Most Americans are familiar with the statement from the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. Since the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, this “pursuit of happiness” has become ingrained in the very fabric of what it means to be an American. Sadly, this pursuit of “happiness” can also have deleterious effects in the lives of individual Christians, as it has a tendency to take on a “life of its own”.
During the course of our lives, we often tell ourselves that, “We will be happy once we have completed school”, or “We will be happy when we get married”, or “We will be happy once we have children.” When we look back, we have to acknowledge the fact that the happiness we experienced after completing our education lasted for only a short period of time. Judging by the high rates of divorce in our country, it is evident that “getting married” does not always have a “happy ending” either. Nor does having children necessarily bring about a lasting happiness, for many parents can’t wait for the day that the kids move out of the house!
When we fail to find happiness through the achievement of certain “life events”, all too often we seek to find happiness in “things”. We tell ourselves “If I only had” this or that, then I’d be happy. So, we buy new cars, the latest technology, and other non-essential luxury items in our pursuit of this elusive thing we call “happiness”. All such attempts are also destined for abject failure, for the only thing that can satisfy the real longings in the heart of man is the Presence of God in one’s life.
It is not that God does not want His children to be happy, but rather God knows that “happiness” can be fleeting, and simply does not last in anyone’s life on a continual basis. All too often, the “pursuit of happiness” can easily become the total focus of our lives, thereby supplanting God’s rightful place in the Christian’s heart and life, and becomes just another form of idolatry.
The question then arises, if God does not want us to be focusing upon our own happiness, then what does He expect us to be focusing on? The answer to this is quite simply, to be accomplishing that which He created us for, that is, to be “pleasing unto Him” (Revelation 4:11). To this we must ask another question, how do we in fact know that we are accomplishing this task of being “pleasing unto Him”?
While there are numerous things we can do that Scripture tells us are “pleasing to Him”, such as by “doing His commandments” (I John 3:22), “willing His Will” in our lives (Philippians 2:13), and singing our praises unto Him (Psalm 69:30,31), there is one way that we can check on our proper spiritual development, and that is examining ourselves to see if we are truly exhibiting the “fruits of the Spirit” as elucidated by Paul in his letter to the Galatians. For if we are exhibiting the fruits of the spirit in our lives, we can ascertain whether we are walking in the power of God’s Spirit, and not after our own fleshly desires (Galatians 5:16).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22,23
If we pay special attention to these 9 attributes of the “fruits of the Spirit”, we should recognize the fact that noticeably absent from the list, is the idea, or the concept of, “happiness”.
So, we see here within the wonderful truths of God’s Word, that rather than focusing on and engaging in “the pursuit of happiness”, Christians should more properly be devoted to the quest of the development of the character traits of the fruits of the Spirit within their lives. For when we truly exhibit these character traits, it is evidence of the fact that we are indeed walking after the power of the Spirit, and not after our own fleshly desires. It also serves to demonstrate the fact that we are “willing His will” in our lives, in order that we might ultimately be found to be, “Pleasing unto God.”