I once thought Christians lived the most boring lives on earth. That was before I became a Christian myself. Since then I’ve found the opposite is actually true. I have found that the holy way, the godly way, the way of obedience, is in reality the happy way.
Some Christians talk about what they’ve given up to follow Jesus Christ. But what do we really give up? For some, it’s addiction to drugs or alcohol. For most, it’s guilt, emptiness, loneliness and, of course, that ever-present fear of death.
Thus, we could agree with the words of the apostle Paul, who said, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8 NLT).
Paul was saying, “The things I have given up are nothing compared to what God has given me.”
We see in the Bible that happiness is always connected to holiness. We also find that happiness is not something that should be sought outright; rather, it’s a result of seeking something else. And that something else is holiness.
Although the Declaration of Independence refers to “the pursuit of Happiness” as one of our “unalienable Rights,” pursuing happiness in and of itself is generally a futile search. As philosopher Eric Hoffer said, “The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.”
Many people today who are searching for happiness never will quite have it. There are people with a lot of accomplishments, a lot of fame and a lot of money who live miserable, empty lives. They’re searching for something but in the wrong way.
Happiness is a byproduct of holiness. When you get your life in order, happiness soon will follow.
That is why unbelievers can never know true happiness. They will go after the world’s cheap counterfeits, which are shallow. The world’s concept of happiness depends on good things happening.
The Bible tells us how to find and maintain holiness, and as a result, happiness, in our lives. And in Psalm 119 we have God’s original design.
First we’re told that if we want to be holy, then we are to walk in an undefiled way: “Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths” (verses 1–3 NLT).
From the very beginning of our lives, we learn the importance of walking. It’s interesting how little children immediately start moving that way. Of course, we help them along and feel proud when they take their first steps. But babies don’t want to just lie there. They want to push themselves up. They try again and again, and then pretty soon, they’re crawling. Then they struggle to pull themselves up and stand on their wobbly baby legs. They keep trying until they can do it.
Walking speaks of progression, of moving forward, as opposed to simply sitting still. If we want to be truly happy and holy people, then we should not only avoid what is wrong, but we should also embrace and actively engage in what is right.
It’s true that the Bible tells us what we should not do. But it also tells us what we should do. Those who see the Bible as a list of rules and regulations have not carefully examined it. Yes, God tells us what to avoid. Yes, God warns us of things that are perilous to our spiritual health. At the same time, he tells us what we must do.
For example, the Bible tells us, “Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts.” But it also says, “Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (2 Timothy 2:22 NLT).
If you want to be holy – and happy as a result – then you must actively walk in God’s ways.
Years ago I was in the backyard with my dog when I saw a brightly colored finch sitting on the ground. I walked over to it, expecting it to flutter away, but it stayed. I bent down to take a closer look, thinking it must be dead. It looked like it was still breathing, so I put out my finger and immediately it hopped on.
I walked into the house with the finch still perched on my finger and said to my wife, “Look what I just found in the yard.” We asked our son if any of his friends had bird cages, so he ran down the street to borrow a cage from a neighbor.
When he returned, I opened the cage and the bird hopped in. It began chirping as it went from perch to perch. This was the happiest bird I’d ever seen. Obviously it was someone’s pet. Obviously it felt comfortable in a cage. That little bird enjoyed captivity.
The bars of that cage could be seen some by some as restrictive, but for that little bird, they represented protection.
In the same way, some see God’s law as restrictive, as something that stops them from really enjoying life. No, it’s protection from the things that can harm us. It’s the way to live life to its fullest.
There are two ways we can live: the right way and the wrong way. There are two paths we can take: the narrow road that leads to life or the broad way that leads to destruction. There are two foundations we can build on: solid rock or sinking sand. The result is that we can either live the happy and holy way or the miserable and unholy way. Which will you choose?