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Are You Happy as a Christian?
Good News Magazine
March 1984
Volume: VOL. XXXI, NO. 3
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Are You Happy as a Christian?
Stanley M McNeil

True Christians should be the happiest of all people! Here's how you can be that way.

   Is it possible to be happy in this world?
   Most people aren't, because they don't know what real happiness is.
   Most people feel happiness comes from pleasing the self, either through physical comforts such as food, shelter and material possessions or through psychological rewards such as being accepted and appreciated.
   Failing to find happiness through these channels, increasing numbers are turning to alcohol, drugs or other forms of escapism to titillate the senses and provide temporary releases from unhappiness and futility.
   But joy that comes from physical pleasure is only temporary, and isn't real happiness at all!
   Jesus Christ, in some of His last instructions to His followers before His death, revealed how we can be truly happy: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:10-11).
   God wants you to be full of happiness! And He explains that the only way you can be that way is through obeying Him, so that you can have His own joy inside you. Real joy, the kind that permeates God's way of life (Ps. 16:11), comes only from God.
   God gives us this joy in measure as we submit to and start practicing His way and begin to bear the fruits of His mind in our lives (Gal. 5:22). From the moment we truly turn to God, our happiness should be something that constantly deepens and grows.

Look to the future

   To be happy, we must look to the future. We have to keep our minds on the goal of character development and the end result of God's plan for us. God allows us to face occasional physical adversities to help us grow.
   By concentrating on the big picture, we can faithfully and cheerfully endure difficulties that would be grievous if we didn't have this perspective (I Pet. 1:7-8, Jas. 1:2-4).
   The apostle Paul was a man" who rejoiced even in severe trials. Through terrible persecutions, beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, health problems and other personal trials in performing God's great commission, he was happy even though he suffered physically.
   Why? Because Paul was spiritually oriented. Physically, he was depleted, but he was exceedingly happy because he saw the fruit of what God was doing with him (II Cor. 6:10).
   Furthermore, Paul worked to help others experience joy (II Cor. 1:24), showing that Christians must control their thinking and develop positive, uplifting attitudes (Phil. 4:8).
   Paul also warned against the folly of seeking escape through such means as excessive drinking. These means do not produce happiness. Rather, we should be filled with the Holy Spirit through meditating on God's plan and being thankful (Eph. 5:18-20). With the help of God's power, Paul was able to be happy in any circumstance.

Work toward happiness

   This kind of joy doesn't come overnight. We must work toward it. We are warned to beware of the false happiness that comes from satiating physical or psychological desires. Even sin can be temporarily pleasurable (Heb. 11:25), but produces empty, unsatisfying results (Eccl. 2:11).
   God's way is the way of give. That means we will develop joy, not to the extent that we try to get happiness, but to the extent that we give love and happiness to God and other people.
   Giving requires us to overcome our natural human tendency to be selfish. Giving is often hard work! But Jesus said we will enter into eternal joy only after expending violent effort in overcoming (Matt. 25:21, 23, 11:12).
   Jesus compared His own death and, by analogy, the process of conversion to the inevitable pain a woman experiences in giving birth to a child. Once the baby is born, the anguish is no longer remembered. Jesus said the occasional pains and sorrows that come with Christian growth always result in deeper joy that "no one will take from you" (John 16:20-23).
   In other words, as we overcome our human nature by replacing it with God's character, we reap a bumper crop of happiness!

For our example

   We today need to emulate the power of the apostolic era of God's Church. The early Christians, though persecuted, knew real joy.
   Let's get acquainted with a first-century Church member named Rhoda. Her story of jubilation is recorded in Acts 12. These were difficult years in the fledgling Church. Facing government persecution at the violent hands of King Herod, one of the original disciples, James the brother of John, had been killed. Since this senseless killing pleased the public, Herod decided to imprison Peter, no doubt intending to execute him, also.
   The Church had just lost one apostle, and now Peter, the chief apostle, was in danger. What to do? Their answer was to fervently pray, without ceasing, for Peter's release. Rhoda was among those who beseeched God on Peter's behalf.
   The result? God miraculously answered by sending an angel to awaken Peter, break his chains, open the prison door and lead him into the city.
   Peter went straight to the home where the members were still praying, and knocked on the door. Rhoda answered.
   You can imagine her exultation! The Bible explains that "When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate" (Acts 12:14).
   Rhoda was so overjoyed that she couldn't contain herself enough to open the door. After praying from the heart for Peter's release, God's answer gave her much reason to rejoice!
   Answered prayer should have" this effect for all of us today, especially as we pray for the work God is doing.
   Another major cause for happiness in the early Church was their obvious appreciation for God's truth. Jesus described this joy as the receiving of the " pearl of great price" (Matt. 13:45-46). Paul described the Church's attitude this way: "You became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit" (I Thess. 1:6).
   We should have this same attitude today, especially in light of the many truths God has revealed and restored to His Church. Jesus strongly admonishes His followers that we should never lose our love for the knowledge He has given us (Rev. 2:4).

Harmony among Christians

   One more aspect that brought those early Church members so much happiness was their unity. As they "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship," they were unified with "gladness and singleness of heart" (Acts 2:42, 46, AV). They all shared the same leadership, spirit and way of life. God's purpose was more important to them than anything else.
   They realized their responsibility was to back God's chosen apostles in spreading the Gospel message, and they were unified through God's government in the Church (Eph. 4:4, 11-16). This unity produced tremendous love and concern. Each member rejoiced as he saw fellow members experience blessings (I Cor. 12:26). In this way, one person's happiness multiplied to be shared by all.
   As we today put aside any tendency we may have toward being independent or set apart from the work God is doing through His Church, we can experience more of the happiness He intends through togetherness. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Ps. 133:1).
   Along with unity and oneness of mind comes another spiritual quantity that produces happiness — spiritual fellowship and hospitality. The original Christians were with one another as much as possible, visiting in each others' homes for meals and fellowship. Paul commented that the ministry was comforted because the members served and shared with each other and also supported God's ministers in this way (II Cor. 7:13).
   On one occasion, even members in a poverty-stricken area collected goods to help the congregation in Jerusalem during a drought. These churches gave beyond their means and actually begged Paul to allow them to help (II Cor. 8:3-4).
   Through this outstanding attitude of giving to help others, these members of the Church of God learned the meaning of real happiness. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Expressing love brings much happiness to the giver.
   Another joy these vibrant Christians experienced came from the prevalent attitude of repentance. Real repentance — total surrender to do God's will — is where real joy begins. Great joy also comes as we continue to repent when God corrects us (II Cor. 7:9-10), and our loving God will correct us when we need it. This chastisement isn't enjoyable at first, but a repentant response will be (Heb. 12:11).
   This kind of happiness can never come from satisfying our physical desires or going our own way. The happiness produced by a submissive and obedient attitude comes only from God. Nothing we do can make us or God really happy unless we have this attitude (Ps. 51:16-17, Isa. 66:2).

Our opportunities now

   We today have all of the same opportunities that produced such deep happiness for the members of the early New Testament Church.
   Jesus said His followers would be the light of the world, and that we should let our light shine before men (Matt. 5:14-16). Nothing brightens up a day more for someone than to be in contact with a begotten son of God who is unselfishly happy — who shares the same joys the members of the apostolic era experienced.
   If you truly want to be happier, you can do something about it. Examine your priorities and your thoughts. Determine to make any necessary changes so you may reflect more of the lasting happiness now that God wants for you always!

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Good News MagazineMarch 1984VOL. XXXI, NO. 3
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