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Greg Laurie is the author of 12 inspirational books, which are available online.
Let me ask you a direct question: Are you a happy person?
You may have all the things a person ought to have to make them happy, yet you are not. Why is that? How could you have everything you believed would satisfy you, yet find yourself achingly empty inside?
The Bible has the answer, since it explains that there is a right and wrong way to find happiness.
There are two ways we can live in life: the right way or the wrong way. There are two paths we can take: the narrow way that leads to life, and the broad way that leads to destruction.
Jesus said there are two foundations you can build your life upon: the Rock or the sinking sand, and the result is we can either live the happy and holy way or the miserable and unholy way.
When most people think of that “narrow way,” the life of obedience to God, they foresee misery and restriction. The Christian life seems to be one of gloom and self-denial, and worst of all, of extreme boredom. No drinking, no smoking, no partying, no sex (at least outside of marriage) – no fun! Instead of a lifestyle of enjoyment, the narrow way involves “tedious” things like Bible studies, prayer, dull people, etc.
But is this what Jesus had in mind when He spoke about the narrow way? He once told a story about a boy who ran away from home as a picture of what happens when we run away from God (Luke 15:11–32). Here this boy took his father’s inheritance and ran off to indulge in all sorts of riotous living, attempting to find his happiness in the various pleasures this world can offer. After awhile, however, he ran out of money, and eventually sold himself into doing menial labor at the hand of a stranger. Coming to his senses one day, he decided he would return home with the hope that he would be taken back as a hired worker in his father’s house.
Have you ever noticed that the prodigal son found everything he was looking for in his father’s house? What did he look for in the “prodigal land” to make him happy? Apparently he found nice clothes, fine food, and parties. But what did his father give to him when he returned home? Nice clothes: “Bring out the best robe …”; fine food: “Bring out the fatted calf …”; and parties: “Let’s be merry!” Everything that he thought he wanted in life he ultimately found in his father’s house, and everything we want in life is found in our Heavenly Father’s house, too.
We often talk about what we give up to follow Christ, but what is it really? What sort of sacrifices are we talking about here? Addiction to drugs or alcohol or food? Hangovers? Guilt? Shame? Emptiness? Depression? Fear of death?
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ.” (Phil 3:8).
The word that we often see in the Bible translated as “blessed” actually means “happy” or “most fortunate” or even “highly praiseworthy.” We could say it means “happy, happy!” But how do we find this “happy, happy!” state that the Bible promises?
It’s really quite simple: We find our happiness by doing what God tells us to do! Listen to what the Bible says about finding the way to true happiness:
“Praise the LORD! Blessed (or “happy, happy!”) is the man who fears the LORD, who delights greatly in His commandments.” (Psalm 112:1).
Note that this says that the “happy” person “delights greatly in His commandments.” In other words, happiness is always connected to practical holiness.
That’s why the non-believer will never know true happiness, since it can only be understood and experienced in relation to knowing God and obeying His will. Sure, unbelievers will have their moments of temporary happiness, but these will be fleeting and short-lived – and will never ultimately satisfy the heart.
At best the devil only can offer you his cheap counterfeits for the real thing of God’s all-satisfying love. In fact, you’ll find that the most unhappy people are those who are living for temporary pleasures, but who are really being deceived into accepting a phony version of the abiding joy that can be theirs by knowing and obeying God.
Happiness, then, isn’t something that we should seek after as an end in itself, like looking for the next “buzz” on the road of life, but is a by-product of seeking and obeying God. As Christians we shouldn’t seek to be happy as much as we should seek to be holy. The right way to happiness is through obedience to God, and as we “fear the LORD and delight greatly in His commandments,” we will likewise find ourselves truly “blessed,” or “happy happy!”