A. What is happiness? What does it mean to be happy? Here are a few quotes on happiness to get us thinking:
1. “Whoever said money can't buy happiness didn't know where to shop” (Gertrude Stein).
2. “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go” (Oscar Wilde).
3. “It isn't necessary to be rich and famous to be happy. It's only necessary to be rich” (Alan Alda).
4. “Money can't buy you happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery” (Spike Milligan).
5. “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory” (Albert Schweitzer).
6. “Happiness is the interval between periods of unhappiness” (Don Marquis).
B. Happiness is a very important subject.
1. In our modern, American culture, happiness is paramount.
2. Happiness is even mentioned in our nation’s founding documents: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
C. So does God want us to be happy?
1. Is the pursuit of happiness a self-evident and unalienable right?
2. When people ask the question “Does God want us to be happy,” it is often posed in the form of a trick question.
a. Sometimes we see interviewers on TV try to get the person they are interviewing to answer the question with a simple “yes” or “no.”
b. But some questions, by nature of the question, or the way it is posed, cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
3. A classic trick question is, “Have you stopped beating your kids?”
a. If you say, “yes,” then you are admitting that you have been beating your kids and that now you have stopped.
b. If you say, “no,” then you are giving the impression that you’re still beating them.
4. So back to our question: Does God want us to be happy?
a. The answer is “yes” and “no.”
b. Does God want us to be happy? Yes, God wants us to be happy, but only happy in the way that He defines happiness, and only pursuing happiness in the ways that He permits and commands.
c. Does God want us to be happy? Not if the pursuit of happiness takes us into the realms of sin, which doesn’t lead to real happiness in the end.
D. Unfortunately, a brand of Christianity has become very popular.
1. It is called the “prosperity gospel” or “the health and wealth gospel.”
2. It is espoused by many TV preachers and it is found in many popular Christian books.
3. It is a message that feels very good. It seems right.
4. It says, “God has good things in store for you. God wants you to enjoy life and prosper in every way. Ultimately, God wants you to be happy.”
5. This is a very subtle and seductive ploy by Satan.
6. Satan takes a truth, or a partial truth and twists it and sucks us in and ultimately takes us away from God.
E. Truth is – God wants you to be happy, but real happiness is the result of being right with God.
1. Real happiness doesn’t come from only experiencing good and easy things.
2. Real happiness doesn’t come from getting everything I want.
3. But when that’s how Christianity is imagined and presented, then we are set up for disaster.
4. If we are told that if we just come to God, then He will bless us with everything we want.
a. That everything will work out and we will always be happy.
b. That because God wants you to be happy, God only has good things in store for you.
5. If we are told that and we buy into that mindset, then we have reduced God to a celestial Santa Claus.
a. We have reduced the God of the universe to a cosmic Coke machine.
b. We put our spiritual quarters in, say our little prayer, and choose what we want by pressing the button, and we expect God to deliver.
6. And if what we pray for doesn’t come out of the slot, then we blame God, because there’s something wrong if God wants me happy, and yet I’m not.
F. Another way I see this misunderstanding about “God wants me to be happy” employed by people is when what they are doing is obviously wrong, but they use “God wants me to be happy” to justify their sin.
1. A husband moves in with a woman who is not his wife, and justifies it saying, “She makes me happy, and God wants me to be happy.”
2. A parent neglects their child in pursuit of their career or their recreation, and justifies it saying, “But this makes me happy, and God wants me to be happy.”
3 A young adult is caught up in sexual activity with the girlfriend or boyfriend, and justifies it saying, “But I love them, and they make me happy, and God wants me to be happy.”
4. A big justification today for same sex relationships includes the reasoning, “They love each other, and make each other happy, so what could be wrong with that?”
G. So, saying that God wants me to be happy, and therefore that gives me an excuse to do whatever I think will make me happy, is just wrong and sinful.
1. Does God want me to be happy? Yes.
2. Does God allow me to determine what makes for happiness? No.
3. If I really care about whether God wants me to be happy, then I will care about what kind of happiness God wants for me.
H. There are a lot of things we think will make us happy, but in the end they don’t.
1. We think that things will make us happy.
2. We think that pleasure-seeking will make us happy.
3. We think that revenge will make us happy. Revenge is sweet, right?
4. But whatever happiness that might be brought by any of these things is only temporary.
a. New things get old.
b. Pleasure is momentary.
c. The euphoria of revenge fades as we realize how we lowered ourselves to destroy another.
I. God’s definition of happiness is so different from ours.
1. The happiness of God is not like the highly elusive emotion that we often chase.
2. The happiness of God is not grounded in physical and material things.
3. In the end, only the God who made us and knows us, can bring us to a place of happiness.
4. Psalm 68:3 reads, “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.”
J. The word “happy” is found at least 28 times in the Old Testament.
1. A survey of those texts where it is found reveals that happiness, as viewed by God, always has to do with spiritual things and spiritual attitudes.
2. Happiness involves service to God that embodies an eternal hope.
3. The common Hebrew term for happiness is frequently used as an interjection of elation, like: “oh, the blessedness of,” or “How happy, truly happy is he…”
4. Here are some examples:
a. “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 144:15).
b. “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God (Ps. 146:5).
c. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding (Pr. 3:13).
d. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2).
K. In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis observed that it is a futile exercise to seek happiness apart from God.
1. Man has been designed to find his purpose, indeed his happiness, only in his Creator.
2. In fact, Lewis insists, “God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”
L. In the New Testament, the Greek word makarios occurs at least 50 times and conveys the idea of happiness - it is usually rendered “blessed.
1. William Barclay, the Scottish commentator, has provided a most interesting study of this word.
2. He says that makarios “describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all chances and the changes of life.”
3. By way of contrast, mere human “happiness” reveals its own character.
a. The first part of the word “hap” suggests “chance.”
b. Happiness, as we commonly use the term, is that which depends upon the variations of life.
c. Happiness changes with one’s circumstances; today one may be happy, but tomorrow the one may be sad.
4. The happiness that God gives is a blessedness that is more than happiness.
5. The happiness that God gives is an underlying joy that is an anchor and is not based on circumstances.
6. True happiness lies in being content in God’s plan for our life.
M. This leads us to the apostle Paul and to our Scripture reading for today.
1. The book of Philippians, is a letter of Paul which was written from prison by a prisoner awaiting his sentence.
2. Paul tells his brothers and sisters at Philippi the secret of his happiness.
3. He says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
4. As we all can imagine, prison is not the kind of place that would bring most people happiness.
a. There is nothing happy about being in prison.
b. Yet, here we see that Paul was rejoicing even in the midst of this difficult circumstance.
5. How could he? What was his secret?
b. Paul found contentment in God’s purpose for him.
6. Back in Philippians chapter one, Paul told them about his purpose.
1. Paul was called by God to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.
2. In that calling, Paul found strength and joy, and peace and contentment even in his difficult circumstances.
3. That’s why Paul could write: Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly (Phil. 1:12-14).
N. Like Paul, our joy and happiness should be grounded in our relationship with God and God’s purpose in our lives.
1. We can, like Paul, trust that God is doing a work in us for His Glory.
2. We can trust that every situation is known by God and is accomplishing something in us or through us.
3. That’s why the New Testament tells us numerous times that we should rejoice in suffering.
a. Romans 5:3-4, Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
b. James 1:2-4, Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
O. Let’s look at a few other things the Bible says bring happiness which most people probably don’t have on their lists of how to be happy.
1. First of all, the Bible says that happiness comes from giving rather than getting.
a. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
b. Why would giving lead to happiness?
1. By giving we free ourselves from the hold of materialism.
2. By giving we help those who are in need.
3. By giving we become more like Jesus.
c. All these things fill us with lasting joy.
2. Second, the Bible says that happiness comes from appreciating what we have.
a. Paul wrote, “Godliness with contentment is great gain…but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Tim. 6:6, 8).
b. Solomon wrote: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (Eccl. 2:24-25).
c. Greed causes us to want more and more, but contentment allows us to enjoy what we already have.
d. When we thank God for life’s simple pleasures and blessings, we stop focusing on what we don’t have and find happiness in the things we do have.
e. So one of the secrets to happiness is not getting more, but in learning to really appreciate and find contentment in what we already have.
3. Third, the Bible says that happiness is found in receiving God’s grace.
a. David wrote: Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him (Ps. 32:1-2).
b. What greater joy could there be than to know that God loves us and has forgiven us?!
4. Finally, the Bible says that happiness is found in our future hope.
a. Proverbs 10:28 says, “The prospect of the righteous is joy.”
b. Romans 12:12 says, “Be joyful in hope…”
c. Paul says, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17).
d. One of the joys of Christianity is that we know the end of the story.
e. We know that Jesus will return and take us to heaven to be with Him forever.
f. That hope can fill us with joy even in the midst of the struggles and hardships of this life.
P. It has been said that Happiness consists of three things: 1. Something to love, 2. Something to do, and, 3. Something to hope for.
1. For the Christian: God is the One he loves, God’s service is the something he has to do, and God’s approval and eternal companionship the what he hopes for.
2. This is real happiness.
Q. Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher, said: happiness is not in ourselves but in God. There are, indeed, by-streams of happiness, such as affection for others and from others, doing good to others, doing creative work, entertaining hope for the future, sitting in the sunlight of pleasant memories of the past. But these are only by-springs. The real fountain and source of happiness is a state of life and soul that is right with God, and, therefore, right with man.
R. Patrick Henry, the distinguished statesman from Virginia, was a well-to-do man.
1. Before he died, he left a will in which he bequeathed all of his material wealth to his children.
2. Mr. Henry concluded his will with these thought provoking words: “There is one more thing I wish I could leave you all – the salvation of Jesus Christ. With this, though you had nothing else, you could be happy. Without this, though you had all things, you could never be happy.”
S. Does God want us to be happy?
1. Yes, He does.
2. But God doesn’t want us to seek the phony, fleeting happiness of the world.
3. Rather God wants us to experience true happiness that is a lasting joy that only God can give.
4. Real happiness comes from being right with God.
5. Any other kind of happiness is not real happiness, but is only a temporary substitute.
6. “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Ps. 144:15)
T. The happiness God gives can only be experienced as we have a committed, meaningful relationship with God.
1. It is the result of truly loving, trusting and serving God.
God Wants You Happy, Sermon by Craig Groeshel, SermonCentral.com
God Wants Me to be Happy, www.doorofhope.org
Does God Want Me Happy? By Carlton Matthews, http://blog.gods-man.com
God Wants Me To Be Happy, By Wayne Jackson, www.christiancourier.com
Does God want us to be happy? By Peggy Horton, www.wvgazette.com
But God Wants Me to be Happy!! By Warren Berkley, www.bible.ca