Text: 1 Peter 3:8-12 — Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Introduction: The most popular course in the history of Yale University was offered in the fall of 2017—PSYCH 157: Psychology and the Good Life. Nearly one-fourth of Yale undergraduates registered for it. Laurie Santos, the psychology professor who teaches the course, says that she “tries to teach students how to lead a happier, more satisfying life.” No wonder the course has caught on—a 2013 report by the Yale College Council found that “more than half of undergraduates sought mental health care from the university” while enrolled. One of Santos’ principle lessons is that the things Yale undergraduates most associate with achieving happiness—a high grade, a prestigious internship, a good-paying job—do not increase happiness at all. “Scientists didn’t realize this in the same way ten or so years ago,” Santos says. “Our intuitions about what will make us happy, like winning the lottery and getting a good grade, are totally wrong.” Take Ernest Hemingway as an example. The author who achieved world renown for his books like … For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea … pursued the good life, as he defined it, through drinking and parties, through fighting in revolutions, through using women all over the world for his own pleasure, living exactly the way he wanted to live. He was admired by many because he had power, fame and prestige. He traveled the globe and sold millions of books. He pursued pleasure incessantly. And in the end, did he end up loving his life? Did he find the good life he was looking for? No, he did not. Ernest Hemingway’s life ended on July 2, 1961 when he put a gun to his head at the age of 61. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the highest suicide rate in the U. S. occurs among people between the ages of 45–60. Now we would think that after all that life experience, these people would have figured out a pathway to the good life. But sadly they did not. They neither loved life nor saw enough good days to keep them going.
This is now the 9th message in our series Why Jesus? We’ve been attempting to explain the popularity of Jesus Christ, the carpenter from Nazareth who in three short years created a following that would turn the world upside down. Today we know that more than a billion people around the world claim to be His followers. If you’re visiting this morning, here’s a quick summary of the first eight messages: We said that (1) Jesus’ followers believe him to be the Son of God, and as such, worthy of our worship and obedience. (2) He became a fully human being in order to die as our substitute and pay the penalty for our sins. (3) He heals our souls and eventually heals our bodies, if not sooner in some cases. (4) He is our shepherd who leads us to green pastures. (5) He is our deliverer who rescues us from the attacks of Satan and his demons. (6) He is our teacher who brings truth and life to us as we apply His word. (7) He is our friend who laid down His life for us. (8) And He is our defender who redeems us from our guilt and inability to rescue ourselves from slavery to sin.
Today, I want to bring another aspect of Jesus’ ministry to our attention that attracts us to Him. He is our life and hope. Now when I say these two words (life and hope), we tend to think of the future, when we will be with the Lord in heaven and never again have to deal with the consequences of sin as we do every day while we’re above ground in the here and now. And of course, that’s not wrong. Hope is the expectation of a certain future and by definition infers that we’re thinking of something that is yet to come. But I want to talk to you this morning about the hope for a better life that Christ makes available to all of us the moment we begin a relationship with Him. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 6:4 that … “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” That new life about which Paul writes is not something that we can only long for, but something we can experience daily. It is what Peter refers to in our text for this morning when he says, “Whoever desires to love life and see good days…” It’s his way of saying that the desire to live the good life is not a foolish obsession. It’s what all of us want. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a person who doesn’t aspire to see good days, and if I did, I might worry that he or she has some mental issues to deal with. But here’s the thing: The good life, as far as the Bible is concerned, doesn’t mean getting everything you’ve always wanted. The truth is that many things we’ve desired for ourselves were not good for us at all. I’m thinking about the student who wanted to be popular to build his self-esteem or the woman who wanted to look like a runway model to attract men or the guy who hoped to climb to the top of the corporate ladder to gain his father’s approval. Each pursuit was an attempt to satisfy a legitimate longing in an illegitimate way.
I hope you’re looking for the good life this morning, but if you are, then you need to know what God’s Word says about it: the good life is the life that is good, not in terms of its achievement, but in terms of its character. Think about it. The happiest people on this planet are not the wealthiest or most powerful or most famous (aka Ernest Hemingway) or most beautiful. No, the happiest people are the ones who live well, who manage their lives in keeping with the principles found in the Bible. In our text for this message the Apostle Peter has a few things to say about the good life that I hope will either confirm that you’re headed in the right direction or challenge you to make some major adjustments.
THE GOOD LIFE DESCRIBED (1 Peter 3:8 — Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind). Now this is a picture of the good life as it touches each of us. When we relate to others in holy and healthy ways, we are beginning to tap into it. We’ll talk about these virtues in a moment, but notice that Peter is not merely suggesting that we follow them, but commanding us to do so. That’s because God expects us to follow in the footsteps of Christ and live as He did in the power of the Spirit of God. And mind you, God is not ordering us to do the impossible. Listen, He never tells us to do something without first giving us the ability to accomplish it. And we have that ability because we’re told in 2 Peter 1:3 that we have everything we need for life and godliness. And so here’s what the good life looks like as we relate to each other.
- We live in harmony with one another (…have unity of mind). The idea is that we are to be of one mind. This doesn’t mean that we have to think the same way in everything so that we always agree. That’s not even possible! Imagine what would happen right now if we started talking this week’s election, or which Bible translation is the best one, or where our children should go to school, or which worship style we should adopt, or how to discipline our children. If we were to make a list of things about which we disagree, it would be a very long one. What Peter is calling us to is not uniformity, but unity. Uniformity occurs when we all think and act the same way. Unity is about being one with others who may be on the different side of an issue that matters to both of you. That’s what Peter is talking about here…being like minded, unified. And of course, the question is … like-minded in what? In the same pursuit — to worship and honor Jesus Christ. That’s our highest purpose and greatest ambition. And guess what. When we will live in harmony we participate together in the good life.
- We are sympathetic to one another (…sympathy). This is the ability to share in the suffering and pain of the people around you. As Christians, we should never be insensitive or indifferent to the hurt we see others experiencing. We are called to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). And let me just say, that being sympathetic doesn’t always mean having the right words to say at the right time. Most often it means just being there to allow someone to cry on your shoulder if and when they feel the need to.
- We show brotherly love to one another (…brotherly love). The word “brother” in the Greek means to be born from the same womb. So Peter’s point is that we are to love other believers because we all born from the same spiritual womb. We have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit and now are a part of the same family of God. That’s the good life…when we love each other the way our Father in heaven loves us. When I was growing up, I had two brothers, Mark and David. Mark was four years older and on occasion would pick on me ruthlessly. I remember the time we put on boxing gloves and went at it in my parent’s basement. I was short and couldn’t reach Mark unless I fought with reckless abandon. With a much longer reach, he just waited until I got too close and then let me have it. I was knocked out for a few moments and he was in a panic. I came to, waited until his face was next to mine and then let him have it. David, on the other hand, was seven years younger, and what Mark did to me, I did to him, but my attacks were verbal as I thought I could motivate him with insults. We went at it many times as brothers are want to do. But if someone outside the family every came after one of the three of us, the other two quickly stepped in to provide some protection because that’s what brothers do. So brotherly love means caring enough to stick up for your spiritual siblings when they need your help.
- We are tender-hearted toward one another (…a tender heart). The word can be translated literally as “good bowels.” We say today that we love someone with all our hearts, but in the 1st century they believed that love, as one of the deepest emotions, can from the intestines and the bowels. The Apostle Peter calls for Christians who want the good life to feel deeply for others in need. One commentator says that the same word eventually came to mean “courage.” Here’s the connection. To love someone enough to get involved in their lives takes real courage. It’s easy to keep your distance when others are suffering. I think of the priest and Levite who passed by the unconscious man on the road to Jericho in the parable of the good Samaritan. But it took a tender heart (and a lot of courage) for the Samaritan to stop and offer help. Especially since it was entirely possible that the same people who laid in waiting for the first man, might be laying in wait for him. But the tender-hearted person refuses to turn a blind eye to those in need. It’s always easy to make excuses, but it is holy to offer a helping hand. Like living in harmony, being sympathetic, and showing brotherly love, being tender-hearted is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to the good life.
- We are humble with one another (…and a humble mind). Humility is not making less of ourselves than we ought, it is thinking not of ourselves at all. It is being so Christ-centered and other-focused that we take the posture of a servant and bring blessing whenever we’re given the opportunity. And it is in humbling ourselves that we find the good life! Go figure! Augustine said it like this, “There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart.” Jesus also commented on humility … “Matthew 20:26 — …whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” Illustration: A British paper called the Guardian published an article titled, “Sex Doesn’t Sell Anymore: Activism Does.” And while activism sounds impressive, it is often aimed at (very profitable) humility. In other words, the right hand definitely knows what the left is doing! Perhaps you’ve noticed that there are more than a few companies flaunting good deeds recently. In reaction to President Trump’s immigration ban, Starbucks CEO wrote an open letter to staff committing to hiring 10,000 refugees and Airbnb’s Brian Chesky tweeted that it was providing free accommodation to anyone not allowed in the US. Even Uber created a $3m fund to help drivers affected by the “wrong and unjust” ban. Companies are now attempting to outdo each other with major acts of generosity, but there’s a catch: they’ll do good as long as they can make sure their customers know about it. Of course we should commend companies for doing the right thing, but Jesus wanted us to do the right thing the right way — in humility — not caring if anyone else knows or commends you for it.
THE GOOD LIFE APPLIED (1 Peter 3:9-11 — “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it). When it is the most difficult to live in harmony, be sympathetic, show brotherly love, be tender-hearted and have a humble mind in our relationships with others? When they are not treating us the way we feel we deserve. So Peter ends this paragraph with some real life applications about how we who were undeserving and yet have received a blessed inheritance from God (LIFE ABUNDANT AND ETERNAL), can pay it forward and bless others who are equally undeserving. This is the good life as it impacts others.
- Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling. That’s the only way we’re ever going to have the good life! We have to resist being drawn into trading insults and evil actions with others. Vengeance is never as sweet as we think it will be. That’s why we should leave it up to God. He says, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay.” We should just keep on doing what God expects of us.
- Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceit. James says that the tongue, “James 3:6 — The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” The good life means blessing others with our speech and building them up in Christ.
- Turn away from evil and do good. A quick word of warning. If you hang out in the presence of evil, you will soon be overcome by it. The best way to avoid evil is to be busy doing good.
- Seek peace and pursue it. Oh it can be hard to seek peace especially when you feel victimized, but the good life demands it.
THE GOOD LIFE OBSERVED (1 Peter 3:12 — For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil). I running out of time, so I’ll only say this about what Peter mentions here. God’s eyes are always on the righteous. This is a way of saying that we are always under His watchful care. He hears our prayers and answers them when we are living the good life.
Application: The good life is what all of us should want. But remember … the good life is the life that is good, not in terms of its achievements, but in terms of its character. And only God can make us good. In Luke 6:45 Jesus said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart.” This is where it all begins. With a humble, repentant sinner turning in faith to Christ and asking Him for a new heart that is no longer self-centered, but God-centered.
Conclusion: A recent article in the Washington Post highlighted a massive Harvard University study that asked the question, “What is the secret to a good life?” For close to 80 years, university researchers studied the lives of the same group of men. Since 1938, they tracked their development, documenting every two years details about their physical and emotional health, their employment, their families and their friendships. By looking at human development over a lifespan, the early researchers hoped to find trends that would provide insight into what factors ultimately led to a good life. And what was the big takeaway from the decades of research and millions of dollars spent on the famous Grant Study? It was this: the Beatles got it right when they sang…all you need is love. It was not money or status that determined a good life. Those who were happiest and healthier reported strong interpersonal relationships, while those who were isolated had declines in mental and physical health as they aged. The good life is available to all of us. I suspected it is what attracted many of us to Christ in the first place. We looked at the values of the world and saw that they were empty of meaning. Then we looked at what the Bible had to say about loving life and seeing good days and realized God had it right all along. That kind of love comes through faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.