Are you a happy Christian? Is your Christianity bringing you as much pleasure as you get from eating a good meal or reading a great book or visiting with your best friend?
Don’t brush away these questions as if they’re flies at a picnic. Martin Luther says, “A Christian should and must be a cheerful person.” C. S. Lewis says, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” Renowned Christian preacher David M. Lloyd-Jones says, “We’re meant to enjoy the Christian life.” Well-known pastor John Piper says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying him. The cherry on top of this sundae comes from none other than John Calvin! Calvin says, “There is nothing in our afflictions that ought to disturb our joy.”
More importantly, the Bible urges us to be happy Christians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:3). Meaning, God wants you to be a happy Christian. How can you be one?
Begin here: joy and happiness are not as different as democracy and communism. Many people say they are. I respectfully disagree. I think the Bible teaches us that joy is a species of the happiness genus. Joy is Christian happiness.
Like other happiness, the Christian happiness varies in degree. Sometimes it’s the quiet glow of gratitude to God for his wife and children a man has as they enjoy Christmas Day together. Sometimes it’s the teary-eyed delight a mom has as she listens to her daughter give the Valedictorian’s speech at High School graduation. And sometimes it’s the unbridled ecstasy a mom and dad feel as they stand and cheer and high five everyone because their son’s just made a last-second three-pointer to win the State Championship. But whether strong or weak, we’re always to be happy Christians.
You are Commanded to be a Happy Christian
How do you know that you should always be a happy Christian? Because you’re commanded to be one. “Rejoice” comes with the authority of the Ten Commandments. Being a happy Christian is no more optional than wearing a seatbelt when you ride in your car. It’s a sin not to be a happy Christian.
Like every other Biblical command, this one is for our good. Christian happiness is more motivating than a Zig Ziglar pep talk. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Christian happiness helps you manage pain better than prescription strength Ibuprofen. Christian happiness helps you walk with God like Enoch. Christian happiness helps you serve the Lord like Paul. Being a happy Christian’s the key to living the abundant Christian life Jesus wants you to live.
Being a happy Christian is a choice. It’s fruit growing on the tree of choosing to focus on the unchanging Christian circumstance that defines you. “Rejoice in the Lord.” Like other happiness, Christian happiness is based on circumstances. Unlike other happiness, Christian happiness is based on a circumstance that never changes. Being the happy Christian God wants you to be, comes from focusing on this unchanging circumstance.
Rejoicing in the Lord means choosing not to focus on your brokenness. Brokenness is the word for the truth that we are frail people of dust and feeble as frail. Focusing on your brokenness means telling yourself every day, all day long that you’re only a sinner saved by grace; that without Christ you can do nothing; that left to yourself you’ll deny the Lord as surely as Peter did; and that you stand in constant need of the cleansing blood of Jesus.
The Bible agrees with these things. It says that in and of ourselves we’re wayward as the Prodigal son and weak as wet Kleenex. And we always need the cleansing blood of Jesus. But while the Bible agrees with this it most emphatically does not focus on them as the unchanging circumstance of your Christian life. Why not? Because you can no more be the happy Christian God wants you to be by focusing on your brokenness than you can keep your body healthy by eating every day in a garbage dump. Acknowledge your weakness but don’t focus on it.
God is Fixing You
What the New Testament focuses on when it talks about the one unchanging circumstance of your Christian life is this: Grace means that through Jesus God is FIXING you by being always up to your good. Listen: “Rejoice in the Lord.” You are in the Lord! Meaning, the unchanging circumstance of your life isn’t that you’re broken. It’s the glorious grace fact that God through Jesus has begun fixing you and won’t stop until he’s finished (Philippians 1:6). You’re being renovated like an old house Joanna and Chip Gaines are making beautiful on Fixer Upper.
This truth is unchanging. That’s why you should be happy no matter what’s going on in your life. Right now my sciatica’s arm-wrestling my arthritis to see which can torture me the most. I read this text and say, “C’mon Paul, you can’t be serious. I’m hurting, man. Give me a break.” He says, “Charley, I say again rejoice!” What’s he saying? He’s saying, “Charley, rejoice in the Lord!” Rejoice in the truth that the unchanging circumstance of your life as a Christian is that grace means your heavenly Father is fixing you through Jesus by being always up to your good.
What are you? You’re a Christian! Do you sin? Yes! Are you weak? Yes! Do you stand in constant need of the blood of Jesus? Yes, yes, yes!!! But don’t focus on this because it’s not the one unchanging circumstance of your life. You’re in the Lord. Through Jesus God’s doing for you far, far more than forgiving you. Through Jesus he’s made you his child; through Jesus, he’s for you; through Jesus, he’s working everything for your good; through Jesus, he’s always ready to help you handle life (Galatians 4:4-7; Romans 8:31; Romans 8:28; Matthew 7:11).
The one unchanging fact about you IS NOT that you’re broken. The one unchanging fact about you IS that God is fixing you through grace by being always up to your good through his Son.
Focus on this fact that God is fixing you and you’ll be the happy Christian he wants you to be.