The Right To Be Happy?

Read Romans 5

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that
tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character;
and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint…”
(Romans 5:3-4)

Food For Thought… Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that each American, and I assume, every human being on earth, ought to have the right to the pursuit of happiness. That is a good thing, depending on the definition of happiness—which I suspect, is an inexhaustible subject that we are still trying to work out to this day, nearly 300 years later.

Jefferson said, mind you, the pursuit of happiness, but he didn’t say we had the right to be happy. Popular culture, driven largely by the modern media, has fed us the line that we have a “divine right” to be happy for a generation or two now, but I think we who follow Christ would be much better off if we were disabused of that notion.

We do not have the right to be happy! We do, however, have the right to a far better attribute: The right to be holy. Jesus Christ died on the cross to make sure of that. That is what Paul is spending a great deal of time describing here in Romans 5. In fact, Paul begins this chapter with these great words:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

We have been justified by our faith. That justification came by Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, by which his righteousness was imputed to us. Since we are righteous through Christ by his death and through our faith, we are declared holy in the sight of a holy God, and therefore secure for all eternity. By this, we rightly glory in this unshakable hope—which we might say is what true happiness is all about.

But there is more. Not only do we rejoice in this hope of the future glory of salvation soon to be realized, we rejoice in the glory of our present sufferings. Why? Because as Paul says, those tribulations loosen this present world’s grip on our loyalties and produce in us the stuff of heaven: perseverance in our faith, Christ-like character, and the unshakeable hope of eternity.

It is time we redefine happiness. True happiness is the imputed righteousness of Christ. True happiness is the hope of the glory of God. True happiness is the very tribulations that would make the normal earthling unhappy, but reminds the heaven-bound believer of that very thing: that they are bound for heaven.

That’s the happiness I want to pursue.

Prayer… Lord, help me to embrace my present sufferings as temporary reminders of your grace and my future glory.

One more thing…
“If we really believe that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home,’ why should we not look forward to the arrival?” — C.S. Lewis

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