Living the better life
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Proverbs 3:5-6
Devotional text: 1 Peter 3:10
How does our life get better when we “live in Christ?” What does it mean to “live in Christ” anyway?
Let’s start with this famous scripture from Paul, written to the believers in Philippi when he was sitting in jail in Rome, waiting to find out if he would be sentenced to death. In Philippians 1:21, he wrote, “ … For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain … ”
What Paul is saying is he has given over his life to Christ 100%. His entire life was given to following the ways of Christ. He had great joy in his life, singing psalms and speaking to fellow prisoners about the love of God through Jesus. Though his circumstances were grim, he knew Christ in his life superseded all circumstances.
In that scripture, Paul was acknowledging he would follow Christ all the days of his life, finding peace, joy and love wherever he found himself to be and in whatever circumstances? He knew that at last, when he did pass over into eternal life, he would receive his reward as a believer.
When Jesus was on earth, he told us his purpose of coming in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Let’s look at some other scripture that may help us understand these words of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul wrote, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” In Philippians 3:17, he continued, “Join with others in following my example brothers (and sisters) and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”
Note that having an abundant life had nothing to do with accumulating riches or earthly success. Jesus certainly was not rich in a worldly way, nor were the Apostles. Jesus was rich in the mercy, grace and love shown to us. The Apostles lived by his example to be merciful and to live by God’s love toward all others.
As we mature, we begin to ask ourselves: What is our life all about? Who are we? What do we stand for? What makes us happy? What makes us sad? What do we want to do with our lives? What goals do we have that will give us a good life?
Many times, as we grow up, we try out a number of different work experiences and lifestyles that seem to be right for us. Sometimes, they turn out to be the right path for our lives. Other times, we wonder what ever possessed us to get into that mess.
We live. We learn. Our journey continues.
Philippians 2:12b-13 tells us, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
In this scripture by Paul, he is speaking to the believers in Philippi, letting them know it is God who works inside them to lead them on the path to a better life. These are the same words that speak to us, as we figure out what the good life in Christ will become for us.
You see, God tells us he has a plan for each of us, and his plan is based on the God-given gifts and talents he has already given to us to use “according to his good purpose.” When we use those things for good that we find naturally give us joy, we are following God’s plan, and our lives swell up with an abundance of God’s love.
Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
In 1 John 4:15, the Apostle John reminds us that “whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him (her), and he (she) in God.”
As we read Ephesians 4:32, we get some ideas of how to live the better life in Christ: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Anyone who has held onto their anger against another person eventually discovers their bitterness only serves to hurt themselves. God knows this, that is why so much is dependent on both forgiveness and the love of God.
As we continue to discover better living in Christ, we see how God can use our mistakes as well as our hardships for good. Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
What Paul is saying to the Romans is that God can and often will use the lessons we have learned through our mistakes in life, as well as the hardships we fall into, as a help to us or to others later in life. Somewhere, some day, those problems will enliven us with fresh meaning. This new meaning, by the work of the Holy Spirit within us, will be used in our future either for ourselves or to help someone else.
So, do not let guilt or sadness overcome your life when these things happen. God tells us through scripture that all people go through such times. It is when we allow tragedy or sadness or bitterness to take over the rest of our lives that we truly suffer. God tells us to let go of such feelings; give those hurts, guilt and bitterness over to him. Let him take them away from you, and you will find a better life in Christ.
Living in Christ means we have faith that God knows what is best for our lives. As Hebrews 13:5 tells us, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.”
Finally, from Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
God knows about everything that is going on in our lives. We can lean on him. God gives us a sense of peace within when we are on the right path. On the other hand, God gives us a feeling of tension or nervousness when we are going down the wrong path. Pay attention to the Holy Spirit abiding with you to help show the way to better life in Christ.