Month 7:21, Week 3:6 (Sheshi/Kippur), Year:Day 5941:197 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Tuesday 10 October 2017
Sukkot 2017 VII
The Pursuit of Happiness
Continued from Part 6
Chag sameach Sukkot chaverim and welcome to the seventh and final day of the Feast of Tabernacles! There will, of course, be a sabbath assembly and sermon tomorrow morning at Shemini Atseret - the Last Great Day - but today officially ends Sukkot.
Happiness and the US Constitution
We have talked a lot about simcha (joy) these past six days and I would like to round all of that off by looking at the same idea only using a more familiar word: happiness. Those of you who are Americans or know anything about the United States Declaration of Independent will be aware that the edited Jefferson draft includes the following and by now famous words:
What is Jeffersonian Happiness?
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"
Considerable debate has arisen as to what Jefferson had in mind by his use of the word "happiness". Today the word is usually understood to mean 'pleasant, positive emotions and having needs satisfied' whereas back in 1776, when Jefferson penned the statement, it undoubtedly meant 'prosperity, thriving, and wellbeing'. If there is one thing that all human beings, and not just Americans, seem to be agreed on, it is that happiness is the most desirable thing there is. The pursuit of personal happiness is therefore what drives most people.
Individual and Collective Happiness
The problem with the modern approach is the pursuit of personal happiness without due consideration for the happiness of others does not actually lead to personal happiness. Thus it was that the 17th-century cleric and philosopher Richard Cumberland wrote that promoting the well-being of our fellow humans is essential to the 'pursuit of our own happines', which is closer to the emet (truth) taught in the Bible. For there cannot really be a fullness of individual happiness unless those in our immediate surroundings are happy too. One man's unhappiness can spoil another's happiness depending on how selfish or selfless he is.
Temporary and Permanent Versions of Happiness
What is happiness? Is it a passing emotion or a permanent state of being? The Bible teaches it can be both. There is happiness that reacts to happenings (which is temporary and volatile) and there is happiness that overrules happenings (which is strong and lasting). Happiness based on happenings is a part of life, but if that is all we can count on we have to keep feeding ourselves with events to keep up upbeat. I liken that to collecting multi-coloured feathers (happenings) in the hope that one day we will get enough to be able to construct a multi-coloured chicken that can make self-generated multi-coloured eggs for ever and ever, a bird of personal paradise that will give us every desire we could ever want.
Between Happenings and Elohim
So this, really, is the point I have been tryng to make this last week. Those who know the simcha or joy that comes from Elohim (God) don't need happenings to keep them happy. They learn how to develop inner simcha (joy) because they know that no matter what happens, Elohim (God) offers tiqveh (hope) and promise. Therefore the wise pursue Elohim (God) and the unwise only happenings...and every shade inbetween these two poles. We mature as we move in the direction of dependence on 'Elohim-simcha' (God-joy) and progressively away from dependence on 'happenings-happiness'.
An Chocolate Moose Illustration
I am sure you don't need an illustration to make the point but I will give one anyway just to be sure I am understood. My daughter enjoys making me chocolate moose because she knows I enjoy it. But I enjoy far more the ahavah (love) that is behind her desire to please me, and that brings me the greatest simcha (joy) because that ia the source of true simcha (joy). Of course I love the moose too! Yahweh likewise wishes to please us with pleasant 'event-happenings' but more important than is He wants us to know His heart and delight in the simcha (joy) He gets when we receive directly from Him. Bathing in the simcha (joy) is the main thing, and that we experience as we become ecahd with Him. It becomes our reality as we enter into spiritual union with Him.
Always Be Full of Simcha
Yesterday we looked at some of the sayings of Paul and Peter and may I remind you of what Paul said to the Philippians?
And then he utters that famous, oft quoted statement:
"Always be full of simcha (joy) in the Master. I say it again - rejoice! ...I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little" (Phil.4:4,12, NLT).
What We are Looking For Deep Down
"For I can do everything with the help of Messiah who gives me the strength I need" (v.13, NLT).
When you have ahavah (love), when you have shalom (peace), when you have simcha (joy), all of which come from being in union with Messiah through emunah (faith, trusting) and obedience, then it does not matter whether you are rich or poor, or whether good 'happenings' are taking place or not because what we are really looking for - deep down - is the simcha (joy) that comes from Elohim (God), and not the things of this world, whether physical or human.
Trouble Brings Opportunity
Indeed, James the apostle says, in confirmation of what Paul testifies:
"Dear brothers and sisters, whatever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for simcha (joy)" (Jas.1:2, NLT).
How is trouble an opportunity for simcha (joy)?
A Source of Character Development and Strength
"For when your emunah (faith) is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developped, you will be strong in character and ready for anything" (vv.3-4, NLT).
How does that relate with, or connect to, simcha (joy)? Well, as you react to trouble in the right way so your character develops - and as your character develops, so you come progressively to resemble Messiah more and more. As you do that, so His simcha (joy) will flow into you! So you see, trial and tribulation, when responded to in the Messiah-like way, cause simcha (joy) to grow and grow in you! And as we saw yesterday, that will make you stronger and more resilient, and better able to help and bless others, which will cause your simcha (joy) to bubble up even more! You can't lose if you understand the emet (truth).
No Promise of Temporary Happiness
Here is the thing that you need to learn from all of this - and it's very important because believers and unbelievers alike typically struggle over this wondering why Yahweh does not always grant them what they want or what they think they need to be happy: Yahweh does not promise temporary happiness. I repeat, Yahweh does not promise temporary happiness! In fact, the Bible assures us that problems will come our way. I bet you didn't want to hear that but it's true.
Heaven Primarily Deals With Eternal Things
However, Yahweh does promise us lasting simcha (joy), that supernatual happiness which doesn't ebb and flow like the tide, or wax and wane like the moon, or go up and down like our moods. He promises us the permanent kind of happiness that is constant for all those who believe in Him and love Him. This kind of happiness is called simcha (joy) and it stays with us despite our problems.
The one who believes and accepts this emet (truth) can then claim the promise made by Yahweh through Zephaniah:
The Wrong Lens
"Yahweh your Elohim (God) is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his ahavah (love),
He will rejoice over you with singing" (Zeph.3:17, NIV).
The lens we use to read Scripture makes a huge difference. The one looking through a carnal, sensual, Adamic, fleshy or psychic lens will not get the promises he so much desires because the things he asks for are merely to "consume ... upon [his] lusts" (Jas.4:3, KJV), that is to say, to "spend [them] on [his] pleasures" (ASV). That is to say - to make the point abundantly clear - carnal believers ask for things which they believe will give them happiness, but which do not, because they only want "what will give [them] pleasure" (NLT). Pleasure is not simcha (joy). Pleasure is here one minute and gone the next. Simcha (joy) lasts forever. Again, there is nothing wrong with pleasure, if it is kosher or pure, but that is not what Yahweh is in the business of going out of His way to provide for us, which is why the 'health and wealth' or 'prosperity gospel' is of no interest to Him and why He is not in it.
The Source of Simcha
Now that we know the kind of happiness that Yahweh wants to give us and what He is not particularly concerned about, we need to ask ourselves the question - where do we get this happiness?
The Formula for Enduing Happiness
"Let us fix our eyes on Yah'shua (Jesus), the author and perfecter of our emunah (faith), who for the simcha (joy) set before him endured the [agony of the] cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of Elohim (God). Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Heb.12:2-3, NIV).
If you are looking for the formula for enduring happiness, this is it. What does it mean to "fix our eyes on Yah'shua (Jesus)"? Well, what does Paul say? "Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men..." It means think about what Yah'shua (Jesus) went through for us, meditate on it. One of my favourite devotional books of one who does this is Thomas von Kempen's , Of the Imitation of Christ. I think it is one of the most profound meditations on Messiah and what He did for us and gets you focussed on what matters. So keep your eyes in Yah'shua (Jesus) at all times - make Him the focus of your thoughts and feelings.
Fear Yahweh, Obey Torah
Next, fear Yahweh  and trust in Him by delighting in guarding and living out His mitzvot (commandments):
Happiness is Yahweh's Presence
"Happy are those who fear Yahweh. Yes, happy are those who delight in doing what He commands" (Ps.112:1, NLT).
Happiness is based on Yahweh's presence within us which is what brings true contentment, the presence of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which produced pure simcha (joy):
All Out of Faith
"I know Yahweh is always with me ... No wonder my heart is filled with simcha (joy) ..." (Ps.16:8-9, NLT).
"But when the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) controls our life, She will produce this kind of of fruit in us: ahavah (love), simcha (joy) ..." (Gal.5:22).
All of this flows out of emunah - faith, trusting. Emunah (faith) in Yahweh produces everlasting happiness, for Yahweh has promised that when we truly seek Him, we will surely find Him:
Service and Satisfaction
"Happy are those who obey His decrees and search for Him with all their hearts" (Ps.119:2, NLT).
"...so I will continue with you so that you will grow and experience the simcha (joy) of your emunah (faith)" (Phil.1:25, NLT)
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says Yahweh. 'They are plans for good and not for for disaster, to give you a future and a tiqveh (hope). In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me in earnest, you will find Me when you seek Me. I will be found by you,' says Yahweh" (Jer.29:11-14a, NLT).
As you serve Him, and serve Him well, you will discover that a job well done brings a deep sense of satisfaction which itself causes simcha (joy) to arise as you sense Yahweh's pleasure in you. As Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
Just as Sukkot is a celebration, so is everything that you do right, and everything you do to further Yahweh's Kingdom on earth.
"You have been faithful in handling this small amount ... Let's celebrate together!" (Mt.25:21, NLT).
Suffering and Partnership with Messiah
As we have seen, difficult circumstances, though no fun in the short term, do not prevent us from being happy. Not only do they help us better understand what Messiah went through for us, as well as His servants of the past who may have served us directly or indirectly, but difficult circumstances actually make us partners with Him. Hear what Paul and Pester testify about this:
Present Difficulties Will End
"... Since I know it is all for Messiah's good, I am quite content with my weakness and with insults, hardship, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (1 Cor.12:8-10, NLT).
"Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead be glad - because ... you will have the wonderful simcha (joy) of sharing in His glory..." (1 Pet.4:12-13, NLT; cp. Rom.5:2).
You see, happiness is not just in present realities that yield pleasure to us in the moment but in the certain knowledge of the promises of the future. Yahweh's promises of eternal chayim (life) can make us happy because we know that what we are presently going through will one day end:
Fruits of Sharing the Good News
"When all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with simcha (joy). You knew that you had better things waiting for you in eternity" (Heb.10:34, NLT).
"The apostles left the high council rejoicing that their Elohim (God) had counted them worthy to suffer dishonour for the Name of Yah'shua (Jesus)" (Ac.5:41, NLT).
Like I said, the flesh militates against accepting such things. So how can we know the spiritual reality sufficiently to have the same kind of experience as the apostles? I suggest that this is probably the most important way of knowing and experiencing the spiritual reality: by sharing the wonderful news about Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) by which we come to taste more and more of His simcha (joy) and so gain more and more assurance of the better things to come because nothing gives Elohim (God) quite as much simcha (joy) as souls being snatched out of the jaws of hell and brought into the amazing Kingdom that Messiah has prepared for them:
The Joy of Seeing Others Saved
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news of shalom (peace) and salvation, the news that the Elohim (God) of Israel reigns!" (Is.52:7, NLT).
It is worth repeating, because it's so important, that the Good News of Yah'shua (Jesus), and the wonderful relationship we can have with Yahweh through Him, is news of greatest happiness and simcha (joy) for us. When we receive this news as our own, we are supremely happy, but when we share it with others, the happiness is multiplied even more. But then you know the expression, "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac.20:35, NIV). I would like to suggest, though, that whilst it is exhillarating to be saved, it is even more satisfying to see others receive the same gift of eternal life, and to play some part in making that happen.
Shine Like the Stars
Godliness is like sunshine, radiating the warmth and light from Yahweh Himself. Witnessing is like starlight, reflecting the Son to others, as Daniel so poetically puts it:
Light of the Godly
"Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who turn many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever" (Dan.12:3, NLT).
Mapls Along the War
"The life of the godly is full of light and simcha (joy), but the sinner's light is snuffed out" (Prov.13:9, NLT).
All goodness comes from Elohim (God), and Elohim (God) is light. When we live godly lives, we are lamps along the derech (way), but when we live ungodly lives, the lamps go out. Only the light of godliness brings true happiness.
Don't make the mistake of believing that you cannot be happy if you have nothing materially or if you have not been successful in the world. Now I am not going to preach too much on this as I cannot claim to have suffered in the same way as many of the people we know who have lost everything. I think all of us know and understand loss in some form or another. We as a family here in sub-Arctic Sweden know what it is like not to be able to afford fuel with which to keep warm when it is -20°C outside! Some of you may remember those terrible winters ten or more years ago when we had to go around indoors in thick winter coats and winter boots, with blankets on our shoulders and were still cold! They were tough times for us, especially when some were ill. But we survived, the ministry thrived, and we were not crushed. After all, we are still here! So, yes, it is possible to be happy and have nothing materially, even if it is tough!
I am currently in the middle of reading a book by a White Russian immigré called The Berlin Diaries: 1940-45 which I know I have spoken to some of you about in which she describes the utter horror of being bombed out and having no shelter. Her home was pulverised like so many other hundreds of thousands of German civilians during the last world war. In every war in every land throughout history ordinary people have known what it is like to be totally stripped of material possessions. Then there are those who are persecuted by evil government who rob them of their belongings. Believers have experienced this over two millennia thousands of times.
Habakkuk on Being Stripped of Prosperity
In the third chapter of his book, Habakkuk describes what it is like to be utterly stripped of material prosperity. Yet he does not conclude with words of woe, misery and self pity, but proclaims jubilantly:
Again, this is not to deny the the very real suffering caused by losing everything but it is to remind us that the deepest and most satisfying type of happiness - simcha (joy) - does not depend on material possessions.
"Yet I will rejoice in Yahweh! I will be joyful in the Elohim (God) of my salvation" (Hab.3:18, NLT).
The Pretense of Wealth and Poverty
Now if it is true that material poverty can bring spiritual riches, then it is also true - and many will testify who have seen the emet (truth) - that material riches can often bring spiritual poverty. There are many rich people who are most miserable. It is certainly possible to have both sorts of riches, but do watch out should you become materially 'blessed', because so few know how to handle wealth wisely - their material blessing so often becomes a spiritual curse. I guess that is what the writer of Proverbs might have had in mind when he said:
Store Up Treasure Above
"Some who are poor pretend to be rich; others who are rich pretend to be poor" (Prov.13:7, NLT).
Let's let Yah'shua (Jesus) sum the matter up for us, for He knew - and knows - what brings real happiness and what doesn't:
A Week of Deliberation
"Don't store up treasure here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be" (Mt.6:19-21, NLT).
Brethren and sisters, we have spent a whole week this Sukkot (Tabernacles) considering what true joy and happiness consists of and this I have done because of what is about to happen globally. Some of you have had a small foretaste of this in numerous hurricanes, floodings, dispossessions, homelessness and other difficulties. I cannot emphasise strongly enough that you need to know where Yahweh wants you to be, and to be prepared to hold out there for probably at least a year with all the provisions that that entails - food, water, medicines and so on. We have been given extra months of grace as I am sure the prayers of the qodeshim (saints) have prevailed in the Throne Room of our Elohim (God) to give people more time. But I fear much more time cannot surely be left.
Tomorrow is Shemini Atseret and we shall be meeting tomorrow morning for a sabbath service. Yahweh has still not given me the message but I have seen one or two interesting and, I think, important things that I definitely want to share with you. I pray this has been a blessed Sukkot, at least in the spiritual sense, and that you have found simcha (joy) in Messiah for the first time or have been able to renew it, and have a renewed sense of tiqveh (hope). May you have a blessed evening and night is my prayer in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.
Continued in Part 8
 Better known to English readers as Thomas ŕ Kempis, the French version of this German divine's name
 As opposed to slavish fear