The Secret to Happiness

The world is always looking for the secret to happiness. People search and spend their whole lives on the mission for something that will give them lasting, long term happiness. They look to money, sex, popularity and many other things for this sense of completion.  Christians have already known the secret though. We were given the answer long ago, and the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1 Q&A 2 tells us simply and beautifully.

Q: How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort (see Q&A 1), mayest live and die happily?

A: Three. The first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.

This question and answer at first glance seems a little odd. The secret to happiness revolves around us contemplating our sin and misery? Once you try it, though, you’ll find it’s very true. Recognizing these three things can and will drastically change your outlook on life, put your priorities back in order, and yes, give you lasting happiness by the grace of God.

The first part of the question on its own certainly will not give happiness. When we think of our sins and miseries we feel humbled, embarrassed, maybe even depressed. However, looking our sin square in the face and seeing it for the atrocity that it is, that is what makes this secret to happiness work. Salvation would not seem so miraculous if we didn’t recognize the truth of total depravity. We have to see the immense, vile load of our sin before the next portions of the answer can bring us with joy to the cross.

The second part is where we start to feel some true joy. Those horrible sins we just talked about are given a pardon! We see in this part of the answer that there is hope for us! We won’t be left alone to wallow in our misery. We lift our bowed heads and see the cross and start to feel the burden of sin fall from our shoulders. However, we can’t stop here.

The third part takes this power of joy and sets it loose, releases the happiness in terms of thanksgiving. It always appears to me as if the second portion of the answer created so much joy, we can’t keep it bottled inside any longer. We burst into anthems of thanksgiving, joy, and praise for our salvation. We have to recognize what we should do as a result of our salvation. Our church attendance, prayers, and all-around Christian lifestyles aren’t in order to gain salvation; they’re the result of intense thankfulness for our salvation.

Now, just because we know the secret to lasting happiness doesn’t mean it’s truly a secret. Going out into the world and telling others about this fountain of joy is part of what we may do to express our gratitude to God. So, this Lord’s Day (and all week) I encourage us all to not go through the motions of church going, Bible reading, praying or anything else, but to do each of these things with a conscious knowledge that we are expressing gratitude to God for an incredible, and awe-inspiring work of salvation in our lives. Then, when this life brings you down this week, and you need to rediscover your happiness, read over this question and answer, and you’ll surely find true joy.

Suzie Kuiper

Are you Content?

At this time in my life, and I’m sure in yours as well, being content is something we wrestle with.  Right now, in the middle of making decisions about jobs, relationships and school, discontentment and worry can come so quickly. Becoming an adult isn’t easy and amidst all of the busyness that comes along with it, it’s easy to forget where true priorities should lie.

The Word of God commands us to be content.  What is contentment?  Are you content?  The dictionary’s definition says that contentment is a state of happiness and satisfaction.  If we look at it from the world’s perspective, contentment would be: getting everything that we want.  Every person has a different idea of what they would desire, but normally it would be a nice house, perfect family, and an easy life. For a young person it probably means being in the “cool crowd” of friends, wearing the nicest clothes or having the best car or truck.  The world’s view of contentment is so warped and it’s easy for us as Christians to get caught up in the whirlwind of it, especially when we are surrounded by it.  With social media everybody’s lives can look better than mine just with a few pictures and posts.  It becomes so easy for me to become envious and covetous of others lives.

As a Christian the definition of contentment means something different.  The knowledge that we are to be content and satisfied in what we have been given at a certain point in our lives comes from a realization that it is a gift of grace, given by God to all of His children.  It is an understanding and awareness of what God has done for us, and how we are to show our thankfulness for that.  In 1 Timothy 6: 6-8 we read: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

We can learn to be content by trusting in our heavenly and wise Father. Knowing that “all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).  Contentment is not a natural trait, one I would be born with, it’s a state of learning and obeying. Learning through trying times and knowledge of God and His love for His people. God knows what we need, and it may not always be what we want.  Psalm 37:3-5 says: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him and he shall bring it to pass.”

Contentment also comes with realizing our need for a Savior and how great our sins and miseries are.  In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul is writing to the church a second time after he had first written a letter rebuking them for their sins.   Paul sends Titus with his second letter to Corinth to see how they are doing and Titus comes back with a positive report saying that the people had turned from their sins. In this second letter, which Paul had sent with Titus, he speaks to the people about the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. In vs. 9 and 10 he says: “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”  Paul says here that worldly sorrow brings forth death. When we are discontent and begin chasing after the things of this world (riches, fame, sex, comfort), then those things begin to lead us away from Christ and towards spiritual death.  Godly sorrow is a true sorrow of heart in which we want to get rid of our sins because we are truly sorry for sinning against God.  When we repent of these sins we are lead closer to God, farther from sin, and nearer to contentment.

Our work here on earth is to praise God and exalt his Holy Name. We need to treasure those things, which are heavenly. Are we willing to give up everything we have here for those things? “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).  When we think of how great our reward will be in the end, the lesser things of life, such as clothes and appearance, don’t seem as important! “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him” (Js. 1:12). We will receive the reward of being in heaven with Christ.

Contentment brings peace to a believer. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). So when you are stressed about not being in the latest trends, getting the right job, about finding a godly spouse, or other life decisions, remember that God knows what is best for you. If you are bringing honor and glory to God’s name in whatever you are doing in life and placing your trust in Him, God will supply what you need.  And with God bringing it to you it will be what is best for you.

Lisa Heystek

 

Why We Go To Church

A few months ago Joel Osteen’s wife Victoria made the following statement: “when you go to church, you’re not doing it for God, you’re doing it for yourself.” The problem with her comment is not the idea that we benefit from going to church (we certainly do!), but her assertion that the reason we should go to church is mainly, if not exclusively, for ourselves. In other words, we go to church so that we can look good in the eyes of parents, friends, coworkers and others we come into contact with. More to the point, Osteen’s statement means that we go to church because God’s chief purpose and desire for us is our personal happiness. This idea, however, is entirely opposed to Scripture and the Confessions. The Westminster Confession, for example, states that the “chief end of man… is to glorify and praise God forever.” We go to church because we can’t find our salvation anywhere else than in God. “Then Simon Peter answered and said unto him, Lord to whom shall we go? for thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). The apostles further established this when they refused to stop preaching Jesus after the Pharisees told them to stop their preaching. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We do derive blessings from church, but they are spiritual rather than earthly in nature. God admonishes, strengthens and comforts us through the preaching of His word and confirms our faith through the use of the sacraments.  We also strengthen and confirm each other’s faith by interacting with each other as friends  and in Bible studies. We do go to church for our own benefit and profit, but not in the way that Joel and Victoria Osteen think. God’s goal is not our happiness, but His glory. Our goal too should be God’s glory. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:20). May God grant that this be the case!

Kevin Rau