Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not even see Him now, you believe and trust in Him and you greatly rejoice and delight with inexpressible and glorious joy,
1 Peter 1:8
Christians are the happiest people in the world. According to our text they “rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,” and nobody else does. Why are Christians so happy?
First of all, Christians are happy because they know their sins are all forgiven. “Everyone who believes is justified from all things.” (Acts 13:39) Christians know their sins are forgiven because the Holy Spirit bears witness of forgiveness in their hearts.
The apostle Peter preached about Jesus in the household of Cornelius. He said, “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43) Cornelius and his whole household believed it, and the Spirit of God came upon them immediately.
When you and I believe in Jesus, His Spirit comes into our hearts, bearing witness with our spirits that our sins are all forgiven and that we are the children of God. There is no joy on earth like the joy of knowing that God has forgiven and blotted out every sin you ever committed.
Suppose a person was in prison for some crime, and someone brought him a pardon. Don’t you think he would be happy? But that is nothing compared to knowing that God has forgiven all your sins. Oh, the joy that comes into the heart when a man knows that every sin he ever committed is blotted out and that God has absolutely nothing against him!
A great king wrote a song of joy that has lived through the centuries. That king had been a great sinner, and God had forgiven his sin. He had much to be happy about. He was the greatest king of his day. He had great wealth and great armies. He was the greatest general of the time, and he had a great palace. But when he wrote his song of joy he did not say, “Happy is the man who has a beautiful palace” or “Happy is the man who has great armies” or “Happy is the man who is loved by his people.” He said, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”(Psalm 32:1-2) Every man who receives the Lord Jesus as his Savior will have his sins forgiven and will have the joy of knowing that every sin is blotted out.
We live in an unhappy world, yet the pursuit of happiness occupies most people. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that he gave himself to the pursuit of happiness. He indulged himself in every thing available, but his conclusion was that only God could give true happiness.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher. “Vanity of vanities! All [that is done without God’s guidance] is vanity [futile, meaningless—a wisp of smoke, a vapor that vanishes, merely chasing the wind].” And I set my mind to seek and explore by [man’s] wisdom all [human activity] that has been done under heaven. It is a miserable business and a burdensome task which God has given the sons of men with which to be busy and distressed. I spoke with my heart, saying, “Behold, I have acquired great [human] wisdom and experience, more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of [moral] wisdom and [scientific] knowledge.” And I set my mind to know [practical] wisdom and to discern [the character of] madness and folly [in which men seem to find satisfaction]; I realized that this too is a futile grasping and chasing after the wind. I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure and gratification; so enjoy yourself and have a good time.” But behold, this too was vanity (futility, meaninglessness). I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to gratify myself with wine while [at the same time] having my mind remain steady and guide me wisely; and how to take control of foolishness, until I could see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives. I made great works: I built houses for myself; I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and orchards for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made pools of water for myself from which to water the forest and make the trees bud. I bought male and female slaves and had slaves born in my house. I also possessed herds and flocks larger than any who preceded me in Jerusalem. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male singers and female singers, and the delights and pleasures of men— many concubines. So I became great and excelled more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also remained with me. Whatever my eyes looked at with desire I did not refuse them. I did not withhold from my heart any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor; and this was my reward for all my labor. Then I considered all which my hands had done and labored to do, and behold, all was vanity and chasing after the wind and there was no profit (nothing of lasting value) under the sun. So I turned to consider [secular] wisdom, madness, and folly; for what will the man do who succeeds the king? Nothing except what has already been done. Then I saw that [even secular] wisdom [that brings sorrow] is better than [the pleasures of] folly and self-indulgence as light excels darkness. So I hated all the fruit (gain) of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will succeed me. There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and assure himself that there is good in his labor. Even this, I have seen, is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? For to the person who pleases Him God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who pleases God. This too is vanity and chasing after the wind.
Here was a man who had it all and did it all and at the end of it all declared that to seek happiness in this world without God is vanity. Jesus promised us joy if we would receive Him as our Savior. He asks us the great question:
25 For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity]. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world [wealth, fame, success], but forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
He tells us that in the pursuit of the things of this world, we shouldn’t neglect the saving of our souls for salvation provides the only true and lasting joy. If our happiness is only in our health, when our health fails we will lose our joy. If our happiness is connected to our career and it comes to an end, we can lose our joy. Every happiness that is connected to this world is at best temporary but when our joy is connected to Christ, it continues even in the loss of earthly things. The joy that Christ promises is through Him and Him alone.
11 I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.
This is the secret to a life of happiness. We receive the joy of Christ and His joy is so much that it fills us to overflowing. As Psalm 23 says, “My cup runs over!” May you be filled with the joy of the Lord today and may that joy wash away all your stress and anxieties because you know that you are loved by God without reservation.
Dr. John Thompson