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Does God want man to be happy?

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Psalm 146:5

 

Introduction

My wife told me the other day about a person who divorced because in her words "it was because God wanted her to be happy", implying that her marriage was unhappy, and divorce would solve the problem. This raised the question, does God want us happy at all costs?

Today I want to examine "happiness" in light of what the Bible says. In essence, does God want men and women to be happy.

My first thought was this was not the case, in that it is God's "happiness" if one can call it that that is important for the chief end of man is to glorify God, yet a cursory look at the Scriptures reveals that happiness is something a Christian should be able to enjoy - indeed he or she will have gladness of heart, will delight, will be happy - not as the world does but as Christ did[1].

The worlds point of view

The world certainly believes you aught to be happy. Strangely enough, in the affluent western world, money does not buy happiness. Money, if it keeps you from abject poverty, certainly helps. What did 18,000 students want to make themselves happy? Most wanted money - students are always poor, however when questioned more carefully most wanted friends, family, job and health. The more the students wanted, the researchers found, the less happy they rated themselves - that is the gap between reality and actuality measured true happiness. Thus research found that to be happy, one needed to be content with what one had.

Other surveys found that having friends and being married improved happiness. Furthermore, having faith in God added to ones contentment. Other research found that giving and providing support to others made one feel happy.

Hence, in some senses the world probably has a fairly balanced view of happiness. In the other sense the TV attempts to sew discord with your lot: it sews the seeds of un-happiness or discontentment in an attempt in forcing you consequently (unfortunately very successfully) to purchase some item, or service, or holiday, in an attempt to deal with our discontentment - to make yourself happy.

The trouble is dealing with un-happiness. The world says if it makes you un-happy leave it, replace it, purchase it, take a holiday etc.

The question is, should a Christian be happy, and if so, how should a Christian be happy, and in what manner should we make our selves happy.

The dictionaries definition of happiness

"Emotions experienced when in a state of well-being "

"An agreeable feeling or condition of the soul arising from good fortune or propitious happening of any kind; the possession of those circumstances or that state of being which is attended with enjoyment; the state of being happy; contentment; joyful satisfaction; felicity; blessedness."

The words used in our bible, especially the Hebrew conjures up the idea of safety, security, gladness and joy, to be at ease in one's surroundings.

Happy is he who has the Lord

The bible certainly talks about happiness, with the Psalms and Proverbs taking the lead in this area. But the happiness talked of is not a temporary thing based on what one can get. Indeed, it is not based on "I" at all.

The verse we began with shows this:

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Psalm 146:5

Our heart delights in the Lord. Indeed the very first Psalm talks of the man being blessed if he delights in the law of the Lord. Our joy in the Lord and our delighting in Him is because our salvation rests in Him.

And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. Psalm 35:9

Happiness has to do with security and peace. Our security rests on the knowledge that Christ is the solid rock that provides a hope, a living way to salvation.

Jesus says:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

This peace is not the peace of the absence of war. As one said, worldly peace is an absence of war. Peace of the world is obviously more than this, but it is not the real inner peace a man or woman of God enjoys, for a he knows nothing of what will happen to his soul, and if he does it is very troubling

We obtain our peace through Jesus Christ. How? - Look at Romans 5:1.

1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1 through Romans 5:2 (NKJV)

It is obtained through the justification by faith in Jesus Christ - or put another way through the power of the gospel. We are no long enemies or at enmity with God, we can be at peace:

14For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; Ephesians 2:14 – 2:15

As David put in another place ...happy is that people, whose God is the LORD Psalms 144:15.

Therefore it can be seen that happiness rests on the faithfulness of our Lord. Our faith in the promise gives us hope of security, and indeed security itself. Therefore, be joyful in your hope, as Paul could write to the Romans.

How does this give us happiness. Spurgeon explains it this way:

"The promise operates upon our present life by creating in us an elevation of spirit, a life above visible surroundings, a calm and heavenly frame of mind."[2]

See, our happiness does not rest on the things of this world. It lifts us far above this world and takes us into the heavenly realms where we can rest upon the glorious sight of Christ propitiating us before God the Father. Our hope has been confirmed, fulfilled, and will soon be realised when He comes the second time.

Spurgeon writes: To know him is "life eternal," and to advance in the knowledge of him is to increase in happiness"[3]. In salvation we are made perfect in Him. This is happiness.

Happiness we have occurs in the absence of guilt. Our burden of guilt is washed way at the cross by the blood of Christ. As depicted in Pilgrims Progress, it is only at the cross the burden, weighing us down, can be lifted. Here our filthy rags are replaced with new clothes of righteousness and our heart, like Christian can bound in joy and sing:

"Thus far did I come laden with my sin,

Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,

Till I came hither. What a place is this!

Must here be the beginning of my bliss?

Must here the burden fall from off my back?

Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?

Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be

The Man that there was put to shame for me!"[4]

Happy is he who is safe in the arms of Jesus

A man in God's presence is happy evermore. Moses could ascribe happiness to the children of Israel when they stood before the Lord with their salvation from Egypt fully realised - Deuteronomy 33:29.

Happy are you, O Israel!
Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord,
The shield of your help
And the sword of your majesty!
Your enemies shall submit to you,
And you shall tread down their high places."

Deuteronomy 33:29 (NKJV)

Look at the verse before this one - Deuteronomy 33:38. Why could Moses declare Israel happy? Verse 28 says its because they are safe: "Israel shall dwell in safety". Where were they to dwell in safety - in the land of Canaan - a land chosen for them for a chosen people. They were safe physically - their wilderness journey was at an end and they were just about to take possession of the land. They were safe from their enemies. But also they had a refuge - the sole reason they were safe was because God had protected them each and every step of the way. The wilderness journey was of their making - their wickedness and left them in the wilderness, yet the grace of God was sufficient to carry them 40 years.

The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you (Deut 33:27)

You see, we have happiness because we are safe and secure in the arms of our Lord. As the hymn goes:

"Safe in the arms of Jesus
safe on His gentle breast,
there by His love protected,
gladly my soul shall rest.?

"Jesus. My heart's dear refuge,
Jesus has died for me:
Firm as the Rock of Ages
Ever my trust shall be."

This is the root of happiness. God certainly wanted us happy and He achieved this by ensuring we had a remedy for our sin. Our happiness is not in our doing - indeed we groan still because we are still in the flesh - all of creation groans, because Christ has not returned yet - our happiness is in the act of Christ himself.

Happy is he who obeys God

Where [there is] no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy [is] he. Proverbs 29:18

Un–happiness often stems from our disobedience of God. We kick against the pricks and it hurts. Gladness of heart is not fulfilled with disobedience to God. The guilty conscience only makes the heart miserable.

Our peace is from faith in Christ Jesus. And without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore, our soul should delight to do the will of God. We who have been saved, for whom Christ has suffered, delight to please Him, who loved us, unto the end of the world. David could write And I will delight myself in Your commandments, Which I love[5].

Happy is a man whom the Lord correcteth

The happiest children is the one being cared for, the one that is loved and directed. Strangely enough, the child with boundaries, that is, rules, is much happier than one without. The Christian delights in the ways of the Lord. Job could write;

Behold, happy [is] the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: Job 5:17

Only a fool rejects the correction of the Lord –

The wise in heart will receive commands, But a prating fool will fall. Proverbs 10:8 (NKJV)

It is a wise man that wants to depart from evil while the fool is confident of his own ways[6]. For it is a fool that despiseth his father's instruction[7], because a fool has no delight in understanding[8]. Hence, with obedience comes the acceptance of discipline. We will fail, and fall by the way side from time to time and we will be disciplined, by God. A wise heart will listen, learn and go on. The fool rejects this.

Happy [is] the man who is always reverent, But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity. (See also KJ) Proverbs 28:14

Happiness in our relationships

The word "happiness" is only mentioned once in the bible.

Deuteronomy 24:5 "When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.

This is in the days of arranged marriage, hence the man and his wife would learn to love each other, and bring gladness to each others life, during the first year of marriage. The King James uses the word cheer - he.shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken which is to literally make glad, or rejoice. The man brings happiness to his wife, that is, he brings cheer and gladness.

Note that the NIV renders a number of phrases happiness.

  • Job 7:7 "no more see good" is rendered "never see happiness"
  • In the other cases where various versions use joy or gladness, NIV uses happiness.

But in each case it conjures up the understanding of having a heart of joyfulness or gladness, in what one is doing. Hence, the heart of the wife is full of her love for her husband - full, overflowing and abundant - full of gladness. The gladness arises from acting upon another, who responds in kind - this is true love.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians does not write of happiness but joy.

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, Philippians 1:3–4 (NKJV).

What does he mean here.

Here he means exceeding joy, abundant joy, the delight and cheerfulness of a person who knows Christ, and knows that he is in Christ. Paul can pray to God concerning the Philippians with joy, knowing they were a saved people. Hence, the happiness Paul experiences is not one of the world but one of the power of the gospel. Paul uses the same word in verse 25 - to emphasise the delight in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because of God's blessings

We often fail to count our blessings. We live in one of the most idyllic situation on the face of this planet at this time. Our fortune to be in this country at this time is by the grace of God. We certainly don't always like the way things are progressing in this country, but this is expected, in the world run by wicked (see Psalm 2). We have abundant food, clean air and clean running water. We still have the freedom to associate, to pray together, to worship together, to read God's word together. If we are sick we can seek help, if joyful we can bring that joy to others. We can move where we like, buy what we like and eat what we like.

Like Leah we should be able to say "Happy am I".

And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher. Genesis 30:13

To any family with children, or grandchildren, we can surely utter the words of this psalmist:

Happy [is] the man who has his quiver full of them [children]; Psalms 127:5

Happiness is achieved through:

Just a few thoughts in continuing in happiness. The happiest day of ones life should be the day when you found the Lord. The day you repented of your sins, and realised the full weight of the saving grace of Christ Jesus, though faith. This is the beginning of eternal joy.

Working

One would expect to find happiness in doing nothing - the ultimate of all workers is to retire happily. Yet the Bible does not seem to indicate this, although retirement is mentioned - priests all retied at the age of 60 years, which was near the end of their life.

Read Psalm 128 and note verse two:

Psalms 128:2 When you eat the labour of your hands, You [shall be] happy, and [it shall be] well with you.

One of the greatest pleasures I have is growing vegetables. You labour with your hands, till the soil, put in the seed, water, weed and watch the miracle of life bring abundance. We are all to toil, that is work for the feed we eat, the shelter over our heads - it may not always be pleasant, but the psalmist is right in saying it shall be well with you.

Growing to maturity

A Christian will be happy in growing for Christ. Stagnation leads to a dull heart. Solomon could write:

Happy [is] the man [that] findeth wisdom, and the man [that] getteth understanding. Proverbs 3:13

Where do we find wisdom:

  • From the Lord (Proverbs 2:6) (The Lord giveth wisdom)
  • Fearing the Lord (Job 28:28)
  • Departing from evil (Job 28:28)
  • It is taught by the Lord (Proverbs 4:11)
  • It is not from self (Proverbs 23:4)

Helping others

This was found to be true for all. Surveys have found that the happiest people are those who help others. Indeed true religion, as James puts it is:

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. James 1:27 (NKJV)

The Psalmist puts it this way:

.. he who has mercy on the poor, happy [is] he. Proverbs 14:21

The love of giving needs to be part of our nature, that is giving with a cheerful heart. The Psalmist writes of this as being the tonic for health.

Being joyful

We are commanded to be joyful. Joyfulness is not just singing hymns and psalms. Our demeanour should be one of joy. Our responses and actions should be as one who is full of joy. As ambassadors of Christ, we display the exceeding joy of being saved, for this is one attribute that tells the unsaved that Christ lives in us. Indeed as the hymn writer put it:

"Jesus, the very thought of Thee, With sweetness fills my breast"[9].

It is the very thought of Jesus, that occupies our mind, the brings blessedness to our heart.

What about in suffering

Even in suffering our happiness abounds in Christ. For a non–Christian this is impossible to understand. For a Christian is arrises because we are outward looking people. Our focus is Christward. Peter sunk only when he look down from the face of Jesus onto the troubled waters he was walking upon. The path we tread can be as tremulous as Peters path, but we have the same Jesus to look at.

Now look at 2 Timothy 2:10–14 and in particular verse 12

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: 2 Timothy 2:12

This is the suffering of endurance. The suffering an athlete endues in training - the long hard grind, the pain of muscle and the agony of day after day of training. Some say, that unless the training actually hurts it is useless. I have just read a book about the men who first ran a mile in less than 4 minutes - Bannister, Landy and Santee. Each trained and trained and trained - each suffered the agony every time with the torture of pain: but each with one goal, being the first to beat the 4 minute mile.

We also have a race of endurance. Suffering is part of it. This is our road of suffering. We may also endue hardships - for my sake - as Jesus puts it, the road is not going to be easy - the Apostles knew it. Luke could write of the Apostles after they were beaten the fact they could rejoice:

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Acts 5:41 (NKJV)

This occurred after being beaten and told not to preach the name of Jesus. This of course they did not do, and the gospel spread far and wide because of it.

Paul could write of his suffering

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you. Colossians 1:24 (NKJV)

But it is the words of Jesus that tells us that suffering will happen - look at Matthew 24:9

"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. Matthew 24:9 (NKJV)

Nothing about the chief end of man being happy. We should rejoice because we are counted worthy to suffer for Christ. And how you ask can be do this - what is our strength? Our strength is Christ. Remember the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We need to listen to His councils. We need to abide in Him, every step of the race.

James puts it another way in James 5:11

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord..

The world is in turmoil, many frightening things are happening. A Christian knows this, and also knows that this is only the beginning. The time of Jacobs troubles will be far far worse. But understand Jesus' words in John 16:33

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

John 16:33 (NKJV)

The body can suffer many things, but our soul is safe. Nothing can snatch that away from Christ. We are safe in the arms of Jesus. This does not necessarily mean that our flesh will not safer. Indeed Jesus says that the flesh will safer by "my names sake". Why can we have peace in the time of tribulation. Because the prince of this world, Satan, has been overcome - he cannot touch your soul.

Be of good cheer

So our happiness rests on Christ. Its foundation is the work at the Cross. Its endurance is the hope we have. It is Christ that makes us happy. It is not of ourselves. Man's method is temporal, feeble and fraught with problems.

Our joy rests on knowing God, and having the hope of Jesus Christ risen.

"To me remains nor place, nor time:
My country is in every clime;
I can be calm and free from care
On any shore, since God is there.
While place we seek, or place we shun,
The soul finds happiness in none:
But with a God to guide our way,
"Tis equal joy to go or stay." (Spurgeon)

 

[1] In the King James version of the English translation of the Bible, Happy occurs 25 times, happiness once, gladness or being glad 144 times, of which 23 has to do with gladness of heart, and delight occurs in various forms 83 times.

[2] Charles Spurgeon, "God Promises You", Whitaker House, 1995, pg 37.

[3] Morning by Morning, Charles Spurgeon pg January 4th, Morning

[4] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress, The Third Stage.

[5] Psalm 119:47.

[6] Proverbs 14:16

[7] Proverbs 17:10

[8] Proverbs 18:2

[9] Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee

David L Simon, LGB (8 August 2004)
BeingChristian\Does God want man to be Happy.doc