So, You Want To Be Happy?

It is becoming more and more common to hear from a self-declared Christian, “I deserve to be happy”, or “I believe God wants me to be happy”. At first glance, either proposition sounds plausible. Why wouldn’t you want to be happy and why wouldn’t God want you to be happy?

A simple test for anyone who is serious about his or her relationship with God should be this one. For me to be “happy” must I engage in activities God forbids? An honest answer to that question should be the end of the story. A serious disciple of Jesus would immediately realize the foolishness of pleasing self instead of the Savior.

Christian counselors regularly are confronted with situations like this. A person will come in for counsel, a supposed Christian, and say something like this.

I believe it is God’s will for me to divorce my wife and marry another woman I have met because I’m not happy. I believe God wants me to be happy and she will make me happy.

Isn’t it incredible that a grown man would become so twisted in his reasoning that he comes to the place that he believes it’s OK to break any of God’s laws necessary so that he can be “happy”? Over and over deceived men and women fall into the trap of living to please themselves instead of living to please God. The Bible calls this living to please the “flesh”. The human body has built into it appetites for food and drink, sexual fulfillment, wanting things someone else has, and the approval of others. All of these natural desires must be restrained to some degree or the creature will self destruct.

People who give in completely to their desire for food and drink often fill early graves because over eating and drinking can kill you. People who do not control their desire for other people’s stuff go to jail for stealing, and those who don’t control their sexual appetite become sexual deviants who allow their unrealistic sexual desires which leads them to ruin.

God wants you to be Holy, not Happy

It is those who actively and on purpose deny self who find peace, joy, and maybe even happiness. Over and over the Scriptures warn people of faith to live to please God and not ourselves. God’s unique design for humans includes the best way to live our lives under his Lordship. In the Bible there are rules and principals about eating, drinking alcohol, how we treat our neighbors, about sexual expression, and other disciplines, that if followed, will lead to a life full of peace, joy, and hope.

Jesus came into the world  and lived a perfect life, died for our sins, and was raised from the dead, precisely because if left to our own devices, everyone of us will self destruct by living full throttle to please our base desires. Jesus came to save us, to make us righteous, to make us a holy people, a people for his name. A bonus of living a Christ centered life is His people are usually the happiest, most fulfilled people anywhere.

Pay day someday

Please, don’t be deceived. God’s law of sowing and reaping is just as sure as the law of gravity. If you jump off a tall building you will pay the consequences. And, if you live for your base desires you will reap a whirlwind. Don’t be stuck on stupid. Submit your life to God and try to do things his way. It’s the only way to live in peace.


What does God want from you?

In my world, here in the Bible belt, a Christian is a moral man who takes his family to Sunday School every week. He says a prayer of thanks before meals, even in a busy restaurant. He gives 10% off the top, serves on committees at church, and is overall a good man.

He might drive a current year model SUV with a nav system and a back up camera, or he might drive a 20-year-old Mercury with a tattered KJV Bible on the dash and a Honk if you love Jesus bumper sticker on the back.

He might be Baptist, Church of God, Catholic, or Pentecostal Holiness. For the most part, his brand is incidental. It usually only differentiates him from others like him on Sunday for several minutes. Oh, by the way, this generic Christian is taught by his spiritual mentors to avoid sinners. And he is taught that good people go to heaven and bad people don’t. Be careful that you avoid strong drink, look at a beautiful woman with only a quick glance, be honest in your business dealings, and don’t miss church.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the one where hurting people are waiting to be loved, there is a remnant of Christians who are different. Yes, they do fit the template described above, but they also are bigger than the template, or much smaller. They are learning discipline, becoming disciples of Jesus, becoming familiar with the cross. They are saying NO to self interests in order to serve others. They are not as interested in what the folks in the church community think about them as the first group. They are loving sinful, ungodly people, on purpose. They are engaging the world about them with acts of kindness, sacrifice, and unconditional love. They are world changers.

There is a watching and waiting world assessing those who are self-described Christians. They are somewhat able to sort out those who know about Jesus from those who actually know Jesus. Even when they are treated badly they keep on loving, they only ignore harsh words or crass humor at their expense. They are not imitating Jesus, they are living His life day by day. They are salt and light. They are content with whatever life, or lifestyle, God gives. They are faith followers of Jesus.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. (Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23)

Deny himself? A cross? Lord I prefer a bumper sticker, or a sign of the fish emblem, or a Bible on my dash. I do pray in public you know. Deny himself? Oh, you didn’t mean that literally did you? ….Really? A cross? What does that mean? I have this prolonged illness… People at work don’t like me because I am not a drinker and don’t appreciate their filthy talk. That’s what you mean, right?

Those who want to save their lives must lose them. The way up is down in the Kingdom of God. Deny self means put other’s interests ahead of your own. And, a cross is never more nor less than an instrument of death. The cross of Jesus is a daily reminder that I must live as a dead man. That is I must live as one who is dead to bigger barns, fat bank accounts, personal recognition, and all the trappings of worldly success.

What does God want from you? The answer is quite simple. Surrender. That’s right, just give up. Stop trying to act like a Christian. Stop trying to imitate Jesus. Put self in the dust and allow the Holy Spirit to live the life of Jesus out of you to others. Love wins every time. Love them and tell them. Don’t promote you, or your brand of church, just give them Jesus and his story. And keep loving in His stead for His glory.

It all works out when He comes. Life isn’t fair, but He is.



I wonder….?


I wonder…how did Christians make it, and flourish, for hundreds of years without

  • cell phones
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • email
  • computers
  • Christian books
  • Bibles
  • commentaries
  • Sunday school materials
  • cars
  • Christian colleges and universities
  • church buildings
  • missionary societies
  • preacher training schools
  • youth ministers

Well, as you can imagine, the list could be very, very long.

Long before the printed page, (mid 1400’s the first Bible was printed) and even before most of the New Testament was written, the church was doing just fine. There were a few copies of the law and the prophets available but not to the average person. Even for several years after the printing press turned out the first Bible, God’s word was not widely distributed for several years.

I wonder….if we had the Internet, phone connections, and all of our printed material suddenly vanish, would we be able to continue ministry? Now, before you waste good comment space, I am not against any of the above things, I am all for all of them. What I am doing is raising the question, Do we rely too heavily upon everything else at the expense of the most important? I wonder….

Paul’s prayers for the churches he wrote to bounce about in my head. Phrases like “..asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,  fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God“. He desired that the believers “grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus“. And, after listing his remarkable credentials, he told the Philippians “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith”.

The primitive plea of churches of Christ (and other Restoration Movement church’s) and the ideal today is to restore the sort of Christianity we read about in the New Testament. And yet, we largely rely on how we do what we do on Sunday morning, and how well we do it, as the calling card of who we are to a watching world.

Knowing Christ is different than knowing about Him. Am I…, are we getting to know Him? Are we witness, or are we going on hear-say?

To become a “disciple” requires “discipline”. Getting in the Word until it gets into me, making myself pray as I ought, saying and seeing only what He approves, and caring like He cares about others is not learned easily. But it must be learned if we will follow Jesus. Will we do it? Will Ido it? I wonder…