Luke 10:17-20 (CEV)
17 When the seventy-two followers returned, they were excited and said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed when we spoke in your name!”
18 Jesus told them:
I saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 I have given you the power to trample on snakes and scorpions and to defeat the power of your enemy Satan. Nothing can harm you. 20 But don’t be happy because evil spirits obey you. Be happy that your names are written in heaven!
What Kind Of Happiness Will We Pursue?
‘Happiness’ and the pursuit of happiness are pretty big things in our society today.
We want to be happy.
We want our kids to be happy.
We encourage people to do what makes them happy.
But happiness is a funny marker for success.
There are things I can do that make me happy in the short run (like pigging out on chocolates) that will make me miserable in the long run. There are things I can do that make me miserable in the short run (like running) that, if I were healthy, would make me happy in the long run.
There are things that I think will make me happy, and things that other people want to tell me will make me happy – buying this thing, taking this job, moving, redecorating, etc. – that hold no guarantees to my ultimate happiness.
And there are things that we get happy about, things we get excited about, that just sort of miss the point.
That doesn’t mean that happiness isn’t important.
But it does mean that we need to be pretty intentional about what things we chose to be happy about.
Personally, I’d be pretty likely to come back from a trip like these followers excited and happy that the demons obeyed. That would feel like a pretty stellar accomplishment! But Jesus doesn’t seem to think that demonic obedience is a good enough thing to stake your happiness on.
He seems to want us to have something richer, something deeper, something more guaranteed, something longer lasting. The happiness that Jesus wants us to seek after is a deep well suffused with the grace to get us through whatever else is going to happen. The happiness that Jesus wants us to root ourselves in is the happiness that our God loves us, and has brought us out of darkness into light; out of death into life.
See, all the other forms of happiness that we might pursue? There’s no guarantees for any of them. Maybe we’ll turn that trick on our snowboard and succeed, or maybe we’ll end up paralyzed. Maybe the person we love will live to be a hundred, and maybe they’ll die in an accident before the end of the day. Maybe the job we pursue or the house that we buy or the kids that we want won’t turn out the way that we quite had in mind.
I’m not saying that we should avoid all of these things. I don’t think Jesus is, either. We’re not supposed to live in fear, and we are supposed to live life to the full, so I think there’s a place for many of these things in our lives.
But what I hear Jesus saying, and what I want to remind us of today, is that the first place our happiness should be rooted in is this life that God offers to us through Jesus. I think he’s saying that if that comes first, if that’s our first priority and our richest investment and our deepest hunger, then we will have a happiness with firm roots that can get us through whatever challenges happen in life.
- What makes you happy?
- In what ways do you pursue happiness?
- Can you think of some times when you have been successful in pursuing happiness?
- Can you think of some times when you have been unsuccessful in pursuing happiness?
- What do you think of this idea of an ‘ultimate happiness’ to be found in the life that God offers us through Jesus?