If God wants me happy, why do I suffer?

John Piper offers an answer to a question I’m sure we have all asked at some time.

Download it or read the transcript here.

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The Struggle for Love

I found this gem of a sermon from Tim Keller on happiness from Genesis 29:15 – 35. This stood out to me –

Through all of life, in every event, and through every aspect of your life there always will be a ground note running of cosmic disappointment and you’re not going to lead a wise life until you know that. See Jacob goes to bed with the one, I finally got the one, the one thing, the one person who is going to make my life okay. But what we are told literally in the Hebrew says ‘but in the morning behold, it was Leah.” Now I love Leah and I’m protective of her and I love what we’re about to learn about her but let me tell you this, Leah represents something. Every time you get started into a relationship, every time you move into a marriage, every time you get a job, every time you get into a new project, into some new pursuit and you think this finally is going to make my life right, I want you to know, in the morning it’s always Leah. You go to bed with Rachel, in the morning it will always, always be Leah. And nobody put it better than C.S. Lewis who said “Most people if they really learned how to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something this world can never give them.” There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you but they never keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love or first think of some foreign country or first take up some subject that excites us, these are longings which no marriage, no travel, or no earning will ever satisfy. I’m not speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages or trips or so on, I’m speaking of the very best possible ones. There is always something we have grasped at in that first moment of longing that just fades away in the reality. The spouse may be a good spouse, the scenery has been excellent, it’s turned out to be a good job, but IT, the thing that we thought was going to be in the centre of it, always evades us in the morning. It’s always Leah.

Get it (free!) here.

Happiness vs Joy

happiness_by_superKeci

In one of the talks at Engage this year one of the speakers said this –

Happiness is a cheap toy. Joy is an unbelievably powerful force. God is ferocious for your joy, but happiness is fickle.

Happiness is a cheap toy. I can’t tell you how much I am seeing this to be true at the moment. The search for happiness in this world can so terribly lead to disappointment, loneliness and sadness.

But what exactly is the difference between happiness and joy. My dictionary say that joy is showing happiness but I think the bible speaks of a different kind of joy and so I would like to take some time to look at what the bible tells us about joy.

James 1 says this

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Joy in the face of trials seems to suggest that this joy is not dependent on happiness. So what is it? Lets start by looking at the reason we are to have joy – because the testing of our faith develops perseverance. Perseverance is mentioned as a characteristic of the Christian life by Jesus (Luke 8:15; 21:19) and Paul (Romans 5:3-4; 8:25; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 12:12).

The first person to have his faith tested was Abraham (Genesis 22) who was greatly rewarded by God for his faithfulness. We too shall be rewarded for our faithfulness. Testing of this leads to perseverance.

And while perseverance is good, its not the prize. It has its own effect, which is that you may be made mature and complete. The Greek word that is translated in NIV as ‘mature’ has a sense of meeting the highest standard and could also be translated as ‘perfect’. It is the same word that is used in Matthew 5:48 when Jesus says ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’. The effect of perseverance is a God-like character. That is the prize here.

We are to find joy in our trials because they make us more like God. This kind of joy requires us to have a perspective that looks beyond the here and now, and instead looks to an eternal reward. The eternal perspective is what drives us to faithfulness and perseverance.

Happiness is fickle because this world is fickle. Joy is powerful because true joy comes from an eternal perspective.

More soon.