Happiness for the Christian has become an important topic of discussion across the internet, in books, and in sermons. Although God does want us to experience Biblical happiness, today's emphasis on worldly happiness has led to the incorrect belief that the Christian life is easy and full of pleasant feelings. There is so much attention placed on happiness that it would seem that happiness is a goal not only for the Christian to attain, but is a goal for us that God approves. Is this true?
What is our purpose in life? According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the chief end (or goal) of man is to glorify God. Is this summary correct? Looking to Scripture we find:
1 Peter 4:11 (KJV)
If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Isaiah 43:7 (KJV)
Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
1 Corinthians 1:31 (KJV)
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
Matthew 5:16 (KJV)
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
John 12:28 (KJV)
Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.
We have been created for God's glory and our good works glorify Him. This is indeed our purpose in life.
To seek Biblical happiness as a goal can fit into God's purposes, although there is a caution.
Galatians 5:22 (KJV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
In this verse Biblical joy and Biblical happiness express the same concept. These fruit are outcomes that further the glorification of God. But we must be careful here, not to confuse Biblical happiness and joy with the worldly versions that are self-centered. Biblical happiness results, not so much by seeking it, but by doing those good works that are pleasing to God. Happiness is the result of focusing on others rather than on ourselves. So maybe there should be less preaching and discussing of happiness (even the Biblical kind) and more on obedience to God and service to our fellow man.
Next, we're going to look at worldly happiness as it relates to God's purposes.