Why does the world not make us happy? And why does my walk with Christ not make me happy?
Perhaps the answer is as follows: Double-minded disciples of Jesus Christ, who allow sin to reign in their mortal bodies, are most miserable because they are seeking to hold on to the world with one hand and Jesus Christ with the other.
So often, when we look about, we see the undeniable glee of some sinners. They lack peace in their soul, and they lack joy in their heart, but they certainly have fun in their nights. Whether it is the rock star, pop icon, financial shark, professional athlete, reality-show idiot, frat buddy, office mate, former spouse, or next door neighbor, they seem to live loud, live proud, and live it up. Care-free hedonism characterizes their lifestyle, and their conscience troubles them not. From a scriptural perspective, we know they are unrighteous; we know they are unwise; we know they are unsafe and headed for destruction; but they sure seem like they are having fun as they sing and dance with Pharrell Williams.
Additionally, when we look about, we see the undeniable joy of some Christians. In good days and bad they walk in mysterious joy. The Lord gives to them and then takes away, but despite what He does they bless and worship their God. They give thanks in all things. They have an odd peace that passes all understanding. In every situation they learn to be content. The Lord is their Shepherd, and they want nothing else. Even in the valley of the shadow of death and the presence of their enemies, goodness and mercy follows them all the days of their life. Blessed and happy are they even when poor in spirit, when mourning, when made meek, and when forced to endure days of reviling and persecution. Even in these harsher days, they are able to rejoice and be glad for great is their reward in heaven.
But then we ask the question: Why then, as disciples of Jesus Christ, are we so miserable? Why does the world not make us happy? And why does my walk with Christ not make me happy?
Perhaps the answer is as follows:
Double-minded disciples of Jesus Christ, who allow sin to reign in their mortal bodies, are most miserable because they are seeking to hold on to the world with one hand and Jesus Christ with the other.
Because the Spirit lives within, and their consciences are alive, they cannot find happiness in the world. Likewise, because the Spirit lives within, and their consciences are alive, they cannot find happiness with Christ either. The Spirit is grieved; he is quenched; and consequently the double-minded disciple of Christ is unstable in all his ways. And as a result he finds himself to be the most miserable of souls on the planet.
Malachi, the Old Testament prophet, communicates this point to his hearers. His Israelite neighbors seek to worship God, but they do so unfaithfully. In his first two chapters, Malachi outlines their sacrifices and feasts, but he also points out their inconsistencies and transgressions. Therefore, because they are holding on to God with one hand and the world with the other, their worship becomes despicable, vain, displeasing, and profane to God (1:6-12). In addition, their worship becomes vain, despised, burdensome, and weary to them; all that God desires and requires becomes something to be snorted at. (1:12-13). And yet, they cannot leave God be. They cannot walk away from God and be at peace in the world. Malachi writes:
Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts! And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand (Malachi 2:10-13).
Malachi’s contemporaries are miserable. They are unhappy in unfaithful worship, and they are unhappy without the communion that comes from faithful worship. They are trying to hold on to God with one hand, and the world with the other, and therefore they cannot find happiness, peace, contentment, and joy from either God or the godless world. Malachi’s neighbors are double-minded, and they are miserable.
Therefore friends, how ought we to respond to this devotional thought?
First, if we are living in sin, and find ourselves happy, let us conclude that we are lost. Let us recognize that our current existence is the only heaven we will ever experience, and let us consider that which is promised over the horizon. The pleasures of sin are for a season, and then follows everlasting death. Short term gratification is acceptable to the immature fool. Consider our Maker; consider our Law Giver; consider our Judge; consider our Savior; consider our Lord, and bow the knee to the Crucified and Risen Son while there is still time. Those who live in sin and are not troubled, they are dead in their sins and separated from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The happiness of such sinners is external, shallow, and coming to an end.
Second, if we are living in sin, and find ourselves unhappy, let us conclude that we are being blessed. The Holy Spirit may be drawing us to salvation, or he may be reminding us the law of love which we owe our King. Let us rejoice in conviction. Let us find strange comfort in feeling horrible about our sin, and let us respond with godly repentance. Let us not reject the conviction of God. Let us no soothe our troubled souls with a new drug, new toy, or new boy. Friends, it is a wonderful blessing when our hearts are punctured by God’s ethic. It is a wonderful blessing not to be left alone by the Spirit of God. Therefore, prove your regeneration, justification, adoption and union with Christ by returning to the Holy God who offers grace to all who cry for mercy.
Third, let us pursue as much happiness as we can have in this life. That means, “Let us trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Or in the words of Scripture, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. Let us flee sinful lust. Let us seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Let us drink from the fountain that never runs dry and find ourselves without thirst. Let us walk in the Spirit. Let us keep step with the Spirit. And let us find ourselves filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control … and true happiness.
Isaiah 52:7–10 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Joseph A. Franks IV is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. This article first appeared on his blog, and is used with permission.