Do You Want To Be Happy?
If you were to ask 100 people if they want to be happy, I’d guess all would answer in the affirmative (even though I have met people that I think enjoy being unhappy). With that in mind, I find it strange then that some Christians seem to have the attitude that Christianity requires one to be unhappy. One has to “give up” worldly activities that many believe bring about happiness. As a result, many then take the approach that they’ll live it up like the world for a while and then when they’re older, settle down and follow God’s commands. This line of thinking is in direct conflict with what Jesus told His disciple in John 13:17 where He said, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (KJV).
What are these “things” Jesus said His disciples needed to know? In the context of John 13, Jesus had just finished illustrating an important point to His closest followers. He was quickly approaching the time of His death and it’s understandable that He wanted to make sure the apostles understood what they needed to know before He would leave them. He did not want to leave them unprepared. The apostles didn’t want Jesus to die and in some sense, still didn’t understand why Jesus had to die. In the midst of these circumstances, we see that Jesus took the time to prepare them for servitude. He taught them an important lesson on humility, a practical lesson of putting humility into practice. He washed their feet. A task that was normally carried out by slaves was performed by the master, the messiah, God in flesh.
Peter initially rebuked Jesus because he saw this as demeaning to the Lord, but Jesus responded, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me.” Jesus was making an important point – if one can learn the lesson of humility and servitude, one can be happy.
Even today, we need to understand how vital it is for us to know this same lesson. We must understand the truths God has revealed in his word. God has revealed His will for man in a manner in which it can be understood. God’s word is not subjective; it is eternal. It does not change. Our aim in life must be to strive to know God, and the only way we can do that is through spending time in His word.
In 2 Peter 1:3, we read “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”
Only through this true knowledge of Him, can we achieve the happiness Jesus told his apostles about.
But in John 13:17, Jesus doesn’t stop with only knowing these things. He said, “Happy are you if you do them.” The deepest level of knowledge one can have is when that knowledge changes us, when it deeply affects us. To use the language of Acts 2:37, when it pierces or cuts to the heart. Basically, this knowledge is the means to an end. Knowledge is the means and becoming more like Christ is the end.
I fear many get this concept confused sometimes. People can look at “going to church” as the end of things. Our elders have spoken to us about attendance, our evangelist has preached about this, but their emphasis in talking about this isn’t just to get people to show up. Our goal should be to have the word of God affect us deeply and bring about change in our lives. Our being together as a church family is one of the means by which we can and should accomplish this. So while we can’t achieve our end desire (life changed by God’s word) without the means (study, edification, etc.…), we need to make sure we don’t fool ourselves into thinking that the means (study, edification, etc.…) is the end.
So, do you want to be happy? Not temporary happiness, but an everlasting and eternal happiness like Jesus spoke about in John 13? If so, then my prayer for each of us is first to do everything in our power to know God, and then have that knowledge continually change us day by day to be a better reflection of Christ living in us. Let us live this out daily in our marriages, our family relationships, our workplaces, our Christian families, etc...
Happiness isn’t achieved by having everything go your way. I’ve heard it put this was, “ happiness isn’t having what you want, but wanting what you have.”