Summary: Happiness is the product of practicing certain disciplines that make us like Christ.
Series: Be Happy
Title: Happiness Through…
Text: Psalm 103
Truth: Happiness is the product of practicing certain disciplines that make us like Christ.
Aim: To encourage the church to practice these disciplines to experience God’s happiness.
Ruth Graham, the wife of evangelist Billy Graham, told the story of Alexander Grigolia, a brilliant but unhappy immigrant to the United States from Soviet Georgia. He was struck by the demeanor of the man who shined his shoes. One day, looking down at this man who worked cheerfully and enthusiastically, and considering his own misery, Grigolia asked, “Why are you always so happy?”
Surprised, the man said, “Jesus. He loves me. He died so God could forgive me my badness. He makes me happy.”
Grigolia said nothing in response but could not escape those simple words. Eventually he came to faith in Christ, became a college professor, and had a strong influence on his students, one being future evangelist Billy Graham. We could not imagine the impact that one shoeshine man, happy in Jesus, has had for the kingdom of God.
There’s a wealth of truth in the shoeshine man’s response to being happy. He found the true source of happiness—Jesus. The man believed he was loved by God and forgiven of sin. For this he was grateful. This brings me to the third message on happiness.
Previously I’ve said the Bible teaches that God is a happy God and we’re called to be godly. Therefore the followers of the true God are to be happy. Next we talked about the reality of the power to choose. Abraham Lincoln was right: we are as happy as we choose to be. At no time have I said it is easy or quick, but it is possible with the power of the Holy Spirit. Today I want to talk about the means through which we can become happy followers of the joyful God.
I thought about pointing to the Bible’s teaching on basic spiritual practices which connect us to God: Bible study, prayer, regular church attendance, witnessing, etc. The joy of the Lord is impossible if we are not finding our way into God’s presence through these basic spiritual disciplines; it starts there. But there are other spiritual disciplines that are important, too. Happiness is the result of practicing the spiritual disciplines of truthful self-talk, forgiveness, and gratitude.
I. HAPPINESS THROUGH TRUTHFUL SELF-TALK (PSALM 103:1-2)
The Great Commandment in Matthew 22:37 says we are to love God with our heart, soul, MIND, and strength. Our spiritual lives and intellectual lives are not separate. With estimates of 10,000 thoughts passing through the human brain each day, 70,000 thoughts per week, and 3.65 million peryear, of course our thoughts have a powerful influence on our happiness. Jesus knew the power of the mind. He insisted that what you are on the inside is what you become on the outside.
The Bible is filled with examples of good, godly, and truthful self-talk and sinful and destructive self-talk. An example is found in Psalm 103 which says, (1)My soul, praise the LORD, and all that is within me, praise His holy name. (2) My soul, praise the LORD, and do not forget all His benefits.”
The entire psalm is a conversation the psalmist had with himself. He was advising and urging himself to believe certain truths and act on those truths. It is an example of truthful self-talk. This is a spiritual discipline that results in happiness.
Six times in the opening and closing verses the psalmist encouraged and instructed himself to worship God. He concluded his conversation with himself in v. 22 by saying, “My soul, praise the LORD.”
Self-talk is frequent in the Psalms. In Psalms 42 and 43 the psalmist asked himself why he was depressed. In Psalms 62 and 116 he instructed himself to rest in the Lord. In Psalm 146:7 he encouraged himself to praise God. The Bible assumes we have the capacity to argue with ourselves and stir ourselves to fulfill our obligations.
The word “praise” speaks of a bodily action. John Goldingay says it implies kneeling before God, and the phrase “all that is within me” specifically speaks of the inner man of mind, will, and emotions. Why was the psalmist calling upon himself to get on his knees physically and bow his mind, will, and emotion? He reminded himself who he was worshiping—the LORD. The psalmist used the name of God which refers to the great promise-keeping God who rescued the Israelites from slavery, dwelt in their presence, and would one day bring them a Messiah who removes forever the curse of sin. This is no localized deity of the hills or valleys. Their God is the God of the universe! This is the truth that filled his thoughts.
But that was not the end of his exhorting himself to worship God. He called himself to reflect on the “benefits” of how God had dealt with His people. We are sinners: He is the holy God. What would you expect to be the response of a holy God toward sinners? Judgment, condemnation, and punishment are what you would expect a sinner to receive from a holy God. The psalmist would go on to speak to himself of God’s amazing, massive, incomprehensible forgiveness. But the benefits are just getting started when we think of God’s forgiveness of our sin. There is His presence, power, provision, protection, and promise of eternal restoration. This is what filled this man’s mind and stirred him to say to himself, “Get on your knees, man, and praise God!” This kind of truthful self-talk had made him a happy, rejoicing man.