April 15, 2018


"The Good Life & the Best Life" - II Cor. 11:22-28; Romans 5:1-5

 - what do you think of as being "the good life"? that's a concept our society exalts & promotes - it's the goal considered to have been obtained by those who have achieved some degree of fame & fortune; we say that those people are living the good life; they're making a lot of money - they seem to be able to buy pretty much whatever they want - they live what appears to be an extravagant & exciting life; there was a old TV show that pictured the lives of such people - "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous"; I think I only saw glimpses of it, but I believe it showed off the homes & activities of those celebrities, lifting them up as the folks to be admired, that lifestyle as the ultimate goal to aim for, & those people as the ones to envy - maybe despising them for it, or maybe worshiping them & hoping to be like them

- the good life; it might involve living in a mansion; having a collection of classic cars or expensive jewelry or whatever else you have a taste for; it might mean having a second home on the beach in the Bahamas (when we were there on a tour the guide would point out the homes of certain celebrities); it might mean having people recognize you & want to get your autograph or take a selfie with you wherever you go; it might mean being able to take off on trips to Europe or other parts of the world on a regular basis; it can mean getting those courtside seats at the ball games - being invited to the big parties - walking down the red carpet at the awards show; the good life; now we won't focus on the downside of all that - the lack of privacy, all the taxes you have to pay, all the headaches that go along with all those possessions, & much more; but generally we accept this world's view of what the good life is & as something to be envious of

- someone who wouldn't have been featured on that show about those living the good life was the Apostle Paul; now before he came to Christ he might have been featured on the Jewish version of some show about notable people - I don't know that he was rich & famous, but he was certainly someone to be admired in the religious community; but after Paul came to Christ & began to serve Him as an apostle & missionary, his lifestyle changed as dramatically as his heart had been changed by Christ; let's look at one place in scripture where Paul details some of his experiences; II Cor. 12:22-28 (read)

- does this description of Paul's lifestyle make you think, "Wow, Paul really lived the good life, didn't he?" probably not; not much here about mansions & parties & walking red carpets; no taking it easy & letting servants wait on you; Paul says that he labored abundantly - he worked hard; not only did he not live in a mansion, but sometimes he was being held in a prison; he had the scabs & scars on his body from being whipped or scourged - five times he received the maximum allowed punishment of 39 stripes; on top of that he was beaten with rods; on one occasion he was stoned & left for dead; three times he was shipwrecked; & on one of those occasions he spent a day & a night in the waters trying to survive; he traveled all over - not in private planes or cruise ships or sailing in his yacht for vacations; he made long, hard, dangerous trips in order to take the gospel to those who needed to hear it; he was often in peril or in danger - from the common dangers travelers in that day faced, such as robbers, to the special dangers & opposition he faced because of his mission - the wrath of Gentiles who didn't like him saying their gods were false - the anger of his own countrymen, fellow-Jews, because they considered him a heretic - dangers in urban areas from thugs & crime - dangers in the wilderness areas from wild animals & the elements; his lifestyle consisted of being worn out from all his labors, going without sleep, being hungry & thirsty, being cold & without proper clothing & equipment to protect him from the weather; & he was constantly dealing with all the responsibilities & concerns related to all these churches & Christians who were looking to him for leadership & guidance; Paul didn't live what our world would think of as "the good life"

- but I would suggest to you that Paul lived what we could refer to, & I believe what he would refer to, as "the best life"; let's look at another scripture - Romans 5:1-5 (read); here Paul reminds us of some of the wonderful blessings we do enjoy as followers of Christ; if we've put our faith in Him & know Christ as our Savior, we have peace with God; there are a lot of people who are living the good life who would love to have peace in their hearts; they're stressed over constantly trying to put up a pleasant front & trying to live up to other people's expectations & trying to keep their fans happy or their stockholders happy; they're stressed about having to go before Congress & be drilled about their activities or the activities of their company; they're living with guilt in their soul & turmoil in their personal lives; they live with the fear of getting older, losing their beauty, losing their money, & afraid of death & what lies beyond; many of them would give their right arm for peace or for peace with God

- as someone who knows Jesus, we have the best life; we have peace - a peace that can abide with us & carry us thru even as we face the challenges & rough times in life; we can have peace whether we're living in a mansion or being held in a prison cell; we can have peace whether we're experiencing popularity or persecution; we can have peace when dealing with the issues of life or the issues of death; there's nothing better than knowing your heart is right with God & you're at peace with Him, & there's nothing better than experiencing His peace & reassurance thru whatever comes your way in life; Paul went thru all those tough times, but he had peace in his heart; & that's priceless; it doesn't always accompany the good life, but such peace is part of living the best life; Paul had it & we can too

- Paul goes on to say that we have access to God's grace; we can approach God - we can have fellowship with Him - & we can receive His grace & strength & blessings that He wants to bestow upon us

- it goes on here to say that we also have hope - we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; we have hope as we look ahead in this life & as we look to what lies ahead beyond this life; you can live the good life, but not have much hope for the future - on earth or after death; but as believers we have a sure hope that can't be taken away from us

- then notice what Paul says there in v.3 - we can glory in our tribulations; so in all those tribulations Paul listed in that other passage, he found reason to glory or to give praise to God - in the prison time, in the shipwrecks, in the weariness, in the hunger & cold - Paul's saying he could glory in those; why? Not only because he was doing the work God had given him to do, but also because he knew they were producing good things in his life; those tribulations were producing perseverance or patience in him - & they were building his character - & they were strengthening his faith & increasing his hope in Christ; those tough times were making Paul stronger & making him a better, more Christlike person

- we can have that same assurance; we can glory in our tribulations too; we can have the same confidence that God is using those experiences to build up our faith & to mold us into the Christlike people He calls us to be

- we may not have the good life in which it seems there's no financial struggles, but as we daily trust God to supply our needs & to provide for us, we're growing in our faith & we're learning to depend on God & we're becoming more what God wants us to be; we have the best life

- we may not have the good life of a mansion here on this earth, but we have the assurance of a wonderful place that Jesus has prepared for us in heaven; & it's going to be our home for eternity, not for just these few, short years on earth; we may not have a house on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, or be able to rent that one suite of rooms in the big resort there (I forget how many thousands of dollars per night it costs) but we have a better paradise awaiting us when our time on earth is done; & that's the best life

- we may not have the good life of being famous & popular, but we're part of the family of God that loves us, & God knows who we are & one day He's going to exalt us to be kings & priests & reign with Him forever & ever; that's the best life

- so I just felt like the Lord wanted to remind us of this truth today; because this world constantly bombards us with a different picture; it glamorizes the lifestyles of all these rich & famous people & makes you think you want to be like them; they're put up on the pedestal as having achieved life's big goal - & the constant implication is that they're the ones we should be admiring or envying; they're living the good life - they're living the kind of life we would/should want to live

- but if you know Christ, you're living the best life; you're in possession of some things that others only dream about; you've got something that others would love to have; you've got something that so many are missing in life; & they're some of the most important aspects of life - peace - joy - hope - the presence & help & blessings of God

- the best life isn't one free of shipwrecks & suffering & hard times & persecution; the best life may well include such trials & tribulations; but we've got Jesus; we've got peace; we've got hope; & we've got the assurance that God is working all those things out for our good, including using those tribulations to make us better people

- in his daily devotional book that I've been reading, Joseph Stowell says this in an entry from a few days ago: "some of us think happiness is a 24 hour smile, but that's an awfully shallow definition; it is, in fact, impossible; what we actually crave is a sense of inner peace & joy in spite of adverse circumstances; God's kind of blessedness, His happiness, stays intact even when tears are running down our cheeks & hearts are broken"

- some in our world are coming to recognize that the good life isn't primarily about riches & fame; if you google the phrase "living the good life" you find more about reaching for the intangible things in life rather than more money & power & popularity; one list I saw about how to live the good life included these things among others similar to them - slow down, appreciate life's simple pleasures, foster relationships, be self-sufficient, learn about different things, concentrate on your passions, travel to distant places, talk to strangers, keep your promises, work hard, sleep well, laugh, & so on; nothing about mansions & achieving celebrity status

- & a lot of those suggestions are helpful; focusing on those things are better than focusing on becoming rich & famous; you will live a better life pursuing those things than just pursuing wealth & popularity; but the best life goes even further & deeper; the best life comes from knowing the Lord & experiencing those wonderful spiritual blessings Paul referred to

- remember that Paul on at least a couple of occasions wrote to his fellow-believers & told them "imitate me" - follow me - live the way I live; this is the guy who went through all those hard experiences we read about; he doesn't say, "you don't want to be like me - you don't want to go thru what I've been thru - you don't want to follow my example & live the way I've lived"; no - Paul says "imitate me"; maybe he wasn't suggesting that they needed to face the beatings & imprisonments & shipwrecks & all the other difficulties he had experienced; but he was indicating that he didn't regret his life - because he had those intangible things thru Christ that made his life the best life, no matter what hardships he may have had to face; & that's what Paul wanted for others to experience; he wanted them to know Jesus - to have peace & joy & hope; & God wants us to have that too; & when we've got that, we've got the makings not only of a good life, but the best life

- so let's not fall into that trap of envying the rich & powerful & those celebrities we see & hear about all the time; if you know Christ & are enjoying His blessings you have much more than they do; some of them would envy you & the peace & hope you have in your life; we may go thru financial struggles, hard times, physical sufferings - we may be unpopular because of our standing firm on God's Word - we may be marginalized by society & people not pay much attention to what we say or to our opinion; we may be as far from the rich & famous on society's scale as we can get; but we can have the good life & the best life through Christ; let's remember that; let's rejoice in it; & let's help others find that best life too