Five Things God Wills for You (So You Will Flourish)
Today’s thoughts build on what I shared yesterday, as well as the May 14 sermon, “Real Love, Real Goodness.” You can watch that sermon here.
God is good. God is loving. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good and his love endures forever” is a repeating theme in the Psalms. That is our starting point. That is the foundation for flourishing. That is the foundation for happiness and joy.
*God’s will is always good for you.
*God’s will is always the normative way for having a GOOD life.
*Trusting and following God’s will is the way you will flourish.
*Not trusting and not following God’s will is how you will flounder and languish (flanguish).
So, the first question is simply:
What is God’s will for my life? And the answers to that great question are extensive and exciting. I am going to sketch out five brief answers. Two of them are from the Sermon on the Mount. Three of them are from the first letter to the Thessalonians (a really awesome group of Christ followers!). For each of the five themes, I ask a second question in various ways: Will you follow the will and way of God and find happiness? As you accept God’s will, standards, and wisdom on these themes and put them into practice, you will flourish. The question is will you follow so you may flourish?
ONE: Matthew 5:43-48, Love and Forgive Those Who Hurt You
Here is why this is good for you. Resentment, bitterness, anger, fear, worry, and anxiety are powerful negative emotions. They drain you. They hurt you. These are natural responses to those we see as enemies, to those who have hurt us. They are natural, but they are not the spiritually and emotionally healthy way God wants for you. Learning to love and learning to forgive is the pathway for you to grow Deeper in Maturity. It is the way of flourishing.
Who is your enemy? Who do you need to forgive? What will it take for you to follow God on these things and flourish?
TWO: Matthew 6:19-24, Financial Wisdom and Faithful Stewardship
One of the greatest decisions you will ever make is the decision to trust God with your finances and faithfully follow his teaching on your “treasures.” What you do with your money is a moral issue. How you choose to live and what you choose to invest in is of great concern to Christ. This passage is just one of the many strong words of Christ and his Apostles about the centrality of stewardship. Buying more, bigger, and better stuff WILL NOT MAKE YOU HAPPY. Not only is that the teaching of Scripture, it is the confirmation of endless contemporary studies on happiness. But tithing, generosity, investing in God’s eternal kingdom–now that is the way of joy. Not only will you flourish, but your faithful stewardship will help others flourish as well.
How faithful are you to the teaching of tithing and generosity? What is holding you back?
Check out Financial Peace University and go through it. It will change your life!
THREE: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Sexuality God’s Way
If our culture is out-of-control crazy about something, it is sex. If our culture is deeply dysfunctional, it is about sexuality. If we hurt and struggle and feel empty, it is about sex. If we are unwilling to follow God in an area of life, it will most likely be about sex (and money). In the context for which it was created, sex is a beautiful gift. Outside that context, it becomes damaging and destructive. Here is a profound insight from contemporary research. The act of sex is one of the greatest physical stimulations you will have. The pleasures of sex are about the highest you will have. And then, “when sex is done” the rapid drop in pleasure and satisfaction is striking. Pleasure decreases immediately. Sexual pleasure by itself is a super high, then it is lost immediately, until the next time. In other words, you gain virtually nothing in terms of happiness just through sex. But, when sexuality is in the context of faithful, marital love that is a much different picture for happiness. While I could write pages of insights on this, I will leave you with a question:
Are you experiencing and enjoying sexuality the way God designed it?
FOUR: 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, Love and Friendship
As I have mentioned several times, but it needs to be repeated often, real friendship is one of the greatest sources of happiness. Living Word is fully committed to helping you do life together with people who will become some of those true friendships you need. We want to learn how to be a friend to others. I could even say, “Friendship is one of the chief purposes of life.” We are Human Relatings and Human Lovings.
Who are your five to eight best friends? What can you do to be even more intentional about cultivating these friendships?
FIVE: 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, A Quiet Life
What an unexpected instruction! We like life in the fast lane–on the go, going fast, going non-stop. Excitement. Entertainment. Stimulation. Social media makes this even more constant and distracting. In just two short verses, Paul commends to us a way of life that is quiet, gentle, faithful, persistent, and patient. He advocates developing those daily routines for the long haul and savoring the simple pleasures of the Good Life. Work, play, home, family, friends, hobbies–all done faithfully and daily. That is the way of flourishing.
Is this your ambition for life?
This is God’s will for you, that you should be sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
This is God’s will for you, that you should be perfect as he is (Matthew 5:48).
Yes, this is really countercultural wisdom that goes against modern preferences. But I leave you with this reminder. The United States is third in the world in the percentage of our people who are depressed, anxious, and in trouble with alcohol and drugs. Obviously, our modern preferences are NOT the way of Flourishing and Happiness. Maybe we ought to be radical and trust God’s will and way.
Here to Help You Thrive,