Happiness, we are told, is the goal of life.
A million self-help books promise us different paths to happiness.
Movies and songs show us what happiness looks like.
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth… [i]
Advertisers sell us products, that, if only we possessed them, promise us happiness and satisfaction…
If only I had, that thing…
If only I had …
a certain amount of money,
the perfect body,
the right clothes,
if only (fill in the blank) – then I will be happy.
“Things” that we believe will make us satisfied if we obtained them.
we don’t get that object/job/relationship and we feel that life is lacking.
we do get that object/goal/job and we realise that, it might be good, but it doesn’t fulfil us in the way we believed it would. [ii]
So, we set our intention on the next object/goal/project. The ‘thing’ that, this time, must surely be the one that will deliver its promise of lasting happiness.
Christianity has a word for these objects/objects/schemes – it calls them idols. We make them our idols and we look to them to deliver us happiness and satisfaction.
What good is it if a man gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? [iii]
Some Christians are even guilty of packaging the Christian message up in this way; another self-help programme, another scheme that promises us happiness if we only do x, y or z.
But the Christian Gospel, the Christian ‘Good News’, is not another scheme; it is not another programme to follow, it is freedom from such schemes and programmes.
In the Bible, Jesus tells a story that we know as ‘The Prodigal Son’. In that story the Father is representative of God. At the end of the story, when the prodigal son has been welcomed home, the elder brother is beside himself with rage. He has been striving to please the Father, he’s been endlessly obedient, he’s been the good son. Is that not worth a reward, he wonders? At which point Jesus has the Father (or God) say to him:
You are always with me and everything I have is yours. [iv]
The heart of the Christian message is a radical idea called Grace.
The profound announcement that you already have everything you need. You are a child of God, loved before the dawn of time. Free from the endless pursuit of the next path to happiness, free from devoting yourself to these ‘idols’ with their false offer of peace and salvation.
Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well’ [v]
Jesus spoke of this life as ‘life in all its fullness’, true human flourishing, a life of depth, of vitality, and the knowledge that you are deeply and fundamentally loved. It’s not found in chasing the next gust of wind, but instead turning back to God and realising what you really needed was there all the time.
Bessels Green Baptist Church is committed to helping you explore what this life looks like, please check out bgbc.co.uk for details of our activities or get in touch via email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Grace and peace,
Rev Charlie Ingram
Bessels Green Baptist Church
[i] Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’
[ii] Often the pleasure is in the hunt, the desire, the initial rush of the purchase, but how soon that fades.
[iii] Matthew 16:26
[iv] Luke 15:31
[v] Luke 6:33