Guidelines for living the good life

John Ditty Sunday School Lesson

October 13, 2013

Much has been written, recorded and videoed concerning how the good life can become a reality for everyone. What’s the good life?

For many it is defined as having all you need, all you want, and more — having plenty of money and things and the time to enjoy them. It’s the big house behind the gate, the long vacation in an exotic place; it’s the stuff that draws the curious and longing to cable shows like “House Hunters International.”

Peruse a bookstore and you will find plenty of offering in the fields of self-improvement and self-help. There are books that promise success in everything from investment strategies guaranteed to make you rich, to making money on the Internet promising to set you free from “the man” and becoming your own boss.

Then there are those intriguing 30-minute infomercials in which the pitchman, some guy or gal that knows the secret, assures you that in a few minutes with minimum risk and investment you can be on your way to making your first million.

And of course there is that state sponsored shortcut to riches. You know the one that says you won’t win if you don’t play while neglecting to remind you how that jackpot got into the hundreds of millions anyway. By the way, you know it gets there because the vast majority who do play don’t win.

What do these all have in common? They promise to know the secret path that ends at the open door of the house where the good life lives.

But can these wannabe guides really show us the way to the life we all want? Let’s allow the Apostle Peter to field that question as we continue in a journey through his first letter. It is his desire to lead people into a living, thriving walk with Jesus Christ.

The question is, is this the path to the good life?

As you read on, consider whether or not Peter answers that question. He writes, “ For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’” (1 Peter 3:10-12)

There it is, “Whoever would love life and see good days,” i.e. the real deal concerning the good life. Peter is confident that there is a way to live a life that is worth living; a way to have days that are truly good. How can he be so sure of himself? He walked with the One who can make this dream come true; the One who also taught what real life and genuine good really are. Peter had been with Jesus. In his relationship with Christ, the apostle came to understand that one can love living even when living is hard and a good day is not necessarily one that is void of conflict and filled with all the things the heart might desire.

Peter writes of love which comes from the Greek agapao (agape) which is an unconditional, contented, God-kind of love. He spoke of “good days” can also be translated pleasant, excellent, an upright. These are the words we need to live the good life.

Peter shares the conditions by which we can have this kind of life. First he says we must not let our mouth ruin our chances. There’s nothing hidden in these words. Throughout the Bible God warns us about controlling our tongues. A writer in Proverbs noted, “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3) Paul wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” (Ephesians 4:29). Jesus’ brother James reminded readers, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6)

So the first step on the path to the good life is having a good mouth. Second we must be people of good deeds. He warns of evil, a word that describes being bad natured, troublesome or wicked. Good is the same word used earlier to describe pleasant days. In other words, we cannot expect to live pleasant days if we don’t turn away from evil ways.

We must also desire and pursue peace. To pursue is to “run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing.” What are we chasing? Peace which comes from a word that describes tranquility, peace between individuals, security, and safety. It is the peace that Jesus promised His followers in John 14 when He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.” In the Beatitudes of in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called those who promote peace blessed and the children of God (Matthew 5:9).

In short, Peter provides a map that leads to the good life. It will be found by the person who uses words to encourage and build up, and who chases after the peace of Christ. It is this one to whom God is attentive. He clearly states that, “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (3:12)

Peter’s God-given way to the good life probably won’t found in any of the bookstore offerings on the subject. Mostly because his is not the “good life” that most are seeking. There will always be a market for the bookstore variety. Why? Because they all fall short. They fall short because they are looking for the wrong good life. Only in Jesus Christ is the real good life discovered.