By Lynn Jones
According to the Declaration of Independence, you have the “inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Happiness is not an inalienable right that we have, but the pursuit of happiness is our right. Many people have wished us a happy new year at this season, and we will spend a lot of time pursuing happiness in this new year. How can we have a happy new year?
We all want happiness and try many different things to find it. There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. I want to be happy in the new year, and I assume that you want to be happy as well.
Does our Christian faith have anything to offer those who are seeking happiness in the new year? Many would say no. They look upon Christianity as something that spoils happiness rather than produces it. Their conception of God is of someone who is like the little boy’s mother who periodically came to the back door when he was playing in the yard. She would open the door, and say, “Tommy, whatever you are doing, stop it.”
But when you look at the New Testament, you find something different. Jesus, in one of His farewell messages to His disciples, said, “These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). Throughout His ministry, He talked about the abundant life, told stories of wedding feasts and banquets, and began the Sermon on the Mount with eight keys to genuine happiness (Matt. 5:3-12). In the Book of Acts, Luke said of the early church, “They ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God” (Acts 2:46-47).
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul gave this command to Christians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice” (Philip. 4:4). One of the striking things about Paul’s letter to the Philippians is that he wrote the letter from prison, but one of the most frequent things that he mentioned was the matter of joy. Happiness is not determined by our circumstances.
There was a king who was always unhappy so he summoned a wise man to ask him how he could be happy. The wise man said to the king, “Find the happiest man in your kingdom, wear his shirt for one day, and this will make you happy.” The king’s men were sent to carry out the mission. When they found the happiest man in the kingdom, they sent this message to the king, “We have found the happiest man in the kingdom, but he doesn’t have a shirt.”
Happiness is not determined by what you have but by whom you have. As Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord” (Philip 4:4). The Lord wants you to have a happy new year!
Lynn Jones is a retired pastor who lives in Oxford. He does supply preaching for churches in his area and often serves as an interim pastor. Jones is also an author, has written two books and writes a weekly newspaper column. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.