Over the past several years I have developed the notorious “pastor paunch.” But, in the past three weeks I have lost fifteen pounds. It didn’t just happen. It has been intentional. If I were to only focus on the negative of what I can’t eat, I would never make it. After all, if I keep thinking about the anchovy pizza that I’m not supposed to have, eventually my willpower breaks down. But if I focus on the positive, of becoming healthy and incorporating positive practices of health into my life on a daily consistent basis, then I am setting myself up for holistic well-being.
Peace does not just happen. Peace was bought at a price – the blood of Jesus (Colossians 1:20). And it must be pursued (Ephesians 4:3). Practices of peace must be engrafted into our lives if we are going to experience it on the daily practical level (Romans 14:13-15:7). Is it hard? Yes, absolutely. Is it worth it? I’ll let you be the judge. I think your conscience already knows the answer.
How bad do we want to be spiritually healthy? How bad do we desire the peace of God: Enough to stop being negative? Enough to reconcile and make things right? Enough to pursue Jesus? It is high time we begin redefining our situations from a negative focus on only problem solving to the positive vision of peace, wholeness, integrity, and spiritual growth and health.
Zechariah’s song of praise anticipating the birth of Jesus gives us a vision of a future full of peace, joy, and thriving (Luke 1:68-79). The name “Zechariah” means in Hebrew “God remembered.” God has not forgotten his promises. The time has come to take hold of the vision God had from the very beginning to walk with humanity in continual fellowship and happiness in the garden, a place of abundant growth, beauty, and health.
The World Health Organization did a study which has found that 10% of Americans suffer from some form of depression. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has taken notice of the rising figures of suicide in this country, which has been growing steadily for the past thirty years. Last year nearly 42,000 people took their own lives in the United States. That’s approximately 13 suicides per 100,000 people. Large numbers of people lack peace in their lives.
This year a study came out from a task force put together by professionals across a wide spectrum of disciplines known as the World Happiness Report. Every country in the world was ranked according to criteria such as the gross domestic product, social support, healthy lifestyles, freedom to make choices, lack of corruption, and both negative and positive outlooks on life. The U.S. did not even make the top ten. Even with all of our vast resources Americans are, collectively speaking, a very unhappy people. I believe the most interesting finding from the World Happiness Report was their conclusion as to what makes one country happier than another. The Report concluded that citizens of the happiest nations on earth continually find a steady stream of joy in three sources: their families, their rituals/traditions, and their religion.
If we are not finding joy in our lives through our Christianity and/or our church involvement, then it is reasonable to conclude that we are not experiencing the peace of Jesus Christ. Perhaps we need to find newfound hope and joy through celebrating the Table of the Lord together. It is a religious ritual that we experience together which reminds us that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness of sins, spiritual peace, and human well-being is ultimately found in Jesus. We both remember Christ’s accomplishment of peace through the cross, and participate in that peace through the common elements of Bread and Cup. As we eat and drink, let us ingest the peace of Christ into our lives.