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3 John 1:2-3 by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:55 mins 30 secs

Doctrine of Inner Happiness and Negative Volition; 3 John 2b-3

3 John 1:2 NASB  Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. [3] For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, {that is,} how you are walking in truth."

Psalm 31 is a psalm of David. We are not told what the particular circumstances were, it was just a time when he was feeling overwhelmed by circumstances, perhaps pursued by enemies or perhaps it may have come later in life during the Absolom revolt; we do not know. We do know that many of these psalms strike a cord with us, the resonate in our soul because we go through similar situations in life where we feel attacked, assaulted by circumstances or people or situations. In verse 7 we see a positive statement from David. NASB "I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul." Adversities attack the soul. This particular psalm is called a lament psalm because it focuses on a particular problem. This lament psalm begins with a trustr section.

Psalm 31:1 NASB "In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge [put my trust]; Let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me." So he starts off by reflecting in a somewhat intimate way in prayer to the Lord. He is basically telling the Lord that He is the one he has confidence in, "Don't let me be ashamed." In other words, don't miss this opportunity, Lord; don't for get about me, I am putting all my trust and confidence in you but don't embarrass me in this situation. He recognises this appeal to the integrity of God: "In your righteousness deliver me." He is appealing to the righteousness and justice of God to deliver him in the midst of this adversity. Then there is a plea in verse 2.

Psalm 31:2 NASB "Incline Your ear [pay attention] to me, rescue me quickly; Be to me a rock of strength, A stronghold to save me." David says there is a time factor here, Lord, let's speed things up a little. He appeals to God to be a rock and a fortress and then in the next verse: "For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name's sake You will lead me and guide me." In the first section he is appealing to God to deliver him, then he reaches a doctrinal conclusion.

Psalm 31:4 NASB "You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength. [5] Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth." This is one way the psalmist approaches the problems of adversity.

In Psalm 42 we see another reflection on the problems in the soul. Again, this is a lament psalm where the psalmist is in the midst of some sort of pressure situation from adversity, and we see how he turns to the Lord. 

Psalm 42:5 NASB "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And {why} have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him {For} the help of His presence." What does he mean by disturbed? In the Hebrew it is the qal perfect of hamah which means to roar. He is talking about his soul. "Why are you roaring within me?" This is a man who is under distress. He is under so much pressure he is screaming on the inside. "Hope [be confident] in God" is where the shift takes place in this psalm from the focus on the problem to the focus on the solution.

At the beginning of the psalm the psalmist reminds God of his desire for Him. Psalm 42:1 NASB "As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God." This is a reference to his positive volition and he is reminding God that he is very positive and desires to know doctrine and have a personal relationship with the God who created all things. [2] "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?" Then the hindrance in verse 3, the problem of his adversity: "My tears have been my food day and night, While {they} say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'" As he focuses more and more on the problem he shifts from the problem to the source of the solution.

Psalm 42:4 NASB "These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me" He is not sleeping at night, he just thinks about these things; they go through his thinking over and over again. We go through circumstances like that in life where we just think about them over and over, we find it difficult to sleep at night, we can't relax. This is what  Psalm 55:22 is talking about: "Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken." The idea of casting cares upon Him is the idea of abandoning problems to God. David hasn't reached that point yet in Psalm 42:4. It is only by disciplining ourselves to continue through the process that we learn to grow; we learn to trust God in that process, it doesn't come easily. 

Psalm 42:6 NASB "O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar." When the problem comes, that is when he will remember the Lord. [7] "Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me." He recognises that God ultimately is the source of testing for us, he is in a situation where he has one problem after another just rolled over him. But then he says … Psalm 42:8 NASB "The LORD will command His lovingkindness [chesed] in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life." He focuses in God's faithful, loyal love.

Psalm 42:9 NASB "I will say to God my rock, 'Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?'" See the honesty here. He is honest about the fact that he is feeling defeated, depressed and discouraged but he has not lost the focus.

Psalm 42:10 NASB "As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'" Then he comes back to the refrain again. [11] "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God." It is learning to wait on the Lord. Christian happiness and tranquillity is not saying everything is going well when it is not. That is called denial. What we see here is that honesty with the fact of the circumstances in my life is pure hell but somehow God is going is going to resolve the circumstances. Romans 8:28 NASB "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose." So the soul's only solution and only hope is in the Lord who is the source if sustenance and stability in times of crisis.

We could summarise by saying that the central enemy of our soul is negative volition toward God. Negative volition manifests itself in a lot of different ways. It is simply ignoring doctrine; it is just not a priority. A lot of people who are negative haven't rejected Christ as their Saviour, they haven't rejected anything that they have come to learn through the Word, but they show up in church once a week or once a month, or once every three or four months; doctrine isn't a priority. That is not positive volition. Positive volition is an enthusiastic passion to learn doctrine, to realise that if we are not getting it every day life isn't going to be right. It is a hunger and a thirst. As the psalmist said: "My soul thirsts for thee." That is what positive volition is. Negative volition is not simply being antagonistic to the Word, it is just not making it the highest priority in life. Negative volition keeps us from being able to properly handle the details of life, the adversities of life, and avoid stress that destroys the soul.

John says: "Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers." How has Gaius's soul prospered? We see an indication of this in the next verse where John says: "For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, {that is,} how you are walking in [by means of] truth." The emphasis in the next three verses is on truth. It is by means of truth that Gaius walks. Three times truth is mentioned in verses 3 & 4. The word there for "very glad" is the verb chairo [xairw], aorist active indicative, and it means to rejoice or to be happy; "when brethren came," and here we have a present middle participle of the deponent verb erchomai [e)rxomai] that is used as a temporal adverb. There are two participles here that are linked together, erchomai, to come, and martureo [marturew], to testify. The "brethren" is an unusual construction. It is a genitive absolute here which serves as the subject to these two participles. The point that we want to look at is that John uses the word chairo for joy here which is the basic word used for happiness and joy in the Scriptures and related to the noun chara, translated joy, delight, sometimes happiness.

We have seen that joy is not to be based on circumstances, happiness is not to be based on people, on emotion. So what is going on here when John says, "I was very glad and [rejoiced greatly] when brethren came"? Didn't he have joy already? Sure he did. 

The doctrine of happiness as a problem-solving device

The words for happiness. chara [xara], which means joy, delight or happiness. This is the word found most of the time in the New Testament for joy. It can refer just to an emotional exuberance or to that inner stability and tranquillity that is provided uniquely through God the Holy Spirit. The second word that is used for joy is agalliasis [a)galliasij] which has a more exuberant concept and is usually translated "exaltation," "exuberant joy," or "gladness." This is someone who is excited. Then the third word that is used in the New Testament is euphrosune [e)ufrosumh], the eu prefix always means something well, something good, something positive, and this word has to do with a state of mind, so it is talking about a very pleasing or pleasant state of mind. It is usually translated like the other two, either joy or gladness. These are the main words used, and then there is a fourth word found, macharios [maxarioj] which means blessed or happy. The concept of blessing is really much broader than happiness and the word "blessing" in both the Hebrew and the Greek is a term that is somewhat abstract and difficult for us to get our mental fingers around. Probably the one word that comes close is to communicating it best is the concept of happiness. There are many passages in the Word which convey the idea that "Blessed is the man who meditates on the Word of God day and night," emphasising the fact that ultimate blessing comes from the Word of God. Happiness itself is the opposite of sorrow or sadness. At least that is how we usually think of it.

We want to set up a juxtaposition where we are either happy or are in a state of sorrow, but this is superficial thinking. So often Christians think, "I became a Christian and I thought I was going to be happy because the Lord was going to give me happiness and joy, and ever since I got saved you wouldn't believe the things that I've had to go through." That is a problem with a superficial gospel that is presented and it is also a problem with a superficial understanding of biblical joy and happiness. To bring this out we need to look at the Greek words for sorrow, the first being lupe [luph] which means grief, sorrow, sadness or heaviness of soul. It is used in Romans 9:1, 2 where Paul is writing to the Romans. NASB "I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart." He is talking about an emotional state that he has whenever he thinks about the Jews. He says he has great sorrow. On the one hand he is filled with the Spirit and as such we know that he had great inner happiness, but at the same time he says, "I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart." Both words for sorrow are used in this passage. A person can have inner happiness, stability, contentment and tranquillity and at the same time be sad, sorrowful, and grieving. And he can only be that way because of doctrine in the soul. The second word used here is odune [o)dunh] which has to do with pain, consuming grief, or distress, whether of the body or of the mind. Then a third word that is used is perilupos [perilupoj], (related to lupe), which means to be very sad, deeply grieved. The prefix peri indicates that it is an intensification of the noun. It is used in Matthew 26:38 and Mark 14:34 where it has the idea of being exceedingly sorrowful. Both of those references are related to the one incident in the Garden of Gethsemane. Notice: Here is the Lord Jesus Christ who never sinned, who was impeccable, who never doubted the Father's plan. He has perfect happiness, but in Matthew 26:38 he says to His disciples: "My soul is deeply grieved [exceedingly sorrowful], to the point of death…" How can He have perfect happiness and be sad? Because His soul is weighed down by the fact that He knows He is about to endure the punishment for the sins of the world. He grieved over mankind at the death of Lazarus because He saw the grieving crowd, the pain and the misery that death has brought into the lives of people. Man was not created to go through death; was not designed to suffer loss. Physical death is the consequence for sin. The pain is designed as a reminder of the fact that sin has destroyed life as it should be and it is only as a result of salvation that there is any recovery. So there is this grief that occurs in Jesus as he weeps over these mourners that have come to mourn for Lazarus. So we have these two incidents where Jesus is sorrowful, and yet His happiness in His life never diminishes or increases, it is completely stable.

Three categories of happiness

The first is simply emotional happiness. It is not the kind of happiness that is the fruit of the Spirit which Jesus Christ bequeathed to us. It is nothing more than emotional happiness and is Satan's counterfeit to genuine happiness designed to confuse and distract people from the genuine stability that is promised us as the real joy produced by the Holy Spirit. Emotional happiness is always transient and fleeting, it is driven by circumstances and by our own biorhythms. This kind of happiness can never produce stability, tranquillity or contentment and it is a terrible barometer of how we are doing in life. The myth that Satan tries to promote is that people's possessions and pleasant circumstances can make us happy. Satan's propaganda is that the details of life—money, success, pleasure, social life, public approbation, fame or material things—make us happy. While these things can provide a legitimate level of enjoyment and pleasure and we might have a lot of exuberance over these things and get quite excited about the stimulation they bring it is not the happiness that is the happiness provided by God the Holy Spirit. We always have to remember that if we are dependent on any person or set of circumstances for happiness then we become a slave to that person, that emotion, or that set of circumstances. If we think that things have to be a certain way in order to be happy, then what we are saying is that those who control those circumstances control our happiness. What Scripture teaches is that happiness is a product of God the Holy Spirit as a result of our volition, it is based on a state of mind that is controlled by doctrine and orientation to grace and to doctrine which produces orientation to reality. Happiness that we have from the Lord is happiness despite our circumstances, not based on our circumstances.

A second category is what might be called human good happiness. The reason for saying that is because unbelievers can have a measure of stability, tranquillity and happiness in life. It doesn't come from the Holy Spirit so therefore it can only come from the sin nature—not personal sin, so it must be human good. Human good happiness is derived from simply compliance with the laws of divine establishment, with good morality and ethics. Someone with a strong work ethic is going to be successful. That is going to bring a certain measure of stability and tranquillity in life. This is a result of someone who has a certain level of personal honour and integrity. It is not something that is produced by God the Holy Spirit but is produced through orientation to establishment principles. But human good happiness is still the temporal happiness of the unbeliever. It is not permanent, it comes and it goes. It is still a restricted and temporary happiness, a product of the flesh and is vulnerable to environment and negative circumstances.

The third category of happiness is related to God, to who God is and alignment with His plan for our life. This is the happiness that is produced by God the Holy Spirit—inner happiness or spiritual happiness, spiritual stability. It involves contentment, tranquillity and stability. It derives from God who produces it as part of the fruit of the Spirit. This happiness was modelled for us in the humanity of Jesus Christ during the incarnation. What do we know about this kind of happiness? It is a state of the soul, it is a mental attitude that is not an emotion, not pleading; it is a result of positive volition toward doctrine and thinking in terms of God's plan for history and our life and is not based on thinking about something we don't have, ought to have, or something someone can do for us. It is not people faith. So many people think they have to have so many friends or social life to be happy. That is why there are so many churches that major on a social life. Happiness comes from thinking, from learning and applying Bible doctrine.

Unhappy people try to find happiness through control of their environment in some way. If our happiness isn't based on a mental attitude then our happiness is going to have to come from our environment somewhere or from the circumstances around us. So what we try to do then in order to be happy is to control the people and the circumstances and situations around us. People like this try to control their family, friends and loved ones in a number of different ways. One way is by arousing in them a guilt complex or guilt reaction for their behaviour. Another is through arousing pity. A third way is by manipulating and manoeuvring behind the scenes to make sure that everyone acts and behaves the way they want them to and says what they want them to say when they want to say it. But that is a pseudo happiness and doesn't have any kind of stability at all.

The kind of happiness that God provides is a problem-solving device. It helps us handle adversity, situations and circumstances. It protects us from becoming disillusioned in three areas. Sometimes we can become disillusioned regarding the circumstances of life. We don't have the money, the job, the resources, the friends that we think we ought to have. Philippians 4:11 12 NASB "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need." Paul was writing that from prison, by the way. Paul's happiness came from the Lord. [13] "I can do all things [handle any circumstance] through Him who strengthens me." Hebrews 13:5, 6 NASB "{Make sure that} your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, 'I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,' so that we confidently say, 'THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?'" When we don't have the details of life we still have the God who provides all the details of life and is the God who is the author of sufficient grace and can provide everything for us.

Sometimes we become disillusioned with other people around us, and other believers, and so Hebrews 12:2 applies: NASB "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Happiness, therefore, is related first to finding a right relationship with God and begins only with salvation. This is why the psalmist said in his confession in Psalm 51:12 NASB "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit." We can't have real joy if we are not in right relationship to God. Then this expands through our learning of Bible doctrine. In Nehemiah 8 Nehemiah and the priests stood up all day and read from the Scriptures. The people stood up with them all day long, and afterwards this was their response: "All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them." From the learning of the Word they then rejoiced and had a tremendous celebration. Therefore we have to understand that true happiness is found only through grace. Grace orientation is crucial to happiness. Psalm 31:7 NASB "I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness [grace in action], Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul."