Real happiness is a very RARE commodity, today! Does your life reflect the very JOY of Jesus Christ? Read in this article how to BE happy — how to STAY happy. Read on even if you ARE delighted to be called — it'll make you more joyful!
"THERE goes a happy man! How I wish I were like him!" is often the silent, unexpressed thought of people when they see another person who simply exudes and radiates real HAPPINESS! This or a similar thought is often felt by brand-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! Visitors who have an opportunity to see the Ambassador College campus are deeply struck by the friendliness and overwhelming happiness which is so apparent. Some have claimed to have located "more smiles per square inch" on Ambassador College campus than they have seen in their entire lives. There is a hearty enthusiasm, a vigorous "let's pitch in" attitude, a congenial family warmth that permeates the services, social events, schools, good times, and even bad ones, of God's people. The Church of God has a very 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" (Psalm 144:13). 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 a 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 son of His, who has never truly REJOICED over the fantastic deluge of physical and spiritual blessings he has been granted? The Biblical predictions of coming nuclear destruction of the nations of Israel are certainly very 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 your local Spokesman's Club? Or is it a duty you plow through because it is "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? Are you Johnny-on-the-spot to 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 stand 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? Brethren, can we see ourselves as others see us? 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 recorded 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. Yon strike God Himself a heavy blow! Your attitude makes it abundantly clear that you consider His precious, holy, eternal truth d great burden you must "grit your teeth" and bear. You view the trials He has designed lovingly to properly fashion your character for His Kingdom as curses. You are, unintentionally perhaps, unhappy with God Himself!
A Serious Warning
You were born into a very unhappy world. Many of you are the results of unhappy or broken homes. It is possible that you may have been reared in an economically depressed area. Brethren in some parts of the world have lived through the sorrows, the horror and hopelessness of warfare. The average individual today tends, and with reason, to look on the black side of things. Skyrocketing disease rates suck health and happiness out of the bodies of millions of disillusioned human beings. Society is crammed with ugly, wretched problems. Happiness is a mighty, rare commodity nowadays! Brethren, your attitude, outlook on life, emotions and personality have been deeply affected, shaped, and moulded by this environment of which we are all products. It is certainly natural, understandable, that before conversion, many of you became hostile and dissatisfied toward society, mad at the world, unhappy with your situation, job, family and self. In many cases, you withdrew yourself 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 unexpressive. Did that individual really PERISH at baptism? The danger is that many of us have simply carried over into our relationship with God Himself, His Church, 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.
True Personality of God's People
Have you fully grasped that God has literally fished you out of a decadent, fetid cesspool called society to become a part of the happiest, warmest, most dynamic, enthusiastic organization on the earth? "REJOICE and be exceeding GLAD..." Christ instructed His disciples. "Let your light so SHINE before men..." He decreed (Mat. 5:12, 16). Do you SHINE? Is your light full-blown, 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. Two years ago, over 5,000 of us had gathered enthusiastically in the mammoth tent-tabernacle on Jekyll Island, Georgia, 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, without warning, a torrential ocean gale pounded down several inches of rain. splashing in tiny riverlets 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 would undoubtedly 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 cancelled 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 very 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, snaking every scrap of clothing of a few brethren. People again "pitched in" to sweep out the water, 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 it is but one of thousands. The majority of our brethren remembered God's command in Deuteronomy 12:7: "And there [the location in which the Feast is held] ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and YE SHALL REJOICE in ALL that ye put your hand unto [even in the rain), ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee." 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 it. They had tried to obtain permission to attend the Feast in another area, because it would be nearer their unconverted relations. 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. When the rain came, it was "the last straw." They left! They have never come back. They were terribly unhappy in God's Feast of JOY. What an amazing 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. Brethren, it is a sin to spend one-half of the Feast of Tabernacles telling others about your "rough" drive down. It is wrong, and contrary to the whole spirit of God's people, to race unsmiling from activity to activity complaining loudly about the "hectic" pace. Back in your local church area, it is just as wrong to attend a Church social or event, and gravitate glumly around the fringe of things. God martyrs no one in His Church. If you are "martyred," you have only yourself to BLAME. How can you, then, be happy?
1) Become Involved
Unhappy members are invariably involved 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 (reasons to him) why he can't attend the social, be in Spokesman's Club or fellowship with other members. Can we grasp that God's Church has never sponsored useless appendages to "take up our time" frivolously? God has inspired within the framework of His Church a certain balanced amount of social leisure, besides the more important spiritual character-builders of services, Bible studies and broadcasts. All of these have a very important place, or ought to, in all of our lives. Active, energetic participation in the many activities God sponsors through His Church will create a balanced, positive, happy outlook on life. SEIZE the opportunity to take part! God has inspired a balanced diet of social leisure to offset the trials, difficulties and real problems of our daily lives. He meant them to be needed, necessary outlets for the pressures and stresses every true Christian will have to experience at times. Quiet, bashful, introverted and "uninvolved" brethren ought to actively seek out opportunities to learn, express and develop warmth, personality and congeniality. Note Gods command in Psalms 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 dame [or a Church social, or a hall game with the other men]: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp." Yes, even a song service should be regarded as an opportunity to express your happiness and appreciation. Notice verse one of the same chapter, "Praise ye 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 and stay away from the very things that would help them become happy. "Loners" are never happy in the world. And they are not happy in God's Church. This is self-imposed martyrdom. You can and should be happy in God's Church. You ought to pray hard! Yes, it's vital. You will never grow without it. You need to work hard! Of course. Intensive study is a very real necessity. But there is more. Play hard, as well. Learn to mix. One condition to eldership in God's Church is that a man be "given to hospitality" (I Tim. 3:2). Host other brethren in your home at times. Become involved. Strike a real balance! Your "martyred member" complex will begin to crumble and collapse.
2) Serve the Brethren
There are also other real blocks to happiness that need to be ripped down. The unhappy society that surrounds us is predicated on selfishness, greed and ego. The lives of most acquire very soon the inward direction of a monstrous ingrown toenail. The popular philosophy is succinctly pinpointed in the words of a popular song, from a recent "hit" movie: "The Lord above made man to help his neighbor... but with a little bit of luck he'll end up helping you." What a wizened philosophy on life! Concentrate body and soul on the empirical self! Cater to the ego. TAKE! NEVER GIVE! Are there any wizened souls like this 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, for the spiritual "doldrums" that strike perhaps too often? When Christ, the night prior to 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 ye do them" (John 13:16-17). Here is a fantastic truth that creates real happiness! A living spiritual truth that works. Have you ever used it? Are you a SERVANT of the brethren? Are you in a permanent, year-long "footwashing" attitude toward every member of God's Church? Analyze it personally! 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 very 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? In Hebrew 6:10 Paul affirmed: "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have MINISTERED TO THE SAINTS, and do minister." These brethren Paul was describing were not ordained ministers. They were not actively engaged in the full-time spiritual ministry of preaching, conducting Bible studies, and directing the Church. This was an outgoing, concerned, loving ministry of service, of sharing, of sacrificing for other brethren in need, of praying, and fasting at times when others were being sorely tested. 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 times. Do we all realize how many hundreds of our brethren are still scattered outside of local Church areas? How many do you serve by writing letters of encouragement and news? There are scores of widows, elderly members, and a few 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 week night, or a Sunday afternoon to visit someone that is too frequently neglected? Remember Christ affirmed: "...It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Here is a vital spiritual lesson for all of us to learn! You may be the most bashful, quiet member of your local Church in your own eyes. You can always find someone more bashful than you to help, serve and encourage and you will find your concern is deeply appreciated. There will be a real deep sense of satisfaction. You'll find it a little easier to smile freely. It will be a happy, rewarding, enriching experience. Begin NOW to serve! It is a living key to happiness.
3) Pray for Joy
Shortly before His death, as the last seconds 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 His own vibrant, loving, dynamic, visible 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. Even at the early age of 12 (Luke 2), He was an outgoing, personable, enterprising young man who amazed His elders with His drive, intelligence and zeal. Christ was not an introvert, hovering glumly in a cave in the Judean hills. Though there was no organized Church to sponsor a "social" every now and then, Christ did seize the opportunity to dance, sing and rejoice socially with some of His relations, undoubtedly people of high moral standards. He mixed happily with His fellows. His outgoing concern and interest for human beings shamed the original Apostles on many occasions when they let themselves become vindictive, critical and harsh. Jesus Christ was undoubtedly the happiest man who has ever lived! Notice His explicit command to those who were to follow in His footsteps: "FULFIL YE MY JOY, that you 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). Brethren, we now have access to the totality of divine traits of character that Christ radiated while on earth. Galatians 5:22 lists joy, love, peace, gentleness, goodness and many others as miraculous, living, dynamic fruits that can be ours to possess. 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 Christ undoubtedly had at the wedding in Cana to be reflected through you? Do you pray for the selfless, serving love of Christ — HIS LOVE in you — to counteract the natural, ingoing, 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's 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 every one that asketh receiveth.... If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone?... If ye 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, backward, ingoing, perhaps inexperienced in some cases, in the social graces. God has called many of the weak of this society. We are often the end products of poor backgrounds and wrong environments. 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'^ 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.