Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 3, 1952
NUMBER 47, PAGE 2,5b

The Quest For Happiness

Rufus Clifford, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee

All men are in quest of happiness, and upon a thousand paths the shoeprints of the seekers are found there is possibly nothing in all the world, nothing which holds the slightest promise or hope of happiness, that has not been tried by one eager to find the magic secret. It is worth our while to try to find the secret of true and abiding Christian joy.

Christianity brings joy. The New Testament opens with joy over the birth of Jesus. The message of the angel to the shepherds was, "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." (Luke 2:11) The New Testament closes with a superb picture of multitudes singing "Hallelujah Choruses." Behind the New Testament is a joyous personality — Jesus Christ. Jesus came to bless men, to comfort sorrow, to open prisons, to lift the lost up to heaven. When John the Baptist was in prison he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, "Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another?" Here is the answer Jesus gave, "Go and tell John the things which ye hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them." (Matt. 11:2-6)

Jesus talked much about joy. Just before he died he bequeathed his joy to his disciples. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you." (John 14:27) He commanded them to pray for joy. "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be made full." (John 18:24) In that great intercessory prayer Jesus prayed that the disciples' joy might be full. "That they may have my joy made full in themselves." (John 17:18) Jesus is our perfect model. Christianity is just reproducing in our lives the Christ-life. It is thinking as he thought, talking as he talked, living as he lived, and conducting ourselves in all the activities and relationships of life as he did. But Jesus had a wondrous joy of his own. He was "a man of sorrows," yet all the while there was in his heart a deep joy which nothing could disturb. The Hebrew writer charges us to look unto Jesus, "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross." (Heb. 12:2) Christians to be Christ-like should have joy. Jesus desires and prays that his disciples have his joy — the joy of faith in God and in His Son, the joy of assured hope of triumph, the joy of salvation, the joy of success in their work, the joy of bringing men to righteousness and heaven.

Christ had joy, though insulted, misrepresented, opposed, persecuted and finally crucified. The joy that Christ desires and prays for us to possess is too deep to be affected by this world's occurrences. It is a joy which the world can neither give nor take away. It lives in the heart under the bitterest sorrows, and sings its songs in the darkest nights.

Joy is not merely a privilege, a blessing, which Christians may enjoy, but it is also a duty. Here is the command, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." (Phil. 4:4) Even amidst unfavorable surroundings, yea in the very presence of persecution, we are commanded to "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you." (Matt. 5:12) We are also charged, "Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16)

Christians are to be light, and light is cheering, purifying, life-giving, reviving, refreshing, scatters darkness and gloom. Light is a symbol of joy. Jesus said, "Ye are the light of the world." (Matt. 6:14) Gloom, therefore, in the life of a follower of the Lord is a contradiction of Christ-likeness. It is our duty to be joyful, cheerful, songful, whatever the circumstances or experiences may be. We should never yield to discouragement, to depression, to disheartenment. We are as dependent on the frame of our minds as on the state of our bodies. Joy in God produces very important effects. It disposes for action. Fear and sorrow depress and overwhelm the soul; they enervate and benumb all our faculties; they keep us from attending to any encouraging considerations; they disable us from extending any relief to others; and they indispose us for the most necessary duties of life. On the contrary, a joy-tasks easier, as our helpful words and joyous songs ring and sacrifices are willingly made for the Lord's Cause. The joy of the Lord is the invigorating tonic of the Christian character. The thing that makes us a strong Christian or a weak one is our possession or deprivation of the joy of the Lord. If we let darkness into our soul, it will darken our eyes, and mar the beauty of our life. Discouragement is dangerous. It robs a man of strength and skill, and makes him faint in the struggle. It chills his heart, takes the enthusiasm out of his life, and imperils all his career. We should resolve never to be discouraged, for discouragement is defeat.

It follows from these considerations that we owe it to the world as the representatives of Christ to live a life of victorious joy. We are to be a blessing to others, and there is no other way in which we can do so much for those about us as by being habitually joyful. If we go about among our fellows speaking discouraging and disheartening words, we will make it harder for them to live as the Lord directs. It is not possible to estimate the influence of our depressed spirit on others. Their burdens seem heavier, the road seems steeper to them, and the struggle seems sorer, because our hands hang down, the light fades from our eyes, and our lips speak discouragingly. But if we go through life speaking words of encouragement and help, singing happy songs as we go, songs of joy and gladness, they will become inspiration in the hearts of those who hear them. Men will grow braver, hope will come out of discouragement, and defeat will be changed to victory. Burdens will seem lighter, battles less fierce, and tasks easier, as our helpful words and joyous songs ring out on the air.

We have no right to make life harder for others. It is a sin to do so. The law of love, which requires us to love others as we love ourselves, forbids it. He who makes it harder for a brother to live nobly, and do his work well, has sinned against one of Christ's little ones — therefore, against Christ himself. Hear the Lord's warning, "Who shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea." (Matt. 18:6) We dare not go among our fellows saying and doing things that might cause them to stumble, for, if we do, we are imperiling their souls and endangering our souls for all eternity.

The law of love bids us bear one another's burdens. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal. 6:2) Living a life of joy is one way to discharge effectively this duty. When we go among our fellows with a glad heart and cheerful face, saying something uplifting, we will inspire strength, courage, and hope. We will be a minister of good to others. We will make people braver and stronger. The influence of such a life can never be measured. The biography of the greatest life the world has ever known — the life of Jesus Christ — may be summed up in five words: "Who went about doing good." (Acts 10:38)

There are few lessons which are needed more than this teaching that joy is a duty. Many church members pay no heed to it. A sad and gloomy Christian is a poor recommendation of Christianity. Some make no effort to live joyfully, but allow trivial incidents of pain or inconvenience to disturb them and yield to every discouragement. They form the habit of making every one they meet share their troubles by the unhappy look on their face, by fretting and whining and reciting the tiresome story of their maladies. It is a grievous sin against others to inflict upon them our miseries and discouragements. We should be scatterers of light, not of darkness; of good, not of evil; of inspiring influence, not of that which can only make life harder for every one we meet.

Well would it be for us if we learned the lesson that joy is a duty. God wants us to be happy; and if we live as we should live, we shall be happy. This is not saying that we shall have no sorrow, or that life will always be easy and pleasant for us; but we may at least be always over-comers. We have reason to rejoice, whatever our circumstances and our condition may be. God has promised that if we will by faith, repent of our sins, put Christ on in baptism, and live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, that all things will work together for our good. There is a world beyond this sphere — a world where no storms beat, and where nothing hurtful ever shall come; why should we be so affected by what takes place here, where we are staying but a little while? God's command to us is, "Rejoice." We cannot disregard it and be true to the Lord. Keeping this command will bring wonderful results. Strife and dissension will largely vanish, murmuring and complaints will cease, our personal attraction will be enhanced and our religion will radiate a wholesome influence. These thoughts which were gathered from many sources blessed the life of this scribe, and they are sent out with the prayer that they will help others also.