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"Top Shelf Christianity" -
A handbook to becoming a Christian

"but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." Jn.20:31

Chapter Three
The Happiest People
…………................................................................ by ric justiss

The founders of this great nation, when they declared their independence, declared
that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable
rights, and named 3 of them.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And that
means, I suppose, that this nation in which we live, is the happy hunting ground.  And
not in the sense that the Indians thought of it, a place where people are all happy, but it
is a  place where everybody is hunting for happiness, pursuing it.  I'd even go so far as
to say that the whole world is a happy hunting ground in that sense, because,
everybody seems to be obsessed with the idea of happiness.  All people haven't
caught up with it yet, all people haven't found it, but everybody is hunting for it.

The word happy is a happy word.  I like it.   It is a good word.  And, as you know, it is a
Bible word.  Now, in the Bible, when we begin to read and come across verses where
the word happy shows up, in the beginning we don't have a lot of trouble with it
because it makes good sense.  When we read,
"happy is that people whose God is the
Lord," Psalms 144:15
, we understand that.  People who have found the Lord, should
be happy, right?  And when we read in
Psalms 127 about the blessing of having
"children are an heritage of the Lord, they are as arrows in the hand of a
mighty man, happy is every man that hath his quiver full of them."
 Well, all parents
who know the joy children can bring to them, understand that statement.  Or even
when you read in
Prov. 3:13, "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom," and a little later
vs. 16, "happy is everyone that retaineth her,"  that makes sense.

But then later, when you turn to the New Testament, to Peter's statement
1Pet 3:14,
"But and if you suffer for righteousness sake, happy are you."
 And in the next
chapter, same vs.,
"If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you."   That
is a bit harder to understand.  It sounds to me like Peter either did not understand what
it means to suffer, or he didn't understand what it means to be happy.  How can you
suffer and if you suffer be happy?  What do you mean by happy?

If I were to ask you today the direct point blank question - Are you Happy? - how would
you answer that?  It might depend a lot on the circumstances in which the question is
put to you.  If I ask you right as you are waking up in the morning, and you happen to
be a slow starter, and your eyes are not focused yet, and I hit you with -  Are You
Happy?, you might answer by saying, "You mean right now?"  You might want to think
about it just a little bit before you would want to answer.  You might want to say, "Well,
I'm not unhappy, I'm not sad."   

Happy you see, is a very good word, a fine word, but it has so many different uses.  I
say a lot of times, when I am speaking publicly, "We are happy to see everyone here
today."  And if I am speaking at a new place, I nearly always say, "I am happy to be
here."  Well, I am using that word.  There are certain establishments you can go to after
work today and experience "happy hour."  That is where to go to get happy, I guess.  A
man can say I am happy, or he can say I am happy-go-lucky.  I have heard people
described as being trigger-happy.  What does it mean to be happy?

If you look the word up in the dictionary, you might be surprised.  To begin with, the
basic root of the word is "hap"....the same root of the word "happen."  A thing that
"happens" is something that occurs by chance.  Happy means - favored by fortune, it
literally means "lucky."

But when I ask you, "are you happy", you don't think I'm asking you, Are you lucky?"  
Maybe sometimes you do have to be a bit lucky to be happy.  That is the English word,
but that is not what the word means in the Bible.

As a student of the scriptures, perhaps you have learned by now that in many places
where the word happy is found, the word "blessed: should be found, and in some
places where the you read the word "blessed," the translations will put in the word
"happy."  In the sermon on the mount,
Matt 5, The Beatitudes, "Blessed are the poor in
spirit, for their's in the Kingdom of Heaven."  "Blessed are they that mourn."  "Blessed
are the meek."
 Happy is the way that would be translated.  And when we read from
1Pet 3:4, "but and if you suffer for righteousness sake, blessed are you."  That is the
idea. If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you, or blessed are you.  
Favored by God.

But when we use the word today in our normal conversation, I don't think we mean
either lucky or blessed.  When we talk about being happy, and we think of the pursuit
of happiness, and we say things like "Don't you think I have a right to happiness?",
"Don't you think I have a right to be happy?", we are thinking probably of something

To be happy in our normal ordinary conversation means to be exhilarated, it means to
he exalted in attitude or mind or mood.  It means to be excited, enthused, or in a state
of bliss.  I think the craziest synonym I've heard, is the phrase "tickled to death."  
Someone will say, I am so happy today, I am just tickled-to-death. What a terrible form
of execution that would be.  But you know what that means, it means I am Happy. It
means I am up here, excited, exhilarated, or on a high.

The Bible doesn't use the word in that way, but there are other similar words, like the
word "glad."  The believers on Pentecost, after they were baptized,
"did eat their meat
with gladness."
  You find the idea of being glad connected with the word "rejoicing."  
"Be glad and rejoice."  "Rejoice and be glad."  Maybe that gets in the neighborhood of
"happy" as we think of it.

There is the word "peace."  Paul used it in
Philippians chapter 4 when he said, "be
careful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let
your request be made known unto God, and the peace of God which passeth all
understanding, shall keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus."
 The peace of
God! Peace speaks of perfect harmony.   If you are in a relationship of harmony, you
have harmonious feelings toward yourself, toward other people, toward God, you are
at peace.  And that is not far from being happy.  It might not be the most exciting thing
in the world though.

In that same
Philippians chapter 4, the apostle Paul, talking about his own condition
that went from high to low, said
"I have learned in whatsoever state I'm in, therewith to
be content."
 That is a good word, isn't it.  But it is maybe one thing to be content, to be
satisfied, and maybe something else to be happy in the sense we always think of
being happy.

But since we speak the language of the common people, we are common people,
when we talk about being happy we usually are thinking of that high sort of happy.  
And we are always looking for something to make us happy, or someone to make us

And you might want to think on that for just a moment.  Do you suppose I could "make
you happy."  I' m not sure that is possible.  How could I, one person, make you be
happy?  Just take you by the collar and say "now look here, you be happy or I'll know
the reason why."  Can I force you to be happy and make you happy?  It doesn't seem
reasonable, and yet, I bet I can  make you mad.  If I dug around a little, I could find that
sore spot.  If I could get close enough to you and get to know you well enough, I know
I could make you mad. I'm sure I could make you sad.  I could be the bearer of bad
news, and that bad news could make you sad.  Like the time Nehemiah received the
news of the state of Jerusalem, and it says
"his countenance was sad."  He was
saddened by what he heard.  But even if I could make you mad, even if I could make
you sad, it wouldn't last.

It would not matter how mad I made you today, at some point it would wear off.  And no
matter how sad I might make you today, at some point that would wear off too.  And, If I
could make you happy that would wear off too.  I might could make you get real happy,
if you were real sick and I had a pill that would make it all go away.  Or if you were
broke and bankrupt and I gave you a million dollars, you would be happy, you would
be elated. But that would wear off too.  And I believe that is the important thing for us to
see here about this particular form of human happiness.  It is not permanent.  It never
can be permanent.  Because the circumstances and conditions that produce it are not
permanent, and that is exactly why the world's pursuit of happiness is always
doomed.  Because they seek happiness based on the externals which do not last.

Solomon set out to experiment with the world, pursuing all the avenues of pleasure
that men do, and he said
"I said in my heart, come now, I will prove thee with mirth,
therefore enjoy pleasure."
 And he did.  He did everything that people do.  He said later,
"whatsoever my eyes desired I kept not from them,  I withheld not my heart from any
 Anything he wanted to do, he did it.  If it brought him a form of pleasure, he did it.

Happiness, in this sense, can be produced by pleasures.  It can be produced by
attainments, by doing things.  If you do something that is worthwhile, good noble
achievements, whether it is writing a book, or preaching a sermon, or doing a good job
at work, or building a great house, or building a business, you can feel that sense of
excitement, and elation and happiness over what you have accomplished.

It also can be produced by what you have, by what you possess.  You can get a new
dress, or a new suit, or a new car, or you can buy a new house...and you are just so
happy. It will make you so happy.............. for just so long.

But it doesn't last.  The pleasure is momentary.  It has to be repeated.  And whatever it
is that gives us that sense of satisfaction and excitement and happiness, it fades
away.  We have to go and get another new pair of shoes. Those old shoes just don't
provide the same happiness as the new ones.  No matter what we have, we can never
have enough for that feeling to last.

That is why true happiness, in the higher sense, has to be based on something

I can say today, truthfully, that Christians are the happiest people in the world.

And that is speaking idealistically.

I am not saying that every person who professes the name of Christ is happy, in any
sense of the word.  We may or may not be, but as Christians, if we have accepted and
implemented the Christian religion like we should, we should be the happiest people in
the world.

I don't mean to say by that we have more.  We don't have more money, or more things.  
The Bible indicated that in Bible times there were poor Christians and rich Christians.
James - "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he's exalted,  and the rich in that
he is brought low."
 There may even be more who are poor, because he said, "God
hath chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, to be heirs of the Kingdom."

So, to be clear, becoming a Christian is not punching your ticket to increased wealth.
Now perhaps there are some principles at play that might make a Christian a bit better
off than a non-Christian, all things being equal.  Things like a strong work ethic,
industry, etc.  But that is as far as it goes.  And becoming a Christian is not punching
your ticket to a healthier life.  We have the same ailments.  It doesn't matter how
righteous you are, you can get just as sick as the biggest sinner in the world.  One of
the great disciples described in the Book of Acts was a lady named Dorcas.  She was
well known in the community of Joppa where she lived for her good works.  But she
took sick and died.  Christians get just as sick as other people.  Now again, some
principles may be at work to make for better health, all things being equal, such as
temperance, moderation in all things, etc.  But basically there is no difference.  And
becoming a Christian does not mean you will have less problems than other people.  
We can have all the same problems that people of the world have.  Jesus said in the
sermon on the mount,
"It rains on the just and  unjust alike."  Which means that
blessings come to bad and good people both, as far as temporal blessings go, but
unfortunately, it also pours on the just and the unjust alike.  The same rain that wipes
out the sinners crop, will wipe out your crop also.  So, Christians can have just as
many cares of the world as anybody else.

The reason I say Christians are the happiest of the two, is because Christians have a
better understanding, a better comprehension of things.  Christians understand that
the kind of happiness that people are so interested in pursuing is short lived at the
best, it is produced by external circumstances and taken away the same way.

But Christians have something, call it peace, contentment, or rest.  They have
something that can never be taken away.  Joy.  Jesus told his disciples he was going
away, he told them they would be sad but also told them that their sorrow would be
turned into joy, and he said
"your joy no man taketh away from you."

But if you are talking about that fleeting human happiness that we are all so interested
in, it can be taken away from us, and it will be.  Periodically, sooner or later, more often
than not, and more as time goes on, it seems.

I think I should put in here somewhere, that God is not against our being happy in the
everyday human sense.  He's not a God that doesn't want us to be excited or
exhilarated or enthused or happy in general.  In Eccl., Solomon said things like
oh young man in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee all the days of they life."
"live joyfully with the wife of thy youth."  Or,  "there is nothing better than for a man to
eat and drink and to enjoy good in this life, the fruit of his labor."

The New Testament even says "God has given us richly all things to enjoy."  Parents
usually want their children to be happy and enjoy themselves, even in that sense, and I
don't think that God, as a Father, is any different from the average parent.  He is not
against our being happy in that way.

But, the world being constructed as it is, he knows and we need to know, that that kind
of happiness is something that cannot always be.  You can never go through life
permanently happy.  Because every circumstance that produces that is one that ebbs
and flows and come and goes.  And if you are looking for something like that, you are
looking for that which is impossible and can never be.  It is futile and fruitless.

It is that simple.  But Christians understand that.  Christians understand the difference
between what is important and what is not important.  A popular bumper sticker at one
time said, "he who dies with the most toys wins."  But Jesus said,
"a man's life
consisteth not in the abundance of the things in which he possesseth."
 A Christian
understands that, he enjoys what he has, his possessions and can enjoy his
accomplishments, but if he loses it, it does not rob him of everything.  Because he was
never relying on those things to begin with.  He was enjoying them, but not relying on
them.  He knows it was not the important thing after all, and never was.  A Christian
understands the difference between what is temporary and what is permanent.  

" We look not on these things which are seen, but on those things which are not seen.  
The things which are seen are temporary, the things not seen eternal."
 Once you
understand that, it is pretty hard to un-happy you.

Paul said,
"Godliness has the promise of the life that now is."  God has given us some
principles to  follow and order our life by, in order to guide us and help us through this
world, on our way to the world to come.  And these principles will tend to make us
happier, however you define it.  Paul quoted Jesus in
Acts 20 saying "it is more
blessed to give than to receive."
 Translated, it means there is more happiness in
giving than in receiving.  Christianity is a giving way of life, and people who live this
way will be happier than those who live by the principle of selfishness.

I could sum it up best by ICor 13, the last verse, which we all know so well.  
abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three.  But the greatest of these is charity."

These are the 3 abiding elements of the religion of Jesus Christ.  And they all tend to
make people happy.  

If we have faith, that is something to believe in, something to trust in, in spite of the
external circumstance around us, we will be happy.  Faith that Jesus died on the cross
so that all of our sins are forgiven, faith to come to God in prayer knowing that we
come to him as one that he loves and cares for and recognizes as one of his, totally
forgiven and pure in his sight, and faith that as followers of Jesus Christ we will be
partakers of the Kingdom of Heaven, this faith gives us each a deep down sense of
happiness, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in this world.

If we have hope - hope is optimistic, that is the only way hope can be - because it is
looking forward to whatever is out there, and that hope brings an inward happiness.

If we have love - one of the definitions or characteristics of love presented in
ICor 13,
"love seeketh not its own."  Pouring out the love in your heart to someone will
make you quite happy.

How can a person motivated in day to day life by faith, hope and love, be unhappy?

I recommend to you the life of a Christian, that will keep you the happiest you can be
while on earth and while preparing for Heaven.
 "Godliness has the promise of Life,
that now is, and that which is to come."  I Timothy 4:8



Chapter 1 - Once we understand the grandeur of heaven, nothing will be more important to us
than being sure we have a home in heaven awaiting us at the end of this life.

Chapter 2 - If we want to go to heaven, we will have to change.  We have to change, or convert,
from living one way to living another way.

Chapter 3 - Once we do change, we will find out that we are much happier.