Real happiness is a rare commodity today! Does your life reflect the very joy of Jesus Christ?
There goes a happy man! How I wish I were like him! This is often the silent thought of people when they see another person who simply radiates real happiness. This or a similar thought often strikes new members of God's Church the first time they attend Sabbath services and see the deep joy and open, infectious smiles of many of God's people. A hearty enthusiasm, a vigorous "let's pitch in" attitude, a congenial family warmth permeates the services, social events, schools, good times — and even bad times — of God's people. The Church of God has a definite personality. God's Word proclaims, "Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord" CPs. 144:15). But, are you happy? Are you deeply, genuinely, overwhelmingly happy that you are a called, chosen, much-blessed member of the very Church that Christ Himself built?
Why unhappy members?
What about the exceptions to the rule? What about the long-faced, glum, unsmiling, "martyred" member who feels burdened with the ways of God? What about that minority of brethren who are merely waiting it out, defensively transforming every minor problem into a mountainous trial of fantastic proportions? How does God react before the spectacle of a begotten son of His who doesn't truly rejoice over the fantastic deluge of physical and spiritual blessings he is granted? The biblical predictions of the calamities soon to befall the modern nations of Israel are sobering. Contained within one of the most detailed of these prophecies is a specific, pointed warning that can apply not only to the collective nation of Israel, but just as easily to individual members of God's Church. Notice carefully: "Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder... "Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart [with real happiness], for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee" (Deut. 28:45-48). Do you men enjoy and really anticipate Spokesman Club? Or is it a duty you plow through because it seems to be expected of you? Is the food line at the Feast of Tabernacles just one more inconvenience you put up with? Or do you make it into a happy, enjoyable opportunity to fellowship and draw closer to other brethren standing around you in the same line? Do you extend a warm, smiling welcome to every new face at Sabbath services? Or are you so completely engrossed in the week's problems, your own ingoing self-pity and disinterest in others that new faces go unnoticed? Do you remember experiencing a certain thrill, a family closeness, a deep joy to sta!1d shoulder to shoulder with many thousands of other brethren at the Feast of Tabernacles, as the swelling sounds of singing voices ascended to please God before His throne? Or did you bide your time, a little self-consciously, waiting for the routine of the song service to get over, refusing to even sing? God's Spirit and personality is warm, loving, outgoing and positive. It is kind, concerned, cordial and happy. Read about the overwhelmingly positive, outgoing personality of a true Christian in I Corinthians 13:4-7. If you are defensive, unhappy, uninvolved, "martyred" and glum, you are expressing a totally different attitude and personality that is not of God. You strike God Himself a heavy blow! Your attitude makes it abunabundantly clear that you consider God's precious, holy, eternal truth a great burden you must grit your teeth and bear. You view as curses the trials God has lovingly designed to properly fashion your character for His Kingdom. You are, unintentionally perhaps, unhappy with God Himself.
A serious warning
You were born into an unhappy world. Perhaps you grew up in an unhappy or broken home. Maybe you were reared in an economically depressed area. Brethren in some parts of the world have lived through the. sorrows, horror and hopelessness of warfare.. The average individual today tends, and with reason, to look on the black side of things. Skyrocketing disease sucks health and happiness out of the bodies of millions of disillusioned human beings. Society is crammed with ugly, wretched problems. Happiness is a rare commodity nowadays! Your attitude, outlook on life, emotions and personality have been deeply affected by this environment of which we are all products. It is certainly natural and understandable that, before conversion, you may have become hostile and dissatisfied toward society, mad at the world, unhappy with your situation, job, family and self. Perhaps you withdrew to one degree or another from this society that had caused you nothing but woe, strife and tears. You viewed with suspicion "getting involved." You became sullen, introverted and inexpressive. Did that individual really perish when you were baptized? The danger is that many of us have simply carried over into our relationship with God Himself, His Church and the other brethren the introversion, the unhappiness and the suspicion of the world. This is wrong. It can only hurt you and hinder the Work of God.
Personality of God's people
God literally fished you out of the cesspool that is this society to become a part of the happiest, warmest, most dynamic, enthusiastic organization on earth. "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad," Christ instructed His disciples. "Let your light so shine before men," He decreed (Matt. 5:12, 16). Do you shine? Is your light brightly shining, warming and illuminating others around you and in God's Church? Or is your light weak, flickering, vacillating and on the verge of being extinguished? Perhaps an example will help you answer. Several years ago, more than 5,000 of us had gathered in the mammoth tent-tabernacle on Jekyll Island, Ga., to enjoy the annual Church fun show for the eastern area of the Feast of Tabernacles. It was a happy, laughing, rejoicing crowd that arrived for an evening of clean, balanced fun and Christian fellowship. Suddenly a torrential ocean gale pounded down several inches of rain, splashing in tiny rivulets through the straining, heavy seams of the big tent. What had begun as a fun show became a morass of drenched clothing, wrecked hairdos, mud, water and waterlogged brethren. Members of any worldly organization might have left in a huff, sullen, peeved, bemoaning the evening that had been washed out. What a bleak, dismal, unhappy spectacle that would have been. But that was not the picture. Satan could not dampen the personality and spirit of the people of God. It was quite a sight. Most people stayed to fellowship and dangle their toes in two-inch deep water that covered much of the tent floor. The show had to be canceled but the band struck up several rousing musical selections, and people sang in the rain until the rain stopped. Dozens of people mentioned that they had met more new brethren in that waterlogged tent than on any other occasion. To say that the spirit and attitude of God's people was overwhelming is to put it mildly. God was undoubtedly more than well pleased. He Himself was probably overjoyed. Our light shone brightly! After the rain ceased, hundreds of brethren pitched in wholeheartedly to assist others in setting up tents that had collapsed in the rain. Water had leaked into some motel rooms, soaking every scrap of clothing of a few brethren. People again pitched in to sweep out the water and to lend and share dry clothing, all in a spirit of comradeship, love and concern. It was a heartwarming demonstration of the irrepressible personality of the Church of God. And this example is only one of the many that any of us could recount. The majority of our brethren remembered God's command in Deuteronomy 12:7: "And there [the location where the Feast is held] you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand unto [even in the rain], you and your households, wherein the Lord your God hath blessed you." And a majority did. And they were abundantly blessed. But, unfortunately, the coin had two sides. One couple had arrived in Jekyll Island prepared not to enjoy the Feast. They had tried to obtain permission to attend the Feast in another area in order to be nearer their unconverted relatives. Permission had not been given. They went down to Jekyll Island begrudgingly, glumly, sullenly. On arrival they decided their motel room was too small. The food was not to their liking. They began to skip services and sulk childishly by themselves. Nothing was satisfactory. The rain was the last straw. They left! They have not come back. They were terribly unhappy in God's Feast of joy. What a paradox! A little rain at God's Feast became a solidifying catalyst that drew most of the brethren closer than ever before in mutual love, concern and closeness. But to a few, it became a bad memory that put a damper on the entire Festival. God martyrs no one in His Church. If you are martyred, you have only yourself to blame. How can you, then, be happy?
Unhappy members are invariably uninvolved members. This is the individual who is too shy, too embarrassed, too tired or too busy to pitch in and take part. He or she thinks up 101 excuses why he or she can't attend the social, be in Spokesman Club or Ladies' Club or fellowship with other members. Can we grasp that God's Church has not sponsored useless activities to frivolously take up our time? God has inspired within the framework of His Church a balanced amount of social leisure, besides the more important spiritual character-builders of services, Bible studies and broadcasts. All of these have, or ought to have, an important place in all of our lives. Active, energetic participation in the activities God sponsors through His Church will create a balanced, positive, happy outlook on life. Note God's command in Psalm 149:2-3: "Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise his name in the dance [or a church social or a ball game]: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp." Yes, you should even regard a song service as an opportunity to express your happiness and appreciation. Notice verse 1 of the same chapter: "Praise you the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints." The facts are simply these, however: Most of our "martyred" brethren scrupulously avoid the very areas that would help them become happy. Loners are never happy in the world. And they are not happy in God's Church. You ought to pray fervently; it's vital. You will never grow without prayer. You need to work hard. Of course, intensive study is a real necessity. But there is more. Play hard as well. Learn to mix. One requirement of eldership in God's Church is that a man be "given to hospitality" (I Tim. 3:2). If you are able, entertain other brethren in your home at times. Become involved. Strike a real balance. Your "martyred member" complex will begin to crumble and collapse.
Serve the brethren
There are other real blocks to happiness that need to be ripped down. The unhappy society that surrounds us is predicated on selfishness, greed and ego. People concentrate body and mind on the empirical self. Cater to the ego. Take — never give! Can people like this really exist in God's Church? Might your inability to really open up to share yourself, your life, your home, your leisure time with others be a big part of the reason for your attitude problems and the spiritual doldrums that strike? When Christ, the night before His death, bent down and washed the feet of His disciples, He instituted a service of sublime humility. He pictured Himself as a servant of all the brethren. On His knees before the disciples, He affirmed: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if you do them" (John 13:16-17). Here is a fantastic truth that creates real happiness — a living spiritual truth that works. Do you use it? Do you serve the brethren? Are you in a permanent, year-long "foot-washing" attitude toward every member of God's Church? Analyze yourself. When was the last time you really pitched in to serve a brother in need? Have you ever fasted when another member or his child was sick? Or do you only fast about your problems? Do you make it your business to encourage and inspire a brother who is down in the dumps? Or are you always on the receiving end? Are you a taker or a giver? Real happiness can never grow and flourish in a climate ruled by self. Uproot self by serving. Smash the grip self has by extending yourself to the brethren, and to others in the world at appropriate times. Do we all realize how many of our brethren are still scattered outside local church areas? How many do you serve by writing letters of encouragement and news? There are scores of widows, elderly members and sick and crippled members in God's Church around the world. When was the last time you broke your social circle of close friends and brethren to spend a weeknight or a Sunday afternoon with someone who is too frequently neglected? Remember Christ's admonition, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Here is a vital spiritual lesson for all of us to learn. Begin now to serve. It is a living key to happiness.
Pray for joy
Shortly before His death, as the last hours of His life streaked by, Christ stated, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11). He was referring to a divine miracle by which His outgoing, warm, enthusiastic, happy personality could be supernaturally grafted within the minds of members of His Church. Do you fit the picture? Christ predicted that the true Church would be composed of people who would radiate the personality He had as a human being. Christ, as a man, continually inspired and sparked His disciples by His wholehearted vigor and enthusiasm. In spite of the heavy responsibilities He shouldered and the multiple trials He had to confront, His personality bubbled with the joy of being able to serve human beings, and contribute so dramatically in His Father's great plan. Christ was not an introvert, glumly hiding in a cave in the Judean hills. He seized opportunities to dance, sing and rejoice socially. He mixed happily with His fellows. His outgoing concern and interest for human beings shamed the original apostles on occasions when they let themselves become vindictive, critical and harsh. Jesus Christ was undoubtedly the happiest man who has ever lived. Notice Paul's command: "Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.... Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:2-5). The Church of God "personality" we have acquired is nothing more than the nature and personality of Christ Himself, still alive, flowing out miraculously through the collective body, the Church, that He has built. When did you last pray for joy as an individual specific fruit? Before a church social event, have you ever asked for the love, the joy, the enthusiasm of Christ to be reflected through you? Do you pray for the selfless, serving love of Christ — His love in you — to counteract the natural, unsmiling self-interest we all manifest to a certain degree? Have you ever specifically requested Christ's enthusiasm and vigor — His sparkling warmth — to be mirrored in you during a Spokesman Club meeting? Christ wants more than anything else to live in you fully. Notice His instruction in Luke 11:9-13: "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find ... For everyone that asketh receiveth ... If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone?... If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Certainly, some of God's people are by nature bashful and introverted perhaps inexperienced in the social graces. God has called the weak of this society. We are often the end products of poor backgrounds and wrong environments. But there is no reason to stay that way. God supplies an antidote that works. Ask for enthusiasm. Ask for warmth. Ask God to help you smile. Ask for these Spirit-given abilities and character traits to flow out through you. You will begin to be far happier than you have ever been. And it will be God's happiness in you, the true personality of the people of God. Remember that God's Kingdom will soon be here. It will be a time of worldwide rejoicing, peace, happiness and joy. Remember also that only those who have been happy now in God's Church will teach all mankind to be happy then.