Ed Alexander – "What Makes Us Happy" - Salem, OR - March 2, 2005

I have been thinking a little bit about what is that we all want out of life.  If a person were asked, "What do you want out of life?"  Maybe I will put it a little differently; what is it in life that we think will make us happy?  I had been thinking today about what the Scripture says that will make us happy.  I found it very interesting.  I have done this study before this time and I found it very interesting to see what the New Testament says about the things that will make us happy.  You know what?  They are totally opposite to what we would think naturally.  Naturally we think that happiness is going to be the result of doing whatever we want or having fun or having money, or other possessions.  These are the things that we tend to equate with happiness.  It is interesting to consider some of the Scripture about things that are going to make us happy.  This is not talking about eternity it is just talking about life.  Then beyond life these things that the Bible tells us will make us happy, also have with them the blessing of eternal life.  One thing that is good to remember is that there has never been a happier person than Jesus.  In the first chapter of Hebrews, verse eight, "But unto the Son he saith, 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.'"  Often we refer to Jesus as the man of sorrows, and that is true.  We read that in the book of Isaiah but we don't want to forget that even though He was the man of sorrows, He was also the most contented happy man that has ever walked on the face of the earth.  That was because he was 100% within the will of God.  

This matter of loving righteousness, you know, righteousness is very simply defined, in that which is right with God, that is righteousness.  It is not necessarily just being a good person.  Righteousness will make us a good person if we follow after righteousness because that is what is right with God.  That is more than just being good, it is being right with God.  Iniquity is not necessarily the things that are really bad, it includes that but it doesn't have to be things that are really bad.  Iniquity is simply that which is not right with God.  The word iniquity comes from two Latin words that simply mean "in equity" or unequal, the things that don't balance out.  The two words, sin and iniquity, are often combined and sin tends to refer to the things that are obviously wrong and iniquity refers to things that don't appear to be wrong but are wrong in the sight of God. Jesus loved that which was right and He hated that which was not right in the sight of God.  Because of that balance in his life, He was happy.  In the world, not many people would consider that reason for happiness.  Most people, by nature we tend to think that if we get what we want and often what we want is not right but we think that it is going to make us happy.  No, it won't, it will only bring grief.  The more  that we go into it, the more that we indulge ourselves, even in the things that appear to be right, but are not, the more grief we will have.  
 
I will never forget a visit that we had with a woman.  I think that it was about my third year in this ministry.  This woman had just recently made her choice to serve God in the meetings that my companion and I were having.  Then things degenerated in her home and she left her husband and moved in with another man.  We went to visit her and she made a statement that I have never forgotten.  She said, "How can anything that seems so right, be so wrong?"  That little statement stunned me and I have never forgotten it.  To her, her situation seemed very right but it was obviously wrong but it seemed right.  It says in Proverbs, there is a way that seems right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.  Just because something seems right to us does not mean that it is right.  Because our judgment is often skewed because of what we want.  Jesus' judgment was never skewed, never affected by what He wanted because He loved the will of God and the way of God more than anything else.
 
Another thing that I was thinking of is that when Jesus started the sermon on the mount, Matthew five, six and seven, with teaching his disciples, and these were men who were later to go into the ministry, how to be happy.  He said, "Blessed are the meek, blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness, blessed are the poor."  That Word blessed means  fortunate or deeply contented.  In every case here, these are things that we wouldn't seek after.  Blessed are they that mourn.  We don't like mourning.  We don't like poverty.  He said, "Blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers and blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake.  Blessed are you when man shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake, rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven."  I haven't had the experience very often of having people lie against me, but it has happened and I was not happy, and I didn't like it.  I was just thinking today, the blessing that I missed in that experience by not just realizing that if I had just taken that with the spirit of the lamb, that could have been a very wonderful experience.  It wasn't, but it could have been and I could have saved myself a whole lot of grief and discontent if I had just accepted it.  My first companion used to say, and I didn't know what he meant then, but I have been finding out, "Don't worry when people lie about you, start worrying when they tell the truth."  I really didn't understand what he meant, but I think I am beginning to now.  When people lie about us, we can just leave that to God, we don't have to justify ourselves, because God knows.  And that is what Jesus said, rejoice when they say all manner of evil falsely.  That is a blessing.  There is no blessing when they say it truthfully, we just have to live with that.  The blessing, the happiness, is in being able to just turn that over to God, just to have the faith to leave things in God's hands.  All of these things are totally contrary to our nature.  Jesus finished that sermon, and this is very impressive to me, He started that sermon on the mount with telling them how they could be happy but He finished it by telling them that blessing is not in the hearing, blessing is in the doing.  He gave that little story about the two men that built their house, the one that heard the word and did it, was like the man that built his house upon a rock, and then the man that heard the word and did it not, was like that man that built his house upon the sand.  The storms came and the wind blew and it rained and the river rose and washed against the houses.  The one house fell that was built upon the sand and the other house stood because it was built upon a rock.  Now, what was the difference?  Was it into the hearing?  No, they both heard.  The blessing was in the doing.  The last night before Jesus was crucified, John 13, was with His disciples and said, "If you know these things, happy are you if you do them."  Sometimes I think that there is a sort of contentment, maybe that is not the word, a feeling of ease that comes with knowing, but there is no blessing that comes with knowing.  We could deceive ourselves very easily by knowing but not doing.  The blessing has always been in the doing.  If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.  I think that, especially those of us that have been raised in this fellowship and knowing what is truth and what is right, we often fall into the pitfall of being content with knowing what is right, but the blessing comes in the doing.
 
There is another thing that I was noticing, and maybe this kind of goes along with the same thought.  In Romans 14:19, "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.  20:  For meat destroy not the work of God.  21:  It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.  22:  Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth."  That verse used to the kind of a mystery to me as to exactly what Paul meant.  It is very clear when we consider the verses that went before it.  Paul was talking about some things, and we want to remember that he was writing to Christians that were born and raised as Jews (some were Jews and some were Gentiles).  The Jews would have eaten no pork, no lobster, no crab, no catfish, a lot of things that we eat and enjoy, they couldn't eat and the Gentiles sitting right in the same meeting, right beside them, they had their lobster and ate pork, they worked on Saturday.  There would have been this tremendous difficulty in reconciling that that is OK, those things are not important because they were not doctrine, they  were no longer important.  That was the old law and it had been put to one side.  Paul said that if you are doing something, for example if you are a Gentiles and you like your lobster but your Jewish neighbor has a hard time with that, it would be better to forego your eating lobster, even though you like it and there is nothing wrong with it.  It is totally acceptable but if it is going to give problems, it would be better if you just forego it.  Then he went on to say, "Happy is the man that is not condemned in the things that he allows."  He was not talking about things that were prohibited to God's people, of which there are many.  He was talking about things that were permissible, totally all right, but could cause a problem within the fellowship.  And he said, "If you are just willing to live within the bounds of your conscience and the conscience of your brother, you will be happy."  But if you go ahead and do something, allow something, that is going to bother you, you are not going to be happy.  There is a wonderful happiness in living within the bounds of a Godly conscience.  There are things that we may deem legal or acceptable but they are not the best.  If we are just willing to forego the things that could be a problem and live within that which is not going to bother our conscience or our brother's conscience, it will bring a wonderful happiness into our soul.  Not only that, but it will promote a wonderful unity in the fellowship.
 
James
5:11, "Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."  We count them happy which endure.  I don't think any of us like "toughing things out."  Enduring comes from the word hard in Latin.  That is where we get our word, durable.  It means things that are hard and to endure means to be in a hard situation.  We don't like that, we like things that are easy and smooth but they don't produce in us what the things that are difficult do.  We may not consider it fun when we are in the midst of a hard experience.  I often think of what James said when he said, "Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations."  How many of us would consider that joy?  We don't like to be tempted.  We don't like tough experiences, but if we endure, we will be happy.  The flip side of that is if we don't endure, there will be sadness.  That is a guarantee.  If we are just willing to deny ourselves, to take up our Cross daily and follow Jesus, you know, a lot of life is just plugging along.  They are not glorious days a lot of times, they are just days when you just endure.  There are pleasant things in them but it is just a matter of us sticking it out.  We count them happy that endure, then he went on to say, we have seen the end of the Lord.  In other words, you have seen the final results of what the Lord does.  Then he went on to say, just think about Job.  If we think that we have it tough sometimes, just think about Job, but consider the end of the Lord who is very pitiful and of tender mercy, very compassionate and of tender mercy.
 
I was just thinking, "I hate to leave, I really do."  I have loved my time here, I have appreciated your warmth and hospitality so much and yet I echo what the Psalmist said, "The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places and I have a goodly heritage."  While I feel the leaving, I also look forward to what awaits me on the other side of the water.  I know that that will be good because what God plans will be good when you are willing to just fit into it and to adapt and to follow, then the Lord's way is always a blessing.  Sometimes it is not so easy at the moment, but it will always be a blessing at the end.  I am so grateful that God didn't plan that this way of His would be a way of drudgery.  God planned that His people would be the happiest, the most blessed people on earth.  The reason is so that we can be a testimony to those that are around us of the wonderful privilege that it is to serve the living God.