Defining the “Good Life” According to God’s Word
[“A man who lived on the northern frontier of China was skilled in interpreting events. One day, for no reason, his horse ran away to the nomads across the border. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a blessing?” Some months later his horse returned, bringing a splendid nomad stallion. Everyone congratulated him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a disaster?” Their household was richer by a fine horse, which his son loved to ride. One day he fell and broke his hip. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a blessing?” A year later the nomads came in force across the border, and every able-bodied man took his bow and went into battle. The Chinese frontiersmen lost nine of every ten men. Only because the son was lame did the father and son survive to take care of each other. Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing: the changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed.” The Lost Horse, Chinese Folktale.] In our Christian experience sometimes the worst that happens to us turns out later to be the best that happens to us.
We might say that the Bible defines the “good life” as the “God life” or Christ-likeness. God’s highest goal for us is to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus (Rom. 8:29) because Jesus brought ultimate glory to God as a Man. God created us to bring Him glory and to have an eternal love relationship with Him. The more we are like Jesus Christ the more glory we bring to God and the more joy we experience. “You (Jesus) have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Hebrews 1:9) Yet, From the Fall in the Garden of Eden until the end of this age, the world, the devil and the flesh have tried to convince us that the good life is doing life my way. “I did it my way” as Sinatra and Elvis sang with passion. Yet, God tells us throughout His Word that the good-life is found by doing life His Way. Let us look at just a portion of God’s Word on this subject as seen in David’s life from Psalm 119:65-72.
“You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word. Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments.” (Vv. 65-66) David says that God has blessed him as He promised He would, “according to Your word” not “according to the world.” If we “watch and listen” to the world more than to God’s Word, we will be deceived into believing that the world’s way of having the good life is better than God’s way. Thus David prayed further for God to teach him “good discernment and knowledge” affirming his belief in God’s Word as the wisest and best way to live. Listen to Jacob’s perspective on life, in the midst of deep trials and his change of perspective at the end of his life. “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more,( and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!” (Gen. 42:36) But at the end of his life he prays, “He (Jacob) blessed Joseph, and said,“the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,16 The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads.” (Gen. 48:15-16) As we will see in the next verse (and v.71), God uses the very evil that hurts us to redeem and refine us for our good.
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes.” (Vv.67-68) David was straying (“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”) and some affliction brought him back to obeying God’s Word. How much further would he have wandered had it not been for the trial? So he affirms the goodness of God that precedes God’s good acts on his behalf (even the painful trial that turned him back to God.) Again, when the enemy gets us to doubt the goodness of God he can take us down a path of rebellion or independence from God that will have serious temporal and eternal consequences. We must never judge God’s character based on our circumstances but rather we are to judge our circumstances based on God’s unchanging, perfect character. Even though pain and affliction may make us think God is not good, the cross alone shouts, NOT TRUE: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
“The arrogant have forged a lie against me; With all my heart I will observe Your precepts. Their heart is covered with fat, But I delight in Your law.” (Vv. 69-70) Jesus told us this would happen to us and that we should never expect better treatment from the world than He received: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,)because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18-20) “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3) Compare your persecution to Jesus’ persecution knowing that He was perfect love and yet hated and crucified by the world. And we are so imperfect and any suffering we experience is so light compared to His. The heart of the proud, “covered with fat”- means it is totally unfeeling toward the Lord’s dealings. Even the Lord’s afflictions do not turn them to Him whereas David confesses the very opposite. In light of living among the lies and slander of the proud and unrepentant, David resolves to obey God’s Word and even delight in doing so. Paul said the same in Romans 7:22: “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law.” May we pray and do the same!
“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” (V. 71) [“The common picture of happiness is freedom from trouble. Yet how true is God’s judgment, when it is the very end (goal) of affliction to remove the source of all trouble (pride, worldliness, the lies of Satan) and consequently to secure—not to destroy—solid happiness! We must however determine the standard of real good by its opposition—not its accordance—to our own fancy or indulgence. The promise of “every good thing” may be fulfilled by a plentiful cup of affliction. Present evil may be “working together for” ultimate “good.” Let God take His own way with us. Let us interpret His providences by His covenant—His means by His end—and instead of fainting under the sharpness of His rod, we shall earnestly desire the improvement of it. Are you, then, tried believer, disposed to regret the lessons you have already learned in this school? Or have you purchased them at too dear a cost? Do you grieve over the bleedings of a contrite heart that have brought you under the care of the healing physician? Or could you by any other way have obtained so rich a knowledge of His love, or have been trained to such implicit obedience to His will? As Jesus, “though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered;” (Heb. 5:7) so may we “rejoice, inasmuch as we are partakers of His sufferings,” (1 Peter 4:13) and be thankful to learn the same obedience, as the evidence and fruit of our conformity to Him.” By Charles Bridges – http://gracegems.org/26/BRIDGES.htm]
“The law of Your mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” (V. 72) God is still speaking today for His Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) It is in hearing His Word spoken to us that our faith grows, i.e., our trust in the Living God. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) As we come to know our Lord deeply we find in Him all we want and need and as Paul says: “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And in his letter to Ephesus he speaks of “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Eph. 3:8) Or as God Himself says, “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25) David said in another psalm that God’s goodness was better to him than life, the good life the world promotes: “Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.” (Psalm 63:3)David’s son Solomon knew the vanity of riches: “Also I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. Then I became great and increased more than all who proceeded me in Jerusalem…. and behold all was vanity and striving after the wind and there was no profit under the sun.” (Eccl. 2:8a; 9a; 11b)) A note from an unsuccessfully successful prospector on display at a Wild West museum in South Dakota says: “I lost my gun. I lost my horse. I am out of food. The Indians are after me. But I’ve got all the gold I can carry.” And many a man has lost his wife, family, friends and health all for the “deceitfulness of riches”. (Matthew 13:22; Luke 8:14) History and our present times are filled with the laments of rich and powerful men, yet miserable men. “I have made millions, but they have brought me no happiness” said John D Rockefeller. We hear similar comments from Andrew Carnegie, John Jacob Astor, Elvis Presley, Howard Hughes and King Solomon. “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” (Solomon, Eccl 5:10) With such bad advertisement, why do so many still chase after the bucks? Jesus had a way of getting to the bottom line when He spoke and He said it was because of the “deceitfulness of riches”. People think accumulating money will bring them peace, contentment, joy, etc., all the things God wants to give us for seeking Him. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6; Also see 1 Timothy 6:6-11; 17-19) If we value anything more than God it will always be to our temporal and eternal loss. “The law of Your mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver” for it leads me to the rich knowledge of my Lord and my God.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. What is your main take away from the message and how can you apply it to your life?
2. In our Christian experience sometimes the worst that happens to us turns out later to be the best that happens to us. Has this ever been true for you? If so, share this experience at your table.
3. How does the “world” define the “good life”? What is the main difference in seeking the good life the world’s way versus God’s way per David in verse 65?
4. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes.” (Vv.67-68) Trials can make us bitter (angry with God) or better (more like Jesus) depending on what??
5. “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” (V. 71) Please have someone read Charles Bridges comments on suffering and then share what strikes you the most about the view we are to have on suffering based on Scripture.
6. If we value anything more than God it will always be to our temporal and eternal loss. “The law of Your mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver” for it leads me to the rich knowledge of my Lord and my God. Read Matthew 13:44-46 and discuss the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price.