Well, welcome today to Impact Christian Church. Our goal at Impact is to…Get to Know God. Learn the Bible. Connect with People. I hope that his happening in all of our lives. I try to think of our vision every time I mention our name. Get to Know God. Learn the Bible. Connect with People.
If you have your Bibles with you, please open them today to II Timothy 4. That’s where we are going to start, as we continue our study on Urban Legends.
Today, I want to talk to you about a spiritual urban legend that I think is one of the most dangerous, and yet, one of the most common spiritual urban legends in the American church today.
You will hear people talk about this. You will hear it on TV today with TV preachers. You’ll read books about it, and you will hear it over and over and over again, and it is a message that feels very good. Here is the urban legend. It goes something like this.
God wants you happy. God has good things in store for you. God wants you to enjoy your life. God wants you to prosper in every single way. The bottom line is, God wants you happy. I call this message the theology of happiness, and the danger is that it elevates us to the point where God is there to serve us, rather than the truth, and that is that we are here to serve Him.
The truth is, sometimes, stories don’t have a happy ending. Sometimes God puts us through difficult things so we will grow. Things that will make us unhappy, but yet many false teachers teach, the positive message that God wants you happy, it just feels so good, and it is so right. I think some of these teachers and tv hosts have missed this verse…
3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
This passage in II Timothy 4 tells us this. “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to,” what? Say it out loud, “to sound and wholesome teaching”. Instead,
3 They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
What I would love to tell you is this. If you just come to God, you will have the best year ever! Everything will work out and you will always be happy. Because God wants you happy, God only has good things in store for you.
The problem is, though, when we believe that God revolves around us, we reduce a holy God of the universe into a cosmic Coke machine. What we do is, we put our quarters in, and we say our little prayer, and we press the button choosing which we want, and we expect God to deliver. And if what we pray for doesn’t come out of a slot, we blame God, because there’s something wrong if God wants me happy, and yet, I’m not.
Therein lies the danger of this very subtle and very seductive urban legend that God wants you happy. Write this down. Understand this.
- If God wants me happy, and I’m not, then God failed .
If God really desires for me to be happy, but I am miserable, then God didn’t deliver. God didn’t do what I needed Him to do to make me happy. So, as much as everyone I know wants to believe, “God wants me happy,” and as often as you will hear, “God wants you happy and God wants you prosperous.” As often as you will hear that, today I am going to submit to you that there are least three different times when God does not want us happy. If you are taking notes, the first one is this, and this is very, very true.
If God wants me to be happy and I’m not, then something is wrong:
1. GOD DOESN’T WANT US TO BE HAPPY WHEN…
A. It Causes Us to Sin.
15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. I Peter 1:15
God never wants us happy when it causes us to sin.
I Peter 1:15, scripture says, “But now you must be ‘happy’ in everything you do.” oops…Did I mess that up? Well, what does it say? Scripture says, “But just as God who called you is holy, be holy in everything you do.” You see, in God’s spiritual economy, our happiness is never the bottom line. God never calls us to sacrifice His standards in the name of happiness.
How does this play out in, let’s just say, in the church world, in the every day church world? Scripture teaches us that if you are a follower of Christ, you are a part of the body of Christ, and that means, in the local church, God has something for you to do to serve, to use your gift.
Serving. In other words, if you are not serving, using your gifts in the church, then something that God wants to get done is not being done, and in our American-feel-good culture, though, what do we hear all the stinking time? “I don’t want to do anything at church. I just want to go when I want to, occasionally. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to serve, because I’ve been busy all week long. This is my time. I want to go and just be there. I don’t want to serve, because it’s all about me, and I want to be happy.”
Giving. Let’s talk about finances. Scripture teaches us that we return the tithe to God. Ten percent of what God trusts us with, it belongs to Him. We give it to Him. But, what do people say? “I’m not going to give that much money. You kidding me? That’s crazy. It’s my money. I worked hard for that. I’m not giving that much money to God. I’m going to do something with it myself, because I want to be happy.”
College. Someone was in college. “This class is too hard. I don’t like college. Quit. That’d make me happy.”
Work. Maybe you are at a job you don’t like, and what do we see now? “I’m not happy in this job. It might not be that God wanted me there to make a difference in someone else’s life, or maybe God was going to do something to my life in an uncomfortable situation, but I’m not happy, so I quit.”
Marriage. “They’re not making me happy, so I quit the marriage.”
Dating. Boy meets girl. Girl smells good. God gave me these desires, and I know the Bible says I should wait until I’m married, but we are in love, anyway. And sex makes us happy, so I don’t care what God says. This makes me happy.” Do you see how subtle and how dangerous this is?
Understand, God does not want you happy when it causes you to sin, and in Romans 6:1-2, Paul was making a very powerful argument, and he asked a question,
1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Romans 6:1
If you can allow me to read into it, he was kind of saying, “You know, if God’s going to forgive me anyway and I’m having fun and this makes me happy, why stop? Should we keep on sinning that grace may increase?”
He said, “2 Of course not!”, under no circumstances do we continue sinning so God can just forgive us if we like it.”
He said, “Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” As much as we want to believe it’s all about our happiness, it is not. Our happiness is never the bottom line in God’s spiritual economy.
Thought A, God does not want you happy when it causes you to sin.
Point B, if you are taking notes…
God doesn’t want us happy when:
B. It’s Driven by Circumstances.
Where does the word happy come from? Well, you are happy if the happenings are right, but if the happenings around you are not right, you are not happy.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, (NIV)
14 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.
“When times are good, be,” what? “be happy,” enjoy, and have a blast! Embrace it!. “But when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” God doesn’t want you happy when it is based on happenings. There is something deeper, and something richer, and that is what scripture calls joy, and joy is something that is not based on what is going on around, but joy is something based on what’s inside.
It’s a bit like this. If you know the story, in Luke 15 of the prodigal son, I want you to listen carefully to this story, because you might recognize yourself here. The younger son had everything you could ever want, much like almost everybody that I know in our country, and yet, he said, “Father, I don’t like your ways, your rules. Give me my share of everything. I want to go do what I want to do,” which is what many of us do. God, I want to do what I want to do, and so the son went out and he partied, and he blew all of his money, and he tried all these things, and he did everything he thought was going to make him happy. And in his pursuit of happiness, he became miserable.
I want you to think about this. In his pursuit of happiness, he became miserable. What do we see all around us today? “Well, maybe this will make me happy. Maybe this will make me happy, and maybe this will make me happy. Maybe this will make me happy,” and in our pursuit of happiness, in the most blessed country on planet earth, most people I know are the most discontented and most miserable people anywhere.
Write this down. Internalize this. Like the prodigal, in the pursuit of happiness, most people become miserable.
God doesn’t want you happy when it is based on happenings. There’s a deeper gift that God gives us, and that’s a gift of joy and contentment that we can find in the life of the apostle Paul. I want to read you verses that are fairly well known, Philippians 4:12-13, but before we read it, let me just remind you of the context in which this verse was written. The apostle Paul was writing this from within a prison, okay? He was locked up to another Roman soldier, and don’t forget this, he was waiting a decision that would decide whether he would be executed or whether he would live. Now this is his first imprisonment in Rome.
So in other words, life wasn’t great right now for him. He was in prison and waiting to hear, was he going to be executed, and here’s what he wrote. He said,
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
He said, “I can do everything.” Say it one more time. “I can do everything through,” “Through Christ who gives me strength.” Now, listen to what he is saying. “I’ve had it all, and I’ve lost it all. I’ve been healthy; I’ve been hurting. I’ve been blessed, and I’ve been cursed, but I have a secret that most people miss. I have a joy and a divine contentedness that is not based on happenings.
It is based on something internal that no one can see, and that is that I can do everything. I can make it. I can make it through this. I can make it while being locked up in prison. I can make it if they kill me.” How? “I can do it all through Christ who gives me strength. There is something internal that sustains me. It is not the external happenings,”
God wants you more than happy. He wants you to have a joy no matter what is going on on the outside.
Understand that we all want to believe that God wants you happy. Not always.
- He doesn’t want you happy when it causes you to sin.
- He doesn’t want you happy when it’s based on circumstances.
And C is, if you are taking notes,
God doesn’t want us happy when:
C. IT DRAWS US AWAY FROM Him
8 These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Matthew 15:8
1) What gets in the Way of your Walk? What gets in Between
you and your God?
a. Money, Work, Children, Sports, etc.
b. Being Liked, Being Recognized, Being #1, etc.
There are so many areas in our lives where we chose to be happy instead of exhibiting faith and perseverance. We would rather have happiness now than holiness and joy in the future. James the brother of Jesus wrote,
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
Doesn’t mature and complete sound good…I like the idea!!
Our happiness is never the bottom line in God’s spiritual economy. What is…
II. God wants US blessed
I love the Greek New Testament word that is translated blessed is the word makarios, it means supremely blessed. This word, very literally, it means more than happy.
God doesn’t want you happy as much as He wants you blessed.
Who is blessed? Let’s talk about that.
A. RECEIVING BLESSING
- DELIGHT IN THE LORD
delight in: `anag’ (aw-nag’); a high degree of gratification, joy, satisfaction
4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4
Is that what we do, find our Joy in God, our Satisfaction in God. Or do we find it in the world. Do we live it in the pursuit of Happiness or delighting in God?
1 Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Psalm 112:1
When have we forgotten the fear of God? Not talking about the, “I’m scared” fear, but a reverent fear of a holy God. What do we say now? “Oh, God, my co-pilot. Jesus, he’s my home boy.” You know, I’m serious. What about, “He is the supreme creator, righteous judge of the universe.” He is so holy, He cannot even look upon sin. He is so holy that we cannot see Him in His purest essence and live. That kind of God.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. If you ask people today, are you blessed? Here’s what you hear. “Ah, dude, praise report. God blessed me with a new Lexus. Oh, glory to God.” Right? Or some version of that. “Oh, we are so blessed. We got this house, and oh, my gosh. Look at this. We got a new leather sofa . We are so blessed… You know, “Oh, dude, we are blessed. I got a raise, you now. Ooo hoo. I got more money to spend on me. Woo hoo!” Okay?
2) Understand who is Blessed (Matthew 5)
Matthew 5: Jesus told us who is blessed, and He said this.
He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3 …That’s who is blessed.
Jesus said, 4 “Blessed are those who mourn.” Let me just pause for a moment, because there are many of you right now who are hurting. You are mourning, and let me remind you that you are blessed of God. Why? Because you will be comforted. You will know a side of God that many don’t know.
5 Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Notice, it doesn’t say, “Blessed are those who pursue material things of this world that do not last.”
But, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Why? “Because they will be filled.”
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called the sons of God.
Now, I want you to look at verse 11. The Bible says this, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you. So, bad news is, God doesn’t want you happy all the time. Good news is, He wants you more than happy. He wants you blessed.
Psalm 37:4, 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
The Hebrew word for delight is the word “anag,” and it means to delight or enjoy. We go to GOD as His servant, true to worship Him in spirit and in truth, and as we enjoy Him, as we delight in Him, what He does is, He gives us His desires, and they are no longer our desires, but they are His that He plants in us. And as His desires become our desires, then He loves to give us and fulfill the desires of our heart.
How do we get there? Matthew 6:33, Jesus said it this way.
33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
And so, I’ve got good news for you. The good news is, God doesn’t always want you happy. He’s always got something much, much better for you than that.
Now here’s a question for you that may be hard to answer, but I want you to be just gut-level honest.
Are you pursuing happiness more than you are pursuing God?
Now, I will be really, really honest with you. I’d like to say, “Man, I’m just, you know, I’m pursuing God, and all that kind of stuff, but when I’m really honest and I look at my life, I’d have to tell you that there are more seasons and longer seasons of my life where I’m honestly pursuing the things of this world, and what I want, and happiness more than I am pursuing God, and I want that to change.
If you relate and you are being really honest and say, “Man, I am. I am off track here, and God, I want You to forgive me. I want to pursue You more than anything else.” If that is you today, I want you to lift your hands up…
“God, I ask that You would forgive us for being so easily distracted and pursuing the selfish things that are temporary and don’t matter to You. God, we pray that we would be more focused on You than ever before, that we would put You first. God, the moment we start to drift, and that would probably about five minutes from now, and later on today, and tomorrow and every day, bring us back, God. We pray that You would bless us with whatever it takes to keep us close to You, even if it’s the very thing that we never want. God, do whatever it takes to keep us close to You. God, we want to know You intimately. We want to serve You. We want it to be about You. We want to worship You. We want to put You first, in every single way.”
Now, God may show you something that’s really missing from your life in an area where you can really seek Him. I want you to commit. You can talk about it with your LifeGroup this week, maybe, an area to seek God, and it could be that you need to read God’s word. You haven’t been. It could be that you haven’t prayed more than “Bless this food,” or you know, some kind of selfish prayer in weeks or maybe even months, and you need to devote time to God in prayer. It could be that you don’t have a Biblical community, where you experience God with other people and through a LifeGroup, and you need to commit to that. You might commit to fasting and say, “You know, the next seven days, I’m only going to drink liquid or something, because I’m going to seek God.” God shows you something, I want you to tell your LifeGroup, and we are going to, in our own ways, passionately seek the One who gave His life for us. Those of you who are Christ Followers, put Him first.
Now, let me talk to another group, those of you who are not wholly and completely surrendered to God, and let me tell you what I’d love to tell you. What I’d love to tell you is, “Hey, Jesus died for you. He wants to be your buddy. He will forgive your sins. Just pray this prayer and go on with your life, and everything’s going to get better.” But, let me tell you right now, I cannot tell you that. In fact, what I am going to tell you is this. If you surrender your life to Jesus and make Him first, things may get worse. Things may get harder, and things on this earth may never be what you thought they would be. Read about it all through scripture, I can’t make you any false promises. Here’s what I can promise you, though. I can promise you that scripture says your sins will be forgiven. You will be made brand new. You will be filled with the Spirit of God. You will be able to talk to God. You will be able to hear from God. There will be a God who is working in all things. He’s in the bad things, and He is working to bring about good. You may see the good in this life, you may not, but He is bringing about good to those who love Him and to those who are called according to His purpose. God wants to bless you, and it may not be the American dream. It may be something much greater than that, something that draws you close before God as you walk with Him and know Him intimately.
At all of our campuses, there are those of you who, maybe like me, you grew up in church, and if someone said, “Hey, are you a Christian,” you’d say, “Yes, I am.” But the truth is, you are not following Christ, and neither was I. Others of you, just the fact that you are here is like major miracle, like “Dude, I can’t even believe I’m in church, but I’m really feeling drawn to God.” What that is, is that’s the Spirit of God drawing you, and it’s your time to make a decision, and that is, “I’m going to keep doing life my way,” or, “I’m going to surrender it all to Him and say, ‘Jesus, save me from my sins and take my whole life. It is no longer going to be my will, but it is going to be Your will.” That’s making Jesus your Lord.
At all of our campuses, there are those of you who recognize He is not that, and “Today is the day that I give it all to Him,” and, “Take my whole life. Save me. Forgive me. I’m not pursuing happiness. I want to pursue You. Jesus, be the Savior and the Lord of my life. I give it all to You.” That’s your prayer today at all of our campuses, lift your hands high now. Just lift them up and leave them up all over the place. Leave them up and let me just acknowledge you. Put them up high, and let me just acknowledge you. Ma’am, right here in the middle section. Both of you guys, let me just meet you eye-to-eye and, both of you guys right here, God bless you guys. Right back here, all three of you together, awesome. Others of you saying, “That’s my prayer.” Right back over here on my side. Sir, God bless you, man. Others of you. Right back there. Ma’am, right back there. Both of you here in this section. Way back there toward the back, God bless you guys. Way back there. Way back there toward the back. Here in the middle up close to the sound board. Way back there. Both of you guys together, awesome. Others of you saying, “Yes, that’s my prayer.” Right over there, ma’am, being born into the kingdom of God. Others of you, “Yes, I want to surrender to Jesus. I want to follow Him.” All three of you right here. Praise God for you guys, big smile. Back here in this back section. Way back here on this side. Awesome. Others of you, “Yes, Jesus, take over. I surrender. Save me. Forgive me. Be the Lord of my life.” Right back over here. I see, back on that side. Right back there. God bless you. Thank you. A holy moment. Right here. Awesome. Surrendering to Christ. Praise God for you.
Pray: “Heavenly Father, I am ready to give it all to You. Jesus, forgive me for my sins. Make me new. Because You died for me, I want to live for You. Fill me with Your Spirit. Make me like You. I no longer want my will. May Your will be done. I surrender to You. Thank You for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus’ name I pray.