HOW ARE CHRISTIANS HAPPY
By Dan Goddard
Happiness is a lifestyle. It can not be purchased or earned, nor does it exist in a place to which one may travel. Happiness is a perspective—we may be happy or sad in every aspect of life.
Joseph was sold, by his brothers, into slavery and eventually purchased by Potiphar. Joseph was put in charge of his master’s house and suffered sexual harassment from Potiphar’s wife. When Joseph would not consent to her advancements, he was framed and subsequently thrown into prison. Having been put in charge of all the prisoners, Joseph came upon the butler and baker and asked: “Why do you look so sad today?” (Genesis 40:7).
Although this story may sound like a present-day soap opera, we learn that Joseph was the type of person to make the best of every situation. One may conclude that Joseph had sufficiently dealt with his imprisonment to live happily. This is demonstrated by his concern and care for the butler and baker to inquire into their sadness.
Why do you suppose Joseph could maintain his dignity in prison? Why was he of the state of mind to care for the emotional wellness of others while he was apparently oppressed? Why did he have a perspective on life of relative happiness at least to recognize that the butler and baker were sad? Let me suggest that the answer is revealed in Joseph’s gracious and forgiving attitude toward his brothers. After the death of Jacob, Joseph’s brothers were afraid that he would hate them and repay them for the evil they had done to him. So they went to Joseph and begged for mercy. Joseph’s response was: “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about that as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:19-20).
Joseph was able to put away the sadness brought by evil because he realized the greater good from God working in his life. So it is with us today. We are happy when we trust in God and see His hand working in our lives to turn every situation into something good. In Romans 8:28, 37-39 Paul says: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God… Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
What is the Christian’s key to happiness? Love the Lord, know that He will work all things together for good, and trust God that we will conquer the trials of life. Paul exemplifies this same confidence in the Lord when writing from prison saying, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians ).
Often times, the only thing keeping us from being happy is ourselves. But, if our confidence rests in God rather than self, we will be happy having received the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7)
Makarios is usually translated “blessed,” but sometimes it is translated “happy!’ It is translated “blessed” to identify the fact that Christians are happy because of God. Herein lays the difference between a Christian’s happiness and the happiness of unbelievers.
Secularly, happiness is defined as being favored via luck or good fortune. But Christians are happy when we are favored by God as opposed to luck or good fortune. As was the case with Mary, she considered herself to be blessed (happy) having been appointed to bare the Son of God (Luke -47). But through the eyes of unbelievers, she was far from blessed. Mary bore a child out of wedlock. Unbelievers would consider her a fornicator or adulterous. Even Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, considered her to be a woman of sin before learning the truth. From this example, we see that happiness (the state of blessedness) is a perspective—one may either consider himself to be blessed (happy) because of God or unhappy because of worldly misfortune.
In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), note what kinds of people are happy (blessed)—those who are: poor in spirit, mourners, meek, hungry and thirsty, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted, reviled, and falsely accused of evil. Why do you suppose they are happy? To the world, these people do not have any reason to be happy. They should be sad and depressed.
Now notice the reason for their happiness—because: theirs is the kingdom of heaven, they shalt be comforted, they shall inherit the earth, they shall be filled, they shall obtain mercy, they shall see God, they shall be called sons of God, theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and they have a great reward in heaven. These people are not happy because of what they have, but because of what they will have in the future. Their happiness rests in the sure promises of God to reward His children. True, some of God’s blessings are received on earth, but the greatest are received in heaven.
As part of God’s eternal plan, we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians -25). And because we walk by faith, we will not see all of God’s blessings or else our walk would be by sight. Perhaps this is one of the Christian’s greatest challenges—to walk by faith and live happily in the Lord.
Let me close by reminding you of these three blessings. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on...that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Revelation ). “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6). “Blessed are those who do His commandments; that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation ).
If we remember our earthly and heavenly blessings, if we realize the life we shall live in the spiritual body, and if we walk by faith having confidence in the Lord, what can overcome the happiness we receive from God? Nothing—except our own selfish ambitions.