IN CONCLUSION, my brothers, delight yourselves in the Lord! It doesn't bore me to repeat a piece of advice like this, and if you follow it you will find it a great safeguard to your souls" (Phil. 3:1, Phillips).*
Notice that our text reads, Delight yourselves in the Lord." It is the plan of God for man to be happy. Indeed, it is the command of God for believers to be happy. It is essential for Christians to be happy. In fact, it is so urgent, so important, that God used one of His noblest workers to send this message to the church from a prison where he was bound in chains.
We have been given this same counsel from God's modern messenger, who also suffered from physical infirmities yet wrote: "Unless you cultivate a cheerful, happy, grateful frame of mind, Satan will eventually lead you captive at his will."—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 704.
Keep cheerful—it is easy to say, but how can it be done? Read the text again—"Delight yourselves in the Lord." If there is nothing else to be happy about, then be happy in the Lord. Paul and Silas sang praises at midnight while in an inner prison of the Philippian dungeon with their feet fast in the stocks. Certainly they were not comfortable physically, but they were happy in the Lord. They practiced what they preached! And what an experience they had. Happy in the Lord! What a source of comfort, love, and power! What a great reservoir from which all Christians may drink deep from the wells of salvation. To the child of God, "Iron bars cannot a prison make." Yes, Christians can sing praises at midnight in a dirty dungeon.
Furthermore, think of God's provisions for the future. God is planning for our eternal happiness. God purposes that His redeemed children will enjoy everlasting happiness!
Can Money Buy Happiness?
Notice the divine methods of pursuing happiness. It is not attained by acquiring riches. Jesus said, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26). Why have so many millionaires committed suicide if wealth alone brought happiness? Money can buy a golden bed and a beautiful coil-spring mattress but it cannot buy sleep. Money can buy the most expensive food but it cannot buy appetite. Money can buy a beautiful house but it cannot of itself build a happy home! Money can purchase human slaves but it cannot buy love!
However, money can be a means of helping others, and when a human heart goes out in sympathy and empathy to others, it is on the highway to happiness! Happiness is feeding the hungry multitude. Happiness is clothing the orphans. Happiness is visiting the sick. Happiness is ministering to the needy. Happiness is helping others!
In the Beatitudes—which are really beautiful attitudes—Christ revealed eight secrets of happiness, such as, "Blessed [happy] are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." How many people have found their greatest happiness by seeking the welfare and happiness of others! When we carry hope and health and happiness to others we find our own hearts strangely warmed and refreshed. When we put the cup of cool water to the parched lips of others we find we drink deeper from hidden springs. Then we can say with Christ that we have meat and drink that others "know not of." "Every effort made for Christ will react in blessing upon ourselves."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 354. That is why "doing good is an excellent remedy for disease" (Christian Service, p. 270). Notice, not a remedy but an "excellent remedy." Why? Because it makes us happy, and "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine" says the wise man. Therefore, when we walk the highway to happiness we discover that our own health improves. Indeed, when we deal out our bread to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then our own "health shall spring forth speedily" (Isa. 58:8).
Why is this so? Well, here is an answer to that important question. "The pleasure of doing good to others imparts a glow to the feelings which flashes through the nerves, quickens the circulation of the blood, and induces mental and physical health."—Ibid., p. 271. Are we willing to follow this formula? It is God's prescription. If we will follow this advice, Paul assures us, it will be "a great safeguard to our souls."
Our Mental Attitude Vitally Important
We find further confirmation of Paul's philosophy on mental attitudes in this astounding statement: "Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of soul than does a spirit of gratitude and praise. It is a positive duty to resist melancholy, discontented thoughts and feelings —as much a duty as it is to pray."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 251. It surely helped Paul and Silas physically, mentally, and spiritually to sing praises at midnight while their feet were fast in the stocks in that inner prison. And that night the jailer and his whole family were won to Christ, and Paul and Silas were set free. They were happy in the Lord and surely God helped them.
"The Pursuit of Happiness"
The Declaration of Independence refers to "the pursuit of happiness" as part and parcel of man's "inalienable rights." In the reading of this great document we are led to believe, consciously or unconsciously, that health is a vital part of this happiness which man perennially seeks. Certainly the physical well-being of man, as well as the spiritual, is involved and included in the guarantees provided and vouchsafed to us in the American Constitution.
However, history—secular as well as religious—provides us with many shining examples of great men and women who, despite poor health or physical handicaps, have pressed on to wonderful achievements. These illustrious souls, often at great personal suffering and sacrifice, have served their age and generation. To mention only a few of these we think of Milton, who wrote his greatest poetry after being stricken with blindness! We marvel at the music of Beethoven, who could not hear many of his own musical masterpieces except with his "inner ear." We feel a lump in our throats as we read of the agonizing experience and the extreme physical suffering of Handel as he wrote the Messiah in only twenty-three days. Men everywhere had a fresh admiration for Franklin D. Roosevelt when they considered his achievements after he was stricken with polio! We all feel humbled every time we read those immortal words of Helen Keller: "I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I have found myself, my work, and my God."
From these shining examples, and a great cloud of other witnesses whom we might mention, it is evident that perfect health and physical fitness are not absolute requirements for great accomplishments. On the contrary, it appears that we may gain amazing victories and find contentment and satisfaction in life, in spite of physical limitations, if we will spend our lives serving others! Thus many of earth's noblest characters in their service to others have forgotten themselves into immortality!
Actually, the Declaration of Independence does not, nor does the Constitution, point out in detail the method of achieving happiness. It merely reminds us of our inalienable right to pursue it. Let us turn to the Holy Scriptures to find the mind of God on this important subject. In the Bible we find the secret of happiness and the method of pursuing it.
What Is the "Ultimate Aim" of Christianity?
When we have the mind of Jesus we will see the value of people as He did. When we have the heart of Jesus we will love people as Jesus did. When we have the spirit of Jesus we will work for people as He did. After all, this is the ultimate goal of Christianity—to reproduce the life of Christ in man, in us, so we can love people as Jesus did!
Paul emphasizes this thought in these significant words: "The ultimate aim of the Christian minister, after all, is to produce the love which springs from a pure heart, a good conscience and a genuine faith" (1 Tim. 1:5, Phillips).* To produce love we must reproduce Christ! God is love, and unless we have the new birth, and the life of God becomes a reality in us, then how can we manufacture love? Human love at its best is a cheap imitation—we love those who love us. Often what humans call love is nothing but passing sentiment, animal passion, or base selfishness. Anyone wrapped up only in himself makes a very small package. To reveal the love of God we must consider others. This is the love of God that while we were sinners Christ died for us (see Rom. 5:8; 1 John 3:16).
Disaster and Famine Relief
On May 13, 1967, every Seventh-day Adventist will have an opportunity to show this love of God—this love of Christ for others. This is the day set by the denomination for the Disaster and Famine Relief Offering which is taken up once every two years. Will we give cheerfully with a "good conscience"? Will we give with "genuine faith"? After all, "the ultimate aim" of the Christian minister is to produce the love that works these wonders! If we are like Christ, we will live to seek and save the lost. Do we want happiness? If we do, we must learn the secret from One who knows the secret, "who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross" and is now set down upon His throne in heaven.
Are We Bored With Life?
Listen again to Paul: "Delight yourselves in the Lord! It doesn't bore me to repeat a piece of advice like this." So many people are bored by so many things. Work bores some people. Giving money bores some people—"too many calls." We won't hear any more calls after we are in the grave. It is because we are still alive and can still minister to Christ in the person of His needy children that we hear His call--
Go, give, work, whate'er the cost;
Go, pray, seek, and save the lost!
May 13, 1967, will give us all an opportunity to think of thousands of orphans, thousands of hungry victims of flood or famine, thousands of refugees from war, thousands of families homeless from the ravages of fires and earthquakes. Let us break off our sins of selfishness and neglect and discover the happiness found in the outgoing heart of love to others in their great need. Remember, "freely" we have received. Let us recognize God's gifts to us! If we remember them, surely it will not bore us to give to help His suffering children. Are not these poor and needy permitted here on earth to test our religion? Does it "bore" us to think of the poverty and suffering in the world? It didn't bore Paul, it stirred him to action! He said he would gladly "spend and be spent" to advance God's work on the earth.
Let us all in our pursuit of happiness, step out onto the highway of happiness on this special day and remember that that highway leads through the hearts and homes of our fellow men.
Will it mean a personal sacrifice to you to give to this Disaster and Famine Relief Offering? Then think for a moment of what others have sacrificed that you might be a Christian and be alive today. Think of the sacrifices of the pioneers. Think also of the widow's mite but remember that it was her very living. She did not merely give what she could get along without!
As you give yourself and your gift to God and His needy children on May 13, think of Christ dying on the cross for you. That is what love will do. Love lives and gives and dies for others! And, "the ultimate aim of the Christian minister, after all, is to produce . . . love"—that kind of love!
Love is not sentiment, passion, or greed,
Love is eternally serving a need.
Love is a sharing, a caring, a life,
Born for adversity, born for the strife.
Love is the fragrance from every crushed rose;
Love is the sweetest thing man or God knows.
Love is so patient, so thoughtful, so kind;
Love is the greatest thing you'll ever find.
Search it around the world, you'll search in vain;
You'll never find it by seeking your gain.
Love "seeketh not her own"; strongest in loss;
Love shines the brightest when seen on a cross—Firewood, p. 34
*From The New Testament in Modern English, © J. B. Phillips 1958. Used by permission of The Macmillan Company.