Intentional VS Circumstantial Happiness
Study Guide, September 20, 2020
Pastor Clay Olsen
No doubt you have noticed that ever since the pandemic hit, we, here at the Chapel, have made a concerted effort, especially in our Bible discovery times together, to offset the many conflicts and problems going on around us with a Biblical mindset in order to overcome these conflicts and problems. And one reason that this has been the focus of our studies together is that we believe that one of the services of the church is to assure people that God’s people are ‘Overcomers’ of the things that seek to ‘overcome’ us. And we are committed to offering Biblical resources to then equip us all to fight the good fight of faith against those things that attack us all, like this pandemic and the many other persistent problems in our world. So that’s the theme that we have been following…just wanted to emphasize that.
All right, with that said, you may have also noticed that this ‘discovery lesson’ concerns ‘Intentional VS Circumstantial Happiness’. And the difference between these two are gi-normous. I love that made-up word – ‘Ginormous’. There’s ‘enormous’ and then there’s ‘ginormous’, right? But why do we say there is a ginormous difference between intentional happiness and circumstantial happiness? Well, one obvious reason is because for most people, their happiness is circumstantial; their happiness is based upon whatever is happening in the circumstances of their lives. But what a precarious basis that is, right? They have connected their happiness to some notion of ‘when everything will be all right’ in their lives. But just when is ‘everything all right in this world?’ And what in the world does ‘everything all right’ mean anyway? We live in a world where most things are ‘all wrong’ with all kinds of things, from the weather to health to relationships, and with simply all of the many difficult circumstances in our lives. All of that is like the constant ebb and flow of the tides, constantly switching back and forth.
The point is when we connect our happiness with the ‘happenings’ around us, or connect them to the circumstances around us, we become disconnected from the source of true happiness, as well as become a slave to false happiness. Did we say ‘false happiness’? Yes, and actually we should say ‘counterfeit happiness’. ‘Counterfeit’? Does that ring a bell? 2 Cor 11:14-“…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” NASU
We are to fully realize that Satan has a ‘counterfeit’ for nearly every good and true thing that God created. And this is especially true for such highly prized treasures in life, such as ‘happiness’. As Disciples of the One who is the Truth, we have come to know that any kind of ‘happiness’ that is based upon things such as favorable ‘happenings’ or preferred circumstances and such, while much appreciated, still, is not really true happiness at all. For even when these things are good, still, the Counterfeiter, Satan, can even use those things as a counterfeit happiness that he can use in order to maintain control over so many people. Remember what the Apostle John said about that? 1 John 2:15-17- “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” NLT Again, there are many physical pleasures, and remarkable achievements, and valuable possessions that are good. And not only are they good, they are blessings to us from God to enjoy…to be happy about. So that’s fine, and faithful believers can enjoy these things and be happy about them. But on the other hand, as the Apostle pointed out, there are also the cravings for ungodly pleasures, and self-centered pride, and the craving of selfish possessions. And those things are destructive individually and socially. And, again. we know who is pushing these things; the Pusher, the Counterfeiter.
However, and here is the key, even though these good things are blessings, still, none of these are the source of true happiness. And until you identify the source, you have no idea if you are dealing with a true happiness or a false happiness…or a counterfeit happiness that is being dangled in front of you by the Counterfeiter himself. Remember, ‘Angel of light?’ But the source of true happiness is of course, the Creator of happiness Himself; our Maker and Redeemer. And He gave us eight qualities to look for in identifying true happiness…eight things that will not only reveal ‘the genuine happiness’ from ‘the counterfeit happiness’, but will also release the very blessings that are part of this God given experience we call ‘happiness’. Let’s explore.
Actually, we should probably inject something else here before we explore. And the reason we say that is because there is a general understanding that ‘happiness’ and ‘joy’ are two different things. And the specific response to that general understanding is: ‘Yes and No’. What do we mean by that? Well, yes, there is a difference if we are talking about circumstantial happiness, because that kind of happiness is related to things that are ‘happening’ in your life, favorable and unfavorable and so on. And we are generally comparing that with the kind of ‘joy’ that the Scriptures describe as the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ joy. So, yes, there is quite a difference there. For this ‘joy’ is not dependent upon the circumstances of our lives, but upon yielding our lives to the control of God the Holy Spirit. We think of that kind of ‘joy’ as the ‘strength attitude’ that Nehemiah talks about: Neh 8:10- “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” NASU
That kind of ‘joy’ is the ‘joy’ that Jesus said that He gives to us: John 15:11- “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” NASU That’s the ‘joy’ that we need and want to be working in our minds and hearts and lives. We want ‘Jesus’ joy’ working in our lives. And even that is not conditioned by favorable circumstances or happenings either. No, that kind of ‘joy’ is a spiritual strength that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit working in a yielded will that, in favorable or unfavorable circumstances, enables you to say with the Prophet: Hab 3:17-19- “Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places.” NASU That’s Jesus’ Joy, and it is not dependent upon the circumstances of this world, because it is entirely dependent upon the Person of God Himself. Plus, that’s why Paul reminded us to: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Phil 4:4 NASU The key to all of these things; joy, rejoicing, blessings, happiness, is the ‘source’ to which you are looking or from which you are drawing, in order to either have joy or to be happy.
Which brings us to the ‘No’ part of the answer; meaning: When we are talking about joy and happiness that are both connected to the ‘source’ of Jesus Himself, then we find that the Scriptures often use them interchangeably. Like in Jer. 31:13 where two different Bible versions interchange the words: Jer 31:13- “I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.” NLT Jer 31:13- “I will change their sadness into happiness. I will comfort my people, making them happy instead of sad.” ERV
So again, Yes, there is a world of difference between worldly happiness and Biblical joy, just like there is a world of difference between worldly joy and Biblical happiness. And again, there is a world of difference between the world’s counterfeit happiness and the Bible’s genuine happiness. But there are a lot of similarities between Biblical joy and Biblical happiness. And we can rejoice and be happy about that! Just remember: The key is the source; the center. When both our joy and our happiness are centered around Jesus, Jesus then produces both in our lives. [JOY-JESUS-HAPPINESS] Keep them connected to Jesus and you can experience both in your life. It’s like when a woman was saying to Jesus how happy must be the woman that bore Him. Here’s what He said: Luke 11:28- “But Jesus answered, “Rather, how happy are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” TEV (And notice that Jesus also revealed the real secret of ‘happiness’ here… ‘obedience’.)
Which brings us back to ‘Intentional Happiness’. The kind of happiness you are going to experience depends upon what kind of happiness you are looking for: Intentional or circumstantial. If you are looking to experience genuine happiness instead of counterfeit happiness you are going to have to be ‘intentional’ about it. And the most detailed passage describing ‘intentional’ and ‘genuine’ happiness is: Matt 5:1-12. So now let’s explore. Look at verse 1 and 2: “Jesus saw the crowds and went up a hill, where He sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and He began to teach them…”TEV By the way, those of you that have visited the Mount of Beatitudes in Israel probably were given an unusual demonstration of an amazing physical property of that hillside. One of the amazing features of this hillside is that there is a natural acoustic phenomenon that enables people sitting all over that hillside to hear the speaker standing in the midst of them. It’s really something to experience. Just thought you’d enjoy that little trivia there.
But now notice the qualities of true happiness. The first is a humble spirit. 3- “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!” TEV Now, being ‘spiritually poor’ or ‘poor in spirit’ means ‘spiritually poor in and of themselves, or apart from God; that they have nothing of their own to deserve God’s wealth of His salvation. Now, and just like they have come to God in order to be saved by God’s grace through their faith, and not of their own works; in the same way they now walk with God, in humble faith and dependence upon His sufficient grace in their lives. That is a quality on which God then bestows ‘happiness’.
So what then is the counterfeit of that? The counterfeit of humility is self-pride and self-centeredness. And the Counterfeiter makes sure that the ‘Proud’ experiences some sort of ‘happiness sensation’ with it, but he never reveals what the consequences will be from being filled with ‘self-pride’. But God has. Note what God has revealed about the proud of heart…and this is just a small sampling of the warnings: Prov 16:5- “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” NIV
Zeph 3:11-12- “I will remove all proud and arrogant people from among you. There will be no more haughtiness on my holy mountain. Those who are left will be the lowly and humble, for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord.” NLT
James 4:6-10- “But He gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor.” NLT
Whatever kind of happiness the ungodly and proud are experiencing, it is a counterfeit happiness that is about to turn into genuine sorrow and genuine regret when it comes time for their appointment with God. And everybody has an appointment with God.
But remember this: Satan wants to keep people occupied with just the ‘sensations of a counterfeit happiness’, and he wants to keep them disconnected from the source of genuine happiness. But God wants to bestow on the humble child of God both the sensations of genuine happiness and the rewards that accompany it. Remember: Right blesses twice: It blesses in present joy and it blesses in future reward. Wrong may give pleasures once; but it will give sorrows forever after. And when you understand this, it doesn’t take much deciphering to determine which is the wiser course of action.
All right, what’s the second quality and evidence of genuine happiness? And here we’re going to turn to the Amplified Version in order to really get a grasp on the kind of ‘happiness’ that is being conferred upon God’s people here. 4- “Blessed and enviably happy [with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!” By the way, it’s fascinating how both of the words ‘blessed’ and ‘happy’ come from the same Greek word “Makarios”. So again, when the Scriptures use the words ‘blessed’ and ‘happy’ the key is to remember that what makes for both is one source: Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. And you know what? This is right where we probably need to break for now, since we have these next seven qualities to walk and talk through. So, we’ll do that in our next discovery service.
But how good of our great God to want His people to be blessed, to be happy, to be joyful. And He has shown us exactly how that works, when we work with Him so that He can work in us and then through us.