A Way of Life That Results in Happiness
HAPPINESS! When do you want it? Right now, you say. On what terms? On any terms, you quickly reply. Then you begin to think. You know perfectly well that happiness can be skin-deep, intensely enjoyable for the time being, but afterward leaving a sour taste in the mouth, a bad reaction or permanent scars. After a little more thought, you say to yourself that you want the kind of happiness that is well-founded and long-lasting. It may not be so exciting as the temporary kind, but it is deeply satisfying.
Having got so far, you may be tempted to give up, saying to yourself that, with things as they are in the world and in your own particular circumstances, it is useless to reach out for something that is impossible to grasp. You feel that you must learn to be content with what happiness you can find on a short-term basis.
But need you give up so quickly? Why not follow along with us in a line of reasoning that might open up to you a fresh and different way of life, one that results in true and lasting happiness? There are many thousands of people today who have found and are pursuing that new way of life, but whose previous way of life, in many cases, was about as bad as any that could be imagined—physically, mentally and morally.
STEPS IN ATTAINING HAPPINESS
As it is said, we must start off on the right foot. We must build on the right foundation. And what is that? Well, what are some of the things that give us immediate happiness? They are things that we enjoy seeing, the many delights of God’s creation around us, not to mention what we enjoy eating, the fruits and produce of that creation. There is also the companionship of those we love, who are near and dear to us. Life and health, too, are precious possessions. All these things, and many more, point to a personal Creator who designed and created us in such a way that we may be truly happy. He created all things with a definite purpose in mind. As he caused to be written in his own book, the Bible, he is “the One saying, ‘My own counsel will stand, and everything that is my delight I shall do.’” (Isa. 46:10) Hence, he is worthy of receiving all the credit for what he has done, and that is exactly what the Bible says at Revelation 4:11: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.”
Granting all of this, what is the next step toward real happiness? Surely it is only logical to concede that, as we are included in the things created, we ought to be very interested in the Creator’s will, or purpose, with regard to us humans. Can you not immediately see that herein lies the secret of true and lasting happiness?
Let us illustrate it this way. If someone gave a plowman a racehorse to plow with, would he be happy about it? Neither he nor the horse would be comfortable or content. Each in his own way would feel very much out of place in attempting the job. The initial problem with mankind in Eden was similar. In striking out on a course of independence from their Creator, Adam and Eve found themselves in a position contrary to the purpose for which they had been created. So they felt uncomfortable and out of place. They lost their happiness.—Gen. 3:8-13.
Did the Creator lose his happiness when that occurred? No. Of course, he was not pleased with the willfully disobedient pair, but at that very time he determined within himself how he would cope with the situation. Speaking prophetically and in symbolic phrase, he foretold that he would bring forth a “seed” for blessing mankind. (Gen. 3:15) Later, he indicated that this “seed” would come through the line of his “friend,” Abraham, and that by means of this “seed” all nations of the earth would certainly “bless themselves.” (Gen. 22:18) Stated in other words, mankind would have the opportunity of finding true happiness again—through this “seed.” And who is this “seed”? Galatians 3:16 answers: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. . . . ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.”
THE SECRET OF HAPPINESS
Truly, Christ Jesus knew the secret of happiness. Why, he mentioned the subject no less than nine times in succession at the beginning of his well-known Sermon on the Mount, as follows:
“Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.
“Happy are those who mourn, since they will be comforted.
“Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.
“Happy are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, since they will be filled.
“Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.
“Happy are the pure in heart, since they will see God.
“Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God.’
“Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.
“Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.”—Matt. 5:3-12.
On reading these words, you might be inclined to say, What a strange recipe for happiness! Yet it can truly be said that Jesus was telling of a way of life that results in happiness of the right kind, true and lasting. For example, look at the first of the nine ‘happinesses.’
Are you ‘conscious of your spiritual need’? There have been some persons who studied the Bible with one of Jehovah’s witnesses, but who for some reason discontinued the study and drifted away. Did they find happiness by changing their course? Did they completely forget what they learned? Or did they now have it impressed on them that “the word of God is alive and exerts power”? (Heb. 4:12) Actually, many of these have found that the Bible truths they had learned made them feel really out of place when they had got back in the old world and resumed trying to be part of it. So, many of them have made the effort to retrace their steps and again associate with, and be identified with, Jehovah’s witnesses.
You would likely be surprised if you knew how many of Jehovah’s witnesses, especially among the younger ones, have had just that experience. They made some progress in gaining a knowledge of the truth of God’s Word the Bible, or were reared that way from infancy, and then, perhaps in their teen years, they struck out on a course of independence. Some of them got involved in drugs, loose living and hippie-style dress and appearance, only to get the bitter taste of frustration. They got some thrills and excitement, but no real happiness. Then they made fresh contact with their former friends, who were able to give them practical help and encouragement. They became “conscious of their spiritual need.” This resulted in their turning around and cleaning themselves up. To look at them today—clean, eager, fresh-looking and ready to be friendly—you would never imagine that they had come from so bad a background. They no longer feel out of place, but are associating joyfully in the Christian congregation, with deep appreciation for the purpose for which they have been created. They have regained their happiness.
The first of the nine ‘happinesses’ of Jesus’ sermon is thus fundamental in showing us the way to benefit from the Source of real happiness. Those who are aware of their need for spiritual guidance are led to seek a personal relationship with Jehovah. As the relationship grows stronger, they become God’s friends and are very conscious of the inner peace and happiness that no one can take away. (John 14:27) The other eight ‘happinesses’ point, in the main, to qualities that will bring one ever closer to Jehovah, such as being mild-tempered, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, pure in heart, peaceable, and showing endurance under persecution.
However, the nine ‘happinesses’ are only the introduction to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, commencing at Matthew 5:3 and going on to Matthew 7:27. All of this sermon has a direct bearing on the subject of happiness. Following this introduction, Jesus showed clearly what is our commission, the fulfilling of which contributes to our own happiness, and to that of others, when he said: “You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world.” (Matt. 5:13-16) Just as salt has preserving power, so the good news that we carry can preserve lives. And what happiness we have in ‘letting our light shine’ to others by word and example!
Jesus then continued to make a series of comparisons, commencing: “You heard that it was said.” (Matt. 5:21, 27, 33, 38) In these, he showed that the Christian way of life in being a true disciple of his went deeper and brought greater benefits, also responsibilities, in comparison with the requirements in the Law that God gave to Israel through Moses. Christians are required to love even their enemies and to cultivate the same kind of unselfish love that God shows to all mankind, thus proving themselves to be perfect, as their heavenly Father is perfect. That surely assures happiness, helping them to become like “the happy God.”—Matt. 5:43-48; 1 Tim. 1:11.
The remainder of the Sermon on the Mount can be summarized by saying that it shows us how to come close and how to stay close to Jehovah. We do this, in part, by avoiding an outward show of piety, and especially by avoiding anxiety over “treasures upon the earth,” and such things even as food and clothing. Anxiety and happiness do not go hand in hand. “Never be anxious about the next day,” Jesus said, but “keep on . . . seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matt. 6:1-34.
As was mentioned earlier, there are conditions to be met. This way of life is not the “broad and spacious” road of self-indulgence, which leads, not to happiness, but into destruction. Rather, as Jesus went on to say: “Narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” (Matt. 7:13, 14) Many persons are not prepared to pay the price of being truly unselfish, subjecting their will in the spirit of whole-souled devotion to the will of the One who created them. Jehovah is indeed worthy “to receive the glory and the honor and the power.”—Rev. 4:11.
Of course, we cannot buy Jehovah’s favor and demand payment in terms of happiness. It is only by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness that we sinful creatures can acceptably offer ourselves to him in dedication and enter into an approved relationship with him. He made this possible by the ransom sacrifice of his beloved Son. (1 Tim. 2:3-6) It is Jehovah who has provided in abundance all the spiritual food and enlightenment and other refreshing provisions, and then he makes the kindly invitation: “Come, buy wine and milk even without money and without price. . . . Listen intently to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul find its exquisite delight in fatness itself . . . and your soul will keep alive.”—Isa. 55:1-3.
That is the way of life that results in happiness!
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In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus revealed a way of life that results in true happiness