John, I’ve heard you say being happy is not the Christian's main goal. Doesn’t God want us to be happy?
Thanks for the question and opportunity to clarify my statement. I think my complete statement was ‘being happy is not the Christian's main goal, being joyful should be.’ You see, happiness is an emotion that comes from a sense that all is right with our world. Everyone wants to be happy, but happiness, as our ultimate goal, can be elusive. People make decisions based on what they think will make them happy, but then feel despair when happiness never comes. People who assume that God wants them to be happy may begin to justify things clearly prohibited in the Bible. After all, God just wants us to be happy, right?
You see, when God created the first man and woman, He placed them in a garden and filled it with everything they needed to be happy. But they fell for the devil’s lie that happiness is based on having everything they wanted. (Gen. 3:1-6) God wants us to be happy, but not at any cost! His goals for us are higher, broader and more lasting than mere happiness. The truth is, the pursuit of happiness is not a theme of the New Testament. Instead, we find repeated commands to deny oneself (Mark 8:34), to take up a cross and follow Christ (Luke 9:23).
God wants us to be happy, but not at any cost! God wants us to be happy, but the temporary thrill sin provides is not true happiness. Sin can produce feelings of happiness as long as we are getting what we want. But the consequences of a sinful life are not happy, in fact the Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death (Rms. 6:23). God does want us to be happy, and He has provided all we need for life and godliness through Christ Jesus (2 Peter 1:2). When we are living in fellowship with Him, we can expect to be happy, regardless of our temporary circumstances (Phil. 4:11–13). Far beyond happiness, we can be filled with joy. When our joy and hope are based on that which can not be taken away, we have found true happiness and God is pleased.