“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
When we think of living in peace and joy with God, most Christians think of life in heaven and, ultimately, life in a new heaven and new earth. There will be no more tears – no more death, sorrow, or pain. (Revelation 21:4) God will dwell with us and the glory of God will be our unceasing light. (Revelation 21:3, 23-25) It will be Paradise, wonderful beyond our imagination! (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:3; Revelation 2:7)
What far too many of us fail to understand is our opportunity to live in peace and joy with God today. Romans 14:17 is the key to several scriptures that offer this opportunity, and my goal in this column is to discuss how we can use this key to “enter in”.
First, we must remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and He offers us His peace: the peace that surpasses understanding, while we still live in this broken world. (Isaiah 9:6; John 14:27; Philippians 4:7) Once we learn how to fully receive this great gift, we can go through the challenges of this life with an untroubled heart and an inner sense of well-being and safety.
Second, we must remember that Jesus wants to fill us with His joy while we still live on this earth. (John 15:11) The Gospel is “good news of great joy”, the joy of our salvation. (Luke 2:10; Habakkuk 3:18) We are invited to rejoice always, even when we are being persecuted for trusting Jesus, because the Lord will use both good times and difficult times for our benefit. (Philippians 4:4; Luke 6:22-23)
Once we learn how to fully receive this great gift of joy, the enemy’s attacks of depression, negativity, and unhappiness will have no way to penetrate. We will feel in our hearts like the blessed people we are. (Ephesians 1:3; Matthew 5:3-12)
How then do we receive these amazing gifts of peace and joy? Romans 14:17 tells us to focus on three things.
Focus on the fact that you are already part of the kingdom of God because you have put your trust in Jesus and submitted to His Lordship. (Revelation 1:5-6) You are entitled by His grace to what His kingdom offers.
Focus on the Holy Spirit, who lives inside every born-again Christian. God will dwell “with” us in the new heaven and earth, but God dwells “in” us right now! He who is in us is greater than all of our enemies and all of our problems. (1 John 4:4; Romans 8:31-38) God is able right at this moment to do far more than you could ask or imagine through His power at work within you. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Finally, focus on righteousness. But don’t focus on your righteousness. Focus on the kingdom of God and His righteousness, as Jesus instructed in His Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 6:33)
My friends, if I focus on my righteousness as the key to having peace and joy, I am in trouble. I continue to fall short every day. Times of righteousness in my thoughts, feelings and behavior may allow me to have some times of peace and joy, just like times of good circumstances in my life. Most people can be fairly happy and content when everything is going well.
But things in this broken world don’t always go well, and I don’t always do right. If I rely on my righteousness or my circumstances, then the best I can hope for is a life where I sometimes have peace and joy and at other times live in worry and stress. That is not the kingdom. That is not God’s will for our lives. (John 10:10)
In order to focus on God’s righteousness, ask yourself these questions.
- How much does God love you right at this moment? How long will that love last? Can anything separate you from this love?
- How forgiving is God? How many of your sins have been paid for by the cross and forgiven?
- How good is God? How good are His intentions for you right at this moment? How long will He continue to have those good intentions toward you?
- How capable is God? How wise, knowing and powerful? How able to accomplish whatever He purposes to do? Do you have any enemies or problems that can defeat Him?
- How near is God? Will He ever leave you or take His eyes off of you?
- How trustworthy is God?
Romans 15:13 tells us God will fill us with peace and joy as we believe in Him. In other words, peace and joy are the fruit of the Holy Spirit we receive by trusting in God and His righteousness. (Galatians 5:22-23). If we trust Him at all times, then we can at all times have peace and joy in His presence. (Psalm 62:8)
I may only see dimly and know in part while I walk this earth. (1 Corinthians 13:12) But even when seen dimly and known in part, God’s kingdom and righteousness are awesome! Darkness is increasing in our nation and in the world, but God’s light will not be overcome. (Isaiah 60:1-3) Live in peace and joy with God!
God bless you, and God bless our community.