Life challenges us. Each day starts with hope and ends with a glance back to see if our day was successful, good, or bad. To meet the challenges of each day, we all rely on things such as peace, joy, strength, confidence, and meaningfulness. When trouble came today, did we find peace? Were we strong enough to conquer this day’s mountains? Everyone relies on these five stabilizers to some degree or another. The challenge for us as followers of Jesus is to maintain the right source for peace, joy, strength, confidence, and meaningfulness.
All of these five can be found in three places. They may be external to ourselves, internal and self-generated, or found in Christ.
For instance, we can find peace when our world is at peace, which is externally derived peace. Some find peace through eastern-style meditation or other means of calming our minds. That is a self-generated peace. We, as Christ-followers, are invited to enter His peace. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians was, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, NASB95) Our peace in Christ is not reliant upon our world or created by meditation. In fact, our world may be in deep turmoil, and our souls extremely troubled, yet we still have the peace of Christ.
Joy is a sense of settled-ness which encompasses happiness but far exceeds it. Likewise, our joy can be found in real-world moments, such as the birth of our child. We can also generate joy through an optimistic outlook, always finding the silver lining to every dark cloud. Or our joy can be found in Christ. Peter wrote, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,” (1 Peter 1:8, NASB95) Externally and internally generated joy is like a firework in the darkness of night, It is joyful while we can see it. Our joy in Christ is a continual flame lighting those around us.
A new trend in some circles is to use “energy” to describe the emotional will to get through the day. In this, they are not meaning raw physical strength or our inherent abilities but a strength of will. This, too can be external, internal, or in Christ. Our emotional will can be tied to others or a crowd. It is said that Steve Jobs of Apple Computer fame could exert a kind of “reality distortion field” to propel folks to do more than they imagined. An angry mob can also give us the emotional will to do things we wouldn’t normally even consider. We can also summon inner courage and determination to generate “energy” to see us through our day through mind over emotions.
And yes, here again, Christ-followers are invited to accept an “energy” far greater than either of those. Paul writes this insight from Christ, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB95) Power, strength, emotional will, “energy” – call it what you will – there is greater energy in Christ than anything in the world.
Facing each day also requires a degree of confidence, an amalgam of hope and faith. And yes, the pattern fits here as well. We can find our confidence in the encouragement of others as their belief strengthens our own confidence. Some build up their own inner confidence through repeated reminders like the little engine that could chugging out, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Peter, on the other hand, reminds Christ-followers, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7, NASB95) Our confident faith, hope, and trust are found in Christ.
Lastly, we all need a sense of purpose and meaningfulness to overcome the challenges of our day. Externally, this may come from any number of sources. Most often, we find this in ourselves as we choose our goals and direction for life. What purposes we adopt have far-reaching effects – some of which we cannot see or predict. The beauty of the Gospel is that no matter where we are, and regardless of the turmoil around us, our purpose is in Christ. Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8–10, NASB95)
As Christ-followers, we may be impacted at times by the external and internal providers of peace, joy, strength, confidence, and purpose. Our challenge is to turn our face and our hearts towards Jesus for all of these. Instead of searching externally or trying to self-generate them, we must instead seek for them in Christ. As Hebrews says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1–3, NASB95) Our peace, joy, strength, confidence, and purpose begins with Christ and is perfected in Christ alone.