Enjoying God’s Vision for Happiness

What exactly is happiness? How do we measure it? What is God’s vision for happiness? The Bible is supremely concerned with providing us with an answer.

“Are you happy?” In 2012 the UN General Assembly determined to ask this of the nations. On this happiness index, Finland has been the happiest country for five years in a row, whereas India 2022 is the 136th.

We all desire happiness and pursue it. Yet, this report begs the question: what exactly is happiness? How do we measure it? What is God’s vision for happiness? The Bible is supremely concerned with providing us with an answer.

God’s Vision for Happiness

In Psalm 1, the word “blessed” captures the flourishing state of the Christian. It is the first word of the psalm and can also be translated, “happy.” The psalmist essentially says, here is God’s vision of a truly happy person.

This psalm reveals the end-time verdict for the believer: we will stand as righteous in God’s sight when he judges the world because of our faith in Christ Jesus (Ps. 1:5-6).

For all eternity we will enjoy perfect and complete happiness. But is our sure hope for happiness only fulfilled in the future? According to this psalm, as we live in light of Christ’s redemption, it is gloriously possible for us to experience untold happiness here, now, and today.

Consider these images of blessed happiness in God.

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Ps. 1:3).

The rich minerals of the flowing river nourish the planted tree. Likewise, by the sovereign work of the Father, the Christian is “planted”  in Christ. He is the “river whose streams make glad the city of God” (Psalm 46:4).

The tree by the water yields timely fruit even in dry climate, as a result of its suitable location. Likewise, the Christian nourished by the refreshing waters of the gospel bears good fruit in good times and hard times. They are always displaying evidence of a living faith in Christ.

The tree yields fruit not just for itself but for others as well (Ps. 1:5). Likewise, others benefit from the presence and works of the believer.

What do you think will make you truly happy? How closely is your vision of happiness aligned with God’s vision for it? How do we cultivate such deep happiness?

Cultivating Happiness

Like filling up a petrol tank only when it is down to nothing, our posture to God can be to turn to him only when we are low. But this is not the psalmist’s recommendation.

Spiritual growth into a Spirit-filled life is formed through spiritual habits.

The psalmist says the happy Christian meditates on God’s word day and night. In fact, “his delight is in the law of the LORD.”

In sharp contrast, we often run to the evil that destroys happiness. We think “the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, and the seat of scoffers” will delight us (Ps. 1:1).

The Spirit brings direct opportunities for us to experience our deepest delight in Christ. More often, however, we disproportionately indulge in other good gifts (or evil desires) to satisfy us instead of Christ.

Delighting in the Lord is not self-produced. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

Working out in a gym improves physical health and motivates further working out. Similarly, meditating on God’s word deepens our delight in God and nurtures a longing for more of it.

The Word of God is the Christian’s anchor for the soul. In its pages we find Christ who can give us life and happiness from his limitless resources.

When such delight captivates us, like Peter, we will exclaim, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life?” (John 6:68).

Habits for Enjoying God’s Vision for Happiness

I am not a dancer, but I know that a waltz requires the couple to dance in triple time. The movement involves this pattern: step-step-close. Likewise, our happiness dance form involves a triple time pattern: read-pray-practise.

Reading the Word

The first movement in enjoying God’s vision for happiness is reading his Word. God has definitively spoken to us in the Bible. He can speak through other means—people, conscience, and a whisper.

Yet, no other means of speech is stamped with the indelible mark of authority and sufficiency like his Word.

I prefer that my schedule be fairly spontaneous. However, spontaneous streaks do not bode well for habit formation.

Habits take forceful intentionality until they are formed. Thus, when it comes to Bible reading, the intentional practice of having the same Bible that you read at the same time in the same place (perhaps with a cup of coffee) is vital. Use a reading plan that tells you exactly what to read on any given day.

Here is a list of Bible reading plans, if you do not already have one. This is my personal favourite plan that I have enjoyed over the last few years.

Try to meditate on God’s word, not simply read it. Meditation is focused thinking. It involves using your imagination to think God’s Word through, into every area of your life.

Read slowly and intentionally, contemplating what the passage shows you about God and yourself.

Meditate until your heart is warmed by the affection of Christ Jesus and you feel empowered to obey the Word.

Praying the Word

Having heard from God in the Bible, the natural response of the Christian in the second movement is to pray. I have found the simple ACTS method of prayer rather helpful.

It encourages using the Bible to Adore God, Confess sin, Thank God for Jesus’ redemption, and offer Supplication for our needs and the needs of others.

First, identify attributes of God that you can enjoy. We often go to him with requests, as we should. Yet, we delight in God by taking the time to adore him and enjoy him for who he is. For instance, we appreciate his fatherly goodness in creation, his providence in our lives, and his governance of the world’s affairs.

Second, confess any sins that the Holy Spirit has revealed in your meditation. The chief reason we are not happy is the continuing influence of our sinful nature and its evidence in specific sins.

Sin is a happiness killer. Mercifully, there is a way to swim up to deep happiness. We can confess our sins with the confidence that we have a pastor in Christ, heaven’s great defence lawyer. Through his advocacy on our behalf, the Father happily forgives us.

Thirdly, we thank God for Christ’s redemption, using the language of Scripture from the portion we have read that day.

Finally, supplicate. Present your requests to God. Often, going through this journey has made my supplications richer. Because I go to God with my felt needs after adoring God, my happy heart begins to want more happiness in Christ.

My prayers are more attuned to God’s desires for my heart, and my requests for tangible needs feel lighter. I am asking them of a Father I know and trust, who will do absolutely what is best for my soul’s delight in him.

Practising the Word

The final movement in our daily rhythm of enjoying God’s vision for happiness is to practise it. The brother of our Lord encourages so, “be doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).

Identify one or two things that you can do to change your life for the better. It can be as small as reducing your entertainment consumption. Or it can be as big as pursuing reconciliation with a friend.

Habits take time. It is somewhat labour-intensive, but the rewards are stupendous.

Depth is vital. It is better to read-pray-practise 3 verses a day, over 3 months, than to simply read 3 books of the Bible every 3 months.

Regularity is key in habit formation. Start small, but be consistent. In these habits for happiness, remember the aim: our heart’s enjoyment of true delight in Jesus.

The Fruit of the Gospel

We are the tree planted by water that bears fruit, in season and out. Christ himself is the water that nourishes us.

When someone treats us poorly, the gospel bears fruit with a quiet assurance to our hearts that our identity is in Christ. His joy has more authority in us than the despairing situations we face.

If our well-laid plans are changed at a moment’s notice, the gospel bears fruit with the all-surpassing peace that our Lord has a better course for us than we can imagine.

When grief and sadness overwhelm us due to tragedy, the gospel bears fruit by enabling us to lament the pain in this world and cry out in faith to the one who will wipe away all our tears.

It takes Spirit-enabled discipline to enjoy such blessedness or happiness.

There is joy in the gospel bearing fruit in our lives. May your heart’s deepest delight be in the Lord. In all circumstances, may you always be more than happy in Christ.

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