(scroll to the bottom to watch this message)
Volumes have been written on the topic of happiness. A quick search of books about happiness on Amazon shows over 60,000 results. From those search results alone, it’s pretty clear that people want to be happy.
So, if that many books have been written about happiness, why aren’t people happier?
The Book, the Bible, provides the answer.
Let’s pray before we dig in: Dear Father, let me be receptive to your word today. Touch my heart and let your Holy Spirit move in me. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Everyone could be a little happier. It’s not just me, and it’s not just you. It is all of us. Throughout the ages, people have been searching for happiness.
“My advice to you is to get married: if you find a good wife, you’ll be happy; if not, you’ll become a philosopher.”
— Socrates c. 470-399 BC
“Caring about the happiness of others, we find our own.”
— Plato c. 428-347 BC
The topic of happiness is not just for people in historical days. It is even for people today. I have learned over the years that people have tried to pursue happiness in many ways. People try to find it in money, education, parties or pleasure. These are not true sources of happiness.
Rather than ask Socrates and Plato these questions, ask God the question: “How can I be happy?”
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
There are principles that God establishes, eternal principles that work for everybody. If we practice these habits, we will have the answer to our question. This passage has four habits or practices that we can employ right now. The first action is: Happiness is a personal choice.
Happiness is a personal choice.
Verse 12 says, “Everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.”
We see clearly that one of God’s gifts to us is that we may find satisfaction, enjoyment and beauty. We can find happiness. Apart from our physical needs of food, shelter and clothing, happiness is a decision you must make.
It is not wrong to be happy or to want to be happy. Scripture declares it as a virtue. A gift of God is satisfaction. God says He wants you to find the good, pleasant and beautiful in all you do; this is His gift to you. He is calling us to experience happiness.
Do not fall into the trap of saying, “I don’t deserve to be happy.” God wants us to be happy. Even if you made bad choices or fell into sinful patterns, God still gives us a way out so we can experience His gift of happiness.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)
The word “life” in that text is a Greek word. There are two Greek words for the English word “life.” There is “bios,” where we get biological life, and there is “Zoe” which means a God kind of life. Jesus was using Zoe. He said I have come that you may have the Zoe. The God kind of life is flourishing, thriving and satisfying. The happy life. I want you to see that Jesus came to earth so that you could have that life.
“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy, whether full or hungry…Philippians 4:12 (MSG)
Being happy is a personal choice. When are you going to decide to be happy? The Bible tells us clearly that everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil. It is your responsibility to find satisfaction. Do not push or blame others for your satisfaction. The difference between happy and unhappy people is that happy people have a more reasonable threshold of satisfaction. It takes fewer things for them to be satisfied.
Happiness is found when you are more easily satisfied.
“It isn’t what you have or who you are, or where you are, or what you’re doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is all that you think about.”
— Dale Carnegie (Writer & Lecturer)
“Happiness is an inside job.”
— Martin Thielen (Author, Searching for Happiness)
Happiness is in your heart. You have to be more easily satisfied. Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, is telling us that life is not perfect, but our perspective must be more easily satisfied than one that’s not. I want you to see that you can’t change people or their perspectives.
“I cannot change you, but I can change how I react to you. I choose to take charge of the rest of my life.”
Happiness occurs when you can learn to be more easily satisfied. You need to enjoy the moment right now. If you can’t find happiness in the now, then you won’t be able to be happy. When are you going to choose to be happy?
Happiness is found when you pursue purpose.
The Bible tells us plainly that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. The word for “do good” speaks of missional living. It speaks of purposeful living. Our specific purpose is to serve God based on how God has shaped us. SHAPE is an acronym that means: Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experiences. You must begin to pursue purpose based on how you’ve been shaped. How can you be happy? You will not be happy doing anything outside of your purpose.
Happiness is intrinsically connected to our purpose. The Bible says everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil. This means work, labor and goings-on. When you start living purposefully, then you are going to find happiness.
Helen Keller became deaf and blind when she was 19 months old. Yet she claimed her right to be happy and experience life’s fullness by becoming a popular writer and a popular speaker.
What’s your excuse? Why can’t you be happy? You deserve to be happy. God has wired you to be happy. Are you chasing hard after your purpose? If you are not, then you will never be happy.
Happiness is found by enjoying God.
The Bible says that everyone will find satisfaction in all his toil. This is a gift of God. You can’t separate happiness from God.
“God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
— C.S Lewis (Author)
Years ago, I wrote a book named Habits of Happy People (my publisher changed it to the Secrets of a Satisfying Life). The idea was I wanted to look and see what behavioral scientists said to the question, “How can I be happy?”
And you can see their research all points to the fact that when you have a spiritual life and spiritual reality, it transforms everything. In fact, George Gallup, the pollster, conducted a survey many years ago and concluded that less than 10% of Americans are deeply committed Christians. But the people who make up that group are categorized as influential, and they are happy. They stand apart from everybody else. He said because they’re more tolerant of people of diverse backgrounds, they’re more involved in charitable activities and they’re more involved in practical Christianity. They’re absolutely committed to prayer. And he said they are far, far happier than the rest of the population because these individuals have learned the secret, “delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Most of us, as Christians, we’re not all in. We’re not totally sold. Some people who call themselves Christians have one foot in the church and one foot in the world. They’re straddling both kingdoms. You can’t have one foot in the club and one foot in the church. You won’t be happy. After all, you can’t even sin properly because you still have this God conscience, and you can’t even live for God properly because you still have this sin conscience. You have to choose which world you want to be in. You can’t just twist and contort the Scripture. You’ll be like some type of gymnast to fit it into your worldview and try to make you feel like you’re a believer in Jesus. You need to choose who you are going to serve.
Joe Theismann, an NFL quarterback turned ESPN commentator, was trying to explain years ago why he had an affair. He told his wife that God wanted me to be happy, so I had the affair. Now, the only reason someone will twist and inject God into that is that they have their own spin on the 10 Commandments. And if truth be told, many of us do the same.
Why am I not happy? Because happiness doesn’t come from us trying to have a foot in the world and a foot in a church. It comes from habits that you must practice. It’s a personal choice. It’s you becoming more easily satisfied. It’s you recognizing that you must pursue purpose. It’s you saying I must enjoy God. Happiness is a gift that God gives us.
Let’s pray for God to help us choose happiness: Dear Father, let me become more easily satisfied. Help me to recognize my purpose and serve you in the way you have shaped me. Let me enjoy your presence. Thank you for the gift of happiness. Amen.