In the TV show Mad Men, advertising executive Don Draper said the secret to advertising is happiness. While I have never watched an episode of this show, I believe he’s on to something. Advertisers know that we want happiness, but what is happiness? The word Happy comes to us from the Old Norse word happ which meant “good luck” and was used in relation to chance/fortune. Happ referred to what was happening, and happiness was when you were “favored by luck or fortune…fortunate by a happy coincidence.” Therefore, the origin of the word is that a person’s happiness is dependent upon what is happening around him. Therefore, they would wish happiness on one another with the hope that they would have favorable circumstances.
Advertisers know that most people want to be happy and they want you to believe that the new iPhone 12 will make you happy. They want you to believe that the new Ford F-Series Super Duty will make you happy. Almost every commercial is based on the premise that you want to be happy and they can deliver happiness to you. It’s not just advertising. Self-help books and speakers make millions of dollars operating on the premise that you want to be happy and you can find it in just 3 (or 7 or 10) steps. One author has made a fortune writing the book The Guide to Being Glorious You. Nobody can top Tony Robbins with his influential book Unleashing the Giant Within. Did you know you had a giant within you just waiting to be unleashed? You can unleash this giant for just $13.94!
Amidst this worldly system, we have the Church. Sadly, many in the Church have become infected with this pursuit of happiness. One of the most popular Evangelical pastors has written books such as: Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential; Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day; It’s Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God’s Favor; You Can, You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner; The Power of I Am: Two Words That Will Change Your Life Today; Think Better, Live Better: A Victorious Life Begins in Your Mind; Next Level Thinking: 10 Powerful Thoughts for a Successful and Abundant Life. Sadly, so much of what we see around us (inside and outside the Church) is based on the premise that you want to be happy.
Wait, why would it be sad to learn that people want to be happy? Isn’t it good to be happy? While it is not bad to want to be happy, what is bad is the unrelenting pursuit of happiness to the detriment of your soul. What is dangerous is our pursuit of pleasure that we believe will bring us happiness. Remember the popular Christian pastor mentioned above? All those books are focused on having favorable circumstances that you make for yourself or you ask God to make for you. Happiness itself isn’t bad, but when you seek first happiness and favorable circumstances, you set yourself against God’s will for your life. Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” (Matt 6:33).
Joy is Greater than Happiness
Instead of pursuing happiness, receive joy. When the angel of the Lord announced to the shepherds that the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11) had been born, they proclaimed that this was “good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Christmas is a time of great joy because of the good news that Jesus has come into our world as fully God and fully man. Being fully God, Jesus is free from sin and under no penalty of death (Rom 6:23). Being fully man, Jesus offers Himself to die for mankind to pay the penalty for sin. Tim Keller puts it this way: “Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we deserved to die because of sin, so that God could accept us.” Being “accepted” means that God justifies us. He forgives us of our sin and allows His Spirit to dwell within us and change us.
Joy from Above
One important change within Christians is the ability to “rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks” (1 Thess 5:16-18) How can we do this? Christians can rejoice and give thanks in every situation because our joy is granted to us by Christ. No one and nothing can take your joy from you. Christ is the good shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11), who told His disciples “This is my body given for you” (Luke 22:19). The “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22) includes the attribute of joy. This is one of the spiritual blessings (Eph 1:3) granted to us by our merciful and loving God. Not only is our joy secure, but it has also been bestowed to us. Christ grants us joy to possess and we are not to relinquish it under any circumstances. The problem, however, is that we too often give it away. No one can take your joy, but you can choose to give it up when you allow situations and circumstances to produce anxiety and fear in you. Let us not forfeit what Christ has purchased for us at such a great price (1 Peter 1:19).
Joy that is Resilient
Christians can rejoice because our joy is resilient. The joy Christ gives endures through trials. This is because God intends for trials to produce spiritual maturity in our lives. Consider James 1:2-4: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” That which God uses to test your faith is designed to increase your faith. As your faith increases, your joy will increase. This is because trials, for a Christian, are not random or purposeless. Trials are meant to test your faith. Trials expose whether your faith is genuine. How can you know if your faith is genuine? What do you do when trials come? Do you run from God or to God? When your faith is proven genuine, the result is joy. Jesus gives His followers joy. Christians are not supposed to let anyone steal our joy but are to share our joy with all. We must not allow our joy to be extinguished but should be spreading it to everyone. If you are not a Christian, admit that you are sinner and repent of your sin. Believe that Jesus is God’s Son who died to bring forgiveness for your sin. Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Be freed from the bondage of sin and find true and lasting joy.
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