Text: Psalm 16
Today (11th April, 2021) is a time of thankfulness (for the life of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh), and of hopefulness (as Covid restrictions are further eased tomorrow).
But what about happiness? Has anyone ever discovered, or will anyone ever discover, the secret of real and lasting happiness?
I want to introduce you to someone who has discovered the secret of happiness.
Happy, though in danger, v1
v1 – ‘Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.’
1 Sam 26:19 – ‘They have driven me from my share in the Lord’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods.’
This is not escapism. David is a realist.
Compare the experience of Paul: ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Cor 6:10)
Happy with God alone, vv2-4
v2 ‘I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing… Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.”’
David is far away from home, surrounded by the tempting allures of foreign gods and idols. But he has not forgotten that his contentment is in the Lord alone.
Happy with God himself, vv5-8
v6 – ‘I have a delightful inheritance.’
We perhaps expect to read an inventory of his possessions: his houses, his wives, his children, his servants, his bank balance. But David has been driven from all these things. He has nothing left except the Lord himself. But that is what he calls his ‘delightful inheritance’.
Happy with God for ever, vv9-11
v11 – ‘…eternal pleasures at your right hand.’
“Who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” (cf. Acts 8:34)
Acts 2:29-31 “David…was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah.” (Also Acts 13:34ff)
Here, then, is the main point:
The risen Jesus is supremely happy
He knew happiness during his earthly life. He was not only ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’. There were also times when he was ‘full of joy through the Holy Spirit’ (Lk 10:21).
He was happy when he healed people, when he fed the multitudes, when he told funny stories, when he held little children in his arms
But his happiness was completed by his resurrection and everything that flowed from that.
1. Happy with his finished work
There is happiness of completing a DIY project; in handing in a difficult school assignment; in taking the Yorkshire puddings out of the oven and finding that they haven’t collapsed. Our pre-school granddaughter often squeals: “I did it!”
This captures something of our Lord’s satisfaction, when he cried from the cross:
Jn 19:30 – “It is finished!”
We can be happy that Jesus’ work on earth is complete. Any addition is a destructive addition. ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.’
2. Happy with his side of the bargain
I once paid way over the odds for a tickets to a London show. The show was good, but not worth the price I paid.
But the prophet says with reference to Christ:
Isa 53:11 – ‘He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.’ (RSV)
When the Son of God agreed to leave his heavenly throne and come and suffer and die, he did not do so blindly. He knew what the cost would be. And yet as he looked forward to the temptations of the wilderness, the agonies of the garden, the curse of the cross, the scourging of his body, and the suffering of his soul, he said, ‘I am willing to pay that price.’
Bethlehem, Gethsemane, and Calvary left no regrets. He did not grudge the price he paid. Looking back on all he endured, and forward to all that it was to accomplish, he is satisfied – he is happy – with the sight.
And if Jesus is happy with his cross-work, we can be too.
3. Happy to be reunited with his Father
Post-Covid, who are you most looking forward to seeing?
In Jn 1 ‘The Word was with God’ means that, from all eternity, Jesus was ‘face to face’ with the Father, in delighted contemplation.
On the eve of his departure, he prays for this to be restored:
John 17:5 – “Father! Give me glory in your presence now, the same glory I had with you before the world was made.” (GNB)
With regard to our own relationship with God, Jonathan Edwards wrote: ‘The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied…Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the ocean.’
4. Happy that he does not return home empty-handed
When we visit friends and family, we bring gifts of flowers, chocolates or wine. What does Jesus bring?
Heb 2:13 (Isa 8:18) “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” You are Christ’s reward.
The risen and exalted Christ does not consider himself complete apart from the people he represents.
If Jesus is happy with the church, so should we be.
Geoffrey Paul: ‘There is no way of belonging to Christ except by belonging gladly and irrevocably to that marvellous and extraordinary ragbag of saints and fatheads who make up the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.’
5. Happy to make us happy
We like to share our happiness with others – whether it’s the happiness of a good joke, a piece of good news, or an unexpected windfall.
Jesus loves to share his happiness with us:
Jn 15:11. “I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am.” (CEV)
For Jesus, happiness was never the goal of his life. He sought always to please his Father; happiness was the profound and lasting side effect of this
It’s the same for us. ‘Happiness is like your shadow. Chase after it and you will never catch it, but keep your face towards the sun and it will follow you.’
The risen Jesus is supremely happy. And in him, we too can know happiness. Much happiness through all the changing scenes of this life, and more, much more, in the life to come.