"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).
I decided to "carry" just one verse with me for the road today, and I chose this one. It dawned on me that the Spirit would never choose His words casually or arbitrarily; therefore, the words "righteousness" and "peace" and "joy" must be precisely the ones He meant.
He could have said: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of faith and love and obedience." Or, a matter of "humility and sacrifice and repentance." But He didn't. So "righteousness" and "peace" and "joy" must be worth devoting a whole day to thinking about.
"Righteousness" is a huge category, of course. It includes both the righteousness that Christ has and imputed to us, and the righteousness that Christ demands of us now, by his hard-won grace. What consolation! I am cloaked with Christ's righteousness and I am all the things Ephesians 1 says I am: chosen, predestined, forgiven, accepted, blameless, redeemed, and adopted. That puts a spring in my step. Now I am to go out and live righteously, in imitation of the hall of faith cloud of witnesses.
"Peace" must be huge, because we find it wished on people at the beginning of so many epistles. Many people don't have peace, even Christians. We keep thinking we will have peace sooner or later, but as a matter of fact we don't have it now. Even folks who don't have experiential peace have peace with God in a forensic sense, of course. But He wants us to experience it too. And I find that I can experience it by refusing to focus on my problems but on the Person who is with me through them. Peace requires believing God.
Same with "joy." Don't wait for joy as if it will come to you when your present difficulties clear up. Next Monday will have another set of difficult circumstances. Choose joy now! Do it by taking a moment to proclaim God's truth over your situation. Because joy is listed as one of three main qualities of "the kingdom of God," if you don't have joy right now, you're missing a third of the kingdom of God, when you think about it. Don't be without 33 percent of the kingdom of God!
Ray Stedman wrote in Authentic Christianity that "unquenchable optimism" is the mark of an authentic Christian, one living by actual faith. I love that, and I want it. Let us press into righteousness, peace, and joy of the Holy Spirit today.