It is not hard to see that people want to be happy. But happiness is not easy to find.
The problem is we look in the wrong place. And our search for it yields little real fruit. But it does teach us a vital lesson. When we
try to make ourselves happy we often make others sad. The reason why is not hard to find. Misery always follows when our focus is on what we want.
Some turn to drink or drugs, hoping they will make them cheerful. But visit most courts or hospitals in the United Kingdom and you will find that the lives of many have been made miserable by drink or drugs. Many end up with a criminal record. Some find that their loved ones leave them. And others need long-term medical help.
So where is true happiness to be found? If it is not in drink or drugs, sex or sleaze, books or betting, hobbies or holidays, where can we find it?
History shows it is not found in doing what we want. That is what Adam and Eve, our first parents, found. What did Saul, the first king of Israel, find? When he stopped doing God’s will he lost a kingdom!
Happiness is found in doing God’s will. Joseph obeyed God. What followed? He became the second most important person in Egypt! He faced many difficulties. His brothers sold him to passing slave traders. He was falsely accused by his employer. And he was put in prison. But, God loved Him. God never stopped caring for him. And so he found happiness even in times of sadness. Is that not what you want?
Our search for happiness faces three obstacles, none of which we can conquer. We have no power to do God’s will in the future. We cannot keep God’s commands as God would have us keep them.
We have no way to make good our past breaches of God’s law. When we realise how God would have us live we begin to wake up to the fact that we have failed to obey him numerous times in the past. We stand guilty before him. And there is nothing we can do to wash away our guilt.
And we cannot overcome our natural contempt for God’s law. Some imagine their religion or claim to faith will suffice. They think that what they believe about God, along with the good they seek to do, shows they respect rather than hate God. But the reality is different. Before being made new by the Spirit of God, we do not want to love God with all our heart, soul and strength all of the time. Why don’t we? Because we want to do what we want, in our way and in our own time.
Does this mean there is no hope for us? No, it does not. There is hope. It is found in Jesus Christ. Who is he? And what do those who put their trust in him find?
To remove the first obstacle – our lack of ability to obey God’s law – Jesus Christ lived a life of perfect obedience. He did so for us. He did so in our place. Thus, when you put your trust in Christ, when you believe he lived the perfect life you can never live, and perfectly kept God’s commands, you are united to Christ. His perfection is reckoned as yours – for ever.
To remove the second obstacle – our inability to clear away the guilt that clings to us for breaking God’s law – Jesus Christ became a propitiation for us. That is, he suffered in full the punishment we deserve for our sins. He satisfied God’s justice. All who rely on him alone for acceptance with God find they are restored to the favour of God.
What do those who experience God’s favour enjoy? They are reconciled to God, to themselves and to each other. They have peace and joy. They have hope and the assurance of triumph in death. And, after death, they shall enjoy glory, honour and immortality!
To remove the third obstacle – our natural hostility to God – Jesus Christ makes us new. A fruit of the new birth is that believers experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God takes away our hearts of stone. He deals decisively with our inbred resistance to God. He puts in us the desire to obey God. We struggle with sin and our natural desires. But those made new in Christ long to please God in all that they think, say, and do.
And so we come to another very important question. If your experience of happiness is related to whether you obey God or not, how are you to obey God? Or put another way, what will help you do God’s will as it ought to be done. I mention the following.
We need to know God’s will. Knowledge is essential. How can you do it if you do not know it? How can you get it? There is only one sure way. It is through hearing God’s Word. God has spoken to mankind. And God has had recorded for our benefit what he has revealed. The record of his will for us is the Bible – all of it. We therefore make it our priority to hear God’s Word. We want to hear it read. We want to read it ourselves. And we want to hear it taught. Church meetings – that is meetings with other Christians – are a priority for believers. They do all they can to join with God’s people when they meet. And they make sure it is only an emergency or ill-health that keeps them away.
We need a humble heart. Pride is the fountain from which dis-obedience springs. Humility is essential. He who is humble and lowly acknowledges what he is before God. He is here to serve. He has been created for God. And he is restless, and unhappy, until he humbly submits to Christ and finds his rest in him.
We need to deny ourselves. The humble know that it is their delight to honour God and do his will. The next step is to deny yourself what you desire. You will never do God’s will without self-denial. Why is that the case? As Thomas Watson says, “His will and ours are like the wind and the tide when they are contrary: he wills one thing, we will another.”
We need God. We need to know his favour upon us. We need to know him giving us the strength to do what he wants.
Without him you can do nothing. It is not in your might or power that you will do God’s will. That is impossible. It is by the enabling power of his Spirit.
Yes, you are to obey God but you do so looking to him for strength. You pray for it and you do what God would have you do. You do so expecting to see him answer your prayer. Such a prayer is according to his will. It is a prayer to which God has added a promise. They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.
Happy indeed are those who know God. Happy are those who obey God. True happiness is found through knowing and loving God. It is a free gift that he lavishes upon those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
How happy are you?
George Curry 14 May 2017