Summary: To be like God is to be happy.
Many years ago I was teaching an adult Sunday school class. Though I don’t recall the text or lesson, I remember a person and the statement she made. This woman was the mother of two teenage daughters, and her husband occasionally attended church. She said she wished you could be saved again, and proceeded to describe the joy she felt when she first met Christ. Her longing was to recover the happiness she had experienced at salvation. I’m sure every Christian in that class knew what she meant.
I’ve been listening to, and reading, the book entitled “Happiness” by Randy Alcorn. He has written several biblically based bestseller books, and this may be his best, certainly his longest in that it exceeds four hundred pages. He spent three years researching and writing, and I’m convinced he is right about what the Bible teaches on happiness in the life of a believer. I recommend the book and I will be drawing from it as I speak on the topic of happiness for three Sundays.
Alcorn says, “The desire for happiness isn’t, as many misrepresent it, the child of modern self-obsession. The thirst for happiness is deeply embedded both in God’s Word and in every human culture.” Blaise Pascal was a mathematician, inventor, scientist, philosopher, and writer who, as a teenager, developed the forerunner to the calculator. He said,
“All men seek happiness. This is without exception.” He went on to say, “Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.”
Pascal said that even those who commit suicide are actually seeking happiness—or to be relieved of unhappiness; that is how strong this desire is within us.
If this desire for happiness is so deeply embedded in human nature that we see it pursued in all cultures over the course of all of human history, then who planted it in the human heart? If God is fundamentally a happy God, then wouldn’t we expect Him to make us desire, and have the capacity for, happiness? Wouldn’t we expect any attitude or action that deviated from the nature of God to lead to unhappiness? So, to increase our happiness, we must discover what God is like, live like that, and we will know a growing joy and happiness.
For three Sundays we are going to discuss why we should be happy, how changing our perspective leads to happiness, and the habits of happiness. Today’s message is foundational as we ask, “Why should we be happy?” The answer is simple: To be like God is to be happy. We know the Bible says in Leviticus 11:44, “Be holy because I am holy.” We know that applies to love and peace. We are to love because, as we see in 1 John 4:8, the fundamental nature of our God is love. Jesus told his disciples in John 14:27 He was giving them His peace not the peace of this world. So, if the Bible teaches that God is happy, then His followers are to be happy.
Alcorn’s book has an entire section on the Bible revealing that God is happy. For our purposes this morning, I want us to see one passage which clearly reveals the joy and happiness of God.
Luke 15 is comprised of three parables all addressing the Pharisees’ complaint that Jesus was accepting people termed “sinners”. Either by lifestyle choice or vocation these people were ritually unclean to worship God in the temple. The religious leaders were confused and offended that Jesus accepted and loved these people. The basic answer Jesus gives in these parables is that the Pharisees reveal they did not really know what God is like. God loves sinners, and it causes Him great joy when sinners are saved.
Luke 15 says:
All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Him. (2) And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!"
(3) So He told them this parable: (4) "What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? (5) When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, (6) and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!' (7) I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don't need repentance.