I recently did a video interview with Dr Allan Meyer (CEO Careforce Life Keys) and I asked him a question about some of the critical issues facing the western church at the present time. In his excellent response, he reflected on the current focus of many Christians and much preaching being the goal of an individuals personal happiness, rather than following Jesus Christ.
As I have reflected on this many times in my own preaching ministry, I think about Jesus’ words in John 10:10 “The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy but I have come that you may have life and have it in all of its’ fulness.” Unfortunately, some of us have wrongly mis-interpreted this verse through our western context and concluded that God’s goal for us is our happiness, which surely must mean, health, wealth and prosperity… Ah, NOT!
As I read the Scriptures, I don’t find the emphasis of my personal comfort being consistent with the biblical account of Jesus’ life or the Apostle Paul’s life or any of the other apostle’s life, for that matter, as is recorded in the New Testament. Money, success and well-being are all gifts from God and should be stewarded accordingly but God’s goal for me isn’t the obtaining of these things, alone. Me becoming more and more like him is his goal and this can be accomplished through a variety of circumstances and dare I say it, is often accomplished rather well through suffering.
The joy of the Lord is my strength but God’s joy is available whatever I am facing or going through, not just when things are going my way. As preachers, our goal should be to be faithful to the text and expose what the text is simply declaring in the most compelling way possible, not to proselytize people to a mirage of false hope. As pastors, our goal should be to lead people into Christ-likeness and a biblically based worldview that equips them to grow in spiritual maturity and gospel grace, not to encourage growth in spiritual immaturity.
Churches that promise happiness and bliss to their congregation alone, if they follow Jesus and perform for him are setting people up for massive disillusionment. Following Jesus in the real world does fill me with joy but sometimes I do face circumstances that are quite the opposite of happy. When a close family member of mine attempted suicide in 2001, I wasn’t happy. When I didn’t get the outcome I was hoping for as a budding athlete, I didn’t feel warm, happy fuzzies. When I get criticized and ostracized by others for my faith in Jesus and commitment to my calling, I don’t necessarily feel happy but my joy in Christ remains intact.
What’s your goal in life? If happiness is your goal, then you will live a misdirected and self-pre-occupied life but if God’s goal of Christ-likeness and knowing him is your goal then you will live life on purpose. Refuse to settle for anything less.
Grace! (Video Interview will be uploaded very soon)