How to be Happy in a World Gone Mad
"But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled"
by Tom Stewart
merican missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham, will complete a year in captivity in the Philippines at the hands of their Islamic terrorist captors on May 27th 2002. [See our editorial, "Pray for the Release of the Burnhams" ---New Window, for background on this tragedy.] The rubble of the World Trade Center is still fresh on our minds as "9-11" has become a common expression to refer to the events of that infamous day. The cleanup of the 16 acre WTC site is effectively at an end with only 1,058 remains identified of the 2,823 victims, as will be commemorated in a May 31st 2002 WTC site ceremony-- as reported in the May 27th 2002 TIME.com article, "The Battle For Ground Zero." [To see the role of faith in this world of terror, see our article, "Christian Response to Terrorism" ---New Window.] Violence in Israel seems stretched to the point that a war of annihilation of the Palestinians or Israelis is inevitable. The second-richest man in the world, Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway insurance companies took a $2.4 billion underwriting loss on the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., announced at a May 5th 2002 Berkshire shareholders' meeting, "We're going to have something in the way of a major nuclear event in this country... It will happen. Whether it will happen in 10 years or 10 minutes, or 50 years ... it's virtually a certainty" (excerpted from a CNN.com article, "Buffet: Nuclear attack 'virtually a certainty,'" of May 6th 2002.) Buffett added that it will probably be against New York and Washington because terrorists want to traumatize and kill as many people as possible, and that chemical or biological attacks are similarly high risks. Also, Vice President Dick Cheney asserted that another terrorist attack against the United States is "very real." He said, "In my opinion, prospects of a future attack against the United States is almost certain... We don't know if it's going to be tomorrow or next week or next year," and that it was "not a matter of if, but when" (excerpted from another CNN.com article, "Cheney: Future attack on U.S. 'almost certain,'" of May 19th 2002.) "This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness [moral insanity] is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead" (Ecclesiastes 9:3).
Happiness Regardless of Circumstances
hy speak of such terrible events, if we are supposed to be considering how to be happy? True Christian happiness must take place regardless of external circumstances. "11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in Heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12). The very idea of happiness was the theme of the Saviour in the Sermon on the Mount, for the Greek word makarios is translated both as happy or blessed. "3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the Earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the Children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" (5:3-10). In other words, to be truly Christian is to be truly happy. "8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham" (Galatians 3:8-9).
What, then, is happiness, if the LORD Jesus Christ said, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake" (Matthew 5:10)? How does persecution put a smile on your face? Did happiness describe Jesus hanging on the cross as He was persecuted for righteousness' sake? Most certainly! Jesus, in all likelihood, was not smiling, but listen to the Scriptures describe the work of Christ on the cross as the "Author and Finisher of Our Faith" (Hebrews 12:2). "Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God" (12:2). Though happiness may take the form of persecution for a True Christian, it would be absurd to conclude that all the fear, pain, and misery in the world should be equated to happiness. After all, it was just such fear from which the Christian was delivered when he was Born Again. "14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He [Jesus] also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through Death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil; 15 and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (2:14-15).
Happiness Comes From Seeking Highest Good of God and Man
appiness results from the choice of seeking the highest good of God and man, i.e., "Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the First Commandment. And the Second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Mark 12:30-31). God Himself must seek His own highest good as His happiness, and secondarily, He seeks to make us happy. "God so loved the world, that He gave [to us] His Only Begotten Son" (John 3:16). For us, happiness is, most importantly, seeking God, His Kingdom, and His Righteousness, i.e., "But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness" (Matthew 6:33); and, in the second place, happiness is not seeking your "own, but every man another's wealth" (1Corinthians 10:24). Happiness is a byproduct of obeying God's command of loving Him supremely and your neighbour as yourself; however, our previous failure to do so necessitated the requirement to be Born Again into the family and Kingdom of God. "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). The New Birth restores us to God's original intention of making us happy, when we seek His happiness first and our neighbours' happiness equally as our own; but, this happiness only resulted when the Spirit of God worked "in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Restoring us to obedience to God makes us happy. "Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing" (Matthew 24:46). And, that happiness is assured through the New Testament ministry of the Holy Spirit. "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My Statutes, and ye shall keep My Judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:27).
Since happiness results from obeying the command to love God supremely and your neighbour as yourself, then any action thus motivated by the Spirit of God will make you happy, in whatever world you find yourself. "10 If ye keep My Commandments, ye shall abide in My Love; even as I have kept My Father's Commandments, and abide in His Love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that My Joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:10-11). Obedience to God's commandments makes us happy. Our happiness and joy is promoted by our opportunity to "keep His Commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (1John 3:22).
Obedience Promotes Happiness
For instance, obedience to the following commands promotes our happiness.
ur happiness is found in Jesus, and particularly, we take great comfort and consolation in the hope of His Soon Return. "And the very God of Peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the Coming of our LORD Jesus Christ" (1Thessalonians 5:23).
Amen, and Amen.
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