Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Once upon a time, there was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace.
Many artists tried their hand, and hundreds of pictures of peace lined the king’s distinguished throne room. One by one, the king looked at all the pictures. There were only two he really liked. One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for the peaceful towering mountains 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 lightning played. Down the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all, and everyone who saw it wondered what the artist could possibly be thinking. But when the king looked closely, 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, the grey thundering raining skies, and the wind rushing the rugged and bare mountain, sat a mother bird on her nest of eggs, in perfect peace. What the king understood is that peace is not something that depends on a serene environment, with the perfect combination of factors, where nothing distracts or threatens or surprises. Peace can happen anywhere, at any time, and in any heart that truly commits to it.
The Secret of a Peaceful Life
Do you know the secret of a peaceful life? Many books and articles have been written, and yet peace of heart escapes so many of us. Unfortunately there’s usually something going on that seems to make life difficult and anxious. Maybe it’s pressure at work. Demands from family. Demands at school. Stress about money. Illness. Maybe a loved one has really let you down and you don’t know what to do. Maybe you’re the one who did the letting down and you don’t know what to do.
One of the things you often hear people say is that things are faster now than they used to be and that life is harder and more frantic. I think about that bird in our story, sitting in a small bush that grew out of a crack in the rock. Somehow, in all the tension around her, she still had the resolve to lay her eggs and to sit there, patiently waiting, to birth new life, in that harsh environment.
So much could have distracted and discouraged her. She could have said, This is a lousy place to build a nest. I’m going to wait for that perfect lake with the perfect mountains and the perfect blue sky. That’s where I’m going to make my nest and have my family. If she had tried that she would still be looking, because no life can be that perfect and that serene—not if you want to be engaged and connected with other human beings and with the world and even with yourself, not if you want to love and be loved, and not if you want to grow as a person.
Instead, she stayed where she was. She made her home in an imperfect place, even, one could say, a harsh place. She found a little tiny corner behind the rushing water, that seemed, in the moment, to be safe enough to dream of a future. Then she did the bravest thing of all, she entrusted the life of her children to that imperfect place. She literally put all her eggs in one basket.
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Peace is About Our Internal Responses
The bird in her nest symbolises what is possible for each of us when we realise that inner peace is not about what surrounds us. It’s about what we do with what surrounds us. It’s about what we do with it in our hearts, in our minds, and then in our actions. Inner peace is not something that we attain despite the challenges and anxieties of our lives. Inner peace isn’t just about finding serenity. It is something that we find with and through the challenges of our lives.
In the Bible we read of the Apostle Paul. He knew the peace from God when he wrote, “God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel” (Philippians 4:7 – CEV). Did you notice, the Bible says it’s our heart and our mind that tend to produce states of anxiety and worry. In stating this, the Bible is very real and down to earth in describing our actual existence—what we experience. It is God’s peace that is to guard your heart and your mind. The word ‘heart’ that is used in this verse not only means the seat of your emotions, it means the very central part of your personality. It’s that part of you that reacts if your mother or father is taken ill, or your child is hurt at school. Your heart, your love for that person is the cause of anxiety and worry. If you were informed that a stranger was hurt or sick, you wouldn’t be as anxious or worried as if it were your own child. So Scripture is talking about the source of your feelings, your heart.
The Philippians lived under a tough and cruel regime: the Roman Empire. They had what was known as the ‘Pax Romana’ (the ‘Roman Peace’). The professional army installed peace, but not as we know it. Everyone was forced to comply, no exceptions. Anyone who rebelled was crucified or murdered. Peace had to be kept, whatever it cost. No-one could disturb the peace.
But Jesus promised a different peace, for those who believe in him. A peace that will keep your mind safe—and who wouldn’t want that? Jesus said:
I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. (John 14:27- CEV).
Can I remind you the Bible is saying that whatever the circumstances, whatever difficulties we are facing, we will be kept in peace in spite of these circumstances. Another way of saying this is, the Bible is not teaching that the very thing that you fear will not take place; rather, what the Bible is teaching is that God will keep your heart and your mind in a state of peace whatever happens. It is a supernatural peace God gives that calms you, quiets you, assures you he is still in control.
That is the victory Christians have: that whatever we face, we can live above the circumstances in peace, even while we are going through them.