“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says have been given to all humans by their Creator and which governments are created to protect.
Although U.S. citizens are guaranteed the opportunity and privilege to pursue happiness, not many people know how to find it. The secret of happiness is not very well understood today.
For Christians, it should be the simplest, most important topic you need to thoroughly understand.
Is it possible to know the truth and for the truth to be a curse that thwarts our pursuit of happiness? Yes, the Bible is very clear about that. This is a serious subject that deserves study.
How to Be Happy
Asher was the son of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid that she gave to Jacob as a wife because she wanted more children. When he was born, Leah named him Asher, which means happy.
Deuteronomy 33:24–29 records the blessing that Moses pronounced upon the tribe of Asher. In that blessing is revealed the secret of happiness. “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help and the sword of our majesty” (verse 29)!
One of the common words in the Bible for happy or happiness is the word that is translated blessed or blessing. To be blessed or to receive blessing is to be happy.
In the Psalms it says, “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 144:15)! “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).
Solomon also stated it a number of different ways in the book of Proverbs. In Proverbs 3:13, it says, “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.” Wisdom, by the way, is one of the names of Jesus Christ (see Proverbs 8).
In the last part of Proverbs 14:21, it says, “But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.” People often say that as soon as they get rich they will have mercy on the poor. What happens in reality is that they pass through life always intending to have mercy on the poor and unfortunate, but they never find the wealth that they thought they should have and never fulfill their commitment. Don’t make the mistake and wait until you decide you are rich before you decide to help somebody else who is in trouble. It is a deception, nothing but a delusion. Proverbs 16:20, last part, says, “Whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.” And in Proverbs 29:18, last part, “Happy is he who keeps the law.”
There are texts in the New Testament about blessedness and happiness. John 13:17 says, “If you know these things, blessed [happy] are you if you do them.” Also in James 5:11 we are told: “We count them blessed [happy] who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” That is a verse which is very difficult for people to understand. It was also difficult for Job to understand this concept while he was going through the trial of his life.
Peter says something similar in 1 Peter 3:14: “If you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed [happy]. Do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” The Bible says that people who are suffering are the people who are happy. In fact, 1 Peter 4:14 says, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed [or happy] are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
Let’s summarize all these comments about how a person is going to find the secret of happiness. If you want to be happy, you will need to make a full and complete surrender of yourself to the Lord Jesus and choose to follow Him. The people whose God is the Lord are the happy people. Those who have received salvation are the people who are enjoying happiness. The rest of the world continue to seek for it.
Ellen White describes the secret of happiness this way: “God will accept nothing less than unreserved surrender. Half-hearted, sinful Christians can never enter heaven. There they would find no happiness; for they know nothing of the high, holy principles that govern the members of the royal family.” This Day With God, 145.
God knows that that there are people who would not find happiness in heaven if He took them there. Most people assume that to be taken to heaven means all would find happiness there. Those who find their pleasure in the things of this world would consider heaven torture, for in heaven, all have an unreserved surrender to the Lord. She says, “The true Christian keeps the windows of the soul open heavenward. He lives in fellowship with Christ. His will is conformed to the will of Christ. His highest desire is to become more and more Christlike. …
“Earnestly and untiringly we are to strive to reach God’s ideal for us.” Ibid.
God has an ideal for us and it is important for us to strive to be what God wants us to be. We are told: “Earnestly and untiringly we are to strive to reach God’s ideal for us. Not as a penance are we to do this, but as the only means of gaining true happiness.” Ibid.
The only people who attain true happiness are those who are striving to reach God’s ideal for them—striving to be what God wants them to be. Many think happiness is found in some kind of an amusement or thrill. One of the devices this world offers is county and state fairs with amusements that offer temporary happiness but they are just a distraction from the true aims of life.
The devil has invented many ways to entice people who are seeking pleasure and thrills. People trying to get a thrill or to get a high often turn to recreational drugs. All these things are temporary fixes and after the high they are no happier than they were before.
Until a person has made an unreserved surrender to the Lord Jesus they are never going to find the secret of true lasting happiness. Thrills are always temporary. Amusements always end.
The Bible says in Hebrews 11:24–27: “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”
Moses understood that whatever pleasures he might enjoy in a life of sin would be temporary, and the time would come when the pleasure would end. He figured out that there was something more worthwhile than any pleasure he could enjoy in this world. He looked beyond the pleasures in this world for a reward—an eternity of endless bliss.
“Earnestly and untiringly we are to strive to reach God’s ideal for us. Not as a penance are we to do this, but as the only means of gaining true happiness. The only way to gain peace and joy is to have a living connection with Him who gave His life for us.” The Review and Herald, May 16, 1907.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 MEV). The more you love someone, the more pleasure is involved in that person’s company.
Have you found the secret of true happiness? The devil does not want you to find happiness. He is trying to put something in your way so that you are afraid to make an unreserved surrender to the Lord. The devil keeps telling you about something you are going to miss out on, the pleasures of sin. But remember, although sin can provide temporary pleasure, it is always temporary and ends in disappointment and loneliness. It brings with it a feeling of emptiness and worthlessness, a feeling of shame, and a desire to be free from the bondage you are in.
Jesus said that the person living in sin is a slave—he is in bondage. But He said, If the Son sets you free, you will really be free.
“The enemy leads those who do not yield entirely to God to exalt self, to seek for supremacy and power. When the eye is not single to the glory of God, eternity is dropped out of your reckoning. Oh, we need to pray for the vitalizing influence of the Spirit of God. Unless the professed people of God yield themselves to the influence of God’s Holy Spirit, they will be overcome by the temptation of Satan.” The Signs of the Times, July 25, 1892.
If you have not made an unreserved surrender to the Lord, it’s just a matter of time before you will yield to some temptation of Satan that he puts in your way. The result is that your happiness will be destroyed. You may think you are going to be happy, but it doesn’t work out.
How many people have you talked to who have told you that what they thought would work out by the time they were middle aged did not? So many seek for happiness in temporary things that never satisfy while neglecting to first make an unreserved surrender to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. Are you striving to be what God wants you to be?
Some, especially the young, want an easy religion where they don’t have to work very hard. Ellen White wrote about the work Adventists were doing to try to educate young people. They were finding it very difficult, and she wrote: “We are educating the people here who are not inclined to put brain, bone, and muscles into their work. … We are trying to demonstrate to them that while there is no panoply but truth for us in order to be saved, diligence in business is essential to guard us against temptation. Indolence and idleness, games and parties and holiday picnics are opening many avenues to temptation.” Spalding and Magan Collection, 83.
Be diligent in working for Jesus or the devil will draw you into all kinds of temptations. This is especially true for young people today.
Many wish for lots of money so they do not have to work for their daily bread. The fact of the matter is, if they had to work long hours every day for their daily bread, they would be happier and less liable to fall into all kinds of temptations. The Bible says it is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. It is good for a person to have to work in order to survive.
Ellen White wrote about the problems they were facing with these students: “Paul had to work laboring with his hands, and felt no dishonor in it. All who would resist temptations that assail them from without and within must make sure that they are on the Lord’s side.” Ibid.
If you have more money than you need so that you don’t have to work hard in order to survive, you still need to be busy doing something that is useful. There are many characters in the Bible, like Joseph, David, Elisha, John the Baptist, the apostle Paul, and Jesus, who all were workers. Consider the story of those who had plenty of money and idle time. Consider what happened to Solomon and to David’s oldest son, Amnon. Remember what happened to the people in Sodom. In Ezekiel 16, it says that they had “fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness” (verse 49 KJV). They had plenty to eat and too much idle time. Consequently, they got into trouble and lost their souls. Sodom became so wicked that God had to destroy it. The world today is becoming like that ancient city. People have too much free time and as a result, they are yielding to all kinds of temptations.
Here are a few sentences from a letter Ellen White wrote to her son: “Dear son Edson: I fear that you do not always wisely regulate your labor. You sometimes do too much, and then allow precious hours to pass unimproved, thus creating a necessity for extra exertion. Temperate, persevering, steady labor will achieve far more than can be accomplished by spasmodic efforts.” The Upward Look, 146.
What was she talking about? He was twenty-seven years old, married, and had not yet learned to manage his time. She continued, “Labor was appointed to man by his Creator. God provided employment for our first parents in holy Eden. And since the Fall, man has been a toiler, eating his bread by the sweat of his brow. Every bone of his body, every feature of his countenance, every muscle of his limbs, evinces the fact that he was made for activity, not for idleness. …
“The faithful discharge of life’s duties, whatever your position, calls for a wise improvement of all the talents and abilities that God has given you. Guard against being always hurried, yet accomplishing nothing worthy of the effort. … Whatever is neglected at the time when it should be performed, whether in secular or in religious things, is rarely done well. Many appear to labor diligently every hour in the day, and yet produce no results to correspond with their efforts. …
“My dear son, be thorough in all you undertake.” Ibid.
Timing is crucial. If something is not done at the proper time, it often causes trouble later.
How to Be Saved
In the gospel of John, how to be saved is reduced to one word. People came to Jesus wanting to know how to be saved. One such incident is described in John 6:28. “Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ ” They wanted to be saved and didn’t know how. “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’ ” It is not complicated—just believe in the One whom He sent.
A few verses later in John 6, it says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (verse 47). Notice that is written in present tense. Jesus says, If you believe in Me, you have eternal life. “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die” (verses 48–50). The gospel of John emphasizes that the only thing necessary to be saved is to believe. In John 2:24, we are provided insight into what belief entails. It says, “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men.” That word commit is the same Greek word which is also translated as faith or belief.
Salvation is not complicated. If you really believe, you will commit. A good example of true belief is illustrated in this story:
Charles Blondin was history’s most famous tightrope walker, the first to cross Niagara Falls on a 1,300 foot hemp rope, two inches in diameter. He asked the crowd that had gathered if they believed if he could push his wheel barrow across the waterfall on the tightrope. When they responded that they did believe, he then said to them, if you believe, get in the wheelbarrow. If you get in the wheelbarrow, you have made a commitment proving you really believe.
Many people think they are Christians. They expect to go to heaven, but they have never made a real commitment. They don’t really believe.
Making a Commitment
In John 14:12, it says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
God wants to work a miracle in each life to fulfill the words of Jesus—that their works will be greater than those that Jesus performed while He was on earth. This will truly take a miracle!
The Truth Becomes a Curse
The truth becomes a curse when a person who has an intellectual knowledge of the truth neglects to commit to it. This is a common condition for thousands of people who claim to be Christians. These people become what is termed “gospel hardened.” The truth for them becomes a curse. For instance, Paul said, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
Sadly, these people have the truth. They know the truth. This is a great deception of our time. They will tell you that they are on the way to heaven because they believe the right theology, but they continue to practice unrighteousness. They are deluded. Truth for them is just an intellectual thing.
It says in 1 Peter 1:22: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth …” If you really commit to the Lord, then something is going to happen in your life. The Bible says that two people cannot walk together if they are not agreed (Amos 3:3). If you commit to the Lord, the Holy Spirit is going to speak to your mind: Why are you doing this? Should you be thinking that way? If you want to walk with Me, then you have to let that go.
In 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18 we are told: “ ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’ ”
Every commitment requires sacrifices. God asks us to separate from those things that are unclean—sin. Romans 1 elaborates on this subject. The result of those who refused: “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves” (Romans 1:24).
These people weren’t willing to let loose, to get free from what was unclean, so they couldn’t walk with the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 12:21, it says, “Lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness [licentiousness] which they have practiced.”
My dear friend, if you want to commit to the Lord you have to be willing to separate yourself from sin. You cannot receive the gift of salvation if you are not willing to get separated from what’s unclean. God’s kingdom is clean.
Look at 1 Thessalonians 4, starting in verse 3. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but to holiness” (verses 3–7).
You see, if you know the truth, but are not willing to separate from everything that is unclean, the truth will become a curse to you. You may know truth, but you are not living in harmony with it.
“The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ’s day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. It does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness. … The Pharisees claimed to be children of Abraham, and boasted of their possession of the oracles of God; yet these advantages did not preserve them from selfishness, malignity, greed for gain, and the basest hypocrisy. …
“The same danger still exists. Many take it for granted that they are Christians, simply because they subscribe to certain theological tenets. But they have not brought the truth into practical life. They have not believed and loved it; therefore they have not received the power and grace that come through sanctification of the truth. Men may profess faith in the truth; but if it does not make them sincere, kind, patient, forbearing, heavenly-minded, it is a curse to its possessors.” The Desire of Ages, 309, 310.
They believe the truth intellectually, but it hasn’t changed their life. They have all the external forms of religion but have not become patient, kind, and forbearing, and the truth becomes a curse to them. The devil then uses brother against brother to stir up contentions, making it impossible for the Holy Spirit to work in the family or in the church.
Peter said, “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:10, 11).
God longs to pour out His Holy Spirit, not just on individuals, but on whole churches. However, He cannot do it when the church is not in the spiritual condition to receive it.
May the Lord help us to understand what it means to believe so that the truth may not become a curse to anyone. Then the Holy Spirit will work in our hearts and our minds so our life might be in harmony with what we profess to believe.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.