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

Walking By Faith (1)

This post is an introduction of sorts to a short sequence of posts I intend to write concerning the nature and place of the doctrine of faith in the Christian life. As Reformed Christians the concept of faith is one of the most familiar and oft considered, as surely many can attest. We hear about faith all the time in the preaching, in personal and family devotions, in the classroom of the Christian school, and so on. This is good! Indeed wonderful, for it was not always so. The centrality of the doctrine of faith is part of our heritage from the Reformation. A precious heritage indeed!

There is a veritable wealth of Reformed literature on this topic to which one might turn for enriching instruction in this area. It is truly a blessing from God that we have such unprecedented quantities of good books and other spiritual resources literally at our fingertips. Whether or not one is an avid reader, we all ought to avail ourselves of these resources. A foremost example, to pick one, is Herman Hoeksema’s magisterial work of the Catechism, the Triple Knowledge. Hoeksema’s exposition of Lord’s Day seven has served by and large as the stimulus for me to write a few brief posts concerning this subject. And so there are therefore a number of good reasons to continually revisit this topic, and even to repeat these oft repeated themes because of their beauty, power, and spiritual resonance with the believing heart. We can turn to them over and over again, and find new, refreshing insights, especially given our aptitude to forget or at least to become dulled toward spiritual things in a world that is all too physical. This is an unavoidable aspect of the fact that we are still sinful people who must daily contend with the old man of sin. This is our battle of faith, a battle which is as much, if not more so, a struggle within ourselves to subdue the unruly and rebellious old man who still loves his father the devil. In his marvelous work of regeneration the Lord by his grace has given us hearts of flesh, and yet the battle continues, for the old man cannot be fully mortified until we pass the final barrier of death and are raised incorruptible in Christ.

Yet here and now sin still hinders us and hounds us. How often do we not have to chisel away the stony shell which develops around our hearts, turning our faith cold? Our sin has a petrifying effect upon our hearts, and such petrified hearts do not throb with zealous love for God. By faith we know these things to be true and by faith we press on in the present battle though sometimes beleaguered. Faith is the means by which we fight this evil, and it is also the means by which we are comforted by the knowledge of God and the assurance of our redemption in Christ. It is with this in mind that I hope a few reflections on the nature of faith and what it means to live and walk according to this faith may be of some benefit and encouragement. Considering the nature of Christian faith is an exceedingly comforting topic upon which to reflect, for it reveals to us that we are saved by grace alone through faith, and that this is a gift of God and not of works. To meditate on the nature of faith is to consider the unbreakable bond by which we are engrafted into the family of God and into the benefits of Christ our redeemer. In so doing we see all the more clearly the victory over sin and death which we have in Christ the object of our faith. Thus our consideration of faith will proceed to follow the definition of faith which the Catechism provides in question and answer twenty one. “What is true faith? True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.” The Catechism offers us a clear and succinct definition of what faith is, namely a certain knowledge and an assured confidence. Next time we will attempt to take a closer look at what it means that faith is a certain knowledge.

JS