2015-2016 Bible Challenge, devotionals, resources

The Source of Happiness (a meditation on discovering true joy)

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. 2 But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. ~ Psalm 1:1-2 (NLT)

happy faceEveryone wants to be happy. Well, most everyone. There are some curmudgeons who seem to take delight in complaining and making everyone miserable. But most people want to be happy in a more self-adjusted manner. But we often wonder how we get there.

The Psalms is a book of collected ancient songs and prayers. Each, in some way or another, stands as a meditation on God and his word. Fitting, then, that the first Psalm deals with that very thing: what we gain from meditation on God’s word and thus on God himself.

Many English versions translate the first word as blessed. It’s a good word, but it’s a bit of a churchy word. If we have breathed in the realities of Christ through his word and church for any length of time, then it is likely a word we have heard over and over. Yet blessed is almost one of those words that needs a translation all of its own. And, really, we don’t have a good English equivalent.

Blessed speaks of a sense of happiness, a happiness that comes from a state of wellbeing, and a state of wellbeing that comes from God. Perhaps then God-centered happiness is the best way to briefly define it, of which the New Living Translation uses the word joy. And that works when we consider the source and cause for joy throughout the Bible: God and his wondrous deeds, especially in his delight to save his people through Jesus.

God is the God of joy and God delights in sharing his joy with us. After all, Jesus said, “These things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). If you keep reading Jesus’ John 17 prayer, you see that the word Jesus speaks causes us to be different (sanctified—like Jesus), and gives us a mission (sent into the world as the Father sent the Son), but brings potential hardship and persecution. Yet even in the midst of possible hardship and persecution because of our trust in Jesus and reliance upon his word, Jesus spoke of a full joy.

So God has told us, “I want you to be truly happy in me and the best way to achieve this is to be different from the world and to relish my word.”

This is how Psalm 1 opens. We reject the ways, the “wisdom,” and the words of sinners. We follow the trail against the grain of the world that Jesus blazed for us. We live different, bearing fruit in the proper time (1:3), probably a reference to godly character that Paul later described as the fruit of the Spirit which includes joy.

And all of this comes from delighting in God’s word and meditating on it day and night.

David Murray wrote in his book The Happy Christian, “If I think about loss, I’ll be sad. If I think about sin, I’ll feel guilty. If I think I’m too thin or too fat, I’ll feel embarrassed. But if I think about God’s gifts, I’ll be thankful; if I think about God’s beauty, I’ll be inspired; if I think about God’s sovereignty, I’ll feel peaceful.”[1] In other words, to experience more joy, dwell on God.

And the best way to dwell on God is to dwell on the book about him that he has given to us. Meditate. Think deeply. Bask in the light of scripture. Fill your heart and mind with the truths of God. Contemplate the finished work of Jesus in bringing salvation through the cross. Ponder the Gift and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Oh, the joys…

This post is part of our continuing journey through the Bible as a church.

[1] David Murray, The Happy Christian (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015), 15.

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