The Shocking Secret of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness?

Christian Help

By Grantley Morris


True Happiness

Some modern Bible versions translate “blessed” as happy. It is a far richer concept than implied by “happy” but let’s use it for a moment. Jesus said, happy are the poor, the grieving, the meek, the persecuted . . . In other words: the secret of happiness is vastly different to what almost everyone thinks.

For Jesus, the pursuit of earthly happiness is itself an alien concept. For him, you haven’t found anything to live for until you have found something to die for.

    Matthew 16:25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

So many of us think “the good life” consists of ease, pleasure and affluence, whereas for God, the good life is all about being good.

The pursuit of happiness is as hollow and pathetic as making drug-induced highs your reason for living.

The Bible makes a stupendous claim. Expressed poetically, here it is:

    Isaiah 55:1-2 Come, all you who are thirsty . . . and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

In plain English: Your supernatural Creator can satisfy in a way that nothing else has a chance of achieving.

But there’s a catch. Here’s a few picturesque ways the Bible words it:

    Joshua 24:15  . . . choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . .

    1 John 2:15  . . . If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

    Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. . . .

Our real god, said C. S. Lewis, is whatever our minds drift to whenever we have nothing in particular to think about. The most critical thing in the universe is that we love the true God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Whatever in our lives fills that place is our god. Whatever is in practical reality the love of our life – our greatest passion – is our god. Our god is whatever we look to for fun, happiness, security, fulfillment. There is only room for one in that position. We cannot serve both God and money (Luke 16:13) or God and pleasure or God popularity and or God and “success” or God and . . .

Here’s another way of identifying who your god really is: who do you look to as your most significant source of security? Who do you honestly regard as your most reliable provider of safety and provision of your physical and emotional needs: God, or a combination of the government, your marriage partner, your current source of income and your doctor? In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to look to God daily for the provision of our everyday needs. Do we do this, or deep down do we feel our financial provision comes from our business or employer? What makes us feel safe: locks, law enforcement, or God?

We are not to pursue love, peace, fulfillment, or anything other than God himself. We must willingly sacrifice everything – comfort, success, marriage, children, our very lives – for him.

    Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.

God is not someone to be tacked on to a full life. He does not allow us that option. God must be our life or he is not our God and no matter what we achieve in his name, at the end of the day he’ll be forced to say, “Depart from me, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).

We will never get away with using God as our means of getting the love of our lives – whether that be money, ease, happiness, security, health, sex, romance, popularity, or whatever. No! He must be the love of our life. And if he isn’t, then whatever we substitute for him will let us down – badly. Of those whose “god is their stomach” (their sensual desires) Philippians 3:19 says “their destiny is destruction.”

Whereas Jesus told us to store up our treasure in heaven, we want our treasure on earth plus basic fire insurance.

To enjoy supernatural contentment takes both an act of God and our cooperation. If a content, drug-free person is to remain that way, he must refuse to let himself experiment with drugs. Otherwise, he will soon find himself enslaved. Ironically, for a drug addict to be freed from the degrading, life-controlling craving he must initially resolve to endure far more craving than he would otherwise suffer – the craving of withdrawal. What is true for drugs is just as true for selfish ambition, greed, pride, willfulness, seeking popularity, love of pleasure, ease, and so on. God longs to miraculously satisfy us but for this to happen we must get serious about giving up all the things we feel drawn to.

For us to experience true contentment we must be willing to embrace – at least temporarily – deprivation and torment for the glory of God. We must deny ourselves. To save our lives we must lose them. We are either a slave to sin, or a slave to God (Romans 6:22). To reign with Christ we must be willing to suffer with Christ. To have treasure in heaven we must sacrifice treasure on earth.

    2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The apostle Paul said that he had learnt to be content (Philippians 4:12). God not only offers us supernatural contentment, he expects us to play an active role in it, just as God not only promises power over temptation but expects us to actively resist temptation.

For us to investigate this further the simplest way God has provided is to look at the Old Testament. The Bible’s record of God’s judgments in Old Testament times, insists the New Testament, is divinely provided as a warning for us who live in the New Testament era.

    1 Corinthians 10:1,5-11 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud . . . Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were . . . We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did – and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. (Emphasis mine).

    Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us . . .

The Bible is filled with the disastrous consequences of people who refused to be satisfied with their divinely assigned lot in life.

Adam and Eve refused to be content with Paradise and being able to eat from every tree but one. They were not even content to be human. They wanted be “like God,” even though they were warned that it would kill them.

Though supernaturally fed by manna, the Children of Israel refused to be content with it but claimed they had been better off as slaves in Egypt (Numbers 11:3-6,18-20).

Levites had access to holy things that were denied other Israelites, but not content with this, some tried to claim the priesthood for themselves and in so doing incurred God’s wrath (Numbers 16:8-11,31-33).

Not content with God as their king, the Israelites wanted a human king like other nations (1 Samuel 8:5-8).

David and Solomon were unwilling to settle for even multiple wives; they had to have forbidden women. In David’s case, it was a married woman (2 Samuel 12:8-10). For his son, it was pagan women (1 Kings 11:1-6). His predecessor, Saul was not content to be anointed king, he wanted to usurp Samuel’s priestly authority and by so doing lost the privilege of heading a royal dynasty (1 Samuel 13:8-14). Near the end of his life, he was not content with God’s refusal to speak to him and he consulted a witch.

Kings, in particular, fell for this because power turned them into spoilt brats. To grow accustomed to always getting whatever one wants is spiritually dangerous.

King Asa was not content with having the Lord of host as his ally, he turned to political alliances for protection (2 Chronicles 16:7-9).

Uzziah was a good king, and yet we read:

    2 Chronicles 26:16 But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. (Full Story).

Even though divinely blessed with royal power, he grew discontented with his station in life and tried to seize powers reserved for priests. He was stuck down with leprosy and remained afflicted until his dying day.

As true as the above is, there is another side that I dare not neglect to mention, lest I knowingly distort divine revelation or leave you with a wrong impression: we must not let ourselves be content with less than God’s best.

Though God had promised Abraham a miracle baby, the man famous for his faith wanted to settle for Ishmael.

    Genesis 17:17-18 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

Moses before the burning bush was called to lofty things but he, too, wanted to settle for less.

Upon entering the promised land, the Israelites incurred God’s displeasure time and again by being content with only partial victory. Spiritually, we see the same thing in our own lives and often find ourselves content to live in partial defeat or moving in less of the power of God than he wants for us.

Jesus repeatedly pleaded that we seek so that we might find and ask in order that we might have. It was those who sought him and asked for healing who received it. Even when obviously sick people asked for Jesus’ help, he did not automatically heal them, but queried whether it was healing that they sought. Even for the basic necessities of life, Jesus told us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” not just assume that we will automatically end up with all that God wants us to have.

At first, the fact that there are things we must not be content with seems a confusing contradiction to what we have found in the rest of the Bible, but it isn’t. In the list of biblical examples of, what is involved is not self-centered ambition, but the glory of God; not an entanglement with the rat race of the world, but basic needs.

In both lists, we see the importance of dying to self and fully complying with God’s call on one’s life. Sometimes that calling can seem frustratingly restrictive and sometimes it can seem terrifyingly enormous, but God’s call upon our life is always stamped with the mind-bogging wisdom and love of our Infinite Lord. There is ultimately nothing more secure, exciting and fulfilling.

Continued: Worldliness: The Forgotten Element in Spiritual Warfare

© 2008, Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at  Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.

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True Happiness