Does God Want Me To Be Happy?

I have met people on each end of the spectrum. I have conversed with folks who are convinced that God is “out to get them” and is determined to make their life miserable. I have also dialogued with folks who believe that God’s supreme priority is their personal happiness.

Is God concerned with our happiness? I would say ‘Yes.’

Does God want me to be happy no matter what? To that I would say ‘No.’

Our happiness is intended to have a particular trajectory and a particular object. God’s chief aim for us is that we would glorify Him. It logically follows then, if our happiness is at the expense of God’s glory, we’ve missed God’s design for joy.

In other words, God does not want you to be happy when it causes you to do something wrong or unwise. The apostle Peter reminds us, “Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15). You see, happiness does not trump holiness in God’s economy of things.

I would also argue for a second limitation for our pursuit of happiness. God doesn’t want you to be happy when pursuing happiness requires you to pursue and prefer temporal/worldly things over eternal priorities. John reminds us  of this in his first letter:

Everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father, but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:16, 17)

It may be very sobering for you to read that God does not desire your happiness in all situations. However, it is my great delight to declare that God really does want you to be happy and blessed. The verses which indicate this are myriad. The Psalmist says, “May all who are godly be happy in the Lord” (Ps. 97:12). The apostle Paul exhorts us, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).

But do you see the common thread? God wants you to ground your happiness in Him.

One of my favourite verses on this subject is Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

I love that challenge! And notice that David doesn’t say, “Agree with me that the Lord is good”—he says, “Taste and see“. The notion that our happiness is to be grounded in God is no mere theory, but rather, this is something to be experienced.

You were designed to be happy and that’s why you search for it at every turn. But the Bible explains that you were also designed to find your ultimate satisfaction and happiness in God.

On September 20 at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, I delivered a message on this subject—asserting what you have read above. While I encourage you to listen to the entire message below, I should concede that I don’t want you to take my word for it. My prayer is that you’ll “Taste and see” for yourself, and that in doing so you will find yourself blessed, satisfied, and happy.

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What Is Truth?

The search for truth is an ancient reality. Nearly 2000 years ago, while on trial, Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, “I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me” (John 18:37).

To which Pilate responded, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).

Our society continues to wrestle with this question, and in our day theories about truth abound. Some assert that there is no such thing as absolute truth (relativism). Others suggest that even if absolute truth exists, it can’t be known by imperfect human beings. Still others desire to be the authors of their own “truth” (subjectivism).

I am grateful that the Bible is not silent on the subject of truth, and I note that the Scripture pushes us past the notion that truth is a mere concept or philosophical idea. According to the testimony of Scripture, truth is not just a what, but a who.

The Gospel of John begins:

We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only (Christ), who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

We also have Jesus’ own declaration: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”(John 14:6).

The assertion of the Bible is that to know Jesus is to know truth. Furthermore, to know Jesus, to know the truth is liberating. Jesus says:

If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31, 32)

If you’re searching for meaning—if you’re searching for the truth, I want to encourage you—truth can be known. Engage Jesus Christ and expect to find what it means to be truly free.

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On September 13 at St. Giles Kingsway and at The Well, we began a 5-week series entitled TRUE[ish]. The first message, “What Is Truth?” is the “table-setting” message. I invite you to listen below and to track with this series over the next month.

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The September 20 message deals with how our pursuit of truth intersects with our pursuit of happiness. The September 27 message answers the assertion that no religion should claim to be true and that what matters most is the sincerity of our belief. October 4, we will examine how our behaviour should be transformed by our knowledge of the truth. The final message on October 11 will continue with this theme, attempting to answer the question: “What Difference Should Truth Make?”

Finding Your Way Home

Have you ever found yourself in a place where you didn’t feel as if you belonged? This might be an actual physical place, but it might also be an emotional space, or a spiritual space where you are not comfortable. You recognize that you don’t belong there and you’re desperate for a better place.

You’re desperate for a place that feels like home.

This is the grand theme of one of my favourite Psalms—Psalm 84.

The author of the 84th Psalm describes his intense yearning for “the courts of the Lord” and how his “heart and flesh cry out for the living God” (Ps. 84:1, 2). Home for the psalmist is in the company of the Almighty.

Within the psalm, God’s company is described as “lovely”—it is attractive, and desirable. The psalmist also indicates that those who experience the company of the Lord, those who find their way home, will experience abiding happiness: “Happy are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you” (Ps. 84:4).

But here’s the challenge: gaining and keeping the company of God is not an automatic thing. The blessing of God’s company is something to be strived after. The psalmist describes this striving as a “pilgrimage” as if to indicate that this is not a quick trip, but rather, a lengthy excursion.

Thankfully, God wants us to find our way home, and He will help our striving.

I do not know where you are at in your pilgrimge. But I am confident that if you are earnestly seeking after God, you will find Him. And when you do, you will find that this is life as it ought to be. When we are in the company of God , it is then that we are truly at home.

If I can be some encouragement to you along the journey, I invite you to listen to the message below, delivered at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well on September 6.

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Prerequisite Weakness

It’s not often that weakness is regarded as a prerequisite for promotion. Business owners seek out competent employees. Coaches look for players with the most skill. We tend to be attracted to strong people. When in need, we look for qualified people.

And yet, I know someone who operates by a very different principle. I know someone who habitually calls upon individuals who are massively under-qualified.

Yes, it is God’s custom to call the under-qualified and ill-equipped to carry out His will. This was certainly the case with the calling of Moses (see Exodus 3). Moses did not think he had the credentials (3:11), the information (3:13), the influence (4:1) or the skills in oratory (4:10) necessary to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.

What Moses had to learn, however, and what we often have to learn, is that our current level of competence is not critical to the success of the mission. God essentially said to Moses (my paraphrase): ‘Moses, never mind who you are. Never mind what your shortcomings are. I am the Lord and I will be with you, and by My power I will ensure that this mission is a success.’

By every appearance, the Lord is not looking for strong, qualified, people as much as He is looking for willing people—people who will trust in His strength to carry the day.

The apostle Paul got this. Paul understood that God often prefers to display His power in human weakness. To the Corinthians Paul says, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…I delight in weaknesses…For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10).

To the Philippians exclaimed, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

What about you?

Have you ever considered that God might be calling you to something that you are unqualified for? Might God be calling you to do something that you have absolutely no experience in?

Such a calling might seem strange if it weren’t for God’s accompanying strength. The principle we see repeatedly in the Scripture is that God does not call the equipped, but rather, He equips those whom He calls.

On Sunday, August 30, at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, I delivered a message from Exodus 3 and 4. This passage will likely challenge your notion of success and the causes of success.

Be encouraged—your weakness is not a detriment. Your weakness uniquely positions you to be used by God. If that is something you desire, have a listen to the message below. As always, I would delight to hear what you think!

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What’s Your Plan For Progress?

I just gave my daughter a kiss, wishing her well for her first day in grade 2. I am excited to think about the progress she will make this year. I expect that Anya’s reading and writing skills will greatly improve, as will her ability to do math. One of the things I love about our school system is that the progress of students is expected. And as the homework comes home I will remind my daughter that the aim of this work is her progress—that if she gives careful attention to her studies it will help advance her skills in a variety of subjects.

I long for this kind of intentionality to return to the local church. I long for a resurgence of expectations around our growth as followers of Jesus.

There are a number of metaphors that suitably describe the local church. The church is like a family—where we care for and support one another, celebrating together in good times and persevering together through difficult times. The church is like a hospital—this is a place to come and have our spiritual wounds mended, and where preventive medicine can be procured. The church is like an orchestra where a diverse selection of instruments work together to produce a unified sound.

I also believe that the church is like a school where students learn, advance their skills, and grow.

One of my greatest fears as a Christian is stagnation. I recognize that Christ redeemed me in order to transform me (Ephesians 2:10), and so if I’m not making progress then I’m dishonouring the Lord’s purpose for me.

What then, is the plan? If our growth in grace is not automatic, if becoming increasingly like Jesus is not our default setting, what needs to be done in order to promote progress?

I love the description the apostle Paul gives in his first letter to the Corinthians (Giving us yet another metaphor!): “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly” (1Cor. 9:25,26).

I think there is a way to approach the Christian life which is tantamount to “running aimlessly”. This is not the way of progress.

Growth in grace comes from diligent study, and it comes from carefully applying the things we have learned.

Accomplishing this will require a plan or strategy of some sort. Do we adjust our Bible reading habits? Do we step up the frequency of our prayer time? Do we begin taking notes during the Sunday sermon? Do we join a home Bible study group? Do we enlist the help of a Christian friend?

We each need to determine our own strategy for making progress in our Christian walk, but what we all have in common is our need for a plan. What’s your plan for progress this Fall?