I recently read an article about, “The Gospel of Happiness.” No disrespect to Joel Osteen, but if happiness is your goal in life, then you’ve missed the boat entirely. In fact, your religion is Hedonism, no matter how thickly you may have draped it in Christian themes. Nowhere in scripture do I find God’s purpose, stated or implied, to be our happiness. In the Garden God’s clear will is for Adam and Eve to resist the Serpent’s guile and choose life over misrepresented self-interest. Sadly, their failure to conform to God’s will has resulted in a tragic struggle to save mankind from the penalty for sin. At the other end of the Bible, in John’s Revelation, we see open war, including all the conditions of suffering that war always brings; up to and including the utter destruction of both Heaven and Earth. Jesus Himself tells us of these events in Matthew 24. Then also, In John 15:20, He reminds us that “the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecute me they will also persecute you.”
Where is this mythical happiness everyone pursues? Be advised that the Peace and Joy promised by our Savior is not the same thing as earthly happiness. Many Christians have been led into that misunderstanding. We attend our “churches” for Sunday worship, lift our hands and sing God’s praises, listen to motivational messages of hope, happiness and prosperity, all designed to make us feel good, to make us feel “spiritual.” Well I have bad news; being spiritual and feeling spiritual are two different things. The truth is that being spiritual does not often feel good, ask anyone who has truly “picked up their cross” and followed Christ.
Being spiritual means reaching into people’s messy lives, lives corrupted by sin, and doing what is necessary to bring a healing balm and the light of Christ’s salvation to the dark corners of the world. Being spiritual seldom feels good, yet, truly being spiritual is God’s purpose for “The Body of Christ.” It includes worship, ministry, discipleship, fellowship and evangelism, all balanced together in action that models the work of Christ in the world, work that was strongly opposed by the religious leaders of the time.
In large part, the misunderstanding lies in the church’s failure to properly disciple its members, to teach them that the reality of scripture is a war between good and evil, a battle between the forces of darkness and those of light. How could we have missed that? Why is it that most Christians are speechless at the question, “How could a loving god have let this happen?” The answer is simple, it’s because “war broke out in Heaven,” (Rev. 12:7), and that heavenly war has spilled out on the earth.
Anyone who has experienced war will tell you that, among the priorities of battle, “happiness” is fairly low on the list. But there is great joy in victory, so it’s important that you choose the winning side, and choose you must though the choices are few. A commonly heard phrase in time of war is, “you’re either with me or against me.” There is a large measure of truth in that adage, because in war as in peace, “you’re going to serve somebody.” It’s important that you choose this day whom it is you will serve, whether it will be “the gods of the Amorites,” or The Lord, the God of all creation. No one can guarantee your happiness, but the Lord will guarantee you eternal life with all the elements that lead to it. Choose today. Choose life.