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I read about a couple in New York who had a radio broadcast called “The Pursuit of Happiness.” On the show, they would dispense their advice to callers on how to live happier lives. They encouraged people to think positively and trust their intuition. But ultimately, they were the ones who needed help because they died in an apparent double suicide last year. I thought it was so tragic and ironic that a couple who dispensed advice on how to be happy ended up taking their own lives.
I wished they could have known there is a God who loved them and could have given them the happiness they talked about and were pursuing. As the psalmist wrote, “Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!” (Psalm 144:15 NKJV)
Of course, there is a lot to be unhappy about these days. It seems as though every time we turn around, there is more bad news, from scandal in our government to threats against our national security to the continued threat of terrorism. Then there is the problem of natural disasters like hurricanes and forest fires. There are also personal problems we all face, such as the death of loved ones, an illness, or family issues.
The Bible talks about a very dark time in the history of another nation. Everything had gone wrong. Israel had sunk to the lowest of depths, and the Israelites’ king was powerless to help them. A massive famine had swept the land, and the people were starving to death. The Scriptures tell us they literally were eating dove dung. Some people were even turning to cannibalism.
Why had this calamity come upon the nation? It was because of their continued disobedience to God and their nonstop worship of false gods.
This is why the first two of the Ten Commandments deal with the worship of false gods. The first commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” while the second commandment forbids making carved images and worshiping them.
Now, some might think that seems awfully paranoid on God’s part. But consider this. If you are married, how would you feel if your spouse went out with someone different every night? Would you be OK with it? I don’t think so. You want your spouse to be faithful to you and vice versa. That is reasonable. And God wants us to be faithful to him. He has said, “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images” (Isaiah 42:8).
Worshiping another God obviously includes man-made images like physical idols, but it also can include anyone or anything that takes the place of God in your life. A lot of things can be a god to you. A person can be your god. A possession can be your god. Your own body can be your god. A career can be your god. Even a family can be your god when their priorities become more important than spiritual priorities like attending church. God says we are not to have other gods before him.
That is what America is doing. We have other gods before Him. We worship so many things except God.
In the early 20th century, G. K. Chesterton wrote almost prophetically, “You are free in our time to say that God does not exist; you are free to say that He exists and is evil. … You may talk of God as metaphor or mystification. … But if you speak of God as a fact, as a thing like a tiger, as a reason for changing one’s conduct, then the modern world will stop you somehow if it can. … It is now thought irreverent to be a believer.”
Great men and women of God who have been used throughout history to change the course of human events always stood up for what is true. William Wilberforce was one of those people. He was a parliamentarian who would have had a very successful career in politics had he pursued it. Instead he dedicated his life, after his conversion, to eradicating slavery in England. He succeeded in 1807, going against the status quo of the government of that time. His story stands as a reminder that government is not always right.
There is a place for government, but government is not going to solve all the problems we are facing in our country right now. We have to call on the name of the Lord. We have done our level best to remove God from our culture, from our courtrooms and from our classrooms, and we have sown the wind. The Bible warns that if we do that, we will reap the whirlwind. Make no mistake: What happened to ancient Israel could happen to the United States of America. As George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
We see the same, vicious cycles repeating themselves again and again: violent crime, a drug epidemic, babies born out of wedlock. … Meanwhile, we ignore what the Bible says. We insist it is antiquated. We claim it is irrelevant. Yet nothing is more relevant right now than what the Bible says. It has the answers if we would follow it. As David, the psalmist and king, wrote, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8).
Coming back to those dark days in Israel, things could not have been more bleak when God suddenly brought them some very good news. The prophet Elisha announced, “Listen to this message from the LORD! This is what the LORD says: By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, five quarts of choice flour will cost only one piece of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain will cost only one piece of silver” (2 Kings 7:1 NLT).
Israel had turned against God. There was a famine in the land. They were intimidated by their enemies. Yet Elisha promised that deliverance was indeed coming. And sure enough, things happened exactly as Elisha said they would. (You can read the story in 2 Kings 7.)
There is a spiritual solution for the problems in our country today, and there is a spiritual solution for the problems in your life, too. God has told us to call upon Him in our day of trouble. We need to believe the Word of God and then act on it. God has the answers we are looking for. He will give us the happiness and fulfillment we seek – and much more. Happiness is found in a relationship with God.