Happiness is God's Essential Nature!
Paul tells us that the God who created us was eternally and infinitely happy before He made us. He refers to the “good news” as “…the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:11).
My general observation over the last 56 years as a Christian concurs with Randy Alcorn as he states, “I’m convinced that most people view God’s typical emotional state as one of unhappiness. The logic behind this is that since people are full of sin, then God must be full of unhappiness.”
The expression used, "the glorious gospel of the blessed God," could be literally translated, "the good news of the glory of the happy God." It is truly Good News to understand that God is the gloriously happy God! Thank God! Who would want to spend eternity with an unhappy God? God is delighted to be God!
Matthew Henry, in commenting on 1 Tim. 1:11, said, “Let us learn hence to call God, blessed God, infinitely happy in the enjoyment of himself and his own perfections.”
The great Scottish preacher, Alexander MacLaren, in a sermon titled, “The Gospel of the Glory of the Happy God”, observed that “the word, which is used here, is only applied to God once more in Scripture (1 Tim. 6:15) and has no reference to the human attribution of blessing and praise to Him, but describes Him altogether apart from what men say of Him, as what He is in Himself, the ‘blessed,’ or, as we might almost say, the ‘happy’ God.”
Many believers have left the impression that God Himself isn’t happy. But joy, gladness, delight, celebration, and happiness in Christ are based on solid redemptive facts, including God’s love and sovereignty. Through the Gospel, called in Isaiah 52:7 the “good news of happiness,” God makes possible a settled happiness in Him despite life’s very real difficulties and sorrows.
Philosopher and theologian Cornelius Van Til (1895–1987) stated, “We may say, in all reverence, that God himself is happy.”
Some might still say, “Our sole purpose in life is to glorify God, not to seek happiness.” But as John Piper puts it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” In other words, to be happy in God is to glorify God.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism was written in 1646 by a group of English, Irish, and Scottish Reformed theologians. It begins with the question, “What is the chief end of man?” and offers the reply, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” For theologians to come up with “glorify God” is no surprise. But to enjoy him forever?
Think about this. Why didn’t they add “obey God forever” or “fear God forever”?
The composers of the catechism were writing a painstakingly deliberate statement of belief and practice that generations to come would memorize and seek to live by. Each word was judiciously selected.
Those seventeenth-century theologians and pastors stated that we exist not only to glorify God but also to find pleasure and happiness in Him. This doesn’t fit the stereotype of stodgy religious Scotsmen from nearly four hundred years ago.
And what does it mean to enjoy God? Puritan Thomas Watson said, “What is enjoying God for ever but to be put in a state of happiness? . . . God is the summum bonum, the chief good; therefore the enjoyment of him is the highest felicity (happiness).”
The catechism writers understood that God created people not only to glorify Him but also to be happy in Him - to be in a personal relationship with Him that’s deep, satisfying, and everlasting. As Psalm 68:3 says, “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful” (NIV).
Since sin came into the world, we all have believed the devil's lie that God is withholding good from us by not letting us learn what good is by experimenting with evil. The Devil has led us to believe that if we trust and obey God we will miss out on real happiness, because God's a Cosmic Killjoy!
Unfortunately, many devout Christians over the years have misinterpreted God’s primary disposition and missed out on the happiness that comes from enjoying Him. How ironic, that some of God’s most ardent supporters can be the least joyful. In her autobiography, Helen Glasgow spoke of her religious father as a man of rigid rectitude: “He was entirely unselfish, and in his long life he never committed a pleasure.” Apparently Martin Luther’s good friend, Philip Melancthon, was the same way. He was so scrupulously attentive to every moral jot and tittle, that Luther thought he was missing out on the grace and mercy of God. Exasperated, he one day exclaimed, “Philip, would you just go out and sin a little bit? God deserves to be able to forgive you for something.”
MacLaren continues his sermon on the happy God by writing, “It is something, surely, amid all the griefs and sorrows of this sorrow-haunted and devil-hunted world, to rise to this lofty region and to feel that there is a living personal joy at the heart of the universe. If we went no further, to me there is infinite beauty and mighty consolation and strength in that one thought—the happy God. He is not, as some ways of representing Him figure Him to be, what the older astronomers thought the sun was, a great cold orb, black and frigid at the heart, though the source and center of light and warmth to the system. But He Himself is joy, or if we dare not venture on that word, which brings with it earthly associations, and suggests the possibility of alteration—He is the blessed God. And the Psalmist saw deeply into the divine nature, who, not contented with hymning His praise as the possessor of the fountain of life, and the light whereby we see light, exclaimed in an ecstasy of anticipation, ‘Thou makest us to drink of the rivers of Thy pleasures.’”
Ask the typical Christian what God wants of them and they will probably answer, “To be good, to try hard to live morally, to serve Him faithfully, to give up harmful habits, to help others, to read the Bible, pray and witness, etc.” But to have this attitude is to miss the very essence of the Christian life. God’s design is that we glorify Him and enjoy Him forever beginning right now. He wants His children to be exceedingly happy. In fact, the Christian faith was designed to be the most exhilarating, the most exciting, and the most enjoyable existence possible!
God is offering us a happiness, a joy, that infinitely transcends all other happiness's and joys combined in the power and potential to satisfy, thrill, fill, and fulfill. And it is all to be found in only one place: in God’s presence and in His Person. If you delight yourself in the Lord, you will discover that there is power in the blood of Christ to wash out sin's darkest stains; power in the grace of God to purify the foulest heart; peace to calm life's roughest storms; hope to cheer guilt's darkest hour; courage available that will enable you to defy death and descend calmly into the tomb; treasure which makes the poorest rich and without which the richest are poor indeed. Life in the kingdom of God has treasures greater far than east or west unfolds, and its rewards more precious are than all their stores of gold.
One song writer, upon discovering true happiness amid an unhappy world wrote: "I've found the Pearl of great price, my heart doth sing for joy, and sing I must, a Christ I have, And O what a Christ I have!"
If you want to know true happiness, beginning now and lasting forever, then you must turn from self and sin to trust in and treasure Christ alone.
Christ died, not to give us health and wealth, nor fame or a big name, but to bring us to intimately know the holy, happy God. This is the special, singular, sublime place wherein is found the Treasure and Pleasure of Life. Psalm 16:11, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
More in Pastor Wade's Blog
March 27, 2023We Are at Risk of “Burnout” in a Short-term Sprint for Jesus!
March 27, 2023Replacing Discipleship with Dreaming!
February 16, 2023The Wrath of God