If you can be happy without Jesus, why bother? I've been thinking about this lately. I've been thinking about all the happiness blogs people have sent my way. It seems that all over the world, folks find legitimate forms of happiness apart from knowing God. I know what this feels like. I know that when I exercise, eat right, blog about my flair, and do any other host of mood-modifying activities, I can be happy.
I used to think that people went to church and read their Bible because they were unhappy. They become Christians because of the promise of happiness. While I do think that going to church and reading the Bible dramatically increase the likelihood of happiness, I don't think that Christianity is a religion that promises happiness. Happy Christians tend to do other things that boost their mood like, for example, engaging in vibrant church communities. But happiness, in this case, is a byproduct of lifestyle. Jesus doesn't promise happiness.
However, Jesus does promise one very important thing.
He promises. . . peace.
Jesus said this: "In me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus says that he leaves us "peace." I thought back to the blessing God commanded to be spoken over the nation of Israel. Simply this: that God would turn his face towards them and give them peace. Later, Jesus is prophetically described in the book of Isaiah as our "Prince of Peace."
This morning I skimmed my Bible for passages that describe the peace of Jesus. Romans 5, it turns out, defines the peace of a believer. Here, the writer tells us 3 reasons Christians have peace:
1. They find favor with God by faith alone, not by anything they do or fail to do. They are completely reconciled to a Holy God because of faith in Jesus. This point alone astounds me. I can talk to the God of the Universe, and He loves me. Unbelievable!
2. Because of Jesus, they have hope in the glory of God (his power and presence) in every situation.
3. They can rejoice in suffering because of what it produces in them (perseverance, character, hope). When God directs a person's life, suffering has meaning and will produce good.
Curiously, New Testament writers claim that Jesus himself is our peace. Paul writes: "He himself is our peace" since in his very body he reconciles sinful mankind with the holiness of God. By his very body, he grants access to God. Christianity, after all, is a religion about God's body: the incarnation--that little baby come to earth as a God-man-- the crucifixion--God hanging on a cross to die, and the resurrection--the literal body of Jesus conquering death. And in the ascension, Jesus returns to the Father but leaves the promised Holy Spirit who indwells believers at the moment they believe.
Is peace better than happiness? Absolutely. The assurance of God's peace which, according to scripture, transcends understanding, is deeper and more profound than mere mood. So while happiness is something I can moderate, my peace comes from Jesus alone.
Living with flair means I depend upon the sure peace of God even when flair fluctuates.