I love spending time with other brothers and sisters in the faith. As the old saying goes, some things are caught, not taught. So when I hang out with other believers, I’m constantly catching things. I become more like Christ because of them. And without a doubt, the most encouraging Christians to be around are the happy ones.
A.W. Tozer says, “. . . the people of God ought to be the happiest people in all the wide world! People should be coming to us constantly and asking the source of our joy and delight. . .”
Perhaps we don’t want to take Tozer’s quote literally, but I think he’s on to something: the Christian’s joy should be so distinguished from the world that non-Christians are compelled to ask, “Why are you so joyful?”
This is something that Peter hints at in his first letter. He writes, “. . . always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. . .” (1 Peter 3:15) Even though his present audience is surrounded by many trials, he reminds his audience that they will have joy, even amid suffering, and people will ask them about it.
Sometimes we get into debates about the meanings of the words joy and happiness. I’ve heard some say happiness is based on your circumstances, and joy is an inward feeling — regardless of your circumstances. Happiness is for worldly people, apparently, but joy is reserved for Christians. Happiness and joy are not the same things.
But this is false, a helpful point that Randy Alcorn makes in his book, Happiness.
John Piper writes: “If you have nice little categories for ‘joy is what Christians have’ and ‘happiness is what the world has,’ you can scrap those when you go to the Bible, because the Bible is indiscriminate in its uses of the language of happiness and joy and contentment and satisfaction.”
The Happy Christians
But how? How come some Christians are happier than others? Is it because of one’s family of origin? Genetics? Personal experiences? Yes, to all of these. There are varying factors that can contribute to your personal happiness. And yet, there are things that you can do practically that can make you happier. This I know from observing other Christians.
Myself, I’m naturally contemplative and perhaps a little melancholic. So this isn’t my natural strong suit. Thankfully, I’m surrounded by others who model personal happiness well. From personally observing other Christians for years, I’ve noticed that these are just a few of the things that happy Christians do:
The happiest Christians practice the spiritual discipline of evangelism regularly. Evangelism is hard work. More specifically, evangelism is a discipline. And like all disciplines, it requires planning, effort, and learning from failure. Many of us struggle with this discipline, and our joy is lacking because of our lack of discipline. Missional living brings purpose, and purpose brings joy. I’ve noticed over the years that the happiest Christians are the ones who long and labor to win souls for Christ.
The happiest Christians have experienced the grace of God amidst suffering in a deep, profound way. Suffering is inevitable. All Christians must endure it. The ones, however, who have drunk from the deep wells of grace amid the darkest days always seem grateful, mature, and happy.
The happiest Christians are hospitable. Hospitality is welcoming strangers into your home. A while back, my wife and I had the chance to host someone we hadn’t met before, and it was a joy to serve our guest. The happiest Christians are welcoming of strangers into their home to love and serve them.
The happiest Christians have a strong devotional life. Of course we don’t want to make this legalistic, but the happy Christians are able to make the distinction. That is to say, they make practicing the spiritual disciplines a grace-driven habit in order to constantly taste and see that the Lord is good.
The happiest Christians sacrificially give their money to God’s Kingdom purposes. Your money belongs to God. It is something that God has entrusted to you, not given to you, something Randy Alcorn talks about in, Managing God’s Money. Since “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
The happiest Christians have a profound understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And of course, the happiest Christians understand the gospel well, but they don’t pretend to know everything about it. They preach the gospel to themselves every day. They ponder their sin and rejoice in their Savior. They never get tired of hearing the gospel, and desire to meditate on, understand, and preach the gospel to others. The happiest Christians love to rejoice in the Good News.
Sure, there are many other things you can easily add to this list: a love for the church, a voracious reader, stays in community, etc. But the list above may be the most prominent, with room to add more. Either way, I’m grateful for the church of Jesus Christ and the many disciples who reflect happiness well and share their happiness with others. Those who reflect happiness in their lives are a gift to the church.
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