The Good Life
Ask people if they want a good, happy life and they will say, “Yes. Of course.” No one wants a terrible, miserable life. Yet, while we all want the good life, many will think that this is not attainable. Or, if it is attainable, it is to be on our own terms, self-defined and self-made. Yet we come up empty again and again. Like the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, we find the weariness of life:
All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecc 1:8-9).
“I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind” (v. 14). The preacher, at the end, concludes that fearing God is what life is really about (12:13-14). We need not give in to a desperate or pointless existence. We can see the world through another filter that will help us put together the pieces of life. This is expressed in Psalm 34. Read the whole Psalm, but notice this:
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. (Psa 34:8-10)
Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (vv. 11-14)
Notice that the good life here is first connected to fearing the Lord. This is what the Preacher concluded. By fearing the Lord first, we can begin to see what is truly good for us and how His plans and ways are for our own good and ultimate happiness.
Psalm 34 is quoted by Peter (1 Pet 3:10-13). This is in a context of being willing to suffer persecution for the cause of Christ. At the same time, Christians are called upon to act properly, seek unity, and recognize that ultimately we are in God’s hands. Therefore, asks Peter, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (3:13-15).
The good life is not dependent upon outer circumstances, as the world might have us think. Paul, for example, knew the good life even though he was imprisoned and beaten. His assessment is seen in these words: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:11-13). His contentment was found in Christ, not in the circumstances he faced. When Christ is our anchor, our foundation is secure.
Wisdom is also connected to the good life. Proverbs speaks of being blessed in finding wisdom and understanding and in recognizing the value of wisdom over material possessions (Prov 3:13–15). Speaking of wisdom, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed” (vv. 17-18). Pleasantness, peace, and life are found in the wisdom that comes from the Lord. Note here, too, the theme of the tree of life, first seen in the Garden of Eden and finally in God’s presence in Revelation 22:1-5. The tree of life gives the good life from the Lord.
James also speaks of this good life produced by the wisdom that comes from God: The “wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas 3:17-18).
God has given us the means by which we may live the good life. It starts by respecting and fearing Him and finds its culmination in what Jesus has done for us: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The good life is an eternal life found in the tree of life, all of which comes from the presence of the Lord in our lives. You will find the good life in the Lord!