Summary: The pursuit of happiness is a western deception that even takes Christians captive. As followers of Christ, we are in the pursuit of holiness; to glorify God by becoming what he means for us to be. Holiness is the wonderful opportunity of grace.
Ro 8:22-23 - 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (NIV)
One of the most important things in life is perspective. It is very difficult to make the right choices with the wrong perspective. Prisons are full of people who have broken the law simply because they grew up seeing the world through the wrong set of lenses. The bible is mostly about giving a person the right information so that they can choose from the right frame of mind. I believe one of the best things I can do for anyone is to correct their perspective so that they will see things correctly. Then, unbound by confusion, ignorance, or deception, they can think clearly giving them the best opportunity to do what is right. This sermon is a perspective sermon.
Are you happy? It’s an odd question isn’t it? It is a yes/no question, but one that you can’t answer with a simple yes or no. There’s more to it than just being happy or not. The reality is, you are always happy and yet you can always be happier. Even when you are sad, you could always be sadder meaning that some amount of happiness still exists in your life. So we measure happiness in levels. And how we measure it is entirely up to us. Rich people can be sad that they are not rich enough. Poor people can be happy that they are not as poor as some. How happy we are is probably determined by how happy we have been in the past and how happy we imagine we could be. Add to that our perspective. Some people are not only “half-empty” people but they would complain if they were only 10% empty. Some people are thrilled when they are 10% full. As for me, I am happy. But, I have been happier and I could be happier still.
Our culture is all about happiness. Even in a recession, we are so fortunate that not only do we have a lot of opportunities for pleasure; we have come to expect it. Happiness is not a luxury for us, but an expectation. We feel cheated when we are not happy. In fact, I would venture to say that we feel victimized if we are not happy. This is the perspective of our society. We feel we have a right to happiness. When hard times hit we shake our fist at God and cry, “why?” When things are good, you never hear that question though it is just as fair to ask it then.
I wonder, is it good to be so well off that happiness is assumed? A good portion of the world never considers happiness. They are too busy trying to survive. They consider themselves well off because they have access to good water, even if it IS a two hour walk away. We can’t imagine such an existence. We just can’t imagine it. Now, I certainly wouldn’t suggest that a high level of suffering is better than a high level of ease but I wonder if both aren’t equal in their potential for damage to the soul.
What interests me on this subject is that God not only allows suffering, but causes some of it. Hebrews 12:7 says that we are to endure hardship as discipline from God. For the Christian, not only is he allowing hardship, he is causing some of it. Doesn’t this seem odd when heaven is advertised in the Revelation as a place with no pain? If God is about joy, why make us suffer? Doesn’t he want us to be happy?
2. Not happy, not yet
I believe the answer is yes, but not yet. The purpose in life on earth is not happiness. We can have happiness, we can enjoy, we can find pleasure, but none of that is WHY we are here. God’s agenda for us ON EARTH is not happiness, but holiness. Not just to be holy, but to be made holy.
1 Pe 1:16 – 16...“Be holy, because I am holy.” (NIV)
The correct translation is as the Revised Standard puts it, “you shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Holiness means to be God’s and in being God’s to be as God intends you to be. God is exactly as he should be. He is the best he can be. And from that position, everything he does is good. This is what he intends for us. To become as we should be, to become the best we can be. And from that position to do good.