When we hear good news, what’s our reaction? Happiness, excitement, delight, and celebration, right? The greater the news, the greater the happiness.
The Good News is a concrete, reality-grounded call to happiness: Jesus really did become a man, go to the cross, and rise from the grave. He truly is with us now and will return one day. These facts are what separate the gospel from wishful thinking.
God is a promise keeper, not a promise breaker. He promises His children eternal happiness, saying He’ll live with us on the New Earth forever. After promising no more death, suffering, crying, or pain (see Revelation 21:1, 3-4), Jesus instructs the apostle John, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (21:5). These are the words of the King. Count on them.
But while we’re promised eternal happiness, Christ doesn’t want us to wait until we die to experience happiness. Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The word translated “abundantly” suggests something profuse in quantity and quality—a surpassingly happy life. Similarly, Scripture describes a full, satisfying life: “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). The phrase “eternal life” appears forty-three times in the New Testament. It means far more than living forever—it means being happy forever!
The gospel is very much about happiness. Delivery from eternal damnation is delivery from eternal misery. What better qualifies as the “good news of happiness” (Isaiah 52:7)? What better sums up God’s gifts of goodness, lovingkindness, grace, mercy, salvation, rebirth, renewal, and the indwelling Holy Spirit (see Titus 3:5-7) than the word happiness?
Those who trust and serve Christ receive this mind-boggling invitation: “Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21, NIV). Those who trust anything and anyone other than Christ to meet their deepest needs are told, “Weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you” (James 5:1).
John says he wrote his gospel “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31, NIV). We don’t have to wonder whether we have eternal life: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
We often allow sin to thwart our happiness by going where we shouldn’t. God instructs us,
Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. (Proverbs 4:14-15)
Our Creator lovingly warns us that sin is utterly disastrous. Disobeying God never brings happiness. Its fruit is death, self-destruction, loss, and disgrace (see Proverbs 1:31-33; 2:19, 22; 3:35). Satan tells us one thing; God, another. But human experience only vindicates God’s claims. If we comparison shop between sin and Jesus, the difference is obvious. Sin brings misery; Jesus brings happiness. Which will you choose?
Of course, there are “fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). An injection of heroin or an immoral act can bring moments of pleasure—but not deep and lasting happiness. Sin can for the short term make us happy, but it won’t leave us happy.
Sin is the biggest enemy of happiness because it results in a broken relationship with God. Forgiveness is its greatest friend, because it reunites us with the happy God.
We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:3-5)
Happiness is impossible without repentance, forgiveness, and a right relationship with Christ. It’s like trying to turn on a light that’s unplugged. Darkness remains.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Sin requires a radical solution—salvation in Christ, which transforms our nature and dramatically affects our capacity to embrace greater happiness in God. Our justification by faith in Christ satisfies the demands of God’s holiness by exchanging our sins for Christ’s righteousness (see Romans 3:21-26).
David described forgiveness this way: “Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:2, NRSV).
He then recounted his state of utter misery after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah: “While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. . . . My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4, NRSV).
David chose the sin of adultery to find happiness, and subsequent murder to cover up his sin so he could be happy. Yet both sins brought extreme unhappiness.
His confession changed everything:
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. . . . You surround me with glad cries of deliverance. (Psalm 32:5, 7, NRSV)
David began Psalm 32 with “Happy is . . .” and ended with “Rejoice and be happy in the Lord” (verse 11, NCV). When sin is removed, misery is lifted. There’s only one way to be at peace with God so His happiness flows freely to us:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Jesus said to people starving for peace, hope, significance, and happiness, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Jesus cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).
Christ quenches our thirst from the inside. His Holy Spirit indwells us so whatever heartbreaking circumstances we face, rivers of life-giving water will flow from our hearts.
When Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), He’s also saying, “I am the only way to the Father’s happiness.”
By God’s grace, embrace Christ’s work on the cross to pay for your sins and reconcile you to God (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). What could be more happy-making than knowing the God of happiness, who grants us eternal life and happiness in Christ?
See also: Can you know you’re going to Heaven? and Can EPM recommend any churches near me?
Photo by Alexander Jawfox on Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.