I was sitting on an airplane and someone had a book that was entitled, essentially that the secret of happiness, had to do with not giving a “blank” (fill in your favorite offensive word here) about what others think. At that moment, the thought of not having to worry about anyone else but just myself seemed appealing. It would be great just to free myself up from all the multi-layers of obligations that I have. When someone bothered me with work, family, or ministry issues, and I didn’t feel like dealing with it, I could simply say I am tired of this. I have decided I am just going to be happy and “blank” everyone else.
This is initially attractive because we all know how disappointing other people, and other people’s opinions of us can be. But slowly as I walked through the airport terminal the truth sank in. Yes, being a slave to others opinions can be exhausting. But pleasing ourselves only can also a very fickle and disappointing project. The Bible tells us that “the human heart is the most deceitful of all things.” (NLT) As many of us have discovered, we often think we know what we need to be happy then find out later that we didn’t have a clue. In the first chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul tells us that as a punishment God gave men over to their own desires, and he lets us get what we want until we find out that our own self-focused desires destroy us. The substance lover is destroyed by the drugs, alcohol, or food, the lottery winner devastated by his riches, or the social-approval-driven come face to face with their phoniness. Our hearts deceive us.
When the selfishness of the moment passed, I thought that we as Christians, as followers of Jesus, have agreed to take on a better task than just pleasing ourselves. We need only to please God. When we chafe at this as we often do, it is because we lack wisdom. But it is easier to please God than ourselves because we all know that we have a tendency to misjudge ourselves. But God does not misjudge us. He knows what is in man and knows what we need in order to grow and be sanctified. He knows what gives a peace beyond understanding. That is a peace that can go beyond the happening based happiness of the moment to a joy that has eternal capabilities.
God’s commands, what God wants us to do, are not a secret. Often however, we think we need to guess at what they are. His commands, the outline for our lives, are given to us in the Bible. (As a warning to many, they are not found from the self-appointed “apostle” down the street.) We can wake up the next morning and set off to do them. But God also does a very strange thing. When we believe on Jesus, he also transforms our hearts from one of “stone” to one of “flesh,” and he begins to expose the good things in our hearts. He gives us desires and then tells us to pursue them. Something my pastor said a few weeks back caught me off guard when he said that yes, we really can do what we want and pursue our desires. They just need to be in the parameters of our loving God’s design. God is lover of pleasure, joy, and peace. As we live for God, he takes away our deceitful desires and fills our hearts with our true desires that he has built into us.
In Psalms 37 God says,
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.