Peace in Conflict

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

There are two opposing views about what peace is:  “peace is the absence of conflict” or “peace is the acceptance of conflict”.  In this context, it is important that we understand some of the definitions of conflict: an armed conflict such as a battle or war; competitive or opposing action of incompatibles which can be divergent ideas, interests, or persons. It can also be a mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives or wishes.

In the opening reference, Christ makes it quite clear that even if we are his followers, we are not going to have a life without conflict: “In this world you will have trouble. . .”   We live in a world of opposites where light is made more visible when it is contrasted with dark.  Even though we pray for a good day which generally implies we don’t want “trouble” or conflict to come our way, unfortunately, Christ has told us that He cannot promise that and that we should anticipate that trouble will come our way.  Then, in the same sentence of John 16:33, just after the comma, he rallies us with “but take heart” which means – be hopeful, let your faith carry you through if something happens, trust Me, stand unshakable even when things look the worst, continue on with integrity, remember the last time I came through for you because “I have overcome the world”.   The world IS “trouble”. The world IS conflict. That’s why Jesus Christ came and sacrificed His life so that He could overcome the world for us.  He is our Peace in conflict.  He is ours!

David, the young shepherd boy who was chosen by God to become King of Israel, demonstrates how to take action with God’s help when facing conflict. In the book of Samuel, at this time, historians believe that he was between twelve and fifteen years old.  As an important back story, when David was younger, he was faced with life and death scenarios (i.e. a lion and a bear) in which he was forced to trust God and take action or his sheep and perhaps himself could have been killed.  David gradually gained a level of confidence, even an inner peace, in these incidents that prepared him for the one signature event of his life that would go down in history and stand as an example for us all when we are facing immovable giant-sized conflicts in our life that paralyze us with fear and inaction.  As faithful believers, if there’s conflict in our life, God is allowing it. Conflict is God’s way of stirring us to spiritual change and awakening.  Jesus Christ is our peace in that conflict.

When Jesse, David’s father sent him to the valley of Elah to take food to his brothers, he was walking into a situation where the Israelites were just trying to keep the status quo, where nothing was happening, as the possible outcomes were not that good.  We do this in our own lives when dealing with trouble and conflict, and by not moving out in faith and letting Jesus Christ do the right thing and remove it, it only gets worse.  Because we accept this “giant” in our life, more giants could follow.

The Israelite army was facing the Philistines who wanted to defeat them and bring them under their control.  This was becoming a particular situation that was made for someone who had this sustaining peace and faith in the Living God and this was to be young David.  Goliath, the Philistine giant who was nine foot six inches tall was terrorizing everyone to inaction.  The challenge was that if Goliath could be defeated by a single Israelite, then, the Philistine army would serve the Israelites and vice versa.  Every morning for 40 days Goliath would make his boast and challenge and every morning, there would be no challenger to respond.  The Israelites were a people of the living God who they knew had protected them in other dire circumstances when they were faithful. Their faith in God had always won the day, but now, they were dealing with paralyzing fear, waiting for something to happen to take this challenger down.  The daily morning war cry when the army was trying to build adrenalin-filled courage to move out against this enemy warrior just wasn’t working.

It’s interesting that the number 40 in the Scriptures represents a shadow and type of a period of time that challenges the complacency and comfort in our old way of thinking through trial and then deliverance through rebirth when we see with new eyes. On the fortieth day, the Israelites in that valley were about to see this unimaginable rebirth because of a faithful young shepherd boy who wasn’t afraid.  He wasn’t afraid because he was at peace in conflict to know what God could do and what God had done in his young life to help him protect the sheep in his care.  He knew that it wasn’t him going forward to battle but God who battles for us.  Of ourselves, we can do nothing but we have this promise:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13   As you read the I Samuel:17 reference in verses 26 and 45, note that David’s true motivation to move out and act was to restore God’s honor and glorify his name.

This is how this amazing story goes down:

17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp.18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”

20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry.21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other.22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.

25 Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”

26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”

28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” (Keep in mind how angry Eliab is that he wasn’t chosen to be king as was his right as the oldest son of the family for such an honor.)

29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.

32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.

When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.52 Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron. 53 When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp.

54 David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem; he put the Philistine’s weapons in his own tent.

55 As Saul watched David going out to meet the Philistine, he said to Abner, commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is that young man?”

Abner replied, “As surely as you live, Your Majesty, I don’t know.”

56 The king said, “Find out whose son this young man is.”

57 As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine’s head.

58 “Whose son are you, young man?” Saul asked him.

David said, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.” I Sam 17 NIV

David was at peace in the midst of conflict as we read what he wrote in the Psalms:

“Lord, how are they increased that trouble me!  Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.  I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.”   Psalm 3 KJV

If God has allowed stress into your life from your job, your health, family issues or some other vulnerable area, then because of your faith and peace in conflict, he will see you through it – and in the process you can learn and also demonstrate to everyone around you that your God is big enough to handle anything that comes  and that whatever the outcome, it will be within his purpose for your life.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:6-8 NIV

“There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror, for peaceful towering mountains were all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest in perfect peace.

Which picture do you think won the prize? The King chose the second picture. Do you know why?’Because’ explained the King, ‘peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.’

Author Unknown,  taken from “A Gift of Inspiration” website

Jack E. Dawson’s painting “Peace in the Midst of the Storm” can be viewed online at Bittersweet Gallery.  Dawson states some of the representations of his painting:

“The hidden images in this painting help us see that just as the little bird found a hiding place in the cleft of the rock we have a refuge in Jesus Christ, our Rock. His cross was a sacrifice for our sins, and his empty tomb a promise of our resurrection. Yet we are not promised a life without storms. In fact we know that there is always the presence of evil in the world. Through the cross, we can overcome ‘because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’.  1 John 4:4   Only in Christ, can we have ‘Peace in the Midst of the Storm’.”   Jack E. Dawson

When you view this painting, notice the rock formation that has the profile of the renditions of Jesus Christ with which we are familiar. Especially, find the mother bird sitting on her nest near the waterfall.

Where and when Light comes to spiritual darkness, there will be conflict otherwise the spiritual darkness would consume that which is Light and it will if we don’t defend the truth we are each given.  We are called to diligently declare what is spiritual truth and to live that truth in our lives.  Truth is the Light that is within us.  When Jesus Christ declared to His fellow Jews that He was the Son of God, they flared up in such a rage that they blindly raced to find stones so they could kill Him right there on the spot.  But it wasn’t His time and He slipped away to safety.  He was the fulfillment of their prophecies for a Messiah but when it came time for it to be fulfilled, they were lost in their own teachings, the precepts of men – precepts that were devised to allow personal power over others and  ways to be raised up in the eyes of the world.  That was not at all who Christ was when He came.   At this juncture in Christ’s life is where the conflict began as you will note in verse 48 in John 11, where Jesus challenges the status quo and the cultural and political power of the religious leaders.

“47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea.”  John 11:47-54 NIV

The Hebrew meaning for peace or “shalom” is far more complex than what we understand it to be.

“Commonly translated as ‘peace’ and used as both a greeting and farewell, shalom has rich meaning in Hebrew. ‘Peace’ is an accurate translation of the term, but shalom implies more than lack of conflict. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, shalom means “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.’ It is translated ‘success’ and used as part of an inspired blessing in 1Chronicles 12:18.  . .  In part, God promises, ‘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. . . . All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.’

True shalom comes only from God. Paul explains, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. . . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!’  (Romans 5:1–3, 8–10).  ‘We are no longer God’s enemies, but He has made peace with us through the blood of Christ. Even more, in God we are made complete.’  Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us, ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’  First Thessalonians 5:23-24 says, ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.’ Philippians 1:6 assures us, ‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ As we await that final completion, we can trust God for our welfare. Jesus encouraged His disciples, ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’.(John 16:33).”

We are promised perfect peace as long as we maintain a right relationship with God and are motivated by bringing glory to God. Peace isn’t going along to get along, it’s standing firm when God’s truth in you is being assailed on all sides to conform to the world.

Here are some Scripture references and quotes to help us further understand peace in conflict:

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:1-2 NIV

“God as the Source of Peace. God alone is the source of peace, for he is ‘Yahweh Shalom’ (see Judges 6:24 ). The Lord came to sinful humankind, historically first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, desiring to enter into a relationship with them. He established with them a covenant of peace, which was sealed with his presence (see Num 6:24-26 ). Participants were given perfect peace so long as they maintained a right relationship with the Lord ( Isa 26:3; 2 Thess 3:16). The Old Testament anticipated, and the New Testament confirmed, that God’s peace would be mediated through a messiah (see Isa 9:6-7; Micah 5:4-5). Peace with God came through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1; Eph 2:14-17; Col 1:19-20; Heb 13:20). Peter declared to Cornelius: ‘You know now the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all’ (Acts 10:36).The Relationship of Righteousness to Peace. The Lord established a covenant, which resulted in the participants receiving his shalom in abundance, ‘like a river’ (see Isa 48:18).  However, peace could be disturbed if one did not live before the Lord and others in righteousness; in fact, peace is one of the fruits of righteousness (Isa 32:17-18).”  Glenn E. Schaefer. Taken from My Jewish Learning website

“ ’By three things the world is preserved, by justice, by truth, and by peace, and these three are one: if justice has been accomplished, so has truth, and so has peace’ (JT Ta’anit 4:2 the Jewish Talmud). Here, not only is peace made among men, but also the competing values are reconciled.” By Dr. Aviezer Ravitzky  Pursuing Peace, or Shalom.

“David in Saul’s armor carrying Saul’s shield and sword was man’s plan.  God, fighting for David with a slingshot and five stones was God’s plan.”  “Goliath Must Fall” by Louie Giglio.   Many times when God’s special family, the Israelites, failed it was because they didn’t consult with God about what to do.   If you want to be successful, make sure you and God are on the same page about the plans you are making for your life.

The God of peace be with you, and protect the truth he has given you – the Sweetwater alone that satisfies and quenches thirst.

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