The Christian And Happiness
The desire for happiness is universal. Every normal human being is zealous in pursuing those things which, in his judgment, bring happiness. He is equally zealous in shunning the things which might produce unhappiness.
When one says "I want to be happy," what does he mean? There are several factors which are thought to promote "happiness" in the temporal realm. First is the possession of things, and the ability to satisfy the desire for more things, to some degree. Second, happiness is thought to demand a sense of "belonging," socially: an established niche in an established society. Third, happiness consists in financial security: comparative freedom from economic stress or concern. Finally, happiness, to many, is the freedom to satisfy every fleshly appetite, with no restraint — for restraint might result in the "unhappiness" of frustration. These general expressions of the composition of happiness would, for the many, fully and satisfactorily define the term, as they have no conception of any other form of happiness.
The Christian, while recognizing the right to a controlled pursuit of these things, should be primarily concerned with the happiness which can be enjoyed by one who has been "raised together with Christ" and is thus determined to "seek the things that are above"; to have his mind set "on the things that are above, not on the things which are upon the earth." (Col. 3:1, 2) He knows that the scriptures promise to the faithful Christian happiness from God, and he knows the dependability of the promises of God. (2 Pet. 3:9) The happiness from God may not be that which worldly judgment could term happiness. It may be, in fact, that which the world would describe as unhappiness, or misery, judging only by the physical or visible aspects of the case, as the world must. It is the kind of happiness which would prompt Paul to say, though in prison, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content." (Phil 4:11)
The word which is occasionally translated "happy" is, in the majority of instances, translated "blessed." In Matthew 5:3-11 Jesus of Nazareth described that man as "happy," "favored" or "blessed" who mourned, who hungered and thirsted, who was persecuted, who was the object of reproach (cf. also 1 Pet. 4:14), who was, even, the target of evil speaking. It may be objected that some of these things were not in the realm of the material, and this is true — but happiness, as the world understands and uses the term, does not comprehend any adversity; anything that might disturb the well-ordered, tranquil existence worldly happiness can provide disturbs all happiness, for worldly judgment knows no other.
The happiness for which the Christian is to earnestly seek and with which he is to be primarily concerned is that which is attendant upon faithful service to the Lord: "If ye know these things, blessed (happy, P.S.F) are ye if ye do them." (John 13:17) "But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed (happy) in his doing." (James 1:25)
The apostles found occasion to be happy, to rejoice, in physical pain and indignity, when this was suffered for the cause of Christ: "....and when they had called the apostles unto them, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. They therefore departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name. And every day, in the temple and at home, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus as the Christ." (Acts 5:40-42) These passages, with numerous others, show that the Christian's standard of "happiness' is obviously not the same as that of the person who is not a Christian. They further serve to warn the Christian of the folly, the soul-destructive danger of being led by the yardstick of the world, in his pursuit of happiness.
If mankind - if Christians, even - were as powerfully spurred to achieve the eternal, incorruptible happiness as they are to gain the happiness the world offers, imagine the difference, in the world as well as in the Church. Today, rather than counting the material as of no significance to obtain heavenly happiness, as did the early Christians (Acts 2:44 46; 4:32; Heb. 11:13-16), certainly those of the world, and sadly some Christians despise the heavenly by worshipping the earthly. This we find to be present in matters concerning the Church, also. Church members become "unhappy" with the rest of the congregation, or specifically with the preacher, the Bible-class teachers, or the song-leader; someone is guilty of some real or (more often) imagined slight, or has failed to perform according to the wishes of the disgruntled member; so, having apparently no concern for the doctrine being taught or the practices of his new "church-home," brother or sister Disgruntled goes elsewhere: to be "happy." A preacher becomes "unhappy" with where he is, or what he is doing: the people are indifferent, the results are not what he would have them (he might do well to examine and believe Isaiah 55:8-11 and 1 Cor. 3:6); so, he changes his location, or his vocation — or both: to be "happy." He quits. To achieve "happiness" for himself, his loved ones, happiness which cannot be achieved while he devotes himself to the preaching of the Word, with the attendant uncertainties and privations of that life, he quits. He turns to that which gives more certainty, more stability, more of the things which make, as the world judges, for "happiness." By what measure of "happiness" does the disgruntled church-member or the dissatisfied preacher make this decision? The judgment of the world, or that judgment which is overly influenced by the worldly, regards preaching the gospel, or enduring privation and persecution in this life on behalf of the gospel, as foolishness. "Happiness," so far as the world is concerned consists in here and now. For the child of God, happiness is to "live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world; looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:12, 13) The pressure of the world strongly inclines us to seek first the pleasures of the world, the comfort that worldly things offer; but James said that lasting, true happiness consists in resisting this pressure: "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been approved he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him." (James 1:12)
The Christian properly enjoys the happiness which the world has to offer, when it can be achieved by means consistent with his calling; but he should seek "first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall he added unto you." (Matthew 6:33) "These things" has reference to those things necessary to physical life, as set forth in verse 31. What is the happiness which should motivate the child of God? "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Jehovah his God." (Psalm 146:5)
— Box 6531, Corpus Christi, Texas