[Welcome to The Defense Series. The aim of this series is to help Christians more effectively “make a defense” (1 Pet. 3:15) to those who challenge the teachings and values of New Testament Christianity. My prayer is that the following words will help and embolden you as you stand for Truth.]
Perhaps you’ve heard this statement before: “I don’t care what the Bible says; God just wants me to be happy.”
- It is made by the woman in an abusive marriage, who not only wants to leave her husband, but also wants to remarry. But scripturally, she is ineligible (cf. Matt. 19:9) to marry someone else.
- It is made by the man who feels same-sex attraction and wants to date other men. But knows the Bible talks about homosexuality in no uncertain terms (cf. Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
- It is made by the undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who enjoys the prosperity of living in America. But recently became a Christian and read that Christians must “be subject to the governing authorities” (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).
- It is made by the young woman who desperately wants to one day perform on Broadway or be a leading actress in a major motion picture. She wants to live her dream, but realizes it will require her to make compromises with her faith in Jesus Christ.
- It is made by the man who is asked to do something illegal or immoral at work in order to be promoted. His family could use the extra money, and he could pay off some debts.
- It is made by the 17-year-old high school girl who has an unexpected pregnancy. She has one more year of high school left, and wants to go to college. “An abortion,” she thinks, “would allow me live a happy and fulfilling life.”
The statement, “God just wants me to be happy,” is often employed to justify something sinful. Those who make it assume that God is more concerned about temporal happiness than He is about wholehearted obedience to His Word.
How do you respond to someone who believes that God, ultimately, just wants them to be “happy”?
First, don’t take their statement lightly. Every one of the above examples is deeply emotional. The last thing they need is a cold, matter-of-fact response to their question. When someone comes to you with a serious, life-changing decision, what they need is the love and compassion of Jesus. Yet equally important, they need to hear the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). If you genuinely have the love of Jesus within you, you will be willing say things people don’t want to hear. Christians must “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
Second, define true happiness. After all, what is happiness? You must agree on the definition. According to the Bible, happiness is faithfully serving God, motivated by an eternal hope.
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. (Psa. 1:1-2)
Happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (Psa. 144:15)
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God. (Psa. 146:5)
He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he. (Prov. 16:20)
Happy is he who keeps the law. (Prov. 29:18)
Happiness is living according to the purpose for which you were created. We exist to serve and please God (Ecc. 12:13; Isa. 43:7). The so-called ‘happiness’ we experience apart from God’s Will is only temporary, limited, and short-lived.
What kind of happiness do you want to experience? The temporal contentment of the world, or the fulfilling and eternal happiness of serving God?
C.S. Lewis wrote,
It is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is not such thing.
Third, focus on Jesus and the eternal reward of His faithful disciples. An illicit affair, an unscriptural marriage, a dream job, or an abortion will never outweigh eternity. God wants you to be happy, but He knows you can only be truly happy in Jesus Christ.
When God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22:2), Abraham didn’t respond, “No, I will not follow your command because I know you ultimately want me to be happy.” Abraham recognized that God is faithful and will do what He promised (cf. 1 Thess. 5:24). He realized happiness could only be found in fellowship with God.
What is God asking you to sacrifice? Your material success (cf. Mark 10:21)? Your unscriptural marriage (Luke 14:26)? The security of a job or a house (Luke 9:58)?
In view of eternity, what isn’t worth giving up?
In view of Christ’s sacrifice for you, what isn’t worth sacrificing for Him?
The response, “I am going to disregard God’s Word because I feel like He just wants me to be happy,” is merely a reflection of a lack of faith in God. You task, in responding to this statement, is to build up their faith and help them focus on eternity.
How foolish it was for the naive son to take his inheritance from his father early, only to squander it in the pursuit of immediate, temporal happiness (Luke 15:11-24). Yet, people who think, “God wants me to be happy, so I am going to sin,” are making the same foolish mistake.
It is a lie. A scam. Don’t sell your birthright.
Serve God with the recognition that we are standing on the doorstep of eternity. If we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).
 Lewis, Clive Staples. Mere Christianity. Page 50. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.
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Question: How can we help people live in view of eternity?