Wealth. Prestige. Power. Respect. Everyone has a vision of the good life. But what is God’s vision of the good life?
James K. A. Smith, Esther Meek, D. A. and Elicia Horton and six other speakers addressed this question at The Wisdom Forum: The Good Life, an event at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) on March 16, 2018. At the Wisdom Forum, hundreds of people gathered to discover how faith intersects with every part of our lives.
Here are five lessons I walked away with. (If you were at the Wisdom Forum, I’d love for you to share your takeaways, too.)
1. Everyone is chasing a vision of the good life.
“It’s not a question of whether you’re chasing the good life, but which,” said James K. A. Smith. Visions of the good life are more caught than taught, he continued, and they are caught from immersion in “cultural liturgies,” or “love-shaping practices.”
Too often, though, Christians think they must compete with their neighbors’ visions of the good life which are filled with glitz and glamour. As a result, they end up with nothing more than “Jesus-ified version of secular liturgies.” Instead, Smith urged us to follow the example of Jesus.
“Don’t underestimate how brightly the humble shine. Instead, remember that the one who humbled himself is now looked to by the entire world,” he said. “The upside-downness of the biblical vision of a good life is the scandalous truth that you find your life by losing it.”
Don’t underestimate how brightly the humble shine.
2. Wisdom not just a footnote in the Bible.
“I’m learning how to walk again,” said Benjamin T. Quinn in the Wisdom Forum’s introductory talk. Quinn traced the topic of wisdom throughout the Bible. He emphasized the image of walking, which is the Bible’s dominant metaphor of how God’s people are to live.
As he followed this theme from Genesis to the New Testament, Quinn noted that “the good life is found at the corner of wisdom and way.”Wisdom isn’t just a footnote in the Bible; it’s a central theme.
3. Faith deserves to be integrated into all aspects of our lives.
Throughout the Wisdom Forum, speakers highlighted multiple ways that faith intersects with every aspect of our lives. Smith encouraged us to integrate faith with our work, since “your work is the way you bear God’s image in the world.” Matthew Mullins intersected faith with literature, showing us how a love of poetry can help us better read and understand the Bible. Walter Strickland talked with the aid of a drumset, integrating faith and music. Esther Meek even modeled for us us how faith integrates with philosophy.
In particular, D. A. and Elicia Horton presented a joint talk on how faith intersects with marriage and family. They shared three difficult boundaries to oneness in their marriage. But faith, they argued, matters to marriages, for “the marriage of the Christian home is a billboard of the gospel.”
4. Rest is a not a dirty word.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Jesus has given us an invitation to rest, yet most of us fail to take him up on his offer. Larry Trotter, pastor of North Wake Church, noted that the majority of Christians admitted that busyness gets in the way of their relationship with God. As a result, they fail to take time to rest in God’s presence.
At its root, this lack of rest exists because we believe we can trust ourselves to provide more than we can trust God. And instead of finding our rest in God, many of us find it in technology. “We are looking for love in all the wrong places,” said Trotter. So, Trotter said, Jesus invites us to rest. Will we take him up on his offer?
Suffering is a fundamental rhythm of the good life.
5. Our definition of the good life must include suffering.
Jonathan Darville knows suffering well. He has endured chronic Lyme disease for 12 years. At one point, he had to receive feeding tubes and was near death. As a result of his suffering, he has had to leave two successful careers.
Darville noted that “suffering is a fundamental rhythm of the good life.” God can use our suffering for the greater good. Suffering refines our character, deepens our relationship with God and even serves others. “Our suffering has a missional character to it,” Darville said.
These truths don’t make suffering easy. But, as Darville said, “We have to learn to pray our pain, sing our sorrows, and lean in to the comfort of community.”
What did you learn at the Wisdom Forum?