Sunday, August 9, 2009

Happy or Holy?

I have hesitated for months to write this post because I don’t wish to criticize others who claim Christ as their Lord and Savior. Plus, I know I have a few logs in my own eye that I need to work on removing before I go around looking for others’ specks. But God hasn’t freed me from this message. It is one that does not seek to condemn one particular person but rather to disciple others who may have fallen into the same theological trap.

At our first meeting, a fellow blogger passed a new bestseller book into my hands: Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Every Day. Since I never win anything, when I suddenly found myself with a prize of 377 crisp-smelling pages, I considered that perhaps God was sending me new wisdom. So, I started reading, and I did find wisdom, but of a different sort.

Within the carefully-penned lines, I found many good ideas like not letting generational sin or bad habits determine your future. But, the overall message was disconcerting and has continued to haunt my thoughts on two fronts. The more troubling of the two implied that God wants you to be happy and materially blessed.

Happy. That seems to be a psychological buzz-word in today’s society: “We just weren’t happy anymore in our marriage” or “I’m not happy in my job” or “I’m not happy with my house, my car, my clothes, my ________.”

But the tenants of positive psychology don’t always align with God’s Scripture. Since when was God’s kingdom plan to make you happy (or me, for that matter)?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said the Father “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45b). In other words, God distributes His blessings as He so chooses, not just on His children.

Hmmm…that doesn’t seem to imply God wants His people to be happier than the unsaved person, but surely He does, right? The New Testament’s use of the term “happy” is very limited. But according to Strong’s Concordance, each usage is about Christians finding their happiness in obeying Christ, suffering for Christ, and following Christ until death. Not one entry mentions personal happiness apart from Christ.

For example, at the conclusion of a teaching lesson, Jesus tells His disciples, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17). Later, James states, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure" (Jas. 5:10-11a). Peter even says, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye” and “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye” (1 Peter 3:14, 4:14).

I conclude that our happiness is not God’s chief concern or even a secondary concern. But our holiness is. Scripture continuously repeats God’s desire for us to reflect Christ’s holiness: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). Paul says you are to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

God desires His children to be holy more than happy. Granted, He does want His people to be joyful, but that joy is to be deeply rooted in Christ, not in circumstances or the receipt of material blessings. Don’t fall into the world’s trap of acting based on what makes you “feel” happy. In the long run, it won’t work. Instead, keep your life focused on pursuing a life of holiness, a life of being “set apart” like Jesus.


  1. Whoop! Whoop! That's the sound of cheers in Iowa. Congratulations on having the courage to write this post. There's a lot of "prosperity gospel" out there, and it needs to be countered with Truth.

    God never promised us an easy life. His promise was that He'd walk through with us.

    Way to go, Jennifer.

  2. I have been missing out by not stopping by your other blog here. Jennifer, this is so true! I'm glad I clicked this blog link. Got some catching up to do.