Monday, June 8, 2015

Does God want us to be happy?


You probably won't be surprised to find out that the emerging culture of "just do what makes you happy" is something that has happened time and time again over human history. There was a point early in the history of the nation of Israel which is essentially identical to the culture we see becoming prevalent right now. Judges 21:25 says, " Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." The unfortunate aspect of this part of the history of Israel is that their "doing what was right in their own eyes" led to chaos, strife, and eventually judgment from God, sound familiar? So does God want us to be happy? Or does He merely give us a massive list of laws to follow? Because of questions like these I decided to write this important article, let's dive in...

Happy may be defined as, "enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment (Websters)." Unfortunately our modern culture has redefined happy to mean "whatever feels good or right." It appeals to the emotions and the self pleasing aspect of our human nature. Our flesh and emotions can only be stimulated for a temporary period of time in a world that is completely scarred by the sinfulness and selfishness of mankind. This definition of happy also brings another important question to mind, "can doing whatever feels good or right lead to a life of well-being and contentment?" That is, can our culture's definition of happiness actually lead people to the true definition of happiness? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to answer an absolute "no" to this. Just take a look at your nearest secular celebrity, they have everything that makes a person feel good from a physical sense (luxuries, money, attractive partners, fame, etc.) but on the inside they become empty and broken to the fullest extent when the limelight runs it's course.

So, does God want us to experience well-being and contentment in this life? Absolutely! But God helps us to understand from His word that "doing whatever feels good or right" is not the way to get there. We also find that Biblical happiness is something that is spiritual, resulting from a right relationship with God (Romans 5:1), not physical resulting from preferred circumstances. This is why faith is such a crucial element to our relationship with God. Our feelings are telling us "do this and it will lead to happiness" but God is telling us "follow me and it will lead to true (spiritual) well-being and contentment." We have to get past what our feelings are telling us and listen to the voice of God, and that can only be done by using our faith to respond to what God counsels us to do. 

So what is Biblical happiness? It begins with putting to death the desire to please ourselves (Romans 8:13). That means that we have to completely do away with our culture's definition of happiness. You will never find true well-being and contentment in life by continuing to let your own gratification be the primary focus of your life. God does want us to have well-being and contentment, but that desire is secondary to His wanting us to be transformed by His love on a daily basis (Romans 12:1-2). So the objective should not be "how can I make me happy today?" That causes US to remain the central focus. Rather, the objective should become "how can I focus on Christ today and let His love cause me to be more like Him?" 

So pursuing God instead of happiness actually leads to happiness? We actually find happiness by not pursuing it at all? I'll have to admit that is definitely a funny paradox, but it's true. Let's consider Psalm 1:1-2 which says, "Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night." In this passage the word "blessed" is the Hebrew word "esher," which literally means "happy." So here are a couple points we find in this passage that help us to understand God's plan for happiness:

1.) Do not follow the pattern of this world.
2.) Do not surround yourself with people who don't know the Lord.
3.) Delight yourself in God's word.
4.) Meditate on His word regularly.

So as you can see within these four steps to happiness there is nothing about pursuing happiness involved! It really boils down to two things: sacrifice your allegiances to the world, and turn your attention fully to God. The Kingdom of God operates completely opposite to the kingdom of this world. If you want to be great you have to become a servant, if you want to enjoy peace you have to endure suffering, if you want to enjoy blessing you have to enjoy sacrifice! The blessings that we experience in the Kingdom of God are spiritual to begin with (Ephesians 1:3), this is why we are able to learn contentment, because no matter what our physical situation is in the world we can have the joy of the Lord flowing in us at all times! 

Doing whatever feels good or right is not the pathway to true well-being and contentment, our feelings can deceive us, and this process leads to destruction (Romans 6:23). But there is one thing that WILL always and HAS always remained true throughout the ages, the precious Word of God! During times when our feelings are deceiving us, the Word of God sheds light and leads to peace that never fails. Jesus died to make a way for sinners like you and I to come to God in faith no matter what we have done beforehand, He will be our peace if we let Him. Let me leave you with this beautiful scripture from the very lips of Jesus:

Matthew 16:25-26-"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?"


Click here for my video teaching on this topic.

Written by: Kyle Bailey, M.Th.

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Photo credit to: 
http://hopefaithprayer.com/scriptures/against-depression/

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