Chances are you may have heard this phrase before. . This is also another common phrase that children are often taught in today’s world. Happiness and success are often things we aspire to in this life.
At face value, being happy and successful are noble pursuits but when we dig deeper and seek a Godly understanding from the Bible, a more holistic understanding emerges.
The Pursuit of Happiness
To be happy is to achieve a state of emotional satisfaction; to feel content and good about yourself. Achieving a state of happiness is possible, but is subjected to the relative desires and your individual preferences. The statement comes to mind when we consider that, what it takes to make one person happy, is not necessarily the same standard for someone else. How you feel and the conditions that make you happy one week may change another week later.
How often do we hear people prioritise their happiness and pursuit of it for selfish means? To a large extent, Western culture epitomises individual selfishness in that your personal happiness is a key priority. Consumerism and market behaviour combine in ways to help sell products and services that feed our desire for happiness. Further, in more extreme situations, we are challenged to choose our own happiness over the happiness of others.
Does God really want us to be happy? Perhaps, but when we delve into the Bible to understand God’s intentions and His purposes for our lives, happiness seems to emerge more as an incidental by-product, and less so an ultimate goal. God, above all, wants us to draw close and to pursue Him. Worship, and its purpose in focusing our attention away from ourselves and instead on desiring God, helps to combat our selfish ways.
When we worship and seek God first, He will no doubt bless and ensure we are never in need. Often, His provision overflows with abundance and will more than lead us to contentment, satisfaction and joy.
The Joy of the Lord
Happiness tends to be temporary and fleeting in comparison to the deep-seated joy that the Lord provides. The joy of the Lord is instead a never-ending source of comfort and strength. Being filled with joy is not something we can achieve on our own, or by our own strength. Instead, it is because of our relationship with God, and because Holy Spirit fills us with His presence, that we experience God’s joy.
In order to feel happy, something or someone caused it. The trigger for someone to feel happy tends to be an external stimulus – the feeling of happiness is triggered by other people, things, places, thoughts or events. Joy is instead largely connected with internal aspects of identity – being secure in knowing who you are, why you are and how you are.
Indeed, as Rick Warren has stated, joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.
When you consider this definition of joy, it is easy to see why God defines it as, not just a fruit of the Spirit, but also important towards achieving a holistic approach to growing our faith. When we submit our life situation to God, He will answer it ultimately with joy, which may or may not include happiness.
Achieving success is a measure that is subjective according to how someone defines it. Sometimes compromise is required in order for you to achieve success. Success becomes a cultural measurement too. For example, the stereotypical Asian society defines success in terms of education and wealth. The pursuit of more and more education and wealth is considered a sign of success and prosperity.
However, success in the eyes of God can look quite different. While the world considers success a selfish ambition, success to God is about making Him the centre and focus of our faith journey. When we seek Him first, the successful attitude and prioritisation in life is part of what qualifies as success. Success is very much a heart condition which God can only transform if we let Him in.
The opposite to success – failure – is also considered part of God’s plan. It is through the times of failure and hardship that God may work greater. When we are weak, God has a greater chance to work and manifest His glory. If we never fail, then God cannot work or refine and grow our character. God considers obedience a key measure for defining success and love.
More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are God, that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. In this way, the Bible instead inverts everything – that the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God.
To be successful in God’s eyes we are to die to ourselves and instead, live for God’s eternal purposes. To be Kingdom minded means building our treasure in heaven where it cannot rust or be stolen.
As you continue your daily journey of working out your faith, consider where you stand on these goals of life. Ask God to unveil your eyes to the way He sees things like happiness and success. To help reorient and transform your mind, seek God first.
Nic Lee works by day as a Business Analyst Consultant whilst, outside of business hours, maintains an IT support & website services business. He volunteers with 89.9 LightFM (Christian Community Radio). Nic has served for over twenty years in his local church, in worship, technology consulting, life group leading and event management.