effort involved!
"Make every effort to live in peace with everyone." Hebrews 12:14 NIV
This "effort" is especially true when it comes to experiencing peace with other people. Simply put, not all human beings may care as much about peace as you do. Attacks may come. Attacks will come! Our response?
This is the part that most pastors fail to tell you about. Knowing peace doesn't always means avoiding conflict. Sometimes the path to peace takes us right through conflict. So when we avoid that conflict we are also avoiding any chance we have for peace! Let's see Paul's example:
#2 - Know _______________ .
This is important. We should know our rights. We are human. We are Christian. We are American.
We have human rights to be born free, not to be a slave to anyone. We all have our own thoughts and ideas. We have a right to live. We have a right to not be tortured. We have the right to seek a safe place to live.
As Christians we have a right to love our Lord Jesus. We have a right to pray. We have a right to read and understand God's Word.
As Americans we have the Bill of Rights, which gives us freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to assemble. That's just the first of ten! Paul's ex. -
"They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out." Acts 16:37 NIV
Paul had the choice to leave prison twice, but remained put.
1st when earthquake shook jail open.
2nd when magistrates granted freedom.
But to leave would have allowed his Roman citizen rights to be violated. Paul stood up for his rights by remaining seated in that jail! That was a gutsy thing to do and for most of us would have seemed like the opposite of peace. Yet Paul chose the road of conflict because it led to real peace.
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 NIV
Do you see the "stand firm" part of the verse? Peace and freedom are often linked. Peace = freedom to live my life. But freedom (and thus peace) are not free from conflict. We must stand firm against conflict sometimes. Otherwise we will be once more under the burden of slavery and once again not be able to enjoy peace. It was up to Jesus to set us free. But it would appear that it is up to us to stand firm! Peace is never maintained by the avoidance of conflict. Avoidance of conflict leads to slavery, which leads us away from even the possibility of peace!
Motivation is key here. When we have been hurt by someone, it is hardwired into our emotions to strike back. To make them feel the way we felt. That is not the avenue to peace either. That just leads to devolving and revolving conflict. Here is the formula for conflict & peace:
"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else." 1 Thessalonians 5:15 NIV
So it's important to stop and take a beat. Let the emotions calm down. Paul had an entire night to think about his response. His was a reasoned "no, we are not leaving until this citizenship wrong is made right!"
#3 - Know _________________ .
This might seem to go against #2, but it's all a part of really knowing peace. You have to know when to settle. Don't hold out for the very final ounce of justice. In Paul's case:
"They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city." Acts 16:39 NIV
The magistrates show up and walk Paul and Silas out. Paul could have demanded a public apology. He could have appealed to Caesar. This was within his rights as a Roman citizen. But as a Christian citizen...
"Make peace quickly with your opponent while you are on the way to court with him." Matthew 5:25 GWT
These are Jesus' words. Make peace while you can. Paul received one nod towards correcting the wrongs to him. Did it completely wipe out the wrongs? No! He still carried the scars of the beating. Living a peaceful life is often as much an art as it is a science. Know when to settle! Leave a little dignity on the table for your opponent. Give a little grace. Save a little face for them too. Can you look to the other side? Mutual win?
"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." Romans 14:19 NIV
Mutual edification is another way of saying "win-win." Is there a solution that can work for both sides? Paul probably felt like he didn't have a lot of positives to work with for evangelization, that it was best if he moved on. Sitting in jail longer than necessary didn't help him or opponents.
One last advice about peaceful existence with those who oppose you...
"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18 NIV
It just may not be possible to live at peace with everyone. That just the truth of the matter for Planet Earth. You cannot control peaceful living with everyone else, but you can control you! Are you doing everything possible to live at peace? That's all Jesus asks.
If you find yourself at odds you may just have to rely upon the peace of God transcending understanding from Philippians 4:7. Know Jesus. Know Peace. When possible, be the peace - even when it may lead through conflict.