What makes you happy? Being with friends? Eating your favourite food? Watching a good movie? The theme of happiness dominates our society. Do whatever you like, when you like, where you like! If anyone gets in your way, then you can rain on that person’s parade for getting in your way. How dare they stop you from being happy? But, what about when God draws the line in the sand?
There is a higher priority than being just being happy. I like to be happy, I love it when my sports teams win and don’t like it when they lose. However, whether they win or lose, or whether I get to eat my favourite flavour of ice cream is irrelevant to God’s goals for my life. This is where the proverbial ‘rub’ comes in life. Many people, including some who profess faith in Christ, have not discerned between God’s measurement of contentment and our desire to just be happy. We often miss the point.
God’s priority is character development by which we grow to reflect His own. He takes us from being self-centered people who are all about the good time and moulds us into people who are all about Him. The apostle Paul talks about this in his first letter to the Corinthians. Specifically, he deals with the cultural right that people had to make themselves happy by eating meat that had just been offered as a sacrifice to a pagan idol. “Just look at that meat, it is almost talking to us, “Eat me! I am delicious barbecued!” But Paul says there is a greater priority than enjoying a tasty steak. The thing that was more important was that some people’s conscience would not allow them to eat that meat. So if you put yourself first and not think about that person, you would actually be sinning against Christ! These younger Christians had not yet come to the place of a proper understanding that the idol was nothing and therefore they could be free to eat the meat. Paul’s point was that their Christian lives were not about making themselves happy!There was and is a greater goal.
This ‘right’ we think we have to be happy extends to the local church too. The unity of the body is a principle that Paul, and other New Testament authors, wrote about a lot. A person who seeks to develop godly character puts the local church as her goals over their own personal comfort. If the music is not exactly my type but God is being exalted, Praise God! If the Pastor was a little too long or too personal or too boring, or if someone sat in their spot, people who are trying to grow spiritually to develop godly character respond in a way that would edify the whole church. Our consumer mentality to be happy seems to be unaffected by the fact that God calls us to be united in Christ, to serve one another, care for one another, and love one another. Local church leaders love to lead people whose goal it is to have godly character as their number one goal in life. That is contagious and the whole body catches it! Local church leaders also must be growing in godly character as well lest they speak in ways that are less than helpful.
The goal for the Christian life is to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind and each other likewise. When we adopt those qualities of being like Christ, happiness becomes a by-product of living for God. I can’t get passed the fact that the majority of the Disciples that Jesus called to serve Him and His people had their lives ended at the hands of those who sought to extinguish their message from the planet. We in the Western world know very little about that kind of suffering. But the one characteristic of each of those followers of Christ who gave up their lives for their Lord was joy! Joy is the state of being content with life and with what God has given. Paul said, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
There is joy in serving Jesus, the joy of growing to be all that he has designed us to be, and no fleeting circumstance could ever match that! For the Christian true happiness and contentment are found when we follow Jesus with ALL of our being.
Thanks for taking the time to read the blog! I welcome your response. God bless you!