Does God want me to be happy? (Romans 15:13)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13
We serve a God in Scripture who is all-powerful, good and mighty. He desires our worship, He desires our praise, He desires our devotion, He desires our love – but does He desire that we be happy?

There is a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is a resounding – yes! The long answer dives into that “yes” and applies some clauses to it.

1. Happiness does not come from doing whatever we want… yet.

When I say that God wants us to be happy, I do not mean that God will let us do whatever we want if we think it will make us happy. On the contrary, God pulls us away from many desires – but these are desires of the flesh. He takes away from us what will hinder our holiness, and ultimately our eternal joy.

Yet when a man or woman receives the Holy Spirit, there begins to be a working inside of them that transforms our desires to align with God’s. We become a, “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). If we are not praying, reading our Bibles and marinating our hearts and minds in Gospel truths, it is safe to say that we are not free to do whatever we want to. If, however, our lives show the fruit of one who is saved by Christ, we may more freely act in accordance with what we desire – provided it aligns with Scripture and God’s heart.

We are told in Romans 12:9b to, “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” As our will aligns with God’s by the work of the Spirit in us, what we should do and what we want to do will be one and the same. We will walk in righteousness because we want to. This is true freedom, and our lives will be noticeably joyful.

“The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.” – Proverbs 10:28

2. Our happiness is to be rooted in God and His promises.

Let’s tear apart our Romans verse listed above;
– “the God of hope…”

When we say that God wants His children to be happy, we do not mean a surface-level happiness that comes and goes based on what is happening around us. We are talking about a much deeper joy that is able to withstand even the strongest heartbreak. We are talking about a joy that withstands the tears running down our cheeks. How do we do that?
What we find joy in must be stronger than the sting of pain, or even death. It cannot be dependent on circumstances, but rather in a person. We have joy in the fact that in our broken and hurting world, Jesus has given us promises that we can hold on to and delight in – even in the midst of our pain. Since God does not change (Malachi 3:6), this means His promises are always present and current. Our joy is in the hope we have from Him, and in His coming again to wipe away all pain and tears. As pastor and author Sam Crabtree says, “Hope is not undone, because he is not done!”

– “… as you trust in Him…”
These are promises to hold fast to. This is why king David, in the middle of so much pain in life could still write, “zeal for your house consumes me” (Psalm 69:9a). Our trust in God’s promises can be confident because of the one who gave them, for, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19).

– “… by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Our chain of events found in this text (Joy, peace and hope) is the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. This verse is not saying, “Figure out some way to put on a smile through pain, and just get through it.” Rather, we are promised the Holy Spirit will come upon the children of God and solidify the truths found in Scripture in their hearts, and work to transform us into joyful, hopeful creatures spreading the good news of the Gospel to others who are also hurting on Earth.

True, biblical joy is not fleeting happiness, it is the way we live our lives because of the promises we have from God through what Jesus Christ has done for us.
Maximize your joy today by dwelling on these promises in His word, and turning those truths into praise lifted up to God.

Disagree in love

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4:6

     We are faced with a post-Christian culture, leaving the Bible in the past and marching to promote a relative truth, unique to each person. The only thing one can not do anymore is claim an absolute truth, especially if we are sharing that absolute to someone who disagrees. But we are charged to share the Gospel; how can we accomplish our calling in the most loving way possible to a generation that needs Jesus? Paul Washer offers the following metaphor, paraphrased for our purposes:

Imagine with me that you are a doctor, and you have just received tests back with the news that your patient in the other room has cancer. It is now your duty to step back into your office and give them this diagnosis. It will ruin their day. It may make them cry. They may get angry with you and they may yell at you. They may ask for a second opinion, or they may demand another doctor.

Quite simply, the only way they have a fighting chance of beating the cancer in their body is by first knowing about it, and you are to tell them without fear of their response – it is your job, and the warning is loving. Should you neglect your duties your patient may very quickly die, and you will lose your medical license.

How many Christians then should lose their “license” by neglecting to warn those who they are in constant communion with of their cancerous dismissal of the Words God has placed before us in Scripture? We uselessly coddle their emotions, thinking we offer love when in reality we “love” them straight into the arms of hell. We act as if it is our mission to make sure they are comfortable as we watch them parade to the depths of darkness. No, surely urgent love for them will not let us stand idly by. No one would call it love to place the Band-Aid of comfort over our patient’s cancer.

Of course, there is a loving and an unloving way to approach such a scenario. “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4:5-6

Our words should be full of grace, seasoned with salt. That is, speaking what is loving, gracious and true, while also communicating the message of “salt” that keeps the rotting meat fresh.  You who are in Christ are the salt of the Earth, “… but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” – Matthew 5:13

We are loving three peoples when we share difficult truths; first, we are loving God by sharing the truth He has given us with others around us. We are stewarding Gospel truths well when we not only live them for ourselves, but share them eagerly. Second, we are loving others in sharing truth with them. How much would we have to loathe a person to stare into their eyes with ultimate truth in our hearts, and stay silent? Thirdly, we are loving ourselves by relieving ourselves of guilt and punishment. Look with me at Ezekiel 3:18-19, “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”

     Do your mission as the image of Christ, and do it as Christ would do it – with love. This does not mean we soften the Gospel. We do not communicate a soft message, nor do we communicate a difficult message to swallow with hatred, but rather we communicate the same difficult message with love in our hearts.

“’You’re wrong and you’re loved’ – that’s the unique voice of the Christian.” – Jonathan Parnell

Zeal for Your house has consumed me

“I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.” – Psalm 69:8-9

Imagine with me a house that is consumed by fire, how it wrecks it. A man consumed by lust, and how it twists him. A father consumed by his work, and nothing else seems to matter to him. Yet here in Psalm 69 we see a righteous consuming with twice the ferocity; wrecking our sin, untwisting our hearts and a realization that nothing else is so important as knowing Jesus.

Can we define our faith in the same way? Are we so burned up by zeal for the Lord and His house that we praise Him even in the middle of ridicule, or are we lukewarm zombies shuffling through a daily routine with God, while our passions lie elsewhere? (Read Revelation 3:16)

The Psalmist is left by those closest to him, and he bears ridicule, hatred and strife because of his identifying with God. “For it is for Your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face.” – Psalm 69:7 His own family has rejected him – “I have become a stranger to my brothers…”

And yet David praises God, “But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord… I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” – Psalm 69:13a, 30

Let’s take a look at our hearts; do we prioritize Christ when we are living in a culture that screams at us to prioritize ourselves? Do we work and strive to please people when we are called to please God, no matter who says otherwise? Do we graciously accept the ridicule that comes with following God in a post-Christian world because nothing is sweeter than Jesus? Has zeal for His house consumed us?

Or do we cave, bow to culture and stay silent when Christ is mocked? Do we validate sin in people out of a fear of being hated? Are we embarrassed by the Gospel we are meant to identify ourselves with? “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

What does this mean? Does this mean we must hate people around us to effectively follow Jesus? Of course not! It means that even the sweetest and most comforting things in life should be sour in comparison to Jesus. The zeal for Christ and His house should make everything else pale when paralleled against His perfection – and yet this often means making difficult decisions that seem to not make sense in a worldly point-of-view. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” – Matthew 6:24

When God says “You shall have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:3 He does not merely mean that we should prioritize Him and let all other things be a close #2 on the totem pole, but rather that He alone holds first, second and third place on our priority list.

I sat with my pastor once who explained to me that he does not love people because he loves people. Rather, he loves people because he loves God, and loves what God loves, and God loves people! All loves that we have in life should be filtered through God. We obey our parents because God is delighted when we do that. It is a command. We love our enemies because God has told us to. We love people because God loves people! Zeal for God looks like loving what He loves, and hating what He hates. (Read Proverbs 6:16-19)

When we love what God loves and hate what God hates, and when we boldly take ridicule for His name’s sake, and when everything else we could lean on pales in comparison to Him in our hearts we may shout with the Psalmist, “zeal for Your house has consumed me!”

Stop Selling Jesus

“When many of His disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ … After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?'” – John 6:60,66-67

How often do we soften who Jesus is to coerce others into following Him? How much weight do we place on how much Jesus can do for us, how much pressure He can take from us, and how much peace He can give us while at the same time we so gingerly dance around that following Jesus costs everything? We must daily take up our cross and live a life of difficult choices all to the glory of Christ.

And yet we can so easily be proud of ourselves when we guide someone to say the sinner’s prayer, while all that’s going through their mind is an easier life where Jesus takes all of their problems away. Who wouldn’t want more peace? Truly many “disciple makers” of today create seeds thrown on rocks without much soil, who quickly spring up but are scorched by the sun. With no root, they wither away. (Matthew 13:5-6)

Jesus did not sell Himself, nor did He panic when the vast majority of disciples walked away from His difficult message in Luke. To take it a step further, He asked the remaining twelve disciples if they wanted to leave as well.

For a root to grow, for the true beauty of Christ to be seen, and for believers to stay firm in Jesus through all of the new trials that come with following Him, we must eagerly search the Scriptures to know God better. The Bible is the big love letter that God has given us to know Him. This is the primary method through which God speaks! We find numerous benefits to studying Scripture in the very beginning of the Psalms:

“… but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. 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.” – Psalm 1:2-3

Notice the same language being used; the seed scattered on the rock has little soil, no root, and is scorched. But when we meditate on the law of God (that is, the Bible) we may be like trees planted by the water, with leaves that don’t wither and even producing the fruits that come from internalizing and acting on Scripture.

And so we find what we must communicate to make real, solid, growing disciples – Scripture. We are not “selling” Jesus, that is, watering down the Gospel, sharing only what He can offer us and how He can better our lives, but we must also share tough biblical truths about how we can’t save ourselves, and He is the only way to Heaven. When we encounter someone who rejects Jesus is when the urge to soften our message to appease them arises. Do not be mean or nasty, but hold to Biblical truth, not people. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4:6

In the end of verse 3 of the Psalm, we find, “In all that he does, he prospers.” The man who meditates on scripture prospers in what he does… could this include making disciples of Jesus? Of course! When we are more biblically-saturated we are more prepared in and out of season to preach the Word, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2) We are also able to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders.” (Colossians 4:5a)

Saturate yourselves in the Word, and teach the Word. It is God speaking.
sola scriptura

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