Darrow Miller and Friends

To Be Happy, Follow These Three Steps

  1. Sabbatical Reflections: The Pursuit of Happiness (Part 1 of 3)
  2. Sabbatical Reflections: The Pursuit of Happiness (Part 2 of 3)
  3. Sabbatical Reflections: The Pursuit of Happiness (Part 3 of 3)
  4. Happiness: Where Does It Come From?
  5. Happiness: You Can Find It In Any Circumstances
  6. Happiness, the False and the True
  7. The Pursuit of Happiness
  8. To Be Happy, Follow These Three Steps
  9. Happiness According to the New Testament

To Be Happy, Follow These Three Steps                                                  Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Psalm 19:7-11 describes in sacred song the significance of the law of the Lord and helps us understand why living within the framework of God’s laws leads to happiness. As you read this text, take time to reflect on the beauty of these words as well as their meaning. Ask God to use them to make an impact on your life. This text speaks of the nature of the law and the benefits to those who follow it.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;

the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;

the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. Ps 19:7-9 (ESV)

being truly happy is better than honeyThe sacred song continues in verses 11-12 by stating that the law of the Lord is more precious than gold and sweeter than the sweetest honey. Shaped as we are by a materialist culture and lifestyle, it is hard to conceive anything more valuable and significant for our lives than material things.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;

sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

The nonmaterial, moral nature of the universe, reflected in God’s laws and precepts, is more significant for our lives than its material aspects (including money). These ordinances are a caution. They set boundaries for our lives. When we live within the framework of the moral universe, we find great reward, we discover happiness. The pursuit of happiness is a moral, not hedonistic, quest.

Other passages also indicate that happiness is found by living within the framework of a moral universe. These include Psalm 41:1-2; 106:3; 119:1; and Proverbs 29:18.[1]

Happy is the man who trusts in the Lord

The Old Testament teaches us that living virtuously in the moral universe is one way we can pursue happiness. A second way is by trusting in the Lord. The word trust is often depicted by the wonderful word picture of “taking refuge” in God. The word translated trust is חָסָה (ḥā·sā(h)): v.; take refuge in. It means to “go to a place where one will find safety, rest, or comfort, implying the place of refuge is a place to be trusted to keep one safe.”[2]

We have this powerful image of refuge in Psalms 91:1-4.

To have God's shelter is to be happy
Photo by Richard Lee at Unsplash

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his pinions,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

The Psalms are filled with this image. (See 17:6-9, 36:5-9, 57:1, 61:1-4; 63:7-8.) Happiness is found in the shadow of the Almighty, under the shelter of His “wings.”

Let’s examine some of the texts:

–          Ps 2:12 (CSB) – Pay homage to the Son or he will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion, for his anger may ignite at any moment. All      who take refuge in him are happy.

–          Ps 33:12 (NRSV) – Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.

–          Ps 34:8-9 (YLT) – Taste ye and see that Jehovah is good, O the happiness of the man who trusteth in Him. Fear Jehovah, ye His holy ones, For there is no lack to those fearing Him.

–          Ps 40:4 (GNT) – Happy are those who trust the LORD, who do not turn to idols or join those who worship false gods.

–          Ps 84:12-13 (HLSB) – Happy is the person who trusts in You, LORD of Hosts!

–          Ps 144:15 (GNT) – Happy is the nation of whom this is true; happy are the people whose God is the LORD!

–          Is. 30:18 (JPS-Tanakh 1817) – And therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto you, And therefore will He be exalted, that He may have compassion upon you; For the LORD is a God of justice, Happy are all they that wait for Him.

Those who trust in the Lord live under the shadow of His wings. There they find safety, rest, comfort. If you would know happiness, dwell in the shelter of the Most High. Abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

Happy is the man who is forgiven

The third theme of the pursuit of happiness is seeking the forgiveness of sins.

–          Deu. 44:29 (ESV) – Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph! Your enemies shall come fawning to you, and you shall tread upon their backs.”

–          Ps 32:1-2 (GNT) – Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned. Happy is the one whom the LORD does not accuse of doing wrong and who is free from all deceit.

The word forgiven is the Hebrew נָשָׂא (nā·śā(ʾ)): v. which means “spare, i.e., remove guilt incurred and its penalty.” All are guilty, and guilt requires the appropriate punishment. The culpable person is both spared from the punishment of his guilt and the guilt itself is removed. The guilt will never be counted against him.

How is it that a person’s guilt can be removed and the punishment spared? Quite marvelously because the punishment was paid and the guilt removed by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

–          Romans 4:7-8, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

–          2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

the forgiven person is happyImagine having committed a crime for which the punishment is death. You are awaiting your execution. Then the news comes that a friend, out of profound love for you, has arranged to pay the required penalty for you, in full.

Happy is the man who is forgiven!

The Old Testament reveals that happiness is found for the man who keeps the law, who lives in the shadow of the Almighty and whose sins are forgiven. The person who pursues happiness lives in a moral universe where God is both righteous and loving.

–          Darrow Miller

to be continued

[1] –            Ps 41:1-2 (JPS-Tanakh 1817) –  For the Leader. A Psalm of David. Happy is he that considereth the poor; The LORD will deliver him in the day of evil. The LORD preserve him, and keep him alive, let him be called happy in the land; And deliver not Thou him unto the greed of his enemies

–               Ps 106:3 (CSB)- How happy are those who uphold justice, who practice righteousness at all times.

–               Ps 119:1 (GNT) – Happy are those whose lives are faultless, who live according to the law of the LORD.

–               Proverbs 29:18 [NASB): Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.

[2] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).