As I publish this article at 5:00 AM Central Time this morning, the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II is beginning in Westminster Abbey in London.
More than once over the last week and a half, I’ve seen people sharing their thoughts about how the Queen had been an emblem of security and stability throughout the turbulent events that have transpired over the last 70 years.
Whether or not you are British, and whatever your opinions may have been about Queen Elizabeth personally, it is indeed somewhat unsettling to witness the passing of such a prominent figure as she. For so many people in the UK, she was the only monarch they have ever known.
In light of all this, today I’d like to share these words from J. R. Miller about the peace that the Lord bestows upon all His people – whether or not they were subjects of Queen Elizabeth – in the midst of life’s changes and upheavals.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.” Isaiah 26:3
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 it is true that we should seek to have that power. To not be the 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, and our speech. He who rules his own spirit is the greatest of conquerors – greater than the man who captures a city. No doubt, perfect self-mastery has much to do with keeping the heart quiet in danger, and calm and undisturbed in sudden trial. But this is not the real secret of peace. Our self-control reaches only 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, “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 – and it is God alone Who can keep us – in perfect peace.
Our peace never can be more secure than that upon which it depends. Our trust never can be more sure than that upon 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 illustration is borrowed from the 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. In the same way, God’s own peace keeps guard over our hearts and minds, so that nothing shall ever disturb us or alarm us. Nothing can ever 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 is 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 His Spirit Who broods over the turbulent floods of life, and brings order out of chaos. It is His Son who stands on the vessel, amidst 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. The Lord 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 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 the 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 the Lord. That means to trust Him, to rest in Him, and to nestle in His love. We remember where the Apostle John was found on the night of the Lord’s last supper with His disciples – the darkest night the world ever saw, and the deepest sorrow men ever knew. John was leaning on Jesus’ bosom. He crept into that holy shelter to find quiet. He reposed all his weight upon the infinite love which beat in that heart. 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 he was kept in holy peace.
Jesus invites you to find shelter and stability in Him today; and He promises to give you perfect peace, in spite of all the unsettlement that comes with the passing away of familiar and respected leaders. He lives and reigns – yesterday, today, and forever.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for our King’s glory,
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This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on my website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.