After many recent news events, I am beginning to wonder if, as a nation, we feel entitled to unconditional happiness. I can’t count how many times I have heard, “See, money doesn’t buy happiness,” when a conversation about Robin Williams arises. But yet, so many people work, not just to support their family, but to try to get to the next financial level of success as if God, a neighbor, or someone special will think better of them if they achieve such a lofty goal. And then I remember that I am as guilty as anyone of falling into this trap of sinful selfishness, re-branded as American happiness.
I’m reminded about the recent comments from Victoria Osteen, wife of mega-church pastor Joel Osteen, who from the stage in front of 16,000 attendees at their Houston, Texas, church told the congregation that your happiness is what feeds God’s joy. Her quote is as follows:
“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it — we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy.
“So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?” – Victoria Osteen (Emphasis added)
With teaching like this from such a popular American pulpit as the Osteen’s have, can anyone really question the reason that America demands and feels entitled to happiness no matter the cost? We put ourselves in debt to pay for happiness. We destroy our marriages because of selfish happy ambitions. We lie, gossip, and justify our actions to obtain happiness, all without consulting our creator and designer of everything.
Contrary to Mrs. Osteen’s remarks, our happiness is not what gives God the most joy, but rather our obedience to His directions for our lives. At no point does the Bible tell us that God finds joy in our happiness, but instead that we can find joy and happiness in the love that Christ has for us. He doesn’t even say that obeying His commands is going to make us happy, because, as we know too well, sometimes our sinful self fights His direction for our lives. See, we seem to get this whole happiness thing backwards.
Matthew 6:31-34 says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (NKJV)
The message? God does not look to us to provide Himself with happiness or entertainment. It’s understandable that God would be devastated when one of His most loved creations dies without accepting His gift of forgiveness and grace, thus condemning themselves to an eternity void of His presence. But, why would anyone think that the creator of all things would get His “greatest joy” from our happiness, compared to the emotion that He must feel when a new believer comes to Christ?
There are so many actions that make our human flesh “happy,” that according, to Scripture are worthy only of God’s wrath. One could argue that our constant journey to find happiness outside of a relationship with Christ would be considered selfishness, which in and of itself is defined as sinful, and thus not drawing a positive, joyful reaction from God.
We are to seek Him in all that we do. He has promised us His love. He has promised us joy in a relationship with Him. But at no point did He ever promise us happiness, nor ever grant us permission to reach to obtain happiness through any means possible for the sole reason of pleasing Him.
Why is it then that we seem to feel that this life is all about doing whatever it takes to make ourselves happy? When will we realize that life is all about Jesus.
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