Monday, May 14, 2018

Morning Devotions with Chaplain Kenny - QUESTION: How Can I Find Happiness?


How Can I Find Happiness?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
~ Matthew 5:6 (NIV)

Happiness is so much a part of the American mindset that it’s actually included in our Declaration of Independence: “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.”

But what is this happiness that so many Americans are pursuing? I think there’s a lot of truth in Eric Hoffer’s statement that “the search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.”

You actually can become a very unhappy person as you’re trying to become a happy one. A Psychology Today article entitled “The Road to Happiness” pointed out, “Compared to 1960, the America of today has doubled spending power. . . . But what has this economic growth meant for morale? Over the same period, depression rates have soared. Teen suicide has tripled. Divorce rates have doubled.” [1]

The Bible gives a completely different view of happiness than our culture does. According to the Scriptures, happiness isn’t something that should be sought directly; it is always something that results in seeking something else.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Being blessed, or happy (these words are used interchangeably in the Bible), is not based on circumstances. Rather, it is a deep, supernatural experience of contentedness, based on the fact that a person’s life is right with God. As our will is aligned with God’s, the rest of life will find its proper balance.

This flies in the face of popular wisdom that would essentially say that to be happy, you have to be successful, have the perfect physique, or be incredibly wealthy.

Psalm 1 gives us God’s definition of a happy person: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night” (verses 1–2).

Notice that God begins with the negative rather than the positive. He tells us what we must not do before He tells us what we must do. He warns us of certain things that can be perilous to us spiritually, certain things that we must avoid. If we want to be truly happy, if we want to flourish, first we have to guard ourselves against the things that harm us.

We are living in a time when it seems like everyone is watching their weight. And as the years go by, it seems like we have more weight to watch. Of course, when we’re watching our weight, we become aware of things like calories and fat grams.

The same is true of our spiritual lives. We want to avoid the things that would hinder our spiritual growth. There are things we may engage in, things we may do, that could be detrimental to us spiritually. They may hold us back from the life God wants us to live.

Here are three questions you can ask about certain things and whether they will help you or hurt you spiritually:

1. Does it build you up spiritually? In other words, does it promote growth in character? The question isn’t whether it’s allowable or you can get away with it. Rather, is it spiritually constructive?

2. Does it bring you under its power? Something may not be bad in and of itself, but too much of that thing could begin to control your life. It has an allure, and you can’t stop once you start. It’s an obsession in your life.

3. Do you have an uneasy conscience about it? There are certain areas that might be a greater problem for some than they would be for others. You need to ask yourself if that thing is hurting you spiritually.

The blessed, or happy man of Psalm 1 doesn’t “walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.” In other words, he avoids certain things that can hurt him in his spiritual life.

Also notice the progression—or maybe I should say the regression—in that statement. First he is walking, then he is standing, and then he is sitting.

If you stop and think about it, that is how temptation works. You’re walking along, saying, “I’m not going to do that. I can control myself. I will know when to say no.” But then you slow down a little. Before you know it, you’re standing. Then you’re looking. And then you’re doing just what you said you wouldn’t do.

How did you get there? It all started with going near that thing. That is why the Bible tells us to avoid even the appearance of evil. Keep as much distance from it as possible.

Don’t get me wrong. To follow this principle is not to be overly restricted but to live in true freedom.

If you want to be a happy person, the Bible tells you how. If you want to be happy in the way the Bible defines happiness, if you want contentedness that comes from a relationship that is right with God, if you want your life to be in proper balance and harmony, then here is what God tells you that you must do. Don’t walk in step with the wicked. Don’t stand in the way that sinners take. Don’t sit in the company of mockers. Let your delight be in God’s Word. Meditate in it day and night.

It’s simple, but it takes commitment. Be consistent and regular, and you will find happiness in the truest sense of the word.
Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy, peace and happiness in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise make us one in mind and heart. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
In Jesus,
Chaplain Kenny

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[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199407/the-road-happiness

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.

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