Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. Thank-you for joining us and for those of you watching online it’s wonderful to have you with us. This morning, we’re beginning part one of a brand-new series called “The Bible Doesn’t Say That” and we’re going to consider some beliefs that many people have that they think are actually from the Bible but aren’t. The first one we’re going to look at, one that’s very popular in America, is that God wants you to be happy.
Now, I would love to be able to tell you with all sincerity that God wants you to be happy, but I can’t. And you know, even our children believe that when you buy them that Happy Meal, that you’re not just buying them French fries, a cheeseburger, and a toy, but that you’re buying them happiness. The media has convinced them that they have this little McDonald’s shaped vacuum in their hearts, never to be satisfied with anything, but that Happy Meal.
And as adults, we don’t really get any smarter, but our Happy Meals just get more expensive, right? You know, I wonder, considering the last Happy Meal you bought, how long that happiness lasted? You see, no matter how hard we try, or how much we spend, as long as we live with a Happy Meal mentality happiness will elude us.
But the problem is, that as a society, we’ve bought into the lie that the greatest desire of God for us is that we would be happy. For that matter, I could even quote Scripture trying to convince you that this is true. You know, like Psalms chapter 68 tells us,
“May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful…” (Psalms 68:3).
And yet, this is one of the biggest mistakes that we make about God. We believe that above all else, that God’s greatest priority is to make us happy, and once we believe that, it’s a slippery slope down the road of theological misconceptions, because it permeates so much of what we think and feel about God. Once we accept the idea that God wants everyone to be happy, we live life thinking that happiness must be just around the corner, it’s just a few dollars away, a new relationship away, or one achievement away. And so, as you go through life hoping, waiting, and accumulating these things, you still find that you’re not quite able to achieve the happiness you sought.
Madonna has made quite an example of herself with her self-indulgent behavior and yet in an interview she was asked if she was happy and her response was, “I don’t even know anyone who is happy.”
An entire episode of Frasier was built around his brother Niles asking the question, “Are you happy?” Now, of course, it took Frasier 28 minutes and two commercial breaks before he could finally say with reservation, “Yes, in the grand scheme of things, I guess you could say that I’m happy.”
Theologically speaking, the misconception that God wants you to be happy naturally leads you to think that whatever makes you happy must be right and whatever makes you unhappy must be wrong. We start to believe that every discomfort, delay, inconvenience or obstacle can’t possibly be God’s will. And it’s so subtle, but suddenly we’re forced to believe that God exists to serve us rather than us existing to serve him.
We reduce our God and Savior, the Creator of the universe, to nothing more than a genie in a bottle, where we can call, beckon, and even demand a response in Jesus name. And it’s like, we reduce our relationship to a kind of formula where, “I prayed, went to church, put some money in the offering plate, and therefore, when I ask, my headache should go away, I should get that job, that promotion, or that relationship in Jesus name.
And yet, all that kind of theology does is leave us disillusioned with God. The greatest tragedy being, that many people end up walking away from God because they were looking for the wrong things, and their expectations were unrealistic. They tried God, they tried going to church, and didn’t make them any happier. You know, they read the Bible for a while and they still have cancer. They prayed and their kids are still in rebellion. They gave to the church and they’re still not any better off financially.
And so, if you believe that God exists to make you happy, and you’re not happy, it forces you to believe that God is powerless or even worse to deny his existence. But the good news is, number one, that God doesn’t want you to be happy.
Now I say that very carefully, because I do believe that God takes great delight in your happiness. Just as any parent takes great delight in seeing their children happy and full of joy. It’s the same way with God, when you’re happy it brings him great joy, but your happiness is not his highest priority. You see, God wants you to pursue him and not happiness. God wants you to pursue him, not for what you can get, but for who he is and for him alone. And so, God doesn’t want you to be happy if it’ll cause you to do something wrong, something stupid, or something sinful.
Honestly, you see this all the time, because people do something that they believe is going to make them happy, they’re going to enjoy this, even though they know it’s wrong. The Bible reminds us that Moses,
“Chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time” (Hebrews 11:25).
And so, it may be fun for a little while, it may seem to be good, but the Bible tells us in Proverbs,
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 16:25).
When we believe that God wants us to be happy above all else, we end up making poor choices in the pursuit of happiness. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of people getting a divorce because they weren’t happy anymore. And yet having officiated weddings and done a lot of premarital counseling I know that I’ve mentioned the marriage covenant, that it’s a holy covenant, it’s eternal, and it’s for better or for worse, till death do you part. It was never about happiness, but it was always about a covenant, an agreement before God. And so, for better or for worse, it’s all part of the deal, it’s part of marriage, and God’s highest calling is not your happiness.
For example, the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Jesus, who “for the joy set before him” in heaven and not on earth, “endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). And yet, if we believe that God wants us to be happy, that idea, that theology actually empowers us to do what’s wrong and to justify it in our minds, but God never says to do something wrong. He says to “share in (Christ’s) sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17). But in our minds, we find ourselves enticed to do things that are wrong or unwise, because we think it would make us happy.
For example, if you look at that delicious cake and you want it, not just a piece, but you want the whole cake, because it would make you happy. Or maybe you feel like your spouse isn’t meeting your needs and so you’re just going to look at this stuff, you’re going to go in pursuit of this relationship or that, because you think that it’ll make you happier. Or maybe it’s your job, you’ve got three kids, you really need a job, but it would just make you so happy to quit and tell your boss “Take this job and shove it.” But you can’t justify doing something stupid just because it makes you happy. And I could go on and on talking about our personal entertainment, premarital sex, and so much more, but I’ll just tell you that God says, “Be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15).
And so, sin is sin, wrong is wrong, and just because it makes you happy for a short period of time doesn’t make it right. God calls us to a higher standard, as followers of Jesus Christ, He doesn’t want you to be happy when it’s based on the things of this world, because they are temporal and passing away. In fact, the Bible says this in first John,
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
And yet, if you watch advertising on television it’s just amazing the things that they’ll tell you that you need to be happy. You know, newer, faster, shinier, bigger, better, more thrilling, plus the perfect relationship. And if it’s not right, then you just trade up for someone different, newer, or younger. Or you go for the perfect appearance; you tuck it, lift it, slim it, shave it, or whatever. The problem is, that all of these things are temporal, they’re things of the world, they’re counterfeits, and that’s why no one is really happy all the time. And it’s for that reason, that your happiness isn’t God’s first priority, because your happiness causes you to do the wrong thing, unwise things, or to find joy in created things instead of the Creator. Therefore, God doesn’t want you to be happy…as much as God wants you to be blessed.
You see, God wants something far better than your happiness. One thing the Bible makes very clear is that God wants you to live a blessed life. A good life. Even a great life. You see this all through the Bible, from beginning to end, God wants you to be blessed. He wants you to be supremely blessed, he wants you to be more than happy!
Recently I was reading in Isaiah and came across one of those passages that when you read it you think, “Wow, that’s just what I want. That’s what I need.” You know, it’s like “Where do I sign up?” And yet the problem is that most of us think the blessed life means more money, perfect health, and a beautiful family, but that’s not what the blessed life is. To know and to experience the blessed life is to enjoy the presence, the power, and the goodness of God in the middle of whatever joys, challenges, or difficulties you walk through in this life. To be blessed doesn’t mean that you won’t have a bad day, it doesn’t mean that your kids aren’t going to fight, and it doesn’t mean that your car won’t break down. These things happen, and therefore the blessing of God is not dependent upon or conditional to the perfect blemish free life. God never promised that to anyone.
As a matter of fact, if you want a promise from God, here is what Jesus said,
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
There are some of you here who need to hear this, because you’ve been struggling and you’ve been wondering where the blessing is, but just because you’re blessed doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have any difficulties, that you’re not going to feel weak, or that there’s not going to be any storms in your life. You know, one time the disciples were traveling in a boat with Jesus when suddenly,
“A furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm” (Matthew 8:24-26).
You see, in the middle of the storm you’re facing right now, you could be blessed, but the problem is that we have this false expectation of this perfect pain-free life. And so, if God doesn’t meet our expectations we start to blame him, when the reality is that there are going to be storms in life, because we live in a sinful and broken world. But it’s in that place, in the middle of that storm, that God wants to be active, that he wants to be the blessing in the difficulties and challenges of your life.
Some of you today, are in the middle of a storm, but you can be blessed. In a split second, the Bible tells us that a supernatural peace can move in your heart,
“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
And that’s what Jesus was attempting to show his disciples: that you can rest assured, that you can be confident in Christ, that no matter how furious the storm rages around you, that you can know the peace of God which transcends all understanding. You can trust him even though you’re in the middle of a storm, even though you’re in the middle of a great trial, and even though you may not feel like you have what it takes to continue; you can press on, persevering, and rejoicing in the presence of God. Because you’re blessed, there’s this joy that rises up from deep inside you.
The Bible tells us in James chapter 1,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3).
The apostle Paul affirms this in his letter to the Romans saying,
“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:2-5).
That’s the blessing of God, to walk through life with God, being conformed to the image of Christ, walking with him more faithfully, knowing him more intimately, and experiencing the goodness of God in a way that you wouldn’t have on a good day. God want you to be blessed as you seek first the kingdom of God, as you pursue Him, as you make Him the object of your affection, because you’re not pursuing happiness, but you’re pursuing the presence of God.
David said it this way in Psalm chapter 37,
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalms 37:4).
In other words, as we delight ourselves in the Lord, we enjoy the presence of God, he’s the object of our affection, and we’re not pursuing happiness, because we’re pursuing him. As we’re seeking his kingdom, God gives us his desires, and his desires become our desires. We’re enjoying God, we’re delighting in him, and we’re in this place spiritually, positionally enjoying the blessing of God, because the Bible tells us that we are being,
“Conformed to the likeness of his Son…” (Romans 8:29).
Suddenly we find ourselves living a very blessed life, it’s not a perfect life, it’s not without its challenges, but the blessing of God is better than happiness, it’s an inexpressible and glorious joy. The Bible tells us this in first Peter,
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).
The blessed life is knowing his peace. It’s his strength when we’re weak, it’s his super meeting our natural, it’s his power and his presence carrying us, it’s this which we were created for. And nothing in this world can satisfy us, because we weren’t created for this world, we were created for Him. The Bible tells us this in Colossians,
“All things were created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).
In Ephesians it says, that we were,
“Created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
You see, we weren’t created to find happiness or satisfaction in this world. All that we can see and touch is a counterfeit. There’s no lasting joy in that new car, that new house, or that new job. There’s no joy in that new relationship, but there’s something that offers so much more, and that’s the life that’s completely submitted to God. You were created to glorify the God of the universe and to serve him and him alone.
When you understand your purpose and you recognize that your life, “Is a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
When you understand and recognize that, it forces you to lower your expectations of this world, and suddenly you’ll find yourself delighting in the Lord like never before.
You know, in the beginning, I shared with you a Scripture to support the idea that God wants you to be happy; but I didn’t give you the next verse which ties this all together. Psalms chapter 68 verse three and four tells us,
“May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds — his name is the Lord — and rejoice before him” (Psalms 68:3-4).
You see, happiness is possible, but it’s never going to be found in the things of the things of this world. Happiness is only found in the Lord as we rejoice before Him, singing praise to his name, and extolling Him who rides on the clouds. You see, that’s just so much deeper than happiness, it’s blessings, it’s inexpressible joy, it’s peace, it’s power, it’s his presence. God wants you to be blessed. God wants you to be more than just happy. He wants you tapping into his goodness, so that no matter what you’re facing, that you’ll trust him knowing that in all things He is working for the good of those who love him, who’ve been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
June 04, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.