Ever been to church and wondered why everyone is beaming from ear to ear? “Not often”, I hear you say . . . we have the most amazing gift in Jesus Christ, a restored realtionship with God, life in all its fullness . . . but, for all that there are supposed to be a million (yep, something like that) people who regularly roll up at Church – we dont seem to have impacted the national psyche!
Benjamin Disraeli said, “Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” We could maybe learn something from the new “Action for Happiness” Organisation that has just got going . . . now, before you start looking po faced and tell me that “Jesus did not come to make us happy, but to make us holy” – I do not disagree with you, however, we (Christians) sometimes seem to lack what can only be described as, well, JOY! In the book of Acts, Christian actions that had a positive impact on peoples lives brought joy (Acts 8 verse 8) and, in Nehemiah 8, the Law is being read by the Levites and (I do not know if this happens in your Church, but it seems to have been accompanied by sobbing and saddness . . . “will this sermon ever end” etc), well the people are then encouraged and challenged to NOT be sad – but are reminded that their strength is found in the JOY of the Lord – they are sent away to celebrate and enjoy themselves! We could do with more of that . . . and – dare I say it, a right grasp of the Beatitudes should give us an appreciation of happiness – but also, that it is part of what God desires for us – not as a transient emotion, but something lasting and deep rooted – as the Beatitudes show, rooted in the crap and the rubbish and the reality of our experiences it is possible to see hope, the presence of God, even the goodness of God – despite circumstances . . . it is this “happiness” that has Paul gripped so that he can write that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8) and, I cannot picture him writing those words without a smile on his face!
So, Action for Happiness, what are they about – well, check out the website . . . but I looked at their “ten keys to happier living” and I thought, what could WE do with those statements? do they resonate at all with who we should be as the people of God? I found myself smiling as I thought of the possibilities . . . so here is the FIRST one:
1. “Giving” Do things for others. This is right at the heart of the gospel isnt it? It depends on whether we have a loving faith with (or without) action – see James 2 verse 20! Love is an action, not just passive assent to something. When Jesus sums up the law and the prophets by saying, “Love God and Love your neighbour” (Matthew 22 verses 36 – 40) this is something to be acted on – I think sometimes in the Church we just “believe” this is right – but we also need to act on it. “Who is my neighbour?” is not a question a Christian should ask . . . ! Yet, so often in the Church we struggle to be neighbourly with people in the Church – never mind not in the church . . . Paul tackles this with the Galatians – so much so that he says “loving your neighbour” is THE main thing we should be doing (Galatians 5 verse 14).
Man alive! If we actually did this, would there be a need for an Action for Happiness movement? There are a million or so of us . . . .
More to come on the remaining 9 keys . . . (blogging about a couple more tomorrow) . . . to see them all just click here. Church, we need to pay attention – we have much to offer . . . we can move things forward . . . happiness is great (and the values associated with Action for Happiness are solid and generous, rather than about some kind of hedonistic happiness) . . . but happiness for now is one thing, we can bring much to that . . . but, maybe by being involved we can build on happiness now – and point people to hope for eternity!
Come on Church, lets get happy!