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Happiness

Happiness

          An article appeared in the New York Times back in 2018 about Yale University's most popular class ever. That class was and is on happiness. Within a week of the course's enrollment opening, about 1,200 students had enrolled (that's more than one-fourth of the undergraduate body of students!). But why is it so popular? Because man desires to be happy. And it may come as a surprise to some, but God also wants His creation to be happy. This morning I want us to survey what the Bible teaches concerning happiness.

What Is Happiness?

Biblically happiness is in the same word family as happy, joy, blessed, jubilation, delight, etc. If you were to look up all the Scriptures that make some kind of reference to these emotions and their relations, you would find "more than 2,700 Scripture passages."[1] Let's look briefly at two of the most pertinent words, happiness, and joy.

  • Happy - Makarios (μακ?ριος, 3107), "blessed, happy." It is closely related to blessed.
    • 3107. μακ?ριος makari?s, mak-ar´-ee-os; a prol. form of the poet.  μ?καρ makar (mean. the same); supremely blest; by extension  fortunate, well off:— blessed, happy ( -ier).
  • Joy:
    • The Hebrew ???????? (simchah)—meaning "joy," "mirth," or "gladness" along with the closely related verbal adjective ??????? (sameach).
    • The Greek χαρ? (chara)—meaning "joy" or "gladness" and the closely related verbal form, χα?ρω (chair?), meaning "to rejoice or be glad."

Because our words are so closely linked to the word blessed, we want to include this word in our study.

    • Blessed:
      • ashre (??????, 835), "blessed; happy." Basically, this word connotes the state of "prosperity" or "happiness" that comes when a superior bestows his favor (blessing) on one.
      • makarizo (μακαρ?ζω, 3106), from a root, mak—, meaning "large, lengthy," found also in makros, "long," mekos, "length," hence denotes "to pronounce happy, blessed," Luke 1:48 and Jas. 5:11. See happy.

What do all these words and their definitions mean? First, as we have seen, the Bible does not make a big, if any, distinction between joy, happiness, or being blessed. They are all synonyms for each other. Second, because these words seem to all tie back to being blessed by God, we should conclude that being in a right relationship with Him (which would mean he blesses us) is the source of all true lasting happiness.

What Do the Scriptures Say About Happiness?

The Bible has a lot to say about our happiness. It shows us the path to true happiness. And, when we take the instructions of scripture seriously, it should produce within us truly happy lives.

Special note: Before we press any further, I want to make it clear that while the Bible teaches much about happiness, and it is my conviction that God does want us to be happy, this does not mean that our lives will be free from pain, trial, or tribulation.  Jesus said in John 16:33, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." We can also look at the prophet Jeremiah (i.e., the weeping prophet), who had much to be sorrowful over. Yet, this Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah 31:10, 12-13 how the nation's mourning would be turned into joy and God would give all the reason for them to rejoice and be glad again. This is all to say that happiness and sorrow can and often do exist side by side. So, let none of what we are about to cover negate that. Yes, Christians are to be happy people, but that does not mean sorrow and pain will ever be absent from our lives while here on earth.

  • Happiness is a command. Philippians 4:4
  • Happiness is not found outside of Christ. Hebrews 11:24-25
  • The purpose of Jesus' teaching was so that "My [Jesus] joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full" John 15:11.
  • This joy comes from a true knowledge of, relationship with, and contentment found only in and with God.
    •  When accompanied with contentment, Paul tells us that godliness is a great gain in this life 1 Timothy 6:6.
    • When we truly come to value Christ, no other joy or pleasure in this life will be able to compare to Him (Philippians 3:8).
  • Nehemiah told the exiles that the joy of the Lord is their strength (Nehemiah 8:10). That principle still rings true today.

How Can I Be Happier?

While this study on what the Bible teaches concerning happiness has been brief, I believe we have covered sufficient ground to say that happiness should be an expected norm for the Christian. But what if we are not experiencing true happiness in our lives? I want to offer four takeaways this morning to help us perhaps all experience true happiness in God.

  1. Joy/happiness comes from God - Joy and happiness are not found in stuff and things. It is not an it but a He. Our longing for happiness will not be satisfied until we are satisfied in God Himself. Solomon wrote at the end of Ecclesiastes 12:13, "The conclusion when all has been heard, is; fear God and keep His commandments because this applies to every person." This is after Solomon has preached to us about all the dead ends of life. Of all the empty promises of wealth, education, entertainment, etc. None of these things bring about happiness. Hence, he concludes with God, and an earlier point that he made should be brought up. While nothing outside of God can bring true lasting happiness, if we find our joy in God, we shall be given all these other things in proper proportion.
  2. Happiness is found in deep, meaningful relationships – The Harvard Happiness Study has been running since 1938. It is the longest continuous study on life and happiness. They found that the number one predictor and indicator of a long, healthy, and happy life was the number and quality of our relationships. From an article titled "Good Genes Are Nice, but Joy is Better," I read this,
    • "Researchers who have pored through data, including vast medical records and hundreds of in-person interviews and questionnaires, found a strong correlation between men's flourishing lives and their relationships with family, friends, and community. Several studies found that people's level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was a better predictor of physical health than their cholesterol levels were."[2]
  3. Happiness is increased by growing in our relationship with God. – True, lasting happiness is found only in God. The Psalmist says in Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart." The Good News Translations renders this as "Seek your happiness in the Lord…." Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 2:25, "For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?"

The Good News:

There is a reason why the Gospel is known as the good news of salvation. There is a reason why Paul in Romans 10:15 quotes Isaiah saying, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!" The Gospel is good news because it tells us of our helpless state, lost in sin, and it tells us of the solution to this problem Jesus Christ. Obeying the Gospel should be one of the most joyful, happy moments/events in a person's life. Hence when we read the conversion in the book of Acts, there is almost always a phrase like this (taken from the conversion of the Eunuch) in Acts 8:39 "… but went on his way rejoicing." Or, in the case of the Philippian Jailer, "…and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household" (Acts 16:34). They believed the good news that brings great joy to all people (Luke 2:10).

 

 

[1] Alcorn. Randy. Happiness. Tyndale House Publishers Inc. 2015. Pg.19

[2] Mineo, Liz. Good Genes Are Nice but Joy is Better. The Harvard Gazette Online. April 11, 2017. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/Date Accessed 7/31/2021

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