Ultimately, we desire two things – and two things only – in this life: Joy and Peace.
A life of passion and contentment.
Joy is enthusiasm for life.
It’s waking up in the morning and being glad you’re alive. It’s the spark in your eyes and the spring in your step. It’s living life with passion.
Peace is satisfaction with life.
It’s going to bed at night and feeling secure, no matter what the day has brought. It’s the depth of your eyes and the firmness of your step.
It’s living life with contentment.
We might chase after money, power, fame, promiscuous sex, alcohol, drugs, or any number of material things, but when it’s all said and done, it’s Joy and Peace we’re really after.
We may desire a fulfilling marriage, great kids, to accomplish some wonderful deed for God or our fellow man, or any number of other worthy things, but again, it’s Joy and Peace we’re really after.
The reason we want all these things is that we mistakenly believe once we possess them we will finally know happiness – a deep, abiding passion for, and contentment with, life. Whether we presently realize it or not, every single thing we pursue in our lives is a means to an end: Knowing Joy and Peace.
Ultimately, God promises to provide two things – and two things only – in this life: Joy and Peace.
A world of darkness and uncertainty.
God doesn’t promise money, power, fame, or any material thing during our brief time on earth. Nor does He promise marriage, children, health, or ease. This is not to say that most of us won’t experience these things to some degree. Most of us will. But we are born into a fallen world that is all too often full of darkness and uncertainty. There are no guarantees, and there are many examples throughout the Bible and in our common experience of good men and women whose lives were marked by suffering and dreams that didn’t come true.
Something greater than the world.
But some men and women discover something greater than prosperity and success as the world sees it. They come to know what the Bible describes as Joy “inexpressible” (1 Peter 1:8) and Peace “surpassing comprehension” (Philippians 4:7), in times of prosperity and even in their darkest hour. In fact, they know it in their brightest hour, their darkest hour, and every shade in between, because the Joy and Peace God promises to give each and every one of us are not dependent upon our circumstances, but rather upon each individual’s choices to receive or reject the grace of God.
God promises that if we will take His hand and walk with Him, we will know true Joy and true Peace. Our lives will take on meaning and purpose. We can wake up every morning excited to meet the day with confidence and courage, and no matter what happens, even if our world seems to fall apart, we can go to bed feeling safe, secure, and content. That’s better than being famous, rich, or powerful, and indulging ourselves in the things that fame, wealth, and power can afford.
Is it really true?
Are Joy and Peace what we truly long for in this life? Can we really experience Joy and Peace, not only when our lives are good (which can be difficult enough), but also when our lives turn dark and ugly? Is it really better than the material things the world has to offer?
The answers to these questions are a resounding “Yes!” and what follows is an attempt to explain why, based upon the truths contained in the Bible.
Chapter One begins with an examination of the nature of God. Before we can understand anything about ourselves or the world around us, we must first clearly understand who God is and how He behaves towards us. An accurate understanding of God is the indispensable foundation for an accurate understanding of everything else in life. Misconceptions about God have a devastating effect and distort everything we perceive as truth.
In Chapter Two we take a hard look at ourselves. Now that we see God for who He truly is, we need to see ourselves for who we truly are. We must understand what mankind is capable of doing, for both good and evil. How “good” can we actually be? Are we responsible for the wrongs we commit? How does all of this affect our potential to experience true happiness?
Once we begin to understand God and ourselves, then we can start to examine how we relate to one another. This is the subject of Chapter Three. What is the true nature of the relationship between God and humanity? How can we have a relationship with God that is real and immediate? Must we have a relationship with Him at all? What is God’s responsibility towards His creation, and what is our responsibility towards our Creator?
With an understanding of God, ourselves, and the relationship between God and mankind, we can then start to make sense of the world around us. We find ourselves born into a world of both great beauty and unspeakable sadness. Chapter Four begins an examination of life in a fallen world.
Chapter Five summarizes all we have learned so far and describes how we respond to the call of the One who created us. We understand (in principle) God, ourselves, and the nature of our relationship within a fallen world. Now we look at how (in practice) we develop and nurture this relationship so it can resonate in our lives. How can we truly know and walk with the living God?
What happens when we do know and walk with God? Chapter Six describes the (for lack of a better phrase) outward results of heeding the call of God: We discover the purpose God had in mind when He chose to create us. We find our place in life and accomplish what we are called to do in His plan. We become instruments in the hands of the living God.
In Chapter Seven, we see the inward results of a close, intimate relationship with God: Joy “inexpressible” and Peace “surpassing comprehension,” a state of being wherein the course of our lives becomes a music composed by God and played out in the world, through our every thought, word, and deed. This is the ultimate will of God for you, what God promises you will experience as you walk with Him through both the wonderful and the heartbreaking circumstances of life.
It’s something only God can give to you. And the only one who can deprive you of it is: Yourself.
Finally, in the Coda we will look at the eternal results of a life lived in harmony with God.