“Glorious Happiness: Having and Sharing the Grace of God”
written by a member of the class of 2022
What is happiness? Some may say it’s subjective, that each individual defines for themselves what happiness is and what makes them the happiest. Others may assert that happiness can be concretely measured and defined. Happiness is something that people have theorized and philosophized about for a long time. Christians have discussed finding happiness in God and deliberated the meaning of true joy. People of other religions have put forth methods for increasing happiness by gaining the favor of a deity through good works. Secular thinkers have decided that happiness comes from career success or material wealth or the indulging of one’s hobbies.
For the Christian, knowing the true meaning of happiness is essential. Christian pastor, professor, and author David Murray puts it this way: “So central is happiness to the gospel that if our gospel doesn’t produce happiness, it’s not the true gospel.” If we are to fully experience the blissfulness of God, we must understand what it is and how living out the Gospel produces it. But not only do we need to comprehend and put into practice the idea of Christian joy; we must also immerse ourselves in the way in which non-Christians think about happiness. In order to love other people well, we have to understand how they view the world, and a person’s view on happiness is a key part of that. It is incredibly vital that we as Christians both approach the world with a biblical perspective on joy and at the same time understand the perspectives of non- Christians. When we come to understand the true, biblical meaning of happiness and we have knowledge of secular philosophies on happiness, we are better equipped to help both ourselves and others in the pursuit of joy in Christ.
First, we must understand the Christian view of happiness so that we can see our own lives and the lives of others through a biblical lens. While non-Christians might think of happiness as centered around the individual person or around temporal things like money and success, Christians see happiness as centered around God. Psalm 16.11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (The Holy Bible). Joy and God’s presence are directly related. The pursuit of happiness for the Christian is the pursuit of glorifying God; the two are synonymous. John Piper, a renowned theologian who is also the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, declares that the pursuit of our joy and God’s pursuit of praise are the same (50). If we are not pursuing the glory of God, then we as Christians are not truly pursuing happiness. We cannot have true happiness except in God, for He is the only thing that can truly fulfill us and give us the peace and joy that we seek.
God is also the only way we can achieve happiness because we cannot do anything without Him, explains Christian author and pastor Max Lucado (22-25). In Jeremiah 10.23, the prophet proclaims, “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not man who walks to direct his steps.” We cannot succeed in any endeavor on our own, for we are not in control. We can strive incredibly hard to do things on our own, but we will never succeed without His help. Thus, we cannot be happy when we are relying on ourselves. Not only will we accomplish nothing, but we will also find that our self-reliance denies the power of God and spits in His face, proclaiming that we do not need Him to get through anything. The reality is that we need God to get through everything. Without God, we can find no happiness. In all circumstances, the Christian definition of happiness calls us to rely wholly on God, knowing that He says: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12.9). We must turn to Him and rest fully in Him. Only then will we find happiness in resting in His gentle, gracious power (Piper 171).
We cannot find happiness in wealth, health, friendships, or worldly comfort. We ought not rely on our temporal affairs, but instead realize that all our needs – financial, physical, mental, and relational – are fulfilled by God. Even if we do not have tangible riches or bodily wellbeing, in God we have an eternal wealth beyond anything we could ever imagine, and we have a spiritual health that transcends the importance of bodily health. Even if we do not have many human friendships, or those friendships we do have are wrought with struggles and divisiveness, God is always our truest friend. We can cast “...all our anxieties on him, because he cares for [us]” (1 Pet. 5.7), knowing that He “...will supply every need of [ours] according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4.19). He is our Shepherd; He lavishes love and attention on us and comforts us like no other (Lucado 25). As the famous theologian A.W. Tozer puts it,
The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may lose he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately, forever.
God is our ultimate happiness. Without Him, we have nothing. With Him, we need nothing else, for we have everything.
Thus, with God, we can be happy no matter what we face. We do not need earthly comfort or pleasure to have happiness. As the psalmist proclaims in Psalm 16.8-9, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices...” All we need for happiness and stability is God. Our goal in this life is not to maximize earthly delights, but to maximize eternal joy, no matter what life situations we encounter (Piper 260-261). When joy is found in God, one’s life can very well be filled with periods of great sorrow and still be a truly happy life (Murray). We can always find eternal happiness in God, no matter the circumstances we face. But that is not to say that our temporal circumstances do not matter at all. What it means is that our temporal circumstances are not ultimate or final. As Christian author Kristen Wetherell explains in the book Hope When it Hurts, this means that while pain for the unbeliever is the antithesis of happiness, pain for us is a path to further happiness and joy in God. It means that we as Christians do not have to avoid pain and suffering, but rather we can embrace the pain we face, knowing that we have a faithful, loving God by our side for all our lives. We know that “...here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13.14). We know with full assurance that life is a mere drop in the ocean of eternity, that this life pales in comparison to eternal life (Lucado 92). When we accept that reality, we come to realize that purpose and joy are found in the glorification of God and in the pursuit of His glory.
So we pursue His glory wholeheartedly, focusing our eyes on Him and filtering all the world around us through the lens of eternity. But what exactly does pursuing His glory look like? Now, keep in mind that the exact way in which each Christian finds their happiness in God and delights in Him will not be the same. Some may find that they glorify God best when they are alone, quietly immersing themselves in His creation; while others may find that they glorify Him more when they are surrounded by the people they love, fellowshipping in the warmth of someone’s home. Some may find that speaking or writing prayer is their preferred form of worship, proclaiming in words their contemplation of His Word; while others may express their adoration of God through song and dance, letting their delight enthusiastically burst forth. There is no exact formula or recipe for glorifying God. Even so, two of the many facets of the Christian walk essentialize our pursuit of God quite well. One has an internal, personal focus, and the other focuses on our external mission.
The first of these two quintessential elements of Christianity is the art of prayer. Prayer in and of itself is the pursuit of God (Piper 170-171). We are, in fact, directly commanded to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5.17). Prayer is a necessary part of the Christian life, and it is incredibly beneficial to us. Prayer brings us to our knees as we humbly approach the mercy seat of God and give Him glory both through the very act of prayer and through the words we say to Him. Kendra Cherry, a secular author, writes that many studies have shown that expressing gratitude increases both people’s contentment with their lives and the amount of positive emotion they feel. Prayer is a way that we as Christians can express our gratitude, but with the greater purpose of also praising God, knowing and recognizing that He has given us all we have (Rom. 11.36). Prayer also decreases our self-reliance, turning us back to God and reminding us that we can accomplish nothing and find no happiness without Him. The true result of self- reliance is desperation and misery, and prayer combats that by forcing us to come before our King and relinquish what power we think we have (Lucado 26). Prayer is the first essential part of pursuing God. Through conversing with God, humbly bowed at His feet, we deepen our relationship with Him as we express our gratitude, request that he help us in our weakness, and praise Him for His goodness to us that allows us to pray at all.
The second quintessential part of Christian life is spreading the Gospel, making Him known through everything we do and say. Jesus commands, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...” (Matt. 28.19-20). Sharing and showing Christ is our goal (Piper 266-267). No matter what our lives look like from a material, circumstantial standpoint, we ought to aim always to spread the Gospel. We find that pursuing the spreading of the Gospel freely and fully is what will bring us deep, authentic happiness, because that mission is given to us by God, and thus the very mission itself is part of the pursuit of God. When we evangelize out of genuine love for Christ and concern for others, and the Holy Spirit uses our words and actions to bring a soul to faith in Christ, that soul begins to glorify God, bringing joy to all of Heaven as we did when we became Christians ourselves (Luke 15.7). At the same time, the act of evangelism helps our own souls. Evangelism forces us to focus on God as we share Him with someone else, rather than focusing on ourselves. When we look to God fully in all we do, our soul’s purification becomes realized as God works in us (Tozer 51). Serving God makes us more like Him. Thus, the act of heartfelt evangelism through our words and our actions, fueled by a deep love for God and a deep desire for others to be reconciled to Him, benefits both us and the people with whom we share the beauty of the Gospel.
When we rest fully in God, praying and waiting on Him, and we pursue His glory by spreading His Word, then and only then can we find the most perfect form of joy we can find in this world. Our pursuit of happiness is the same as God’s pursuit of glory, and thus we pursue happiness by pursuing Him. Each day, to find true happiness and joy, we seek God and find our happiness in knowing and loving Him more and more; and we strive to share this eternal happiness we have found with those around us, sharing the Gospel with a broken people desperately in need of the only true happiness: God.
The urgency of our mission to spread the Gospel cannot be stressed enough. The brokenness of the world is evident everywhere we look. And yet, there is also evidence that many are closer to God than we may think. It is our job as Christians to understand how close or far people are from God. We cannot only understand our own worldview; we must acquaint ourselves with the worldviews of others so that we may love them in the best way possible. When we comprehend their views, we can see that the way secular philosophers, bloggers, writers, and others define happiness shows us both how close and how far they are from finding true happiness in God.
One of history’s most recognized philosophers, Aristotle, defines happiness in his book Rhetoric as: “...prosperity combined with virtue; or as independence of life; or as the secure enjoyment of the maximum pleasure; or as a good condition of property and body, together with the power of guarding one’s property and body and making use of them” (17). Even in ancient Greek thought, we can see the idea that happiness is dependent on temporal conditions. Without the theology of any sort of eternal form of happiness, Aristotle, and many others, believe the goal of life to be achieving temporal happiness, and the above is Aristotle’s personal definition of what that happiness looks like. Many people perceive happiness the way he does. Acclaimed author Frances Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby tells the story of American society, where the popular philosophy of life is that wealth and individual freedom and pleasure lead to the happiest life that a human can experience. Carol Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, articulates how to achieve success in one’s career, relationships, and more.
Underlying her method for success is the promise that once one is successful, they will also be content and happy. For Dweck, success and happiness therefore become synonymous, as they do for both Aristotle and Fitzgerald.
Some secular thinkers, however, believe that happiness is less tied to material or monetary wealth and more tied to one’s feelings about their life circumstances. Dutch sociologist Ruut Veenhoven, considered a worldwide expert on the scientific study of happiness, states, “Happiness is conceived here as the degree to which an individual judges the overall quality of his life favorably... As such, happiness can be called ‘life-satisfaction’” (2). For Veenhoven, happiness is not dependent on a person’s wealth or success, nor is it really dependent on external circumstances at all. For him, as well as for many others, happiness is about how a person perceives their life. Many agree with him, and some go further, offering practical advice on how to feel better about life. Lisa Evans, a freelance writer from Toronto, writes that happiness is achieved by savoring the simple parts of life, taking care of one’s body, and taking note of what one is grateful for each day. Journalist Jen Kim writes that it is better for us to simply seek out happiness in the present moment than to tie our happiness to a goal or achievement. Kim says that, rather than yearning after some aloof objective like getting a promotion or losing a certain amount of weight, we must be happy in our current situation. She decries Aristotle and Fitzgerald’s view of happiness as robbing oneself of potential happiness to be found in the present by focusing too much on a future goal. For these thinkers, happiness is an abstract idea, and the measure of happiness one has is dependent solely on the measure of it which one believes they have.
Still other secular thinkers have different perspectives on happiness. Lowri Dowthwaite, a lecturer in Psychological Interventions at the University of Central Lancashire, views happiness as a concrete goal that a particular lifestyle can help people reach. She asserts that focusing on living “authentically and for the greater good... pursu[ing] meaning and potential through kindness, justice, honesty, and courage,” is the path that leads to lasting, if not constant, satisfaction. For Dowthwaite, happiness is about pursuing virtue. She believes that a person’s efforts to be a decent moral person will cause them to be more satisfied with their life. She asserts that even if a person does not have likeable life circumstances, they can and will be happy if they pursue virtue and live “for the greater good”. While Dowthwaite still thinks of happiness as a mindset, rather than thinking about it as a synonym for success or wealth, she believes that the practical pursuit of happiness is not about accepting one’s external circumstances, but about striving for moral betterment in order to become internally satisfied with oneself.
As can be seen from these examples, secular philosophers have differing opinions on what happiness really is. Some think happiness is extremely subjective, consisting of career success for some and of relishing the ordinary parts of life for others (Cherry); others think happiness is more objective and believe that there are concrete methods for obtaining it. Some view happiness as a temporary emotion; others view it as an over-arching aspect of one’s life. Some equate happiness with success; others equate happiness with being morally good.
While these secular philosophies on happiness vary drastically from one another, they do all have something in common, and that shared trait shows both how far from and how close to God they are. Every secular philosophy of happiness acknowledges inherently that the human desire for complete, lasting happiness is natural and right. The difference between Christian theology and secular philosophy is that Christian theology acknowledges that this desire to be truly happy is directly connected to God and was instilled in us by Him (Murray). The problem is that people are so far from God that they seek for lasting happiness everywhere besides in Him.
In their search for happiness, people “...have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne” (Tozer 16). But amid these secular philosophies that can so easily seem far from God with their focus on finding temporal happiness from one of these many usurpers A.W. Tozer describes, there is still a longing for complete satisfaction and long-lasting joy. There is a desire for something all-fulfilling to permanently reign from the throne of each person’s heart, which perfect fulfillment we Christians know to be only God. But while so many in our world, in both time past and time present, ponder happiness without ever acknowledging the eternal, the very act of searching for lasting happiness makes them incredibly close to discovering the truth. We as Christians are called to lead unbelievers across the threshold to truth and life. They’ve all made it far enough that they seek true happiness; we are commanded to show them that God is the only way to this authentic joy they desire.
This essential element of any philosophy on happiness, the longing for complete and true joy, makes people receptive to the message of the Gospel that we share, but only if it is presented in such a way that they are convinced it will fulfill the longings they have. Anglican bishop J.C. Ryle concludes that happiness has been given to Christians as an essential connection to the unbeliever, as an invaluable way to build relationships that can bear the weight of the truth of the Gospel, saying, “A merry heart and a readiness to take part in all innocent mirth are gifts of inestimable value. They go far to soften prejudices, to take up stumbling blocks out of the way, to make way for Christ and the gospel” (qtd. in Murray). When people see the happiness that we as Christians have in life, with Christ on the throne of our hearts, innately they want to know how and where we obtained this level of joy and contentment. In the end, secular philosophies of happiness are man’s way of attempting to find purpose in life while excluding God, asserting that the goal of life is happiness itself or material success or moral uprightness. But when we as Christians live our lives by the philosophy that happiness and purpose come from and are God and that real happiness comes from dethroning all else in our hearts besides Him, unbelieving people seeking purpose and happiness become intrigued by our apparent ability to maintain joy and hope throughout all kinds of life situations, and this opens the door for evangelism.
So this is real happiness: glorifying God through evangelism, shepherding people along the path from darkness to the light they are so eagerly seeking in all the wrong places. But how exactly are we to get people to understand that God is the light they are seeking? There is no concrete, step-by-step method to evangelism, but there are some ways that we can prepare ourselves for the heavy task before us.
First, we must begin with our own personal relationship with God. If we are to share with others how in God a human can and does find all happiness and all that is essential for living life to the fullest, we must previously have ourselves found such happiness in Him. We must be able to proclaim with conviction and passion what Max Lucado tells us: “What you have in your Shepherd is greater than what you don’t have in life.” Or again, we must “...pray like the Puritan. He sat down to a meal of bread and water. He bowed his head and declared, ‘All this and Jesus too?’” (Lucado 34). In sharing the Gospel, we must first have a solid foundation of truth and a passion to know God more and more. Without the all-consuming love of God within us and the knowledge of His Word, we cannot authentically and accurately display Him to those around us, much less tell them of His wonders with our words.
The disciples in the story of Pentecost are wonderful examples of people who found their happiness in God, and then, with it bubbling up from within them, shared it with those around them. They saw firsthand the ministry of Jesus, and they were the first evangelists. We see the disciples gathered, “And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2.4). Truly following Christ with the Spirit in them, they immediately begin to speak to the crowd of people celebrating Pentecost and the crowd proclaims, “...we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2.11). The disciples’ first act is to proclaim the wonders of God to everyone around them. This story teaches us two lessons: evangelism is a natural outcome of love for God as we intrinsically want to share the joy we’ve found with others, and without actively pursuing God we will not have the ability to truly share Him.
We must begin with preaching the truth to ourselves. We must constantly remind ourselves of the truth, firmly believe it, and passionately desire God’s glory. Now, that is not to say that we must be perfect. That is not to say that we have to be utterly devoid of doubts or sins in order to share the Gospel with others. If that were the case, no one would ever share the Gospel, for we are all imperfect. But we should constantly, in the power and Spirit of God, say with the apostle Paul in Acts 20.24, “...I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I have received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Having discovered for ourselves the riches of the greatness of God, let us share Paul’s mindset.
Then, having built a solid foundation on the truth of God’s Word, let us look outside ourselves, into others. We must discover the most effective ways to share the Gospel with the people around us, catering the way we present the Gospel (without changing the central message) to each person so that they are most likely to receive it. To effectively share the Gospel, we must understand those with whom we wish to share it. Paul demonstrated how finding a connection with your audience is essential in the advancement of the Gospel when he preached to the people of Athens in Acts 17.
Picture this: the apostle Paul arrives in Athens, Greece, and he is waiting for his companions Timothy and Silas to join him there. He enters the city with the simple goal of passively waiting for his friends to arrive, but the Holy Spirit urges him to speak out, to be active in fulfilling his “course and ministry..., to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” while he waits for Timothy and Silas, and so he does. He can see all around him a city full of idols, but within it is a synagogue. The synagogue seems like his best bet, considering he’s spoken in synagogues before. So Paul wanders into the synagogue to find the Jews. He reasons first with them there, drawing on his knowledge of Judaism to persuade them of the reality that Jesus is the Christ for whom they have been waiting so long. But as he leaves the synagogue, Paul thinks to himself: Just talking in the synagogue isn’t enough. These Greeks must know the truth as well. He resolves to make the most of the time he has in Athens. He ventures from the synagogue into the marketplace and engages in conversation any passing person who is willing to listen to him. Knowing that the city of Athens is heavily immersed in the intellectual and the philosophical, he takes it upon himself to use philosophical discussion as his method of spreading the Word of God.
Upon his arrival, he thinks only of Timothy and Silas, eagerly awaiting their coming to join him. The people around him are irrelevant. But then the Holy Spirit strikes his soul and convicts him of his uncaring attitude. Perhaps he prays: “Father, forgive me. These people are in desperate need of You. Show me how to reach them.” And he realizes: If I can get their attention by talking in the marketplace, maybe I can get an audience with more of them. And even if I can’t, maybe I can convince one or two in the market. And by the grace of God, Paul is given an audience before the Areopagus, which Bruce Winter, the Director of the Institute for Early Christianity in the Graeco-Roman World, explains is the administrative leading body of the city that hears and judges new ideas. In the Areopagus, Paul is seen by the people as a sort of herald of a new deity, coming as a representative to ask the Athenians to add this deity to the pantheon of gods that they worship (Winter). Paul stands to speak, looking out at the immense crowd gathered before him, and he prays, asking for guidance. He has a plan for his speech, and he gathers in the forefront of his mind everything he knows about the Athenian way of life so that he can get their attention and make them more likely to listen to what he has to say. He has been observing their culture and their beliefs during his time in the city, and now he will draw on both that observation and his previous knowledge to craft the most relevant sermon possible.
In Acts 17.23, we see Paul make a connection with his audience through their “altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’” He establishes what he is going to talk about and connects his speech with something that the Athenian people already know, some part of their lives that makes the speech relatable from the beginning. Then, he caters the entire rest of his speech to converse with, rebuke, and build upon their religious and political traditions. Paul knows that the Athenians are accustomed to building temples to the new deities heralded to them (Winter), so Paul addresses this issue by explaining to them that “...God... does not live in temples made by man...” (Acts 17.24). Then, he addresses their practice of having an annual festival for each god to offer them sacrifices (Winter). He asserts that God doesn’t need a festival, saying, “...nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17.25). A bit later in his speech, Paul proceeds to quote the Greek poet Aratus, using one of Athens’ own renowned thinkers to support his point. In establishing that God is “actually not far from each one of us”, he uses Aratus’ quote, “For we are indeed his offspring” (Acts 17.27-28). In verses 30 and 31, Paul explains to the Athenians that this God he is introducing them to is not asking to be added to their pantheon, but “[r]ather, he [is] seeking the repentance of all...” (Winter). Every sentence in Paul’s speech interacts perfectly with what the Athenians believe. He dismantles what they think he’s coming to say by directly addressing each element of what a herald would normally say, doing so in a way that also gives him credibility in their eyes, since he, a foreigner, is demonstrating extensive knowledge of their customs and beliefs.
By building rapport and relationships through his conversing in the marketplace, Paul makes the Athenians more likely to believe what he has to say. He takes stock of how the Athenians live their lives, learning about their beliefs and practices until he understands precisely how to craft a sermon that speaks directly to them. He does not try to create a context for them or tell them that the Gospel does not work in their context; he shapes his presentation of the Gospel to speak to and fit into their context. This is how we ought to share the Gospel. According to Bruce Winter, some of the vital steps to sharing the Gospel are “[c]onnecting with the hearers, correcting their misconceptions, conversing with the[ir] theological or ideological framework, [and] convicting them of their compromises with their own consciences...” We must be able to connect with and understand the people we want to share with in order to present the Gospel in a way that is compelling and sensical to them. The Gospel cannot be a monolithic idea that only fits within the context of your personal life. The message of the Gospel is universal, and we must learn to present it as such, to show that this good news is for every person’s life and their circumstances.
Connecting yourself and the message of the Gospel directly to people and their lives is vital to sharing it. It is essential that we build connections with people before we expect them to willingly listen to anything we might have to say. Guy Kawasaki, a secular marketing specialist and author, talking about “evangelizing” for one’s business, says, “It’s much easier to evangelize to people you already know or people who already know you.” He explains that the process of building connections with people before you share your sales pitch is the process of discovering who they are and what they need so that you can provide for them in the best way possible (Kawasaki). Without a connection with someone or an understanding of how best you can serve them, it is much harder to get them to accept anything you want to tell them. Although Kawasaki is discussing a business strategy for marketing, his principle of building relationships with people before trying to persuade them of something extends to the Christian endeavor to share the Gospel.
But what must we understand about people before we try to share the Gospel with them? Well, we must understand the essential aspects of who they are. What makes them them? What makes them tick? How do they think about the world and about life and about God? I believe that how a person thinks about happiness is one of these essential aspects of the way they view the world, and thus, while it is not the only thing that we ought to understand about a person in the effort to evangelize, it would be helpful, and it may provide an effective starting point for a presentation of the Gospel. If a person sees happiness as Aristotle does, elevating it as the end goal of life, then all they do will be catered to achieving the most health and wealth that they can. If a person’s philosophy of happiness is more like Lowri Dowthwaite’s, their life is going to be more centered around having the right mindset in whatever their circumstances may be, rather than constantly trying to change their circumstances for the better. The way that we as Christians may present the Gospel to someone who sees happiness like Aristotle is different from how we would present it to someone with Dowthwaite’s perspective. We might, on the one hand, when sharing with a person of the success-focused philosophy, connect with them on having happiness as the end goal of life, and then proceed to show them how God is the only way to reach true happiness in life. On the other hand, when sharing with someone of the mindset-focused philosophy, we may connect with them on the goal of having the right mindset in any circumstance with which life comes at us, and then explain to them that the only way to have the right perspective and to have true joy in the hardest circumstances is through His help.
Essentially, evangelism is the combination of two things: a solid personal foundation in Christ, and an understanding of how to effectively communicate the Gospel to those who don’t have that foundation. Uncoincidentally, these two elements of evangelism line up with the Christian definition of happiness. Evangelism itself is part of pursuing happiness, and, for both complete happiness and effective evangelism, we must come to a fuller knowledge of God by steeping ourselves in the truth of Scripture. It must always abide in our hearts and minds. As John 15.4-5 says,
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Only when we have God abiding in us can we fulfill our mission of spreading the Gospel. When we have Him abiding in us, sharing the Gospel works because we know Him and have His power working through us to turn people to the truth. But we ought also to be able to present this truth we know so well in a way that others understand it and are persuaded by it. If we know the truth but cannot share it in an intelligible fashion, we cannot evangelize. The two go together. Again, there is no step-by-step method for evangelism, and every person and situation is different, but it is essential that we build connections with people and understand the central aspects of who they are. I believe that one of these essential aspects of a person is the way they think about happiness. Because of this, we ought to have knowledge of the intricacies of secular philosophies of happiness so that we can identify them in people and use our knowledge of them to shape the way we present the truth of the Gospel. When we love others as well as we can in this way and in others, we fulfill our God-given purpose, glorifying Him and obtaining the greatest happiness that we can in this life.
So, to answer the original question, “What is happiness?”, this is what I have found. Happiness is not completely objective, concrete, or measurable; but it can be defined. While happiness is an emotion, it is also a way of life. While happiness is ultimately unachievable on this earth, it is found truly and completely in Heaven. Glimpses of true happiness can be found in praising God for earthly blessings He has lavished upon us and in relying on Him when we face an earthly struggle. Happiness is expressed in many things, which is what makes it so elusive to the comprehension of the human mind, and it is immeasurably complex, but it can also be quite simply and absolutely defined as God. God is happiness. He is the perfect form and essence of happiness, and we as humans find the greatest happiness that we can on this earth through the full, dedicated pursuit of Him. That is the simple answer. But of course, it’s not a simple answer at all, for God is complex beyond all human mental capacity. So it is not for us to completely understand happiness, but to wait patiently and expectantly to experience true happiness and joy when we reach Heaven and are eternally in God’s presence giving Him praise, offering in the meantime our lives in surrender to Him, that He in His sovereign plan may use us for His glory and grace us in the same sweeping motion with indescribable joy in Him.
When we have both a solid foundation of the truth in our personal lives and knowledge of the best ways to share the Gospel with others and love them well, we as Christians can bring glory to God and happiness to ourselves. Sharing the Gospel and having a deep personal relationship with God both glorify Him and give us the most joy possible. As Matthew 22.37-39 says, “...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” May we always follow these commandments and thus find in our service of the Lord the greatest happiness we could ever hope to achieve.