The Pursuit of Happiness

What’s your main goal in life? Is it happiness? If it is, you’re not alone. The forefathers of our nation thought it important enough to pen it into our Declaration of Independence as one of man’s inalienable rights. But as Christians, we’re called to live by a higher standard, the Holy Bible; God’s word and principles should be the driving force of our lives.

Image result for free images of the PuritansThe Puritans were the first Christian sect to settle on America’s northeastern shores, namely Massachusetts. A God-fearing bunch of men and women who left their British homeland to escape the tyrannical church of England, and its oppressive laws which strangled true, biblical religion. The Puritans held to the fundamental teachings of the Bible. They believed and taught men to live by the words of God, and to pursue holiness more so than happiness. Not that happiness is wrong – Jesus loves people and wants them to be happy in the sense of finding fulfillment and satisfaction in their lives. But his brand of happiness is the result of godliness, holiness, and virtuous living, which is different from the world’s kind of happiness which depends wholly upon external, material well-being.

Of course, men don’t need an excuse, or encouragement, to pursue what comes naturally to them. By nature men tend to be self-centered which is not what God would have them be, nor what He created them to be. Selfishness is one of the disastrous results of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Contrariwise, God is completely devoid of selfishness, and desires His unique creation, man, to be like Him in every respect. He created man in “his own likeness” the Bible tells us. That likeness has been tarnished however through sin and one reason Jesus came to earth, was to restore mankind back to his original image and glory.

Happiness shouldn’t be our main goal in life, and if it is, we’ll find much misery in pursuing it. The truth is, the more you chase it, the faster it flees from you. It’s like trying to capture a butterfly in flight – you keep reaching for it but it manages to escape you. No, the quickest way to happiness is to pursue something far better. God, who gave His only Son Jesus, to be crucified on a cross in order to restore mankind, has much to say about what our goals in life should be. In His Sermon on the Mount of Olives, He gave instructions on how to be ‘blessed.’ We enter a state of blessedness by loving and serving God and our fellow man without looking for rewards; that’s when happiness finds us! Someone has said, “Virtue is its own reward.” Jesus taught —

Mat 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Mat 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Mat 5:6 Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Mat 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Mat 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Mat 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.
Mat 5:10 Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:11 Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Mat 5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.

‘blessed’ – (G3107 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 the chances and the changes of life. The English word happiness gives its own case away. It contains the root hap which means chance. Human happiness is something which is dependent on the chances and the changes of life, something which life may give and which life may also destroy. The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable. “No one,” said Jesus, “will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22). The beatitudes speak of that joy which seeks us through our pain, that joy which sorrow and loss, and pain and grief, are powerless to touch, that joy which shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away.

The world can win its joys, and the world can equally well lose its joys. A change in fortune, a collapse in health, the failure of a plan, the disappointment of an ambition, even a change in the weather, can take away the fickle joy the world can give. But the Christian has the serene and untouchable joy which comes from walking forever in the company and in the presence of Jesus Christ. – William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible.

Jesus taught his followers to follow his example in every way, even to laying down their lives for one another! (1 Jn 3:16) How putting others first rubs against our natural inclination, our flesh cringes at the thought! The difference between the natural man and a child of God is the indwelling Holy Spirit who enables one to truly love God, and his neighbor as himself. Some might object saying there have been many philanthropists who did great things for the betterment of mankind and did so without espousing any faith and without having any religious impetus. True, but the motivations, known only to God, may or may not have been selfless. Usually there’s some self-gain involved in the natural man’s giving, be it notoriety, tax credits, etc.  Many help others expecting the favor to be returned; ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’

Only God sees the true motive for every deed done, and only he can purify our hearts so that we do what we do for the right reasons. Our motivation for giving shouldn’t be to get something in return, be it recognition or some other type of compensation. Our motivation in all that we think, say, and do, should be to glorify God. When we live solely for His glory we find true and lasting happiness, the biblical term is joy. Joy is far superior to happiness in that it’s not dependent upon anything outside of ourselves, whereas happiness totally depends upon things going the way we want them to. Joy resides in the heart of a person living in obedience to God’s word, and nothing external can take it away!

April 22, 2015