Christian Living

True Success Includes Peace & Joy

So today I came across this gem of a verse in my reading (not that the Bible isn’t full of great verses–I even love the genealogies because they showcase so clearly that God cares about and treats us as individuals). Romans 14:17-18 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval” (NIV).

Quick context: Paul is talking about the importance of unity and not causing a weaker brother to stumble. That’s where the eating and drinking comes in: the kingdom of God isn’t about eating/not eating meat sacrificed to idols or drinking/not drinking wine.

Why do I love this verse? Because this is the opposite of what we often get caught up in. Anyone who serves God in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit is pleasing God and receives human approval. Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten focused on crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s, spiritually speaking. In other words, if you focus on the outward expressions, following the rules and such. That’d be my hand you see raised.

I like clear directions. I like to know I’m fulfilling expectations. I like knowing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. So sometimes I get caught up in judging my progress (or lack there of) based on whether things have changed outwardly. Before I became a believer, I read my Bible religiously. It didn’t make a lot of sense and I was afraid I’d go to hell if I missed a day, but I did read it.

But empty actions aren’t the point of Christianity. You can look pristine on the outside but if you don’t have righteousness, peace, and joy, you’re not pleasing God. You’re like the Pharisees in the New Testament who Jesus compared to whitewashed tombs that were beautiful on the outside and unclean on the inside.

It’s easy to judge others based on that “empty actions standard” too.

I also super love that Paul included peace and joy on that list of what the kingdom of God is about. As Christians, I think sometimes we get focused on the righteousness part (which is gifted to us in Jesus anyway) and forget about peace and joy. Especially joy because joy, at least to me, feels pretty optional. Maybe it’s our puritan roots or something, but it definitely feels like a luxury to have joy and maybe just a little bit evil to have zest for life in a broken world. Stop for a minute and imagine what your life would be like if it were characterized by peace and joy.

I don’t know what you thought of but what came to mind for me was less fear, more childlike wonder, more room to just be without having to do, more space for “island time,” less worrying about my issues and other people’s problems…. just lighter.

And that is winsome to people. Peace and joy and righteousness are attractive and win favor. I love that the Bible clearly says “this is how to get men’s approval.” Proverbs 3 has a similar exhortation. We can get caught up in chasing fame and approval. But chasing it by changing ourselves or dressing a certain way or acting a certain way only works for a moment. Peace and joy and righteousness are the long-term solution.

Obviously, that peace and joy part is as impossible for us to muster up on our own as it is for us to muster up some righteousness of our own. It is “in the Holy Spirit.” Getting the peace and joy means surrendering to the Holy Spirit so He can work His fruit in us (Gal. 5:22). I also really like that. When I do remember the importance of peace and joy, I can get caught up in trying to make myself have them. But God says right here that finding my own peace and joy is a dead end. It’s always nice when someone saves you time by telling you when you’re headed the wrong direction 🙂

So! It’s actually a good thing to long for peace and joy. We should have them if we’re believers–it pleases God. We don’t have to plod through life–we’re allowed to want zest, to really be present. We’re allowed to want to stop worrying or being fearful. It’s our job to cultivate them, day by day growing in surrender, growing in our relationship with God.

Blog_ True Success Includes Joy & Peace

Christian Living

Camp & To-do Lists

My kids are at camp this week. It’s been weird. You parents out there will understand when I say I almost don’t know what to do with myself 🙂 It’s the first time we’ve gone this long without seeing them and having so much time to ourselves is just plain weird. Fun! But weird.

Being out of my normal routine has definitely thrown my body for a loop so I’m sleep deprived. I don’t know if it’s the stress of trying to get a ton of things done while the kids are gone or what. For some reason, I had visions of hours of extra time–practically adding up to entire days of being able to work on projects and still go on dates with my husband. I forgot that we still have to eat, the dishes still have to be done, and I still need to do my regular self-health things like doing my quiet time every day and Tapping every day, etc., etc.

Basically, I had a to-do list that was a mile long and I still haven’t gotten through it even with my kids gone.

I was complaining to God about the situation when it hit me that I put way too much emphasis on my to-do list. I’ve actually gotten significantly better at to-do lists over the past year (thanks to JB Glossinger’s Sacred Six). I often complete my to-do list for the day. Things don’t fall through the cracks as much as they used to. And I don’t freak out as much if something doesn’t get done.

I think it’s that whole having extra time that’s been throwing me. I put all this emphasis on completing things this week. My husband and I are in the midst of starting a podcast and we’ve been trying to finish up our website and random other details. This week seemed like an ideal time to get them done. It’s hard to do though when we only have one functional computer.

Anyway! I was thinking about how I use my to-do list sometimes. Maybe you can relate. When I get stressed, I clamp down on the things I can control–housecleaning, what I eat, my to-do list, etc.–as a way to handle the stress of the things I can’t control. It’s funny how the more in control I try to be, the more out of control I feel. Have you ever experienced that?

I was raised to believe that getting things done was the epitome of success. Having a completed task list was this unattainable goal that I always thought would make me feel confident and at peace. But now that I’ve had several months’ worth of lists that are completed, I’m realizing it’s just a list. It’s just a tool, not a measurement. It’s similar to when our house first started being consistently clean. I thought it would lower our stress levels (and it did). I thought it would add to my peace but that never happened.

Peace comes from submission, from the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. It doesn’t come from our circumstances–clean houses, to-do lists, financial security, resolved relational conflicts, etc., etc. It’s God’s work in our lives that brings peace. It’s submission to God’s way of doing things–building where He builds (Ps. 127:1-2). Calm circumstances are nice but, like Elsa in Frozen, we bring our own storms with us. Only God can calm the inside.