We've heard it said, "God wants me to be happy." Is that #REALLY true?
For the last two weeks we’ve been working through a short series entitled “#Really?”.
We’re taking a close look at some of the random statements and slogans we often find repeated in the world around us, and we’re asking the question “#REALLY?”… Is this concept actually true?
We’re going to wrap up this Biblical-worldview series today. So, with that in mind, let me set the stage with a few examples:
Statements like these can be heard all the time. People make decisions every day, and often their decisions are based on what they perceive to be “best” for them, despite the consequences.
“God wants me to be happy.”
This week’s statement is: “God wants me to be happy.”
ASK: So, what do you think? #REALLY? Can we just do whatever we want to do, and expect that it’s okay because God wants us happy?
Let’s begin to answer that question by starting with Proverbs 16.
Most of the time, when someone makes the kinds of choices mentioned a few moments ago (ie: to leave a spouse, or to stop providing for their family), it’s because that decision seemed best in the moment.
After all, it’s human nature to make choices based on what seems best for us in a given situation. We do whatever is going to bring the most pleasure, or offer us the best return on investment, or simply meet our emotional needs and make us FEEL better.
There’s only one problem with human nature. It’s sinful, and broken.
Proverbs 16:25 (ESV) - There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
These kinds of sinful choices rationalize that even though they may not be great, “God wants us to be happy”, so he’ll kind of “be cool” and let things slide.
But that’s not what scripture says, is it?
We just read that the things that “seem right” to us apart from Christ, are things that ultimately lead to death. They lead to strained and even broken relationships. They lead to physical and emotional distress, and even medical issues. And, ultimately, they lead to separation from God, and punishment for sin.
Just because something is appealing, or seems like fun to us, does not make it morally right, or spiritually safe. We CANNOT find true and lasting CONTENTMENT by chasing after a self-centered agenda.
In fact, as we just read, seeking those self-centered things will, one way or another, lead to death.
However, that’s NOT what God wants for us. His desire is not that we would experience death, but LIFE.
One of the questions the message of scripture forces us to answer, is “In whom do we trust and serve?” Do we trust ourselves, and serve the desires of our flesh? Or do we trust in Jesus Christ, and serve God with JOY?
John 10:10 (ESV) - The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus came and lived a sinless death, something we could not do. He died on the cross, to take our place, and pay the debt of our sin. And on the third day, he rose again, conquering death.
He offers us LIFE. New and genuine life, through faith in Him. And not just a passive, just getting by, bummer of a life. But ABUNDANT life. Life with passion and zeal.
Life with JOY!
That’s good news! In fact, it’s THE Good News. The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And, let’s be honest, I’ve found great happiness in the Gospel…
But… Is that on purpose? Does God WANT us to be happy?
He wants us to have LIFE, but we still haven’t fully evaluated our statement to answer the question. And that phrase doesn’t appear in the Bible, so we still need to dig a little deeper to find our answer.
Actually, the words “happy” and “happiness” don’t appear in scripture very often. In my preparation for this message, I found THIRTEEN places in the Old Testament Hebrew where happy might be used, and NONE in the New Testament Greek.
That makes it a little harder to pin down, but I do believe there are quite a few verses that could shed some light on this for us.
Let’s look at the Psalms for a little while, and while we do so, let’s keep an eye out for some other related words, like desire and delight.
Psalm 20:4 (ESV) - May he grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans!
May the Lord grant your heart’s desires! That sounds pretty promising, right? I mean, it sounds to me like happiness… but it’s not a good practice to use one Biblical verse out of context to build a comprehensive view of something. Let’s look a little wider.
Psalm 37:4 (ESV) - Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Yes, God wants to grant the desires of your heart – but that happiness is conditional.
You must choose to DELIGHT in the Lord.
This puts a little bit of a different spin on it, doesn’t it?
In the series immediately before this one, we spent a little over a month going verse-by-verse through the Lord’s Prayer. The big take-away wasn’t to prove that we SHOULD pray (obviously), but rather it was to learn WHAT we should pray for.
We looked at each petition in the prayer, and learned directly from Christ’s example what kinds of things God desires for us – his people – to pray about.
The whole point was encouraging each of us to develop a Godly posture in our priorities, in our daily life, and in our time spent talking to God... To CARE about what God cares about.
That’s what delighting in the Lord is. It’s being intentional to find our satisfaction, our fulfillment, and our greatest happiness in the things of the Lord, not the things of this world.
When the desires of our heart are pointed towards the things of God, of course He is going to bless us! That’s not some kind of weird prosperity Gospel, or pagan hocus pocus. It’s simply a natural result of growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus!
We see this concept expanded further in Psalm 145:
Psalm 145:19 (ESV) - He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
This really starts to fill in the picture for us! God does fulfill the desires of the heart… but he does this for those who “fear” him.
God blesses His people. God blesses those who, BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST, stand in REVERENCE of Him.
He blesses those who seek to live faithful lives of OBEDIENCE and SERVICE.
As I think about what we’ve covered so far, I believe we’ve learned two big things:
No where did we see a specific verse that says God wants us to be happy, because there isn’t one.
But you know what? I think the answer to our question, emphatically, is that YES, HE DOES WANT US TO BE HAPPY.
I think he desires us to be so passionately focused in worshipping him, and being a blessing to other people, that we experience an immense sense of happiness and contentment.
This immense happiness goes far beyond the shallow and superficial happiness that we find in the world. It goes beyond our fleeting circumstances. The true happiness God wants for you can be yours even in the midst of life’s worst pains and sorrows.
Oh, by the way, this kind happiness has a different name in God’s Word. You might have heard me use it once or twice earlier in the message. The name for what God REALLY wants for us – beyond happiness –- is JOY.
In Galatians 5:22-23 (you don’t need to turn there), we learn that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It’s an evidence of a heart that has been transformed by the Gospel, and is growing more and more like Jesus each day.
The more we walk in obedience to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, the more joy will fill us.
However, in Romans 5, we also find JOY described as a verb – an ACTION – for God’s people to embrace and live out:
Romans 5:1-5 (ESV) - Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Rejoice literally means “to be joyful, or take delight in”. Isn’t that the exact command we’ve found in the passages we’ve looked at? We’re called to LIVE WITH JOY!
So, Brothers and Sisters in Christ: REJOICE in the hope we have in God! Rejoice in His work of redeeming sinners. Rejoice in His love and mercy. Rejoice in the grace He has given us. Rejoice in all the ways he provides for us, day by day.
And, even rejoice in suffering.
Now, maybe that seems odd. I don’t know about you, but I’m not HAPPY in the worldly way when illness comes. I’m not HAPPY when dear friends deploy overseas. I’m certainly not HAPPY when unexpected bills show up, and things get stretched...
But, even in these situations we can rejoice!
We can LIVE WITH JOY by faith in the person and work of Jesus. We can trust that our God is sovereign, in control of all things. And we can take pleasure in knowing that He is GOOD, and His desire is for our good as well.
So, does God want us to be happy? Absolutely.
Not as an excuse to rationalize things that are ungodly, but rather to bring Him Glory, and to experience deep joy in Him. God wants us to be happy, in a way that is so much richer than we often imagine.
With that in mind, my greatest desire this morning is that YOU would join me in making Habakkuk 3:17 YOUR sincere prayer:
Habakkuk 3:17 (ESV) - … I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
Rejoice! Live your life for His Glory, and experience a deep joy, which is far superior to the happiness of the world.
Take joy in Christ Jesus!