By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.
These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.
The happy people understand things others wish they knew. It is amazing to note the number of articles, books, movies, and songs about happiness. I have a suspicion that deep down inside everyone wants to know the secret of happiness.
Dr. Jerry Bridges explains in his book titled, The Fruitful Life: the overflow of God’s love through you, “Kindness and goodness are so closely related that they are often used interchangeably. . . . Kindness is a sincere desire for the happiness of others; goodness is the activity calculated to advance that happiness.”
Dr. J. C. (John Charles) Ryle (1816-1900) shares, “An atheist was once addressing a crowd of people in the open air. He was trying to persuade them that there was no God and no devil, no heaven, and no hell, no resurrection, no judgment, and no life to come. He advised them to throw away their Bibles, and not to pay attention to what preachers said. He recommended them to think as he did, and to be like him. He talked boldly. The crowd listened eagerly. It was ‘the blind leading the blind.’ Both were falling into the pit (Matthew 15:14).
In the middle of his address a poor old woman suddenly pushed her way through the crowd, to the place where he was standing. She stood before him. She looked him full in the face. ‘Sir,’ she said, in a loud voice, ‘Are you happy?’ The atheist looked scornfully at her, and gave her no answer. ‘Sir,’ she said again, ‘I ask you to answer my question. Are you happy? You want us to throw away our Bibles. You tell us not to believe what preachers say about Christ. You advise us to think as you do, and be like you. Now before we take your advice we have a right to know what good we will gain by it. Do your fine new ideas give you a lot of comfort? Do you yourself really feel happy?’
The atheist stopped, and attempted to answer the old woman’s question. He stammered, and shuffled, and fidgeted, and endeavored to explain his meaning. He tried hard to return to the subject. He said, he ‘had not come to preach about happiness.’ But it was of no use.
The old woman stuck to her point. She insisted on her question being answered, and the crowd took her side. She pressed him hard with her inquiry, and would take no excuse. And at last the atheist was obliged to leave, and sneak off in the confusion. His conscience would not let him stay: he dared not say that he was happy. The old woman showed great wisdom in asking the question that she did. The argument she used may seem very simple, but in reality it is one of the most powerful that can be employed. It is a weapon that has more effect on some minds than the most elaborate reasoning by some of our great apologists. Whenever a man begins to speak against and despise old Bible Christianity, thrust home at his conscience the old woman’s question. Ask him whether his new views make him feel comfortable within himself. Ask Him whether he can say, with honesty and sincerity, that he is happy. The grand test of a man’s faith and religion is, ‘Does it make him happy?’”
Rev. V. Creath Davis (1939-1987) and Dr. Andrew E. Hill explain, “The English word happiness denotes both a favorable station or quality of life (e.g., ‘good fortune, prosperity’), and an emotional state of being (e.g., ‘contentment, joy’). The two are not unrelated, but in biblical thought happiness is primarily associated with one's disposition and character rather than one's emotive responses to occurrences and events. Even as the experiences and circumstances of life tend to dictate human emotional response, so happiness is always the by-product of a higher value. . . . Theologically, true happiness for human beings is rooted in the activity of God. Moses described the nation of Israel as ‘a happy people’ because they were delivered from slavery in Egypt by the saving acts of God (Deut. 33:28-29). The righteous person is ‘happy’ by virtue of the knowledge that God has forgiven individual sins and transgressions (Ps. 32:1-2). In one sense, the righteous simply mirror divine happiness because God ‘delights’ . . . in his work of showing mercy and forgiving sins (Micah 7:18-20).
It is this divine activity of showing mercy and forgiving sins that permits the righteous person to engage in a lifestyle of ‘happy’ activities. The Bible promotes a happiness that stems from one's disposition and quality of spiritual life, quite independent of one's emotional state of being.”
Allow me to share some things about happy people from our text.
I. Happy are the people who express Honor to the Lord.
From Psalm 144:1-4 we read, “Blessed be the Lord my Rock, / Who trains my hands for war, / And my fingers for battle—My lovingkindness and my fortress, / My high tower and my deliverer, / My shield and the One in whom I take refuge, / Who subdues my people under me. Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him? Man is like a breath; / His days are like a passing shadow.”
Our Lord deserves more than mere lip service. We must honor Him with our lives as well as our lips. We read in Isaiah 29:13a, “Therefore the Lord said: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths / And honor Me with their lips, / But have removed their hearts far from Me, / And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.” In addition, we read in Matthew 15:7-9, where Jesus said, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: / ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, / And honor Me with their lips, / But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, / Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
We read in Proverbs 3:9, “Honor the Lord with your possessions, / And with the firstfruits of your increase.”
Maybe you have heard, “Faith honors God and God honors faith.”
Someone warns, “If you never learn the language of gratitude, you will never be on speaking terms with happiness.” We read in Hebrews 13:15, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
II. Happy are the people who exhibit Humility before the Lord.
From Psalm 144:5-8 and 11 we read, “Bow down Your heavens, O Lord, and come down; / Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. Flash forth lightning and scatter them; / Shoot out Your arrows and destroy them. Stretch out Your hand from above; / Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, / From the hand of foreigners, / Whose mouth speaks lying words, / And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood. . . . Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, / Whose mouth speaks lying words, / And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood—.”
In James 4:6 we read, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, / But gives grace to the humble.’” In addition, we read in 1 Peter 5:5, “Be clothed with humility, for / ‘God resists the proud, / But gives grace to the humble.”
From James 4:7-10 we read, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” We read in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Just as humility is the first step to genuine revival it is also the first step to genuine happiness.
Humble people see their need of God in daily life, while proud people refuse to ask for help.
III. Happy are the people who experience Happiness in the Lord.
From Psalm 144:9-10, and 12-15, we read, “I will sing a new song to You, O God; / On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, / The One who gives salvation to kings, / Who delivers David His servant / From the deadly sword. . . . That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; / That our daughters may be as pillars, / Sculptured in palace style; / That our barns may be full, / Supplying all kinds of produce; / That our sheep may bring forth thousands / And ten thousands in our fields; / That our oxen may be well laden; / That there be no breaking in or going out; / That there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; / Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!”
Many attempt to have their happiness without the Lord. They follow after “the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). In 1 Timothy 5:6 we read the following warning to widows, “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.” This is true because a wayward widow is not living according to the will of God. John exhorts, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17). Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:39, “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” Later, Paul exhorts all believers in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them / And walk among them. I will be their God, / And they shall be My people.’ Therefore / ‘Come out from among them / And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, / And I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, / And you shall be My sons and daughters, / Says the Lord Almighty.”
Submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the basis of ultimate happiness. Have you ever seen someone who is genuinely happy living in rebellion against the Lord? We must sound the alarm. Believers who persist in the pursuit of pleasure will suffer loss of reward in heaven. Unbelievers will suffer the ultimate unhappiness of hell, if they fail to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As Rev. Ira F. Stanphill (1914-1993) reminds us, “Happiness is the Lord”.
William MacDonald (1997-2007), past president of Emmaus Bible School, comments on Psalm 144 in The Believer’s Bible Commentary, “It is a picture of unparalleled happiness, the happiness that belongs to people who acknowledge Jehovah as their God.”
Dr. James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) explains, “To appreciate the goodness of the gospel we should begin with the fact that aside from Christianity the religions of the world are not at all good news. On the contrary, they are very bad news, a burden. We see this merely by looking into the hard, grim faces of the leaders of the world's other religions—the priests, monks, mullahs, gurus, and holy men who are found in every land and among all races. These are not happy people! And the religions they teach are not happy religions for those who follow them. The reason is not hard to discover. Apart from Christianity all the religions of the world are self-help or ‘works’ religions. That is, they tell you how to find God (or peace, happiness, whatever) by human efforts. If it were possible to do this, religion in general might be good news. But the task is not possible. God is too holy, too removed from us because of his holiness and our sin, for us to reach him. Sin has so great a hold on us that it keeps us from the happiness we long for. A religion based on what you or I can do is comfortless because its requirements become burdens that can never be lifted.” Dr. Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009) affirms, “True Christians are always the really happy people.”
Rev. Francis W. Dixon (1910-1985) explains in a message titled, “God’s Happy People”, based on Psalm 34:8, 22, "Some Christians are only happy when everything pleases; when they can trace in some measure, or think they can trace, God's dealings with them. But others, like the psalmist, know that because he is their gracious and loving heavenly Father, who is planning their life for them, all things are working together for their good and for his glory; and so they praise the Lord and bless his holy Name at all times."
Dr. J. C. Ryle warns, “Remember that the salvation of your soul, and nothing less, is closely bound up with the subject. The heart cannot be right in the sight of God which knows nothing of happiness. That man or woman cannot be in a safe state of soul who feels nothing of peace within.” Dr. Ryle concludes, “The compromising lingering Christian must never expect to taste perfect peace. THE MOST ENERGETIC CHRISTIAN WILL ALWAYS BE THE HAPPIEST MAN.”
Rev. John H. Sammis (1846-1919) shares these words in the fourth stanza of his famous hymn followed by the familiar refrain: “But we never can prove the delights of His love / Until all on the altar we lay; / For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows, / Are for them who will trust and obey. / Trust and obey, for there’s no other way / To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
How grieved our Lord must be in these days of “fleshly” Christianity marked by fake smiles and forced laughter. May we experience a foretaste of the “fullness of joy” promised by God, as we await His “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11b). It is my heart’s desire that each of you will truly be the happy people.
Jerry Bridges, The Fruitful Life: the overflow of God’s love through you (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006), p. 117
J. C. Ryle, “Happiness”, Sermon Notes, (Psalm 144:15)
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1984, 2001), Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.
William MacDonald, The Believer’s Bible Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), p. 776
James Montgomery Boice, Boice Expositional Commentary - An Expositional Commentary – Romans, Volume 1: Justification by Faith (Romans 1-4), (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1991), p. 30, Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp.
Spiros Zodhiates, Faith, Love & Hope: An Exposition of the Epistle of James (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publications, 1997), p. 489, Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.
Francis W. Dixon, "God's Happy People" (Psalm 34:8, 22), The Keswick Week: 1962 (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1962), p. 12
J. C. Ryle, “Happiness”, Sermon Notes, (Psalm 144:15)
By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / (251) 626-6210 © October 14, 2012 All Rights Reserved