Finding Our Peace and Joy

We live in a world of instability. The economy is in flux. Job security is a thing of the past. All over the world, things just seem to be a bit of a mess.

Whenever I talk to Christians about tribulations in their lives, the first explanation they have is God is punishing them for something they have done. There is a sense that although Jesus died for their sins, God still wants to punish us for falling short of His standards.

According to Romans 5:1-2, once believers receive God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we have “peace with God.” Because of that, we can rest in the knowledge that no circumstance is the result of punishment. Bad things do not happen because they have been bad. No event is an expression of God’s will against us.

On the contrary, He has promised to use every circumstance, whether pleasant or painful, to guide His own toward maturity. Romans 5:3-5 says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

To demonstrate the truth that God is for us, Paul points out that God’s grace reached down to save us while we were still hostile to Him, long before we began walking with Him in a faith-based relationship. Again, Paul tells us that in verses 6-8, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I think its foolish for us to believe that after we have peace with God that He would send harmful circumstances into our lives to punish us for sinning. We have been justified, saved from God’s wrath, and reconciled. We can rejoice, even as painful events cause heartache because we know these events are not punitive. Romans 5:9-11 says, “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! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

The unfortunate fact of life that many of us is we sometimes forget that we live in a fallen world that has not been redeemed. One day it will be but until that time, it is like we are living in a garbage dump where we are surrounded by refuse and disease. And like a garbage dump, the world is hostile and corrupted and will have an effect on us regardless of how we try to “avoid” it. Jesus said we would be hated by the world. That being said, regardless of whatever the world throws at us and intends for our evil, God can use it for our good and His glory.

Peace and joy are promises of having a right relationship with God. So how do we make that a reality in our lives?

Firstly, we need to have the right focus. Our culture and generations says, “Look at yourself.” But when we focus on ourselves and our circumstances, we take our eyes off of our Saviour and His purposes. If Jesus has taken up residence in our lives and is seated on the throne of our hearts, He needs to be the focus of our lives. God is working out His plan in and through us. We forget that God is working in our world and we are a vital part of that.

Secondly, we need to have the right attitude. It is easy to have doubt and self-pity when things are not going our way. Think of the prodigal son sitting with the pigs. He felt bad about his circumstances and equated himself to his father’s slaves. We need to remember that God is working in and through us. When our focus is on God, we learn to submit, be humble and thankful for His love in our lives. It allows us to rise above the circumstance into His presence and grace.

Lastly, this results in joy. Now I’ve shared in the past that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is usually a result of circumstances while joy is the fruit of our relationship and standing with God. As we learn humility and express gratitude, we experience a joy that lifts us above what we may be going through. There is a joy of sensing the presence of God and discerning His purposes in life. You see, we may not understand God’s specifics for our lives, but knowing we are His makes us see circumstances in a different light. In a sense, it can make the “worst” seem serenely good.

Theologian Howard Hendricks once asked a pastor, “How you doin’?” He replied, “Oh man, under these circumstances it is terrible.” Hendricks replied, “So, what are you doing under there?”

So don’t allow yourself to live under the circumstances of your life. Learn to rise above them, not through your own ability and strength, but by trusting in the goodness of God and His love for you.


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