Sunday, February 20, 2011

Finding Happiness

BLESSED is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Psalm 1:1-6 NKJV

Years ago it would be called a diary, but now most people call it a “journal”. Whatever name it goes by, what it really does is serve as a written account of a persons deepest feelings or emotions as they struggle through life and everything the world may throw at them. Now most people also have something in common when it comes to their written feelings; they are considered extremely private and not to be shared with anyone.

How interesting then is it to discover that in the case of David, his journal is written for all of mankind to read! This is, of course, exactly what we find the Psalms to be as we read and study them. They are without question windows into the heart of a man that in Gods' own words is considered to be a man after Gods' own heart. Now I can't help but think that if we look closely at the heart of a man God describes this way, are we really looking into the heart of God? With this in mind I thought we could spend a little time looking at the first chapter of Psalms and see if we can discover some truths about Gods' feelings about us.

A journal or diary usually always reveals an individuals mental or emotional state rather than a physical one. So how interesting is it to see that the very first verse in Psalms does exactly that. The Hebrew word for blessed is 'esher, which is also translated as happiness. So the subject of the first chapter of Psalms, and what God through David wants to share with us, is finding happiness in our lives as we struggle to survive in this world and the situations we often find ourselves in. Considering the subject matter we have been discussing for a few weeks, it would appear that most of us could use a little more happiness right about now. God chooses to instruct us by comparing, or contrasting two types of individuals; godly and ungodly.

The difference between the godly man and the ungodly is fairly simple to understand. The godly man sees God as the center of his life, and the ungodly man has no time for God, and rarely if ever even thinks about Him. So lets look at what God tells us about the three differences between these two types of people, and how believers can find true happiness.

BLESSED is the man Who:

walks not in the counsel of the ungodly
...the Hebrew word for counsel here means simply that the Godly man doesn't consider the advice of the world, or ungodly, but rather looks to God for the answers to life's problems. If you want an illustration of what the world has to offer just go to a bookstore and find the section titled “self-help” and you will see what God means here. The world seems to have all the answers to all of our problems, but the one mistake they make is to ignore God's advice and rather come up with their own answers. The happy believer is one who goes to God's word to find the answers they need.

Nor stands in the path of sinners...the word “to stand” means simply to be identified with, or associated with the path or things that sinners usually do. What God is telling us in here is that as believers we are expected to be different in that we choose to live differently than the world. I don't know how many times through the years of my ministry with youth that I would get the same questions over and over again. They always went like this; “is it okay for a Christian to do (-------)?” Now I was always happy to get this question because obviously kids were thinking it was something they wanted an answer to, and they wanted to do the right thing. Yet it also shows how important the first advice we got in this passage is, because if we look to God for the answers, we will obviously choose to walk a different path than the unbelievers in this world.

Nor sits in the seat of the scornful...the word for ”scornful” describes not only an action, but an attitude as well. The scornful person has an attitude of arrogance which stems from the belief that everybody else is wrong and he is right, and is always more than happy to tell everyone how right he is, and how wrong you are. The believer is expected to have the opposite attitude, which from looking at the life of our Lord is easily seen to be that of humility. I don't know about you, but my experience has always been that the louder someone talks, the less I want to listen. By telling us to be humble and avoid the attitude described here, God is telling believers that happiness comes from being humble, avoiding arguments, and most of all acknowledging we are not perfect and prone to making mistakes.

So how do we do this? God says it's a matter of focus; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. Something I have always tried to get across to the kids I taught was the importance of not only spending time every day in the Word, but then taking what you read with you all day and think about it and try to figure out how you can apply it in your actions. Obviously since this is what God wants from us, it follows that Satan is going to try and throw every distraction he can in your path to try and change your focus. God says that the happy believer meditates on His word all day and all night. If we choose to follow God's advice, He goes on to describe the result.

He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper...Now everyone can probably figure this illustration out. Ever see the difference between a tree growing in the middle of nowhere, and one that is by water? Obviously the one with an unlimited supply of water is much larger, stronger, and most of all, much more fruitful. I grew up in southern California at a time where there were more fruit trees than houses. Yes I know, hard to believe, but there actually was a time like that. My uncle was an orchardist and I would go with him sometimes as he moved the sprinklers they used to water the orchards by hand. It was very obvious even to a little boy like me that you could tell the difference between a tree that got a lot of water, and one that didn't get as much.

If you are not as happy as you would like to be, I think what God is telling us here is that you should check your roots! Are your feet planted in His Word? Are you meditating on it everyday? Are you looking to God for answers and standing apart from the world? There is a saying in real estate that I'm sure most of us are familiar with; location, location, location. If we as believers are not enjoying a happy, fruitful life, maybe we should look closer at our “location”, and see just where we have planted ourselves. The unbelievers of this world are described as “chaff” which has no roots and will suffer the fate of being blown away, while we as believers will stand before God to be judged and receive our reward for choosing to serve Him.

David knew the secret to happiness. His life, like all of ours, had it's share of trouble. But I believe he is sharing with us here, in his very first Psalm, that he has figured out the secret to happiness and it's by planting ourselves as close to God as we can.

Keep watching.