It’s not without reason that the church should be known as the ‘happiest people on earth’. For the Christian, life on earth with all of its challenges, hardships, heartache and setbacks is saturated with promise, hope, encouragement and more importantly, Presence.
There’s no denying it, in this life we will all experience hardship and difficulties. We are just visitors to this life. Who awaits us, and what is waiting for us, is what excites us. (Hebrews 13:14)
Paul wrestled with the dilemma of choice; to be with Christ or to be with the Church – and with due consideration he took the breathtaking decision that for the Church’s sake he would remain with them. (Philippians 1:23) What a servant-hearted choice that was, and what commitment. We don’t always connect with that mindset.
When you are in pain, you just want to be free of the cause. Immediately. Again, Paul comes as an encouraging friend commending us to the grace of God to see and recognise a multitude of realities. Realities that are not always seen or perceived, but nevertheless have impact and value for our time-space, God-blinkered, idol-embracing world:
- Christ is in you – the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
- We are never alone, even if you feel it. Let this grip your heart! (Deuteronomy 31:6-8, Joshua 1:5, 1 Chronicles 28:20, Psalms 37:28, Psalms 94:14, Isaiah 41:17, Isaiah 42:16, Hebrews 13:5 and most encouragingly, Matthew 28:20)
- Nothing will separate you from the love of God. (Romans 8:31-39) Stop refuting the integrity of God’s word!
- God chose you – you are in safe, strong hands, even if things are not going according to your plan! (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29)
- The fruit of the Spirit growing and being cultivated in your heart. It is the character of God being developed in your heart – you should excel in these as much as you can! (Galatians 5:22-23)
A hard world, but an encouraging God
2016 has been an incredible year across the world. We’ve never known days like these. No matter what you focus on, be it terrorism, suffering, poverty, politics, economics, medicine or life in general there is an overwhelming sense of calamity. The world is not what it used to be, and is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31) but there is a great encouragement for us, Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He does not change, not even slightly.
You are not approaching God today or tomorrow in such a way that it may be that His feelings or commitment to you has deviated from the way that He used to be towards you. In all the magnificence of what you can do through Him, or alternatively in your worst ‘moment’ nothing is going to make God love you a micron more or less. God is not just for you, but He loves you; deeply and profoundly beyond your wildest comprehension. Your part in this? You do not have one! What you can do that will help you immensely is to stop questioning God’s love and acceptance for you. It’s not very politically correct to say it but for Christians to say that they wonder if God loves them, is nothing short of self-absorbed nonsense. Stop challenging the veracity of God’s encouraging word over your life. You are loved and treasured.
Focus on Christ
Our problem is that we easily make ourselves or our activities the focus of our hearts rather than Christ. Just as our attention drifts in life, so does our ‘faith-focus”. We have to intentionally keep our eyes focusing on what Christ has done for us, in us and with us. His work is for the most part unseen and means that we need to keep reminding ourselves, and each other, what it is that He is doing. Not only do we of necessity need to remind ourselves what He is doing, but how He is going about it.
The Supremacy of Christ
Providence and sovereignty are the major majestic qualities of God that carry the, ‘full weight’ of the sheer supremacy of Christ in all things in a way that is often beyond human comprehension. But in trying to perceive His glorious works of divine wisdom, mystery and majesty our hearts are enlarged with awe and wonder. If the goading challenge of J.B Phillips that “Your God is too small“, is to be taken seriously then giving our attention to these things will not only benefit us, but also honours God appropriately.
The happiest people on Earth?
And so, it is easy to see why the Church are the happiest people on earth. They are a people with hope, who know that their sins are forgiven, their shame has been removed and their consciences cleansed. They are a people who are with purpose, a people known, treasured, welcomed and affirmed by God, for himself. We only ever find our true, lasting and fulfilling happiness by finding ourselves in Him. We need to be careful to acknowledge who we are in Christ but keep it all about Christ. When we focus on how valuable and important we are to Christ the great treasure we have in our heart begins to fade. It is never, and will never be about us.
Our happiness is derived from knowing that God is a God of infinite love, holiness and righteousness. Everything He does, metaphorically, ‘oozes extravagant life, grace and kindness’, but He is also a holy God and not only does He not tolerate sin, He never will. Our sin was dealt with at the Cross.
We have so much to be happy for, so much to praise God for, so much to enjoy God for.
That is why He has given us eternity to discover it, enjoy it and live it.
We are the happiest people on earth. Let’s show it.