January 18, 2016 Does God Want Us to Be Happy?

When you saw the title of this blog, “Does God want you to be happy?”, what was your first
instinct? If you are like most people I believe you would say, “Yes, God wants us to be happy.”
After all God is a loving God so why wouldn’t he want us to be happy?

As I think about Sunday’s sermon in Ruth 2, I see events taking place that will certainly make
Ruth, Boaz and Naomi happy, but was happiness the reason God orchestrated those events?
God is certainly not opposed to us being happy, but what God truly wants is for us to have true
joy. Joy has much more to do with our relationship with God than what happiness does. The
Bible mentions joy 205 times. We have joy when we believe in Jesus. One of the fruits of the
Spirit is joy; we can have joy unspeakable; there is the fullness of joy in God’s presence; joy is
described as everlasting and we know that the joy of the Lord is our strength. God wants us to
have joy. Joy comes from being in a right relationship with God even when our circumstances
say we should have no joy.

Ruth and Naomi came into Bethlehem with no joy to speak of. In fact, Naomi was bitter at God.
This bitterness in her life came from chasing after happiness and provision outside of God’s
grace. When did we see the hope and joy begin to return in this great love story? When Ruth
demonstrated her faith in God. When by faith she stepped out and committed to allow God’s
will to rule her actions. Because of her faithfulness, God orchestrated Boaz calling her into a
relationship, much like God does with us. This faithfulness and obedience would lead to joy
unspeakable…and yes, happiness. Ruth, Boaz and Naomi all experienced happiness that
flowed out of the joy that came from a right relationship with God.

The Bible does speak of those who are happy about 29 times. The study of the “happy” verses
has concluded that only about half of those talk about how to be happy and those verses all
equate happiness with obeying God in some way. Most people, and that includes Christians,
are seeking happiness in the things of the world when we all should be seeking joy. We may
find a temporary happiness in the things of this world but it is not everlasting. When we start
looking for happiness outside of the joy of the Lord it leads to looking to sin for that happiness
and there is only misery at the end of that road. Hebrews 11:25 talking about the choice that
Moses made to stay with the Israelites says He chose to share the oppression of God’s
people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. Did you get that? Fleeting
pleasures of sin. It does not last, only true joy is everlasting.

The story of Elimelech and Naomi is this story. They chased for happiness and provision in the
world and the men paid the ultimate price. But Naomi and Ruth returned to God and in their
obedience found joy and happiness. I challenge all of you to seek true joy and from that you will
find happiness in God’s presence.