I am someone that wants, in my actual experience, a life of joy and peace. I must admit this is harder said than done. Worry, guilt, the past, the present and the future all fight to fill my mind with a sense of worry and joylessness. I know that I am not the only person who struggles in finding joy and peace. So how do we enter into the life promised to us in the gospel?
I think there are three steps into joy and peace for the follower of Jesus:
Step #1: Think rightly
Here are some ideas that I try to keep before me all the time. I find them so helpful in moving me into the reality of peace and joy. Here is the basic truth of our existence: we feel and experience what we think upon. And what we think upon is in our powers to control. Want joy and peace? Think about the right things!
From John Calvin:
The native tendency of the gospel is to give peace and calmness to the conscience, which otherwise would be tormented by distressing alarm.
From Henry Nouwen:
Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.
From Dallas Willard:
We may allow joy to dissipate through looking backward at our sin and failures, or forward at what might happen to us, or inward at our struggles with work, responsibilities, temptations and deficiencies. But this means that we have placed our hope in the wrong thing, namely ourselves and we do not have to do this. It is our option to look to the greatness of God and what he will do in our lives.
From The Heidelberg Catechism Question 1 & 21:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,1 but belong—body and soul, in life and in death2—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.3
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,4 and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.5 He also watches over me in such a way6 that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven;7 in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.8
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life9 and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.10
Q. What is true faith?
A. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture;1 it is also a wholehearted trust,2 which the Holy Spirit creates in me3 by the gospel,4 that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also,5 forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.6 These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.
And of course from the Bible: Psalm 23, Romans 4-8, Ephesians 3, The Lord’s prayer.
Step #2 Community
We need people who actually know us. Who we can confess sin to, we have a history with, can speak truth to us and encourage us to keep running the race. Most of us fail in joy and peace because we have no one who can help pull of from the mire of doubt, confusion and darkness in our lives. Community has been the greatest gift of God’s presence in my life these last many years. From my wife to good friends, there is nothing like walking with other Christians that can remind me of the goodness of God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes this about this kind of community:
It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian community is a gift of grace. [… For it is there that we] meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.
Step # 3 The Activity of God
God wants you to have peace and joy more than you do. These are the fruits of life in Him. One of the great comforts of life is to know that God is working on our behalf to bring us into joy and peace. It is good to know that this is not just our project. So, let’s trust Him together to do what only He can do!
This is how I am learning to live moment by moment in joy and peace. Would you add anything?