You Want To Be Happy?

-It Begins With Your Relationship With God!

So, we’ve spent the last few posts talking about being happy! And, about what that looks like through the grid of Scripture! According to Psalm 1, God’s word says that your level of happiness is directly related to the depth of relationship you have with Him! Let’s look a little deeper at that Psalm! The writer, inspired by God’s Spirit to write these exact words, says that your happiness also depends on what you meditate on! It says in v.2, “…his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.” The happy person is happy, in part, because he meditates on God’s word at all times throughout his day!

-Meditating On God’s Word!

In the original language, that word we have translated “meditate” means to speak or to mutter! So, the writer says that meditating on God’s word means that you speak to yourself; or, you mutter the words of God to yourself all day! You wanna be happy? You find happiness when you chew on the word of God! When you speak & mutter the word of God to yourself day & night! There is no end to the applications we can make from God’s word! His word is eternal in its depth of wisdom! It’s impossible to plumb the depths of it in this lifetime. 

-The Fruit Of Your Life!

The writer of this Psalm also gives us one more significant point to mull! Your happiness, he says, depends on the fruit your life bears! He sums it all up here! The person who rejects the advice of the world; who delights in God’s Word; and, who meditates on it day and night, “…is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (v.3).  Every life bears fruit! In this Psalm, the writer points to 2 different kinds of people who have 2 different ways to live their lives; and, who bear 2 different types of fruit! So, choose wisely who you listen to!

-Two Different Kinds Of Fruit!

The Apostle Paul picks up on this theme in his church letter to the Galatian believers. He writes that one way produces the fruit of the flesh:  “… sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these” (Galatians 5: 19-21).  While the other way produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit:  “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  The Psalmist concludes with the end; or, the resulting fruit from the 2 different ways to live your life:  “…the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5,6).

-Judgment Day Is Coming!

In this life, the way of the righteous & the way of the wicked may appear to run parallel! The way of the wicked often looks pleasant & fun! But, there is coming a judgment; a day of reckoning when those who took their advice & counsel from God’s word; and, delighted in it; and, meditated on it, will be gathered into a glorious congregation around the Throne of God! Forever they’ll enjoy eternal happiness! While, the wicked will face the Great Judge of all the earth; who will give them what they always wanted—an eternity without God! The Lord watches over you if the advice you follow & the things you take delight in & the content of your meditation bear the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit! If you don’t have this, you need help! Jesus said: “You will know the truth & the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). That delivers happiness!

Experiencing True Happiness!

-Everyone Wants To Be Happy!

I’ve spent the last couple of posts breaking down Psalm, chapter 1. And, we’re not finished! There’s so much to glean from this text of Scripture.  The writer tells us that the more consistent we are in adhering to his counsel, the happier our lives will be! And, since everyone wants to be happy, everyone should follow his advice. Beginning with the 1st verse, he says that your happiness depends on where you get your advice:  “How HAPPY is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers.”

-Who’s Your Source For Advice?

I think it’s significant that he doesn’t say,  “Don’t be wicked; or, don’t sin; or, don’t mock!” It seems that the contrast, he wants to draw on, is our receiving advice from one source vs. our advice from a competing source. We are shaped by the advice we receive! So, take great care, he says, that you’re not getting advice from sinners! That word that’s translated “advice”— or, some of your versions translate it “counsel”— is referring to persuasive words or ideas that someone shares intending to get you to go in a specific direction that they recommend! The “advice” is meant to change your thinking in such a way that your behavior is altered; and, the very course of your life is modified!

-Taking The Path Of Sinners!

When you listen to the advice of wicked people, the Psalmist says, you take the path that sinners take & you become a mocker! There’s a progression here. Based on the advice you receive, your thinking affects your actions affects your character! So, turn your ears away from the advice of the wicked— whether that’s friends, people, books, music, TV, video games, websites, or social media platforms! Choose wisely who you listen to because your happiness depends on it! The writer is saying that your life will only be happy or blessed or fulfilled when you turn a deaf ear to the advice of the wicked!

-Who Are The Wicked?

And, who are the wicked? They are everyone on the path of sin, he says! Everyone who is disobedient to God’s Word & mock anyone desiring to obey God’s Word! Don’t be fooled by their deceitful, enticing words! Notice, in v.2, that the Psalmist says your happiness also depends on what you delight in:  “Instead, (or, in contrast to accepting bad advice from the wicked) his delight is in the Lord’s instruction.” Don’t let the wicked; or, the scoffer influence the way that you think; or, you’ll begin to “delight” in their ways! It starts by looking at & listening to all the stuff the world produces; until you think about it so much you begin delighting in it!

-Delight In God’s Instruction!

Beware, the text says; because you’ll find no happiness there! The genuinely happy person does NOT do something; DOES do something— the happy person does NOT take advice from the wicked; and, DOES delight, instead, in God’s instruction; or, the “Law of the Lord.” The Apostle Paul warned the Church of Rome:  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” Rom. 12:2.  That word “conformed” carries the idea of being pressed into a mold— ”Don’t let the world press you into its MOLD with all of its wicked advice & counsel.”  Instead, delight, Paul says, in God’s instruction so that your thinking is transformed! Test the advice you receive by comparing it against the grid of God’s Word!

Your Greatest Happiness!

-Right Relationship With God!

Your greatest happiness will come only when you are in the right relationship with God, your Creator! You were created for Him! And, only in Him will you find your ultimate fulfillment! If you’ve cracked the Bible, you may have noticed that the book of the Psalms takes up quite a chunk of space in the Bible. The word for “Psalms” in the original Hebrew language means “praise”; and, most of the Psalms were poetic “Songs Of Praise” to Yahweh; although, one-third of the Psalms are prayers! So, it contains both songs & prayers that Israel used in their worship! Also, most students of Scripture believe there’s significance to the order in which they were placed.

-Psalm 1: The Stage Setter!

So, Psalm 1 is meant to be understood as an introduction to the rest of the Psalms. It’s like the “stage setter” because it vividly points out the radical difference between the “believer” and the “unbeliever.” According to the writer of the Psalm, your life will be blessed or happy if you live it sincerely for God; and, it will prove to be miserable & unhappy if you rebel against God! Those are your only 2 options! It’s funny how the world sees the life, that follows Jesus, as boring & blasé! I think even many believers suffer from some big-time misconceptions about the Christian life.

-Earthly Hedonists!

It’s been my observation that many believers just endure the Christian life! Secretly, they still pine for the pleasures & fleeting happiness that they think the world enjoys. In their heart, they’re earthly hedonists! They’re like the children of Israel, during the Exodus, still looking back with longing for the old life they left behind in Egypt. Somehow, we’ve come to the erroneous conclusion that life’s just not going to be fun or happy as a Christian; but, we put up with it because, well, we get heaven in the end! But, the 1st Psalm debunks the notion that the life that follows Christ & adheres to the Scriptures is boring! What this Psalm says is quite the opposite.

-Setting The Record Straight!

The writer sets the record straight— we don’t just endure the Christian life, putting in our time here until we get to heaven & hang out with Jesus forever & ever! No! This Psalm tells us that it’s the life that submits to God & His word that provides us with the greatest fulfillment & the most happiness possible in this life! Happiness & prosperity in this life & eternity follows only the God-centered life; not, the life that is centered & focused on the stuff of this world! Does it surprise you that God is concerned with your happiness? Some believers even debate between “joy” & “happiness.” Joy is the fruit of the Spirit, they say; and, that’s what we should concern ourselves with!

-Is Happiness Fleeting?

Joy sounds more spiritual than happiness, doesn’t it? Happiness seems like it’s dependent on circumstances! It comes & goes! Joy is based on the eternal, the argument goes! But, this 1st Psalm seems to play the contrarian:  “How HAPPY is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction…” (vs. 1-2). It seems like we don’t have to choose between joy & happiness! Instead, life in Christ offers us both— JOY & HAPPINESS! But, there is a caveat. Genuine happiness, in life, is contingent on some things! That’s where we get the idea that happiness is dependent on circumstances. But it’s not so much that happiness comes & goes as much as it is that our walk with God is inconsistent! That’s what we’ll talk about next week!

Live Happily Ever After!

-Do You Want A Happy Life?

Who wants to live a happy life, raise your hand? That’s something everyone wants, isn’t it? We may pursue different things in our attempt to find happiness; but, everyone wants a happy, blessed & fulfilling life! No one sets out to live an unhappy, unfulfilling life! And, yet, it happens, doesn’t it? People, who never planned to live an unhappy life end up living one; and, most of them thought, at the time, that they were making choices that would make them happy! But, in fact, it was those very choices that brought them unhappiness instead of happiness!

-A Guaranteed Happy Life!

So, what if I could guarantee you a happy life? Do you think that if I wrote down the formula, to a happy life, in a book & guaranteed it— or, your money back— that it would sell? You’d think that maybe 7 billion people, on this planet, might buy it, right? Surprisingly, that’s NOT the case! The truth is, THAT book has already been written! An author has already been inspired to write down the formula to a happy and fulfilling life; but, it’s been ignored by the majority of people in the world!

-What Happy Looks Like!

Here’s what that author wrote:  “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Many of you recognize those words, don’t you? Where are they found? They’re found in the Bible, right? Specifically, in the book of Psalms—the 1st Psalm! You wanna live happily ever after? Here it is! Here’s the key! Here’s the formula for happiness in this life!

-What The Unhappy Life Looks Like!

In fact, the writer also goes on to describe what the unhappy life looks like:  “The wicked are not like this; (i.e the WICKED are NOT HAPPY!) instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not survive the judgment, and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.” The writer, of this Psalm, divides the world into 2 categories! Only 2— those who are happy & those who are not happy! You can divide everyone, in the world, up into 2 columns! The happy & the unhappy! The righteous & the wicked! The believer & the unbeliever! The spiritual & the worldly! The follower of Jesus & those who don’t follow Him! That’s eventually what it all comes down to!

-It’s Not About Stuff!

Ultimately, your happiness is not determined by the stuff you’ve acquired or the places you’ve gone or the activities you’ve enjoyed! Your happiness is dependent on the relationship you have— or, don’t have— with your Creator! Your level of happiness is directly related to the depth of relationship you have with God, your Creator! I’ve been involved in church ministry for more than 40 years! I’ve worked specifically with the junior & senior high & young adult ages! I’ve watched them try to find happiness in popularity & boyfriends or girlfriends! I’ve seen them use alcohol & drugs & sex; and, while some of it brought them temporary pleasure, it mostly left them unfulfilled and ridden with guilt & shame! Your greatest happiness will only come through a right relationship with your Creator! Only in Him will you find fulfillment!

No More Excuses!

-Lacking Spiritual Boundaries!

14 years after Ezra led the Jewish exiles to rebuild the Temple, in Jerusalem, Nehemiah shows up to lead in the rebuilding of the walls. Children had been born during this time. In fact the oldest would be approaching their teen years! And, because the walls & many of the houses had been leveled by Babylon, during the siege, these kids had been raised among the ruins of Jerusalem. There were no boundaries between Israel— the people of God— and, the people of other false gods that surrounded them. So, God sent Nehemiah to help!

-Nehemiah’s Inspection!

After inspecting the city, he met with the priests, nobles & other officials; and, said to them:  “…You see the trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned down. Come, let’s rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, so that we will no longer be a disgrace” Nehemiah 2:17.  He was concerned over what the broken wall represented— that God’s people were blending in with the local population & they were losing their distinctness as God’s people! God couldn’t glorify Himself through a people that were no longer holy! A people who were not set apart to Him!

-God’s Word Exposes Sin!

In Nehemiah, chapter 8, the Word of God is read aloud to the people; and, as He always does, the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to point out their sin & to bring them deep conviction over it. So, in chapter 9, they’re found weeping and confessing their sin to God.  Remember, that, to “confess” our sin means that we agree with God about it! So, they’re making no more excuses! They confess! They agree with God that what they’ve done is sin against Him! And in chapter 10, Nehemiah leads these Jewish exiles to make 3 promises!

-Three Promises!

These are “back to the book” kind of promises! Promises to obey 3 commands that God had given Israel way back under Moses. First, they promised to no longer intermarry:  “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons” (v.30).  Second, they promised to keep the Sabbath:  “We will not buy from the neighboring peoples on the Sabbath or on any holy day” (v.31).  And, third, they promised to maintain the temple:  “…we will not neglect caring for the house of our God…” (vs. 32-39). Great promises, right? They have great intent, don’t they? But, they illustrate how fragile our decisions, for God, typically are; because, chapter 13 reveals their failure to keep those promises!

-Broken Promises!

They were intermarrying with the unbelievers around them:  “...In those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab…” (vs.23-28). They were breaking the Sabbath:  “…men from Tyre were…selling…in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah…” (vs. 15-22). And, they were neglecting the Temple (vs. 6-13). So, Nehemiah said:  “…I rebuked the officials; and, asked them: ‘Why is the house of God neglected?””  (v.11).  All of which leads me to ask, “How does that happen? How can they renege on their promises to God so quickly; even, with the best of Godly leaders to follow?” The answer? Even the best of men cannot liberate people from the cause of their bondage! Only God can do that! The cause of their bondage was sin! A brokenness they share with us! We are totally depraved! We cannot depend on a pastor; or, church programs to deliver us! Only God can liberate us from our bondage to sin!