Jack Graham - The Pathway to Happiness
When you read the Psalms remember this is the songbook of the Bible. It's right in the center, right at the core in the heart of the Scriptures. In fact when I was a little guy and we were in Sword drill or Bible drill, we call it now, we learned how to find anything anywhere by starting by opening the book in half, the Bible in half, and there you would find the Psalms. So right in the middle, right in the heart of the Scripture is this songbook, this hymn book. And you know as spirit-filled believers we're to walk in the Spirit, "speaking to one another, psalms, hymns, spiritual songs". Worship is at the core of everything we do as Christians because God made us to worship Him. You are created to worship the Creator. Not to worship the creation, not to worship the created, but to worship the Creator! And God gave the song; God put music in the soul of mankind.
So much of what we have learned and lived in life, if you grew up in the church singing the songs of faith, these mark our lives and the memories and the emotions of these songs. This is why so many of us love the songs of our past because they speak to us of moments, the miracles in our lives when we experience the power and the presence of God. Now every generation has its own songs and its own music. I have in my car Sirius radio, so you have. You know, you can go to the 40's, you can go to the 50's, the 60's, the 70's, the 80's (worst musical generation in history, the 80's.) Ah, not really. There's a few good in there. But yeah, you can do all the decades. And I was a child in the 50's when Elvis came on the scene, and then, of course, the 60's when rock music was a part of the signatures of our lives.
And I was thinking about those of us who are baby-boomers and we grew up with all this music in the 60's. And now that it's, you know, whatever, 50 years later, the music has changed. For example, remember that song "Fifty Ways to Lose your Lover"? Now it's fifty ways to lose your liver! Or "How Do You Mend a Broken Heart"? Remember that one? Now its how do you mend a broken hip? "Dancing Queen" is now denture cream. Or "Mrs. Brown, You've got a Lovely Daughter". It's now Mrs. Brown, you have a lovely walker. "Talking about my Generation" is now talking about my medication. Well, songs change through the seasons of life, but one thing that is consistent is the songs of the people will rise. And in the book of Psalms you have these songs that are so human. The the psalms are a hymnbook, they're also a human book.
I like what John Phillips, the Bible teacher said, "The psalms touch all the notes in the keyboard of human emotion". Here we have love and hate and joy and sorrow, hope and fear, peace and strife, faith and despair, the stuff of which life is made. The psalms are a human book; they are so honest. I started to call this series Honest to God because the psalms are all about honesty, as David and the other psalm writers, or song writers express their emotions. The raw emotions of life are often expressed here in the Psalms, whether it is great celebration and joy or the deepest sorrow and valleys of life. The Psalms are also a very helpful book. I can't tell you how many times in my own life in times of trial and trouble, sadness, I've turned to God's Word and certainly to the Psalms. I've opened the book, the song book. It's a hymnbook because it's all about Him! I've opened God's Word, the Psalms have taught me and comforted and given me guidance in the night.
The psalmist said in Psalm 119:105 "Your word is lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path". And I can't tell you how many times in dark nights and days I've turned to the Psalms to find help and hope. Jonah did this. The runaway prophet, when he found himself in the belly of the great fish, and he began to cry out to God and pray. And when he prayed, read it in the book of Jonah, he prayed the Psalms from the belly of the fish! When he hit bottom he looked up and he prayed the psalms. Jesus, of course, knew and prayed the psalms in Gethsemane. And even at the cross when He was dying, Jesus prayed and quoted the Psalms. So the Psalms is a very important book. Primary author, composer if you will of these psalms and poems in your Bible, David, the sweet singing shepherd of Israel. He is the human author, along with others. And one of the primary characteristics of these 150 psalms in Scripture is their humanness, they're honesty, as well as the worship and praise and the presence of God that comes because He inhabits the praises of His people.
There is something powerful when we experience the worship of Jesus Christ together. All the blessings of heaven which are ours! We've been blessed, enriched with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. "Heaven comes down", and as the old song says, "and glory fills our soul" when we worship Him. There are three primary purposes of the Psalms. One, to reverence God, two, to reveal Christ. All the Bible is about Jesus from Genesis to Revelation. And certainly the Psalms are messianic in the sense that Jesus the Savior is prophesied and predicted, for example, in Psalm 22. It is as though the psalmist is standing at the foot of the cross, speaking of the death of Christ. So the purpose of the Psalms: to reverence God, to reveal Christ and to revive the believer, revive the saint.
So with that introduction I want us to look together at Psalm number 1, Psalm number 1. The first Psalm is a fitting introduction to the entire songbook. Like the Sermon on the Mount, the words of Jesus, it begins with the word "blessed" or "bless-ed": "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish".
Picking up on those last words, "the way", I'm calling this message "The Pathway to Happiness". Why? Because when you look at that first word, "blessed", there is a promise of happiness. Blessed is the man, blessed is the woman, blessed is the one. To be blessed is what? To be happy, to be satisfied, to be completely content and fulfilled. But it doesn't undermine the depth of the text to say it simply means happy! The fact is God knows the most basic human need we have is the need to be happy. God, who is both a holy and happy God, has created within us this insatiable thirst, hunger for happiness! This is normal; this is life. Everyone, and I mean everyone instinctively wants to be happy. And God's Word tells us how to be genuinely happy. And to be happy, as we're going to see is to be rightly related to God.
Augustine, the fifth century theologian and philosopher, said this, and I could bring you hundreds of quotes about happiness; I just selected a few. "Every man, whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy". Blaise Pascal, the 17th century mathematician, said, "All men seek happiness. This is without exception. This is the motive of every action of every man". My goodness, we love America because in great part the Founders who built this nation upon the Judeo-Christian faith and foundations of freedom, wrote into our early documents, including the Declaration of Independence, that we have these rights among which are "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". Happiness! God has put within us this pursuit of happiness.
There is a confession of faith, a religious creed, called the Westminster Confession, and many of us have memorized some of it. And at the outset it says: "The chief end of Man (that is the purpose of mankind) is to glorify God (which is to worship) and enjoy Him forever". To enjoy our God! So the Scriptures are filled with joy and happiness. I used to think there was a difference between happiness and joy, that happiness was sort of like the world's word, and we're happy because the world can give us happiness, and then joy was the Christian word. But when you really study it, joy and happiness and many other synonyms like merriment and delight and feasting and cheerfulness and gladness and merriment and pleasure; not to speak of all the songs that are sung in the Scripture. When you really get it, you understand that all of it, joy and happiness and gladness and merriment and feasting and dancing and praising and worshiping, this all comes because God is satisfying the deepest longing of the human heart which is to be happy, to be happy in Him. "Blessed is the one".
Interestingly enough when you read and look beyond the text to the language in which this written, of course, the Old Testament was written originally in the Hebrew language. And so when you look at the language here, blessed is written in a plural and an intensive form. (You learn this stuff in seminary. I took two semesters of Hebrew. This is about all I learned. No, I did learn a few things!) But a plural intensive, which means multiple blessings! In other words, much happiness! More and more and more and more blessedness. It means happy continually! Much abundance. If you live in Louisiana it means happy, happy, happy. That's what it means. There are a lot of things in life that make us happy. The good gifts of God that we can enjoy every day, especially, of course, when we are rightly related to Him! And yet so many people are unhappy.
I see so much sadness and depression and anxiety and stress and loneliness, especially among the young where the suicide rate is the highest ever! And not only in the world, but among Christians! I see so many Christians who are living with daily disappointments and lingering sadness in their lives. So many seem beaten down by the pressures and the problems of life. And the smile that used to light up their face is gone. Enduring life instead of enjoying their life. But God has promised to you, believer, a blessed state, a happy condition in Christ. And in this happiness we find out truly what life is about.
Psalm 16, verse 11: "You have made known to me the path of life; in your presence", we're talking about the pathway to happiness. This promise of happiness is in the presence of the Lord. "There is fullness of joy (everlasting joy); at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore". Again, happiness is the Lord! We used to sing a song growing up, "Happiness is to Know the Savior; Living a life within His favor. Happiness is the Lord". Spiritual happiness is a byproduct of holiness. Here's what Jesus said in John 15 and verse 11: "These things I've spoken unto you that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be full". Full and flourishing and running over! Jesus said My joy! Jesus was no pale, sanctimonious recluse! He was no guru sitting on a mountaintop somewhere chanting mantras! He was full of life! Full of love!
People, including little children, wrapped their arms around and climbed up into His lap! Rough fishermen dropped everything and followed Him because He was so appealing and so attractive, so winsome! You don't think those pictures you've seen of Jesus in the past with no smile, just somber, serious. That's not Jesus! When I see Jesus, I see Him smiling! Amen? I see Him laughing! And when we see Him face to face, knowing Him and trusting Him in heaven, we will see the smile of God in the face of Jesus! Even at the Last Supper, when He was looking at the cross and already preparing to lay His life down on the cross, in the darkness of that night the Bible says they sang a hymn and went out into the darkness to Gethsemane. Jesus, singing on the way to the cross! And my guess is they were singing one of the psalms, one of the psalms of the Bible!
I tell you this: God is serious about your happiness! That is the promise. Our happiness was bought and paid for by the Lord Jesus Christ! But this gift, this promise must be believed and received. So the path to happiness, we see it here, and he describes it in verse two: "Blessed is the man who walks not". There's some negatives first. There are certain things that we are to avoid: people, places, things, attitudes, ambitions, activities that we are to abstain and avoid in our life. So he says, "Walk not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful".
Now watch how this path of unhappiness is unfurled. It is first walking and then standing and then sitting. Do you see it there? We don't walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, sit in the seat of the scoffers! There is a downward progression here of walking by as if casually walking by and looking, and then stopping and standing and listening, and finally sitting down in the chairs of the cynics and the scoffers and the mockers and the unbelievers and the blasphemers. This is not the way to victory; it's the way of misery. So we separate ourselves, we remove ourselves from walking, standing, sitting in the place of the ungodly. We disassociate, we separate from anything in our lives that would drag us down and rob us of real happiness. Because sin always over-promises and under-delivers every time.
There is "pleasure in sin for a season". That's the Bible. The Bible's honest with us on that. Oh, there's some pleasure in sin for a little while. But after that there's hell to pay; there's judgment to face; there's misery to experience. I'll tell you this: sin will take you farther than you want to go; it will keep you longer than you want to stay; and it will cost you far more than you want pay. That's why if you want to live in happiness, don't walk, stand or sit in places or among people or activities, pleasures, anything that would pull you down. Here's what sin is. Sin is seeking pleasure apart from God. We subject ourselves to things that we should not be hearing, things we should not be seeing, people, we certainly are friends with people in the world because God sends us into the world to share our faith with unbelievers.
God's not asking us to move into a monastery somewhere. We are to live our lives fully for Christ in the world, but there is a call in the Bible for separation. And we're to be separate from these things. You need to build a wall and ask the devil to pay for it! No! Tell the devil to pay for it! That's better, right? To separate you from the world of wickedness! You know, poor Peter, Simon Peter, same thing happened to him. He followed Christ; he loved Christ; he confessed Christ! And this strong man promised that he would never fail Christ! "Lord, everybody else, but not me! I will never deny You"! And yet on the night that Jesus was betrayed and taken to trial, when Jesus is on trial for His life, Simon Peter at first is at a distance the Scripture said.
He's walking nearby. And then he's standing. We see him next inside the courtyard of the priest. High Priest Caiaphas and he's warming his hands by the fires of the enemies of Christ, and conversing. And ultimately standing there and lingering there and looking there. He's at the seat of the scoffers, and one of the scoffers said, "You! You! You're a Galilean! Your accent is betraying you! You're one of His disciples, aren't you"? And he said, "I never knew the man". Said, "No, no, no, I know you do". A little girl said, "I've seen you. You've been with Jesus"! And he said with profane words, "I tell you I never knew Him"!
And three times he denied Him, and the rooster crows. And you know what the Bible says? "He went out and he wept bitterly". He lost all his happiness. You know the most miserable person on earth is not an unsaved person, but a saved person out of fellowship with God. He goes out and he weeps. Thank God for His grace! Jesus, later after the cross and the resurrection, restored Simon Peter and He will restore you if you will return to Him. He loves you and will bring you back out of the pits of judgment and discipline. And you can be happy again. You will be happy again!