The Pursuit of Happiness? :: By Sean Gooding

Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

2 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in the congregations of the Lord’s people.”

John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Proverbs 3:16-18, “Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.”

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

One of the topics that I have been thinking about as I get older is that of having to give an account of my life to Jesus one day. All of us, the saved, will stand before Jesus and answer for the life we lived after we were saved. We are not saved by WORKS, but we are saved to GOOD WORKS, according to Ephesians 2:8-10.

You may think that the title of the lesson is odd, as my topic has nothing to do with happiness. But in truth, this pursuit has and is taking over our churches. We are never instructed in the Bible to pursue happiness; we are warned to be wary of our hearts as they are deceitful and full of sin. There is a generation of saved people who are looking for the next ‘high.’ They skip from church to church, never settling down, never actually growing; many are immature children of God who are always seeking the next thing but never investing in a local church for life. They go where they can get, and rarely invest where they are.

We have a generation of saved people who are not working through issues; they do not want to have to sacrifice or lose anything for the Lord, and as such, they are a hindrance to the Kingdom. Others are ‘happy’ where they are. Their mentality is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ They don’t want any change at all. They have done it this way for 100 years, and there is no need to change, even if the change is not sinful or forbidden by God. Both of these extremes are bad. The pursuit of happiness can be dangerous and frankly scary if you want to grow in the Lord.

Jesus came to bring us peace, not happiness. Especially in this life, you should not expect happiness as a child of God in a fallen world, as living in a sinful body. We are called to pursue peace, God’s peace, and that is what Jesus came to do.

  • Peace With God

Jesus died on the cross to bridge the gap between a perfect Holy God and a fallen, sinful people. You and I are no longer under the wrath of God. If Jesus has redeemed you and the Holy Spirit lives in you, then you have peace with God. You are no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1), and you have been justified (Romans 5:1). Do you have peace with God? Or, are you under His wrath since you have rejected the free gift of salvation that was paid for in Jesus’ blood?

  • Peace of God

In some of our texts above, you can see that God desires for us to have His peace in our daily lives. This is the kind of peace that gives Paul and Silas the power to sing while chained to guards in a prison in Acts 16. This is the kind of peace that helped Paul get through the trials of life and to be content in all circumstances (Phil 4:13). This is the kind of peace that we can have every day to face our trials and temptations (John 16:33). This is the peace that is inside, that still, small voice of God calling us in the middle of the worst storms. The kind of peace that transcends death, betrayal, and treachery. The kind of peace that helps us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:43-48).

These things do not often make us happy, rather, they challenge us and cause us pain, but inside, the Holy Spirit brings us God’s peace. A peace that is better than happiness which by its nature is fleeting and soon gone.

  • Peace with God’s people

We are called to live in peace with all people if it is at all within our power. Seeking peace often means putting yourself last. But God can and will give us the wisdom (Prov 3:16-18) to live a life of peace. Jesus left us His peace, according to John 14:27. How many of us truly live in peace? How many of us live in peace with our spouses? Our children? Our neighbors? Our fellow church members? Our coworkers? I can go on, but you get the point.

If your sole pursuit is happiness, then everyone who gets in your way becomes an enemy. Thus, we have division in our marriages, our homes, our churches are splitting, or many are simply closing their doors. But if we seek God’s peace no matter what, we will see that this takes personal sacrifices; we will begin to live and love more like Jesus, and the prospect of facing Him in the judgment will itself become more filled with peace rather than anxiety.

We believe that we will be called soon to meet the Lord. Some of us will go the way of the grave, others will be raptured out of here, but all will meet Jesus. Will that meeting be one of peace? Or, will it be a difficult accounting of our lives? Did you pursue your happiness, or did you pursue God’s peace? The fruit of our pursuits will be judged.

God bless you,

Dr. Sean Gooding

Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church

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