The Pursuit of Happiness

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776


The pursuit of happiness may be considered by some as a selfish ambition, but it is actually a moral obligation that every Christian has toward His Lord and His brethren.  However, what “happiness” means to a Christian is different than what it means to others in the world.


“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Phil. 4:4)  A Christian’s basis for rejoicing is in the Lord Christ.  A Christian has every reason to rejoice because he has every spiritual blessing in Christ.  A Christian has been forgiven of his sins, restored to a fellowship with God, made suitable for service to God and others, and given the hope of eternal life.  All of these blessings have been provided free of charge to every Christian through no merit of their own.  Given these blessings, a Christian has no right to be unhappy.


“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Phil. 4:4)  Someone may think, “That’s easy for Paul to say.  He was an apostle.”  Let us keep in mind that Paul wrote these words while in prison.  Let us remember that he was imprisoned because of his service in Christ.  Let us understand that Paul had every worldly circumstance to make him unhappy, yet he rejoiced.


The epistle to the Philippians is a great exposition on happiness.  Notice Philippians 1:12-26.  What is it that made Paul happy?  “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice.” (Phil. 1:18)  Paul’s happiness was rooted and grounded in magnifying and glorifying his Lord Christ.  If he achieved that goal, Paul would be happy.  On this basis, Paul also encouraged happiness in his fellow Christians.  “Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” (Phil. 2:17-18)


In Paul we learn why many who appear to have every reason to be unhappy can have true happiness, while others who have everything in the world that their hearts desire are the most miserable.  Paul’s happiness was not based on his personal circumstances, his possessions, his reputation, or any other self-concern.  His pursuit of happiness was entirely outside of himself.  He was happy if his Lord was glorified.  He was happy if others were brought to Christ.  He was happy if his brethren were excelling in the Lord.


Thus it should also be with all Christians.  However, too often we connect our happiness to things having only to do with ourselves.  Therefore, if we don’t look exactly the way we would like, if our jobs are not exactly what we would like, if we don’t have all of the material things we would like, if other people don’t think as highly of us as we would like, etc., then we are unhappy.  The person who focuses only on these selfish things can never be happy because nobody has all of these things.


However, those who focus on the things of the Lord will always be happy because they will always have the spiritual blessings of Christ Jesus.  No one can take those blessings away.  Even when Paul was imprisoned or when the apostles of Christ were beaten (Acts 5:41), they were still able to rejoice.


Also, Christ has made it always within our power to pursue and achieve happiness.  Consider the Lord’s “recipe” for happiness in the beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12.  These are things that all of us can do right now, and the Lord has guaranteed success.


If a Christian is unhappy, then something is seriously wrong.  The spiritually minded person can be truly happy in any circumstance.  If a Christian is unhappy, then he needs to examine the source of his unhappiness.  Is it truly some worldly difficulty, or is it his failure to look beyond that difficulty and see how truly blessed he is in the Lord?  Is his unhappiness due to a worldly circumstance or a lack of faith?  The greater the difficulties of this world, the greater our faith must be.


Therefore, we see that before we take up the pursuit of happiness, we must first understand where true happiness is found.  Chasing after happiness through the wrong means is a worthless effort.  It will end only in heartache and failure.  However, pursuing happiness in the Lord is a cause that is sure of success.


Stacey E. Durham


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