Sermon

Search For Happiness

 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY.

You and I are hardwired to pursue happiness. We’re always looking for it, whether we know we are or not. We don’t have to be told to seek joy. We just naturally, instinctively, want to be happy. So, we pursue happiness, just as everyone who has come before us always has.   But if we are going to try to understand how to pursue happiness, we need to come to an understanding of what we mean by happiness

Greek philosopher Epicurus (300 years before Christ) advocated that pleasure is the highest good in life.  Epicurus sought both tranquility and the absence of physical pain in his efforts to find true happiness, but many following his example have gone from leading an ethical and restrained life to embrace the natural instincts that our media driven culture promises to bring happiness.  Simply put:  if it feels good, do it.

19 C writer Oscar Wilde, in An Ideal Husband, has the principle character arguing, that “Pleasure is the only thing to live for.  You deserve to be happy, so you should do what you want to do.

Sadly, many today reduce this to saying, “let’s live it up”, with a special focus on bodily pleasure.

Christian writer C. S. Lewis, would periodically feel a desire to go to a fictional land he called “True North,” a place better than any he knew.

Here’s what I have come to understand about God and happiness, and that is simply that God wants us to be happy, despite what you may have been told about God as a young person; pleasure, contrary to what you may have heard, is good. Incredibly good. And it is a gift of God

God actually wants us to be happy. God doesn’t want us shivering in the corner, frightened but obedient. He wants to unleash happiness in our lives, pour it into every aspect of our beings, flood our days with joy the world can’t touch or take away. Jesus is clear that Father, Abba, God wants happiness for us.  Our God is a joyful God himself, and he loves nothing more than to make those of us who are chasing worldly happiness truly, deeply joyful.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4

But How Exactly Do We Find Happiness?

Here’s the mystery at the heart of biblical Christianity: You become happy through holiness.

Apart from God, we naturally tend toward sin.  St Paul is clear “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23

So it follows that our instincts, appetites, and thirst for pleasure are disordered. We worship things that are not of God, who alone deserves worship. We idolize sex, or money, or discipline, or even happiness itself.

But the Bible has good news for sinners; it shows us the path to joy. The way to become happy is presented simply in Scripture: obedience to God is pleasure. Faith in Christ is joy. The psalmist says to God with evident delight: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”  Psalm 16:11

I chuckle when people tell me that they believe that having a relationship with Jesus Christ would take the happiness out of their life – just the opposite is true.  God, we learn here, is the author of pleasure,  the creator of all – including pleasure.

When we learn that lesson, we realise that it’s as if all our lives we’ve been drinking from a rusty fountain on a hot summer day. You know the fountain I mean—it’s the kind that sometimes shoots a huge, unwanted stream of water into your nose but more often offers so small you have to put your whole mouth around the spigot just to get a sip.

But how exactly does this “becoming happy in God” thing happen? The Bible answers this question directly. “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches,” Psalm 119:14

Obedience to God is what makes us happy.  Hebrews 12:1–2, we find the source of both our happiness and our holiness:

Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.   Hebrews 12:1–2

Jesus is not only our example as a joy-seeker, but the means by which we may know the Lord, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith,” a phrase that means that his death and resurrection are our salvation.

So here is the astounding news: God calls us to be holy, blesses us with happiness through holiness, and gives us all the strength we need to be holy.

This way of life allows us to enjoy the world as it is. We recognize that God has fashioned the world for his glory and our happiness. The gift of physical enjoyment and pleasure comes from him, not some leering studio executive. The ability to change our habits and become holistically healthier stems from the wisdom of the Almighty God, not a self-improvement program that we will almost surely abandon at some point. In discovering God and his goodness, we find a way to rightly, healthily enjoy the pleasures of this world.

Our appetites and hunger for pleasure are not bad. They are God-given instincts. But they must also be God-directed and God-ordered. In other words, the good news of Christ reorders our world and allows us to be happiest in the things that are the best for us ….., we recognize the Lord as the only reality worth living for. In place of a generic pursuit of happiness above all things, we pursue Jesus Christ—and find joy in him.

Every Other Quest for Happiness Fails.  Those drawn to a celebrity’s lifestyle of uncontrolled excess need only look at the latest headline to see that the unrestrained pursuit of pleasure does not fulfill us. It will destroy us.

We as followers of Christ are made for something greater. That instinct in us that so many of us feel—what C. S. Lewis called the desire for True North—is given to us to point us to human insufficiency. We want and need something greater, something pure, a force that restores us. This is God and God alone. He is the cause of true happiness, and he is happiness itself.

With all this said, we must know that in following the Lord in faith, there will be trials and tribulaitons.  We will be tested.  It happened to Jesus, the one who best represents “abundant living,” and so we must expect to pay a cost ourselves, otherwise we are not living life in all its fullness.

But after this earthly existence, we will meet our Lord and dwell with him in a world of love—a new heavens and a new earth, where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”

 There, no worry can enter. Because of Christ, the center of this world, we will all—without exception or diminishment—be happy.

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