Our Pursuit of Happiness

July 4th, 2010 Apostle’s Creed Series 11 (Independence DayPsalm 16:1-11   

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. [1]

The 1776 Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

My parents didn’t encourage me to seek my own happiness. They told me to seek holiness and I would then in turn be happy. My dad said that I would trip over happiness on the road to duty.

Do you ever wondered if God is pleased that our nation has enshrined seeking happiness in our founding documents?

Listen to 2 Timothy 3:2-5. “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

God tells us to avoid people who are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. The seeking of the pleasures of sin for a season will not increase your welfare and will quickly ruin your marriage, your employment and your finances. If you seek pleasure it will ruin you.

But this doesn’t mean that God is a kill joy. God does not have a goal for us to be unhappy. Actually, it is the opposite. It is God’s will that we are happy. It is God’s will that we seek pleasure.

You could argue that the founders were on to something when they said God gave us the right to seek happiness. Seeking enjoyment is not just commended, it is our chief end. The Westminster Confession of Faith reminds us that our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

The key to this being an approved spiritual exercise blessed by God is that we find our greatest happiness in a relationship with God. If we are lovers of God then we will find eternal happiness and pleasures that do not fade with the changing seasons.

The Psalmist knew this and commends us to pursue our happiness and pleasure in God. Let me highlight this in our text.

In verse 3 King David says that he finds His delight in the community of God’s people. The New Testament goes further and says in 1 John 3:14 that, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.”

We should not allow our hearts to feel at rest that we are on our way to heaven if we do not delight in being together in worship with God’s people. The saved feel pleasure at the side of other believers gathered at the feet of God for worship. Loving each other is a sign that we are part of god’s family. If you do not love this and these people then something is wrong with your faith.

In verse 4 King David says that those who seek other gods will find their sorrows multiplied.

In verse 5 King David says that his only asset worth grasping is God Himself.

In verse 6 King David says that his life is pleasant because God has blessed him.

Because King David listens to the counsel of God in verses 7 and 8, because his life finds meaning in the presence of God, now verse 9 and 10 are real for him.

Verse 9, David’s heart is glad. His whole being rejoices.

Verse 10 David knows that when he dies and the pleasures of this world can no longer be enjoyed n his flesh, that it will be only the beginning of possessing eternal pleasures.

Finally verse 11. The path of life is made known to us by the Father. He alone has a map to lead us into a life that is truly living. In His presence alone is maximum joy, and from His hand alone are pleasures that never cease.

This is a message this world will never share with you. This world would rather tell us that bread eaten in secret is pleasant, but after words our mouth feels like it is filled with gravel.

The Pew Research Center published a statistic that people who feel connected to God are 27% more likely to be happy than people who do not feel close to God. I know that I have never been happier than when closely connect to our heavenly Father.

King David gives words to our common experience. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The Bible isn’t saying that we should not seek pleasure. The Psalmist is saying that we should seek and find our greatest pleasure in God.

This is completely opposite of hedonism, while it sounds very similar. A hedonist believes that there are only two results to our choices. We can find pain or pleasure. Someone who lives as a hedonist seeks to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.

God wants us to maximize our pleasure and minimize our pain. God knows that if we live for His pleasure by obeying His laws that we will maximize our pleasure and minimize our pain. God promises joy unspeakable and filled with glory if we pursue His will over our own will.

How can God know that? Because God made us. God wired our soul to be happiest while obeying His commands. It might take faith to believe His ways are best, but mocking His ways won’t make our own ways better than His.

Seeking our sinful pleasures multiplies our sorrow. Ask Adam, ask Eve, ask Cain, ask King Saul, ask King David, ask King Solomon, ask Pilate, ask Judas, ask Satan if seeking his own pleasure 0outside of God’s will for his life brought him happiness.

But, seeking pleasure by obeying His commands multiplies our blessings. Ask Seth, ask Noah, ask Abraham, ask Isaac, ask Jacob, ask Joseph, ask Elijah, ask Mary the mother of Jesus, ask Peter, James and John. Ask Jesus if obeying the will of God, even if it takes you to a cross, will maximize your happiness.

We need to be looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2-3) Jesus looked at the joy He would enjoy in fellowship with you and then He endured the pain. Jesus takes pleasure in bringing us to the Father. We are His joy. We are His treasure. We are trophies of His obedience to the will of the Father.

If we seek our pleasure in God, then we too will be rewarded with fullness of joy . . . pleasures forevermore.

Jonathon Edwards, recognized by secularists as the greatest American thinker, said “the happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted.”

This is our chief end. That we would glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We glorify God when we obey His laws and prove the wisdom of His ways to a mocking world. Our happiness increases equal to our holiness.

When we find our greatest pleasure in God, we prove that our hearts are being sanctified to hate sin and cleave to what is good. The more we are transformed by the word of God, the more we will enjoy God.

Our problem is that we settle for temporary pleasures that don’t satisfy. C. S. Lewis wrote, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Do we allow our souls to be satisfied with the pleasures of sin for a season? Do we ignore the deep satisfying drink of God Himself offered like living water to our dry parched souls?

King David would remind us that guiltless delight is found in the house of God. Life, joy, pleasures forever more are offered in God’s outstretched hand.

And God can only stretch out His arms so far. He sent His Son to take on human flesh. God reached far enough to enter our suffering and suffer alongside us so that He could take our pain on the cross and remove the sin which steals our joy.

The Gospel promises faithful disciples that we shall eternally enter into the joy of our master. at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

It is a lie of the Devil that we can find lasting happiness outside God’s commands. In South Carolina there was a billboards that said, “Looking for Great Sex: Try Marriage.” God’s commands will always lead us into joy.

If we purse pleasure apart from God it will destroy us. If we pursue God’s pleasure we will be blessed. As God told Israel time and again. He sets before us a blessing or a curse. Ezekiel 20:11 I gave them my statutes and made known to them my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live.

As Americans we pursue our best life as free citizens that we might find happiness however we chose to define it. What makes you happy? The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:21, For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Are you there yet? Do you pursue life only as it is defined in Jesus? You can determine if you are truly saved with a question like that.

How do you define liberty? John 8:36 says, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. We are born enslaved to sin, but in Christ we are now free from sin and servants of righteousness.

How do you define happiness? King David said, in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. God is not in competition with us seeking pleasure. He created us to enjoy Him and find eternal pleasures in Him. God is in competition with the idols of our heart which we think will make us happier than God.

Let me illustrate: What provided you with the most pleasure this last week? Mowing the lawn? Work? Children? A new car? Did you talk about it, praise it, recommend it to others, and value it? It’s what you love isn’t it? God is in competition for your heart over that thing.

The Puritans said that “delighting in God arms us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.”

My wife would say, “If you eat good at home, you won’t want junk food when your out.”

Hear the words of another believer, Saint Augustine, who, in the year 386, found his freedom from sinful pleasures through the superior pleasures of God. “How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose!” “You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure.”

Let me leave you with two thoughts for discussion during lunch. The framers to our constitution didn’t invite us to be selfish when they encouraged us to seek happiness. It isn’t selfishness, it is self-interest which is also true for seeking a profit within capitalism. Good discussion starter.

Second thought. Seeking to maximize pleasure and minimize pain is hedonism. So if we seek to maximize our pleasure in God and minimize our pain by turning from sin can we call ourselves  Christian Hedonists? John Piper thinks so.

So as you watch the fireworks tonight remember that life, liberty and happiness are most perfectly found in Jesus Christ.

And may God bless you in your pursuit of the One who holds the keys to your happiness in this life and the next.  Happy Independence Day.

[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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