A professing Christian was in a rough marriage for many years. It came to the point where they felt as if they could not take it anymore. Divorce entered the thoughts. They sought counsel from other Christians. Some opened Scripture, some didn’t, and some prayed. Though no biblical grounds for divorce, it came to the point where they could not see how God would want them to be unhappy in marriage. The marriage did not bring feelings of peace and comfort. So, they went through with the divorce on the grounds that both they and their close Christian friends “had a peace about it.”
Perhaps you’ve said it. “I have a peace about it.” Sometimes it takes on a different form. “I have prayed about it, so it’s God’s will.” Or, “I have a peace about it, so God is calling me to…” Those words are often-assumed gateways to what God wants me to do in the throes of life. But, is my “peace” God’s enthusiastic permission slip for my “it”? Is my prayer and peace heaven’s approval for whatever “it” may be in my life?
That process of making the decision usually goes something like this. I am facing a difficult issue in my life, requiring some wise decision-making. However, I approach the decision with a pre-existing bent towards my own comfort. Instead of an objective approach to the decision, I have a subjective bent towards getting my own way. I have some desire for God to weigh in on the decision. I may pray about it, look up a few verses, and ask a few friends, but I am hoping to discover some Christian key to unlock my wants. I likely run into counsel either from godly friends, leadership, or Scripture which hinders getting my way. I subsequently feel more drawn towards my decision. I find a few verses (which I do not rigorously study with a proper hermeneutic and help from church leadership) that, though taken out of context, seem to support what I already want. This fuels my existing idolatrous pursuit. I run across some friends and verses which assure me that God wants me to feel happy and joyful about what I do. Since it does not seem joyful to make the more difficult decision, I am further established in my own way. I run across some verses which discuss personal peace. I perceive a feeling of personal peace as I meditate on my pre-desired decision and the consequent ease it will bring in my life. Therefore, since I experience feelings of increasing pleasure, I conclude that I am at peace. Thus, since I presume that God wants me to be at peace, I conclude that my feeling of peace is God assuring me, “This is the decision you should make.” Finally, I declare, “I have a peace about making this decision. I have prayed about it. God is calling me to ____.” And I go through with the decision. But all is not well.
Here are a few thoughts to consider before we use our personal peace as determinative of God’s will.
- Scripture alone is God’s means of communicating his will for us.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Much of this issue boils down to the sufficiency of Scripture. Is the Bible alone sufficient to guide me in decision-making with matters pertaining to life and godliness? Has God adequately outfitted humanity to know and do his will?
Leaning on feelings of peace, in effect, says, “No.” Though Bible verses may be consulted, what tilts the decision scale is subjective to the individual; what is subjectively comfortable. Thus, to use “I have a peace about it” as the determinative factor says, “Though the sovereign God of the universe has spoken in his word, God has simply failed to provide humanity with what we need for life and godliness.”
And, leaning on feelings of peace and the Bible also may deny the sufficiency of Scripture. Bible verses can be ripped out of context. I can operate with a hermeneutic of happiness: since I should be joyful always, I will make whatever decision helps me to maintain feelings of joy.
Bottom line: the “I-have-a-peace-about-it” method of decision-making denies the sufficiency of Scripture.
- Our “peace” could be putting ourselves in the place of God.
Overall, the “I-have-a-peace-about-it” approach to life can be dangerous. I may “have a peace” and “have prayed about” a decision, but if my decision is in contrary to the word of God, then my peace or prayer is likely a self-permitted license of self-
sovereignty. I am placing myself in authority over God, while ensuring that others cannot question me because of my supposed “peace” or “prayer.”
I wonder if sometimes we use our “peace about it” as a self-issued cosmic fortune cookie for our idolatrous pursuits. Perhaps our peace is not God’s will at all. Instead, our peace is simply our feelings. So, our feelings become determinative. Thus, our feelings are functionally authoritative. Our feelings are a functional god, which is to say, we have made ourselves god.
3. God does not tell us that an internal peace is his means of communicating his will.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).
There is no Bible verse which says, “Ok, the decision which causes you to experience peaceful feelings is the decision you should make.” And God never said, “The way in which I will signal to you what I want you to do in big decisions is by causing you to feel a peace.”
When God communicated to us, it was a revealing, hence the reason Scripture is called “special revelation.” He did so because fallen humanity is in such a damaged condition that we are incapable of determining his will and desirous of self-sovereignty. In his mercy, he spoke in the 66 books of Scripture. We need a lamp for our feet and light for our path because we willfully and naturally are in complete darkness. Thus, God’s will is something that is determined by resources outside of us, not inside; by Scripture, not hunches.
4. Often we will have an internal war when coming to terms with God’s will.
Before coming to faith in Christ we are only able and willing to do all things against the glory of God. That is the essence of sin (Rom. 1:21). Sin’s DNA is contrary to the will of God. When we are reborn by the Spirit, that is the moment our sin begins to be put to death. We are a new creature, but our old nature is not yet entirely inoperable (Rom. 8:5-8). Areas of godliness are still difficult as Christians (cf. Rom. 7:14-24). We still sin.
This means that doing things God’s way is still going to be a battle as a Christian. God’s word directly confronts the self-favoring, comfort worshiper in all of us. Hence the reason that we need nothing less than the Holy Spirit to exercise faith in striving against sin’s self-focus (cf. Gal. 5:16-17).
The “I-have-a-peace-about-it” person has either forgotten or failed to embrace this central truth of biblical Christianity. The Christian life is often hard. God tells us that it will involve things like self-denial. Self-denial means going against my personal feelings of peace. This means that decisions which feel good are often going to be the wrong ones. The personal peace decision-making assumes that either there should not be an internal war or refused to engage in the war.
The “I-have-a-peace-about-it” person has come to temptation’s frequent fork in the road. They were faced with what is biblical and what is peaceful. There was a conflict. It’s that common place to which temptation brings us. Will I go with what feels comfortable or with what requires faith? Will I trust in myself or will I trust God? Will I live in a way that I can see or requires the conviction of things not seen?
- An internal war often means that we are doing things right in the Christian life.
Consider a sampling of NT texts which describe the Christian life.
“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me’” (Luke 9:23).
“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:26-27).
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Gal. 5:16-17).
“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11).
The terminology is telling: “he must deny himself,” “I discipline my body and make it my slave” (referring to walking in holiness), “the flesh sets its desires against the Spirit,” and “lusts which wage war.” The common thread in these passages is the inner-conflict which is both normal and good as the Christian strives to align his/her heart and deeds with God’s will.
The New Testament writers described the daily Christian life in battle terminology. Therefore, having a peace about decisions in life could be a bad thing. When it comes to biblical decision-making, you may need to have a war about it. Biblically speaking, we are likely more in line with God’s will if we say, “I’m having a fight about it,” rather than, “I’m having a peace about it.”
Also, consider Jesus. What did he do when faced with decisions pertaining to life and godliness? In the various episodes, Satan tempted Jesus, in effect, with ideas like, “Turn the rocks into bread,” “Do a showy, neat supernatural stunt,” and “Bypass that painful, dark, and difficult cross work.” Jesus responded by trusting in the word of God, not by saying, “I’m going to go with what gives me a peace” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10).
Further, we might ask, “Did Jesus appear to have a subjective happy peace about his redemptive cross work while in the Garden of Gethsemane?” “And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me’” (Matt. 26:37-38).
- Trusting in oneself is considered foolish.
Leaning on my peace is to lean on myself. It is a form of self-trust which is contrary to faith and trusting God.
Scripture warns us against such things. First, our hearts are untrustworthy: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds’” (Jer. 17:9-10). Notice the warning. The heart (the control center of man’s desires and emotions) surpasses all things in unreliability. That alerts us, then, to the danger of feelings. Subjective feelings, whether peaceful or not, come from our untrustworthy hearts. Second, self-trust is hazardous. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26). Trusting in a feeling of peace is trusting one’s heart par excellence.
- God delegates certain people to guide us in decision-making.
When making big decisions, in addition to digging into the word, it is wise to consult those who spend much time in the word, will be the least likely to cater to our feelings and flattery, and have God-given authority over our souls. In other words, it is wise to consult the biblically-qualified elders/pastors in our local church. These are God’s delegated resources to help guide us in his will (cf. Heb. 13:17).
Often we will approach our decision-making like this. “Pastor, I’ve sought a lot of counsel on this. I’ve gotten some advice from godly people. They confirm my decision, so it’s God’s will for me to ____.” In an attempt to appease our conscience, we will request counsel from others around us. Of course, the irony is that I’ve failed to heed the counsel of my immediate shepherds; the ones whose counsel I should likely be heeding the most (Heb. 13:17). We can use the “I-have-a-peace-about-it” as a tactic to deviously detour the real means for biblical decision-making.
Christians, we need to stop saying, “Because I have a peace about X, X is God’s will.” Instead, let’s say something like, “I have prayed about X, attempted to study X with sound hermeneutics, approached my spiritual shepherds, who will not flatter me but love me with the truth, about X for advice. And, though it’s a battle inside and this is the harder decision, I think that I need to submit to Scripture on this issue so as to submit to God. And may my good God help me do so in faith.”
In his goodness, God has outfitted humanity with his word with the result that we have everything needed for life and godliness. In loving sovereignty, there is no life situation in which God has failed to sufficiently supply what we need from Scripture. The Christian life is one lived in faith; trusting in God’s opinions and desires over my own. Though this will often mean an internal battle, as we surrender to Scripture, we can be assured that we are in God’s blessed will.