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Sun, Jul 13, 2003

9 - Happiness: Trust in God

3 John 1:3 by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:1 hr 8 mins 14 secs

Happiness: Trust in God; 3 John 3

 

3 John 1:3 NASB "For I was very glad [rejoiced greatly] when brethren came and testified to your truth, {that is,} how you are walking in truth. [4] I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth."

The word translated "greatly" is the adverb lian [lian] which indicates extent. It is a comparative adverb indicating that John's joy now has increased and it is related to a particular event—when the brethren came and testified. The context itself is going to determine whether or not this is talking about inner happiness as a solid, stable mental attitude or the exaltation or exuberance related to a particular event.

Happiness is a state of the soul, a result of our choices. It is a determination of whether we are oriented to doctrine or not oriented to doctrine. So happiness comes from thinking Bible doctrine. Only doctrine gives us an orientation to reality; we can't be oriented to reality apart from the truth of God's Word. What happens with most people is they achieve happiness by living in some sort of state of denial, either just ignoring reality, acting as if reality is just something else, or they are just in a fantasy world; they are not engaged with the present reality of the situation. This often is true of people going through extended testing and they feel helpless. Rather than being engaged with the negative situation which they feel defeated by, and rather than applying doctrine, they just act as if it isn't there and that somehow things will work out. That is not doctrine; that is not biblical. The Bible doesn't teach faith in faith, the Bible teaches faith is specific promises of God, and sometimes things don't get better. Sometimes we are going to be in a certain set of circumstances that are going to be true from now until the end of our life. Happiness comes from thinking doctrine and not from circumstances. Unhappy people seek happiness by controlling their environment, people in their environment such as family, friends and loved ones, and they do this in several ways; by imposing some kind of guilt complex or guilt reaction on those around them, by arousing pity in others. Another thing that we see is that people who have problems with authority are basically unhappy people.

Inner happiness is confined to the plan of God. We enter into the plan of God at salvation and stay in the plan of God by walking by the Spirit. But when we sin and we are ejected from fellowship and outside of God's revealed will for our life then we are living in carnality, living on the sin nature, and we will not have happiness. Happiness comes only through learning doctrine, applying doctrine by means of the Holy Spirit. 1 John 1:4 NASB "These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." Happiness is developed or completed through learning doctrine under the filling of the Holy Spirit and applying it to our life.

The ultimate in happiness in time begins with the filling of the Holy Spirit and is developed by a consistent walk by means of the Spirit. Only as we walk consistently by means of the Spirit does the fruit of the Spirit develop. Happiness can only come when we have assimilated God's Word into our soul.

God has designed this inner happiness to be permanent and is stabilised through the grace learning spiral—the idea that the pastor-teacher communicates the Word, the Holy Spirit makes it understandable (but He doesn't understand it for us), we have to exercise our volition at that point in order to think it through and understand it, and then it becomes gnosis [gnwsij]. (If we understand something we can put it into other words; it shows we can think outside the box) We have to understand something as gnosis before we can believe it; we cannot believe what we do not understand. When we believe something, at that point it is converted into epignosis [e)pignwsij] doctrine—useable doctrine—which is potential in our soul, and once again we have to utilise our volition to decide when and how we are going to apply that useable doctrine to various circumstances. This is the grace learning spiral but the whole situation has to function under the concept of walking by means of the Holy Spirit. When we are in fellowship it is God the Holy Spirit who is working through the process to produce in us the fruit of the Spirit. Inner happiness is based on learning doctrine which develops a capacity for love, relationship with God and capacity for life. This is sustained by learning the Word.  

There is a daily development of capacity for happiness, this isn't something that just happens in a one-shot thing. We have to take in the Word day in and day out. As we grow spiritually, increment by increment then that capacity for happiness develops. Matthew 4:4 NASB "But He [Jesus] answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" Just as we feed more than once a day or once a week physically we need to feed on the Word of God more than once a day, more than once a week. We need to constantly take in the Word. We can do this by going to Bible class or by rehearsing what we have learned in our mind—what the Bible calls meditation. Jeremiah 15:16 NASB "Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts." So joy comes from eating God's Word, i.e. assimilating it into our thinking. James 1:25 NASB "But one who looks intently [a close, concentrated focused look] at the perfect law, the {law} of liberty, and abides by it [application], not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed [makarioj/happy] in what he does."

Inner happiness is commanded for believers in the spiritual life in phase two. Jeremiah 15:16; 1 John 1:4. The relationship between the Lord's perfect happiness and the church age believer's perfect happiness is given in John 15:11 NASB "These things [the doctrine] I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and {that} your joy may be made full." We keep seeing this terminology of joy being made full which indicates that it is an aggressive, incremental development. The perfect happiness that the believer has is derived from the Lord's perfect happiness, and that is a grace gift to the believer.

Just as the Lord never lost His perfect happiness during the incarnation and still experienced sorrow and grief, so the believer can still have perfect happiness while at the same time experiencing sorrow and grief. They are not mutually exclusive.

Happiness cannot be built on happiness. In other words, happiness is not the result of being happy. Happiness is the result of doctrine in the soul.

Psalm 94 is a communal lament. It is not talking about the problems an individual is going through but it is an expression of the community of Israel as a whole being abused and treated in an unrighteous manner by their enemies. We do not know the precise context, but there is probably a reason for that because it allows for a more universal application. Note some key verses as we talk about happiness and joy: Psalm 94:12 NASB "Blessed [ashere/happy] is the man whom You chasten, O LORD, And whom You teach out of Your law; [13] That You may grant him relief from the days of adversity, Until a pit is dug for [by] he wicked. [15] For the LORD will not abandon His people, Nor will He forsake His inheritance. [16] For judgment will again be righteous, And all the upright in heart will follow it." The idea there is that personal core happiness.

Psalm 94:19 NASB "When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul." The word "delight" brings a focus for us on the concept of happiness. It is an understanding that even in the midst of all of my anxieties, even as they multiply around me, the consolations which come from doctrine delight the soul. The soul takes pleasure; there is excitement, a thrill that comes from these comforts. 

Looking at this psalm as a whole, it is a psalm that we might utilise at different times in life, especially if we feel that we have been dealt with unfairly or unjustly by someone, or perhaps a time of rejection over something, some time when some individual has treated us in a very unjust manner, and we cry out to God for vengeance. This is the situation at this time in Israel.

Psalm 94:1 NASB "O LORD, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth!" The speaker here addresses a cry to the Supreme Court of heaven. The word that is translated "vengeance" here really doesn't mean vengeance. The word in English has an idea of revenge, getting back at somebody, and that is not the connotation of the word in context. This is the Hebrew word naqam which brings into focus the righteousness and justice of God. The word has the idea of vindication within the framework of a judicial system. This is not talking about a personal vendetta, but vindication, the idea of bringing into effect justice, bringing about judicial retribution. This is the prerogative of God as the supreme judge of the universe. He is the one who is absolute righteousness and absolute justice and this is an appeal to the righteousness of God to deal justly in an unjust situation.

Psalm 94:2 NASB "Rise up, O Judge of the earth, Render recompense to the proud. [3] How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked exult?" Then the psalmist describes the activities of the arrogant in vv. 4-7. The arrogant assume that there is no accountability. The whole issue in paganism today is that people have denied that there is a creator and therefore there is no ultimate accountability and that man can do whatever he chooses to do.

Psalm 94:4 NASB "They pour forth {words,} they speak arrogantly; All who do wickedness vaunt themselves. [5] They crush Your people, O LORD, And afflict Your heritage." Notice the doctrine there. He is going back to God's covenant promises to Israel in the Mosaic and Abrahamic covenants. He is reminding God that Israel is His adopted firstborn. This is important, it is a rationale that he is using in prayer. He goes back to doctrine and the positional relationship of Israel to God. He points out the injustice lf the enemy: 

Psalm 94:6 NASB "They slay the widow and the stranger And murder the orphans." In Psalm 68 he talks about how God will be a husband to the widow and a father to the fatherless, so he is appealing to God's promised relationship to the stranger, the widow and the fatherless. The attitude of the pagan is: [7] "They have said, 'The LORD does not see, Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.'" God really isn't there, in other words; it is implied atheism: God is not there and there is no accountability. [8] "Pay heed, you senseless among the people; And when will you understand, stupid ones? [9] He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see?" There is an internal contradiction in the position of the unbeliever. God made the ear, therefore He hears all things; he created the eye, therefore He sees and knows all things. [10] "He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke, {Even} He who teaches man knowledge? [11] The LORD knows the thoughts of man, That they are a {mere} breath." The character of God here is omniscience. In the psalmist's rationale he is thinking about God's promise to Israel. We as believers can think about whatever God's promises to us as church as believers, our adoption into the royal family of God and all the privileges and assets that God has given us.

Then he moves to thinking about the character of God and the attributes of God. Remember, there are over 7000 promises in the Word of God, and almost all of these promises can be tied directly to an attribute of God. So when we are in the midst of adversity or crisis the thing to do is go back to the character of God, to think through the different attributes and how they relate to our circumstances.

The result of this is that he has moved from focusing on the problem and crying out for justice to focusing on happiness. This belongs to the one who is instructed by the Lord, the one who is taught out of His Law, the one who has doctrine in his soul; and this is what gives him rest in the midst of adversity. Psalm 94:13 NASB "That You may grant him relief from the days of adversity, Until a pit is dug for the wicked." That is, allowing them enough rope to hang themselves, giving them enough of an opportunity to destroy themselves through their own machinations. Then, reminding them of the faithfulness of God, [14] "For the LORD will not abandon His people, Nor will He forsake His inheritance."

There is only one who stands for us. Psalm 94:17 NASB "If the LORD had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in {the abode of} silence." The idea in that verse is the profound idea that unless the Lord had helped their soul would have settled in despair. It is God who keeps us from that total despair that is overwhelming in life. It is the mercy of the Lord that sustains us, v. 18, therefore [19] "When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul."

This is an idea of how a rationale for happiness works. In the midst of crisis we focus on the Word and think through God's character, His attributes, His promises and the purposes of the plan of God. The result is the conclusion of confidence that the psalmist expresses. Psalm 94:22 NASB "But the LORD has been my stronghold, And my God the rock of my refuge."