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Never has the world had so much, yet been so miserable. Depression, unhappiness, confusion, frustration, unfulfilled hopes and dreams, dissatisfaction, emptiness—and hopeless misery—describe humanity the world over.
The American Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to “pursuit of happiness.” The framers knew they could not guarantee reaching it. They could only guarantee one’s right to “pursue” it. Most are pursuing happiness, but in all the wrong places!—and they are not finding it.
Vast new frontiers of expanding scientific knowledge have not brought the happiness that leaders prophesied would accompany it. Neither have laborsaving devices, which were supposed to bring people more leisure time to “enjoy themselves.” Instead, mental illness, drug addiction, despair, suicide, alcoholism, self-pity and other forms of escapism—and general discontent with life—are everywhere.
Educators have failed to lead people to the abundant life. So have scientists. Religion has also failed terribly in teaching people what God intends they know about real abundant living.
Many religions have taught people to feel guilty if they enjoy themselves—if they are happy! So many believe God wants them to suppress joy and happiness—and that Christ expects this from His followers.
Millions view Christianity as a series of “Thou shalt nots,” rather than the path to enjoying a wonderful, happy life. These same millions often think of sin as the fun that will end if they obey God. They think accepting Jesus also means accepting a constrained life.
Be honest. Haven’t you seen Christianity primarily this way? Haven’t you thought that Christianity primarily means an end to fun, pleasure, excitement, thrills and an interesting life? Haven’t you also thought of most church services as solemn, sober, unemotional and devoid of real meaning—and happiness? Because of this, many attend emotional churches, seeking a feeling (always temporary) they equate with happiness in order to fill terrible emptiness inside.
Few equate Christianity with enjoying a true zest for life!
Just before His crucifixion, Jesus taught His disciples many vital principles, saying, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy [Jesus’ own joy] might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). Knowing the disciples would grieve at His death, He added, “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy…and your joy no man takes from you” (16:20, 22).
This is a powerful promise. Christians are to experience real joy and happiness in this life—if they are pleasing and obeying God. Most know nothing of this extraordinary statement, or similar verses. Yet it has been God’s purpose from the beginning that His servants enjoy life to the full—and with His joy.
Consider. The true God of the Bible is the happiest Being in the universe! David understood this and wrote: “In [God’s] presence is fullness of joy” (Psa. 16:11). God lives life with “fullness of joy.” All those in His presence can experience this. The apostle Jude added God wants “to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (vs. 24).
This is your ultimate destiny!
Why then would God expect His people to merely endure this life? This life is a time of lesson-learning, including trials and suffering. But it is also a forerunner, in a very small way, of what eternal life is intended to be. It would make no sense for God to expect life to consist of only suffering and pain now as preparation for perfect joy and happiness later.
Many years ago, I learned of one of the most incredible verses in the entire Bible. No one in the large, respected denomination of my youth ever mentioned it. Apparently, none ever thought about it either, because their lives did not reflect it. Notice: “I am come [Jesus said] that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Have you seen or heard of this verse? Probably not. Christ came bringing the abundant life—and said so plainly!
Yet so many believe Christianity is supposed to be endured instead of enjoyed. Why do they not understand that the radiant, abundant life can be theirs—if they will follow God’s formula to achieve it?
God never instructs or commands His people to avoid anything unless it is for their own good. Many things seem like fun, but carry a delayed penalty, and price, afterward. God instructs what to avoid so we will not get hit later by an unexpected “boomerang”!
I have not met one person who actually wanted to be unhappy. All want to live life to the fullest, and feel happiness and joy. But most have simply not known how to do this—or whether God even expected it. He does—and tells you how!
For every person, there is a different definition for what a Christian is. Can you turn to a verse that explains, removing all doubt? There is such a verse—and it is the only place to begin to learn how to live the happy, joyful, abundant life!
The apostle Paul said more about happiness than any other Bible writer. The verse that speaks most about this subject appears not to mention it. Let’s read it: “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9).
This basic scripture leaves no room for misunderstanding. A Christian is one who has the Spirit of God. If not, “he is none of His.” This includes you. Countless millions of merely professing Christians sincerely believe they are “Christ’s,” yet do not have God’s Spirit and are, therefore, not Christians.
Keep this simple—as we move step-by-step. The beginning point of Christianity is that one must receive God’s Spirit. But what does the Holy Spirit have to do with happiness, joy and the abundant life? Let’s connect two big dots. First notice: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23).
This verse is all-important. When a newly converted Christian receives the Spirit of God, he gets a little of each of these qualities of God’s character. Since God experiences fullness of joy, it is not strange then that His Holy Spirit—which is His “divine nature” (II Pet. 1:4)—includes joy.
The Christian starts out by practicing “love,” the only fruit listed before joy. Love is the fulfilling of the Law of God (Rom. 13:10; I John 5:3). “Joy” is listed second because it is the first and most immediate byproduct of practicing obedience to God’s Law. Next comes “peace,” which flows from being genuinely happy in life—and toward those around you.
It is not hard to see how this will yield real peace in your relationships with others. Without God’s Spirit within one’s mind—which produces the deep, inner peace Paul wrote must “rule in your hearts” (Col. 3:15)—it is impossible to be happy.
Each additional fruit of the Spirit will flow as a direct result of having God’s Spirit, and being a real Christian. While millions may think they are Christians, and may think they have the Holy Spirit, they have not followed the biblical formula of Acts 2:38.
This means you. If God’s Spirit is present within you, you can experience a joy and peace no one can take from you—even when persecuted. The Bible states, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). You will be persecuted for your beliefs, but this need not upset you and cause unhappiness.
God actually tells us to “rejoice, and be exceeding glad” (Matt. 5:11-12) when the very worst and most intense kinds of persecution and false accusation are thrown against us. This is because we will receive a “greater reward” at Christ’s Return as a result!
The same is true of trials, which are a part of every Christian’s life. Jesus was not an exception regarding trials and suffering. We saw He experienced joy and left it with His disciples and His Church through His Spirit given on Pentecost (Acts 2). Yet Christ was also “a man of sorrows [pain], and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).
How could it be both? How could Christ be full of joy and experience sorrows and grief? Overcoming and truly conquering sin is not easy. Jesus did this, so He understood. He knew the whole world lives in sin and suffers terribly as a result. This brought Him great sorrow because it was never what He intended for mankind.
Jesus also understood the Christian way involves trials and difficulties throughout life. This is an inescapable fact for those in whom God is working. These are essential to the character-building process, and are good for us. Trials and tests can make us temporarily sorrowful, but bring great joy when we understand their purpose.
The apostle Peter wrote, “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy” (I Pet. 4:12-13).
No one likes to suffer. Certainly Christ did not look forward to pain and suffering. But He knew, as He endured these things, that He would soon be sitting at God’s right hand, restored to full glory. During trials we are to focus on the glorious reward awaiting us, if we “endure unto the end” (Matt. 24:13)—throughout this life!
Of course, most people do think trials are “strange”—that they are undesirable, painful and bad. They certainly are inconvenient. Most convince themselves that their trials are worse than everyone else’s, but this is not true. Christians have to train themselves to recognize that trials bring lessons—and lessons learned forge, temper and strengthen one’s character!
This is why the apostle James instructed, “Count it all joy when you fall into various temptations [trials]; knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience” (Jms. 1:2-3). Temptations are tests. And so are trials. God says to count these character-building opportunities as times of “joy.” Again, why?
Because of the “exceeding joy” we are to have when Christ returns. And we will receive a greater reward because of more character built!
Peter also wrote, “Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it [our character] be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:6-7).
Is this clear? Do you see the direct connection to trials now and greater reward later? No wonder God says we should be joyful during trials, temptations and persecutions.
You now know what to do when experiencing trials and difficulties. Do not become unhappy, wondering what is wrong—and moan, groan and complain as though something bad has happened. Instead, realize it is something that is very good, IF received and used properly. Why would anyone complain or feel unhappy about building something “more precious than gold”?
Becoming a Christian means a total change to a completely different way. It means a whole different manner of thinking and believing. Recognize that people do not automatically understand all God’s ways at the outset of conversion. All wrong ways, values and beliefs must be unlearned, and everything that is good, pure and right—all things of God—must be learned!
God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
This scripture is far-reaching in meaning. It involves everything we think, say and do, including how we view joy, happiness and living the abundant life. It means recognizing this is what God wants. It means sweeping from your mind all previous false concepts of what you thought Christianity was supposed to be like.
If you are Christ’s, then your eyes are fixed on the Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33). You understand that this is the biggest objective—the greatest GOAL—in your life! Never forget that everything in your life is subordinate to achieving salvation, and building character on the path to that end!
Pause and think. How many things could bring more peace and satisfaction than understanding why you were born and where your life is going? The excitement, joy, thrill and contentment that flow from this confident assurance will dwarf every trial, difficulty, hurdle, obstacle and problem you will ever face. If you truly grasp this, you have gone a long way toward seeing why Jesus said His Way represents a life more wonderful and abundant than most could ever imagine!
Serving God does not mean loss of fun and giving up pleasures, but rather understanding what real fun and real pleasures are—and enjoying them.
Look at Matthew 6:33: “Seek you first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things [material blessings] shall be added unto you.” And the apostle John wrote, “I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul [life] prospers” (III John 2).
These verses express God’s will regarding receiving physical things—enjoying prosperity—in your life. In time, if you truly put God and His Kingdom first, you have His sure promise that He will add physical blessings to you. It is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:18). When He makes a promise, He keeps it—and He has promised you that these things will flow into your life, if you put Him first! You can count on this!
Malachi 3:8-10 is an example of how this principle works in the mind of God—how He views faithful obedience. When we obey Him, good things happen—and sometimes lots of them!
But be careful you do not expect them right away. Also be careful you do not obey God simply because “there is something in it for you.” Many verses speak of being patient and waiting for answered prayers and blessings to come according to God’s timetable. Also, we must be pleasing God as a regular practice in our lives.
Let’s read an important verse tying obedience to confidence and answered prayer: “If our heart [mind or conscience] condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (I John 3:21-22). Savor this verse. Internalize and practice it—and then expect God will give you all the physical things you need.
Almost no one has any idea Christianity can bring them supreme happiness, beyond imagination. They have no concept that it represents fullness, richness, pleasures and overflowing with plenty, both physically and spiritually. They have no thought that boundless energy is available to them if they will tap it.
Paul wrote this to Timothy: “God has not given us the Spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7).
This is not about how to tap the better “inner you.” It is not about practicing “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” positive thinking derived from human strength. In the long run, these are not worth much.
On their own, people fall short, and ultimately fail in the most crucial aspects of life. They are powerless to defeat weaknesses and faults—and to triumph in the end.
Paul is speaking about drawing upon God’s Spirit within a converted mind, and using it as a source of strength—of real power! He also wrote, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10).
This can be you. Enormous inner strength and power will flow into and through you, if you take advantage of the access God offers you.
Jesus told His disciples about how God’s Spirit worked in them: “He that believes on Me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke He of the Spirit…)” (John 7:38-39).
Have you stood by a powerful river, watching the current? I have many times. A big river carries tremendous power and force—and Christ knew this. God’s Spirit flows like a river, and produces mightily in those who have it. It radiates out of one, and brings love, faith, joy and peace from its Source—God.
This Spirit will help you meet challenges, defeat enemies, conquer fear and reflect cheerfulness. It will bring wisdom, knowledge and understanding, and drive anger, bitterness and anxiety away. It will replace discouragement with energy and hope. It will bring zeal to accomplish and remove confusion and indifference. It will take shattered dreams and shriveled feelings, and expand them to new horizons—and bring an expectation of success. It will take stress and turn it to productivity and fulfilling accomplishment.
In James 1:17, God says He gives “every good and perfect gift.” People cannot offer or bring you the truly good things of life, but God can—and He says He will if you come to Him and ask for help in time of need. His answers are satisfying, His strength is real—and it is life-changing.
How sad that the lives of so many are so completely empty—so utterly devoid of joy, happiness and abundance. Many try drugs, fall into immoral lifestyles, pursue the wrong kind of entertainment, commit crimes, and otherwise get into trouble, simply because they are bored. They do not know they can have lives filled with purpose. This lack of understanding is so unnecessary—so far from what God intended for every human being.
Notice: “Everyone that thirsts, come you to the waters, and he that has no money; come you, buy, and eat; yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1). You can come to God and “buy” His waters—His Holy Spirit—when you have no money. Isaiah continues, “[Why] do you spend money for that which is not bread? And your labor for that which satisfies not?” (vs. 2). Yet billions do this daily.
This has been a critical principle I have had to learn. I lead a very active, busy life, and am generally able to work long hours, day after day, for long periods. But this was not possible (and would never be possible) until I learned to claim God’s promise and tap His strength for the physical energy needed on a daily basis. Take a moment to read all of Isaiah 40:28-31, and then claim God’s promise to renew the “weary,” the “faint” and those with “no might”—if they come to Him.
The vitality and abundance—and pure joyful happiness—that can be yours is closer than you think. But you must recognize that God offers an entirely new and different way. It means living “by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4; Deut. 8:3). This means studying His Word and drinking in its meaning. It means praying daily and seeking God with your whole heart—and resisting Satan the devil.
This also means periodically accepting the Bible’s correction, which can sometimes cut deeply. But the converted mind seeks to grow at every opportunity. And receiving correction is also directly connected to happiness. Notice: “Happy is the man whom God corrects: therefore despise not you the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17). Of course, no one naturally enjoys correction, but yielding to it produces a byproduct described as the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:9-11).
So, if even correction can bring happiness, just think of the joy that will come from practicing the many other aspects of true Christianity.
Practicing God’s Way will lead to concern for those around you. Self-interest will be replaced with an interest in others. You will want to humble yourself and value the lives of others, more than your own opinions—your own needs. You will feel goodwill and cheerfulness in your heart. You will want to smile, lead a life of vigor and reflect calm while standing in the eye of a storm. You will find courage to step out in full and complete faith, knowing God is with you—that you are not alone! You will understand you “can do all things through Christ who strengthens [you]” (Phil. 4:13) and “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
Those around you will see these things. You will become an example—a light (Matt. 5:14)—in a world growing darker every day (John 3:19-21; 9:4). They will see you have found meaning and purpose in a confused, disagreeing, unhappy world! And knowing you are doing this will bring its own happiness and satisfaction—because it is what God intends for His servants. Confidence will flow from this, but not self-confidence.
You will not find yourself constantly carping, griping, moaning and complaining about life’s endless “injustices.” You will not want to speak evil of others, but will want to lift them up, rather than pull or put them down. You will be able to conquer loneliness. And this will generate a never-before-realized strength and boldness that will literally drive your life!
This may cause people to ask for help, encouragement or advice. They may see your life is “together,” while theirs is not! People are drawn to strength—confidence. If you exude these things, radiating a power greater than anything they have seen, they may seek your help.
Of course, be sure they ask for it (and they may even ask why you are filled with hope and cheerfulness—I Peter 3:15). Be sure you do not go around pushing your beliefs on others. This will turn them off, drive them away and produce the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
But if people see you always give others the benefit of the doubt, and are always willing to offer a helping hand, they will recognize you as different from everyone else. While they may not appreciate your doctrinal beliefs, they will appreciate your radiant attitude.
Finally, you will always remember why God put you on Earth—why He gave you life. You will want to seek salvation, with zeal, vigor, enthusiasm and drive—and led by hope and faith—as though final success depends on your conduct every day. You will not want to compromise God’s Way or His truth—and you will enjoy richness and fullness overflowing as a result of this determined approach. This will give you more strength to address your problems and overcome them.
My book The Awesome Potential of Man reveals the truth about why you were born. Whole new vistas of understanding will open to you—and they are all connected to achieving the abundant life.
The Bible says, “Rejoice evermore” (I Thes. 5:16). Only two Bible passages contain two words. This is a command from God to all those begotten of His Spirit. One thousand years before, the Psalmist approached each day saying, “This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psa. 118:24), and asked God to “send now prosperity” (vs. 25).
These are not vague, nebulous scriptures. They are clear, direct and plain—and vital instruction for you and me. The apostle John added, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ…that your joy may be full” (I John 1:3-4). Your joy can be full—beyond your wildest dreams—if you walk and fellowship with the true God and the true Jesus Christ as a constant way of life that overarches all you do. You can live the rich, radiant, full, happy, joyful, abundant life. All you must do is be willing to leave the old way behind. Go to the source—and begin!