The surprising truth about happiness – Greg Laurie – and
A common misperception about Christians is that our lives are basically boring. People associate Christianity with the things they no longer are supposed to do if they are true followers of Christ, yet they don’t understand what it is all about.
I have been on both sides of the fence. In the first 17 years of my life, I lived without God. I had pretty much sampled everything this world has to offer. I also watched the course my mother’s life took as she was married and divorced seven times and was an alcoholic. Even before someone told me about Jesus, I knew the answer was not in the things I had observed or participated in. I knew there had to be more, and it sent me on a search in life.
In all honesty, there are some things this world offers that can be fun for a while. They can be momentarily exciting. But you are going to pay. It is sort of like riding a roller coaster that has some of its tracks missing. It is a fun ride until you reach the place where the tracks stop and you have to pay the price.
In the same way, there is a certain element of fun and enjoyment we can have in this world. Even the Bible tells us there is pleasure in sin for a time (see Hebrews 11:25). But the Bible also warns that the wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23). When it’s all said and done, the world can offer only cheap imitations of happiness.
Yet the Bible tells us the way to find genuine happiness: "Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands" (Psalm 112:1). Usually when you read the word "blessed" in the Bible, you can also translate it "happy." If you want to be quite literal in translating this verse, it would say, "Happy, happy is the man [or woman] who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands." I like that.
So, if you want not merely to live a happy life, but a "happy, happy" life, then live God’s way. Many view this as restrictive, while it is really quite the opposite. But know this – God’s commandments are not like the bars of a cage to keep you in; they are barriers of protection to keep evil out. God gives us parameters and guidelines and absolutes for our own good to keep us out of trouble. If you want to live a happy life, then live a holy life.
The Bible teaches that we should never seek happiness outright, but we should seek to be holy, and happiness will come as a byproduct. By the way, don’t let that word "holy" throw you. Maybe if I spelled it differently, it would make more sense: Live a holy – or a "wholly–committed" – life to Jesus Christ, and you will be happy as a result. That is not to say it is easy to be a follower of Jesus, because it isn’t. Nor is it to say that Christians do not experience difficulty, sickness and even tragedy, because we do. But this happiness that the Bible promises is more than the fleeting, watered-down version we find in our culture today.
The happiness the Bible promises is real, lasting and truly fulfilling.
More often than not, those people who always want to be happy, who are always living for the party, who are always living for the rush, are very unhappy people. There is the short-lived happiness of getting a new experience, of having a little fun. Then comes the realization that it isn’t what they have been looking for.
As philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, "The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness."
Happiness is found in living by the standards God has given. We have to get back to what God says. And more specifically, we have to get back to the Ten Commandments, because these are the absolutes to live by so we can know the difference between right and wrong and between good and evil.
At the end of the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote, "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV). Solomon himself had violated many of God’s commandments. He decided to go out and sample everything the world had to offer. Imagine if you had unlimited resources and could go out and buy anything you wanted. You could have the mansions, the jets, the yachts, the girls, the guys – whatever you wanted, you could have it.
That is what Solomon did. If anyone could ever say, "Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt," it was Solomon. But after all was said and done, he concluded, "Here is what I have learned after sampling everything this world has to offer: It is empty. Fear God and keep His commandments – that is what I have learned."
God has given us his commandments for our own good to show us how to live our lives. He did not give us his commandments to make us perfect. Rather, he gave them to us to show that we are not perfect. Nobody can keep God’s commandments in their own strength. You might describe them as a moral mirror.
When you look into a mirror, it reveals the truth. Sometimes it helps you to realize that you are not looking as good as you thought you were. It is a shocking discovery to find that the pasta you had for lunch is also on your face. You may feel like an idiot, but the mirror did you a favor by showing you a problem that needed to be dealt with. You removed the noodle from your chin, so the mirror helped you. But if you ignore the mirror, then you do so to your own embarrassment.
In the same way, the Ten Commandments are like a moral mirror. They are God’s standards. And when you look at these commandments, you realize that you aren’t as good as you thought you were. They say that you have sinned and have broken God’s commands.
Maybe you have tried to be a good person. Maybe you have gone to church and have tried to live by certain religious standards. You have tried to improve yourself, but it hasn’t worked. You find yourself still doing the same old things. But God loved you so much that he sent his son to die on the cross in your place. Jesus paid the price for all of the commandments that you have ever broken. Then he rose again from the dead. Now he wants to come and live inside you and give you the ability to live the way God wants you to live.
You can start over again with Christ. He will give you the strength to change and to be the person he has called you to be. And as a result, you will find happiness – genuine happiness – in the process.