Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Crônicas do Cotidiano > Righteousness, Peace and Joy

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit

A few weeks ago, I participated in a conference in Manaus, in the Amazon, in Northern Brazil (I live in the Southeast). The main speaker was Pastor Conrad Mbewe from Zambia (for his perspective of the trip to Brazil click here and here.) He gave five talks that were directed mainly to pastors, entitled Called to the Work of the Lord. They were all very worthwhile but two especially made a mark on me. One was an interesting outlook on becoming “fishers of men” which tied in with an event in my life pretty soon afterwards that I blogged about here. The other was based on Romans 14, especially vss 17 and 18.

I’m sure you’ve all had experiences where a verse you’ve seen or heard dozens of times before, suddenly comes to life.  I took notes as I listened that day and reread them a number of times since, in an attempt to catch that vision again and make it a concrete part of my life.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.

If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.

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 approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Pr. Conrad was speaking to pastors about what kind of people they should plan for and work to acquire. He used this Scripture to exemplify what kind of fruit they should expect from the persons in their congregations. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

After introducing the context of Paul’s words and spending a few moments on what the kingdom of God IS NOT (external things like eating and drinking and a number of other practices that reflect current areas of concern), he spent the rest of the time on what the kingdom of God IS. It is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  It was very special to me to see those three things together because I have often tended to pursue one or the other but rarely have thought of them as belonging together. Sometimes we focus on the righteousness (ethics, morals, perfection, decency, honesty,…) and lose out on the peace and joy. Sometimes we don’t stand up for anything in our quest for peace. Often we have no joy because we see it as only being possible in the absence of pain, frustration and sorrow.

But in the Kingdom of God it’s not supposed to be like that. And the church of God should be made up of people who, more and more, show all three characteristics in their lives. Righteousness, peace and joy. An unbeliever may imitate the external attitudes and actions—Do this; Don’t do that. He or she may even give the appearance of having one or the other of the three. Still, you will never find an unbeliever with a righteous life that is at peace with God and his neighbor and full of joy in the midst of adverse circumstances. Only an individual who has the Holy Spirit can have all three. And when he or she has these—righteousness, peace and joy—then one knows that the Holy Spirit is at work in that life. And when you have a number of people with those qualities worshipping and working together, then you have a good church. A living church.

And what happens then? Our service to Christ in this way, perceived through these three qualities, not only pleases God but gains the admiration of those around us. …because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Pastor Conrad encouraged the pastors there to think of their congregations. Were they only looking at the externals? Or could they identify righteousness, peace and joy jointly manifested in their members? What steps could they take to achieve these goals?

I’ve spent these past weeks examining myself and taking measures to achieve and demonstrate each one of these three aspects in my day-to-day life, from the moment of awakening to bedtime. Getting up and realizing that I have much to smile about. To be grateful for. And then actually working the muscles of my face to look with kindness and joy on those that surround me…. Spending more time reading my Bible and talking to God, the source of all peace.

Then, when I found myself thinking about the devotional I had to bring to the Board of a Christian school, I perceived something else. I understood that what these pastors should dream of for their churches also fits in entirely with what we should long for in our school—for ourselves as board members, for our teachers and staff, and for our students that we, as our vision states, are nurturing and instructing to love, to learn and to live out the Christian faith. Students, as our core values hold, that will think critically in the context of a biblical worldview. Students, that as our mission puts it, will impact their world for Christ.

So if our goal is to have a good school, an excellent school, then, as we plan the courses, activities and events that will prepare our students to live and serve in their world (that we know to be the Kingdom of God), let us stop and check now and then whether we are helping them to become righteous—seeking to live lives in conformity with the commandments of a Holy God.

Let us verify if they understand what it is to have peace with God, the peace that passes all understanding, and that it is of utmost importance to be peacemakers and peace lovers.

And let us certify as well if they are learning to have and exude joy. The joy that comes from knowing God and from walking with Him. To be joyful in the certainty of sins forgiven, in being able to trust and rest in a Heavenly Father who is All-powerful and faithful, in knowing that heaven is waiting.

The best way to accomplish this is by showing that the Holy Spirit is at work in our own lives. We must demonstrate an ever-greater awareness that it is possible to pursue righteousness, experience peace and radiate joy. All at once. Not perfectly, of course. But perhaps far beyond what we have set as goals for ourselves and for our children.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14.17

(Based on a devotional to the Board of the Pan American Christian Academy (PACA) in São Paulo, Brazil on November 26, 2008)

Um Comentário a “Righteousness, Peace and Joy”

  1. Karen disse:

    Hi Aunt Betty,
    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. It is, as you write, a day to day struggle to supress our “fleshly” attitudes and to exhibit self-control for the purpose of Godliness. What a wonderful result of righteousness, peace and joy when we do! Like you, I have been making more of an effort with this lately as I found myself getting so busy and so concerned with my responsibilities. It is a balancing act between the two that needs to have the weight placed on Christ.

    We sent you out a Christmas letter, and hopefully it will get there before Christmas. Love you lots.

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Crônicas do Cotidiano > Righteousness, Peace and Joy