Peace and Joy

I will have peace in my soul and joy in my heart when  _________________


Christian people should have a ready answer with which to fill the blank. If not, why not? This is a question always worth considering. And the question becomes even more obvious and demanding whenever we face a trial – a crisis – something which interferes with life as we know it. If we honestly consider our lives and those things that most influence our thinking and behavior, it becomes apparent that we are all changed by our trials and difficulties. A child loses a parent – a spouse threatens divorce unless things change – someone experiences trauma or abuse – an unrepentant sinner accepts the reality of a holy, loving God – and the world and life as we understood it is forever changed.


Most people who seek counseling do so to address a crisis. In addiction counseling, it is always some type of crisis that will lead to effective treatment. The fact is, with whatever we are considering, if nothing changes, nothing changes. In the challenging times things will change and real positive change and growth  can occur in the context of crises. God is in the business of healthy healing change. We also know that as part of that healthy change we need to have a vision of where we are heading – we need hope.

Paul understood this.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Finding ourselves without hope, peace and joy in trials reveals much about the depth of our faith and our level of commitment to God.


Suddenly, in the early part of the year 2020 we find ourselves in a crisis. We are in the midst of something that promises to try us in ways we never expected. Several simple questions should be asked in the current situation.


“ Is there anything that offers lasting peace, joy and contentment in every situation in life?”

“How is my response different from the world’s response because of my relationship with God?”

“In what do I hope?”


To unpack this, here is another important question. How this question is answered can help clarify the nature of our response to any crisis. As we grow in our relationship with God we learn to trust in and place our hope in Him.


What is my “relationship with God”?

The language that is typically used in the contemporary Western church in reference to Christian salvation is that someone “accepts” Christ. Unfortunately in many cases what we mean by that is that we “accept” and permit Him to come into our life, and it is assumed that by just doing that we have become a Christian and have began an authentic Biblical relationship with God.


C.S. Lewis in Giving All to Christ states:

The ordinary idea which we all have before we become Christians is this. We take as the starting point our ordinary self with its various desires and interests. We then admit that something else —— call it “morality” or “decent behavior” or “the good of society” —— has claims on this self: claims which interfere with its own desires…, Because we are still taking the natural self as the starting point.


Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there I want the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent, as well as the ones you think wicked —— the whole outfit.”


Much of Christian evangelism is rightly based on the Great Commission but carefully consider Jesus’ words:

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go  therefore and  make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am  with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20


Jesus didn’t say “just get them to say “the sinners prayer”. He was very clear. They will be disciples who observe what He commanded. Could there be a difference between a Christian and a disciple? In scripture they are one and the same.


Dallas Willard in The Cost of Nondiscipleship:

The word “disciple” occurs 269 times in the New Testament. “Christian” is found only three times and was first introduced to refer to the disciples…. The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples, and for disciples of Jesus Christ.


When we accept Christ’s sacrifice for our sins it is an acknowledgment on our part. The miraculous, spectacular, overwhelming and incomprehensible fact is that God has accepted us as disciples of Jesus. What God is offering is for us to enter into His life. It does not mean that He will join us as we wander aimlessly through life continuing to live as we always have. When He accepts us, he offers to lead us from the wilderness into a spiritual and emotional garden of Eden – into a life of peace inside while the world spins out of control. Put a different way, we often treat this gift as if we simply invite Him to come along with us as we continue making poor choices and satisfying our flesh. But He will have no part in that. That is not what He died for.


Dallas Willard in The Cost of Nondiscipleship:

For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or intend to be a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship.


A different model was instituted in The Great Commission Jesus left the church. The first goal he set forth for the early church was to use his all-encompassing power and authority to make disciples….Having made disciples, these alone were to be baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

But in place of God’s plan, historical drift has substituted: “Make converts (to a particular faith and practice) and baptize them into church membership.”


 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4


This emphatically underscores something we should already know – that we have a very special opportunity through the testing of our faith – to be better people and better Christians (more complete in the ways that truly matter). In that –  each one of us can agree with the psalmist – that  “The Lord is our shepherd we really will not go wanting” in His presence. God’s faithfulness to us as his people and to us as a church has been unquestionable. We can be confident that has not changed. Although the pause button has been pressed for what we call “normal church activities”, let’s be intentional and hit fast forward for our spiritual growth and the real work of God in each of our individual lives. You might ask yourself, “How is God leading me to a deeper level of true discipleship right here, right now?”


I will have peace in my soul and joy in my heart when __________________


In this time of COVID19 much of humanity is fearful as we are daily reminded how much we don’t know. If we are Christians in name only and are simply not living as disciples we have much to worry about. If we are true disciples of Jesus Christ, we increasingly recognize that the blank has been filled in, settled, finished at the cross. We already knew that we don’t know the future in this life. Yet as we walk moment by moment with Jesus and follow Him deeper into the kingdom of God, nothing can take away the joy in our hearts, the peace in our souls and our unshakeable eternal hope!