“Fake News” is a term that entered our vocabulary this year. For most of my life, I consumed news of the world and followed the political scene in this country avidly. I read the paper every day for 40 years. ABCNews was a such a regular part of life that my children grew up thinking that Peter Jennings, the anchor of that broadcast, was a family friend. But, like so many Americans, I have disengaged from news because I no longer can tell what is propaganda (fake news) and what is actual truth. I don’t trust any news source to bring me an unbiased story any longer.
Much the same kind of war is being waged for you and me spiritually! The world in which we live is redefining morality, meaning, and purpose for us. Words may be the same, but meanings are radically different. Some call this ‘progress,’ but what I see is confusion. Families, churches, nations are being torn to shreds by lies that have been told so many times that many believe they are true. One of the basic lies that has become ‘truth’ is that happiness is life’s highest value. We are told that we must find our bliss, that we should not do anything that makes us unhappy. And so, we change jobs, abandon our church, seek a divorce, set aside principled lives – in a headlong pursuit of ‘happiness.’
In my pastoral care, there are those who come to me in difficult situations looking for counsel. When I suggest that they patiently work through the challenge, that they wait to take action as they prayerfully allow God to develop His plan, I am often met with a look of astonished disbelief. “Pastor, I can’t do this another day. I am just so unhappy!” And, that is the last word as far as they are concerned. Being happy far outweighs all other things for so many of us.
I trust God’s Word and the Holy Spirit’s promise to make that Word alive in me. Do you believe this passage? Read it carefully, allowing the implications of each line to penetrate your consciousness.
“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever.
The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair.
They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.
They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.
(Pause here. Think about those preceding lines!)
How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
(The implied answer? By knowing God’s Word)
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:7-14, NLT)
Before you start to say, “Yes, but …” and offer excuses for ignoring the counsel of Scripture, think about what you’re giving away. Life, wisdom, joy, insight, reward, and the approval of the Creator await those who embrace His truth and give themselves to loving Him. “There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool? Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.” (Psalm 19:11-13, The Message)
So, who are you going to trust?
“Follow your heart” is a nice sentiment, but it is also a lie that will lead you to a lesser life and perhaps even to destruction. “Be happy” is a great thought and I do pray that each of us can find a place to be happy much of the time, but I also know that chasing happiness is like looking for water in a desert mirage, an empty hope.
Here is a prayer of David, after he chased his own happiness in the arms of Bathsheba and brought sorrow to himself and his household. The word from the Word – “Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home. Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.” (Psalm 51:12-14, The Message) Amen