Devotional Thoughts

Does God Want You to Be Holy or Happy?

Have you ever had the impression that God wants Christians to be holy, not happy? That spiritual growth is a duty rather than a delight? Psalm 1 says that’s just not true.

The first word of the Psalter is “blessed.” It describes one who is not only fortunate, but happy (like the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–12). Christianity isn’t a life of morose misery. God wants you to have joy that is “full” as you share in Jesus’ own joy (John 15:11; 16:24; 17:13). You may need to change your view of both Christianity and God. He is a generous and benevolent Giver of gladness! He wants you to be happy, and He tells you how through a series of three contrasts that will change your life.

Two Paths (Psalm 1:1-2)

If you want to be happy, Scripture tells you to avoid the way of the world (v. 1)—our culture and its ungodly values—and choose the way of the Word (v. 2). The world is constantly enticing you with promises of pleasure and satisfaction, but true delight comes from thinking deeply about the Scriptures.

Two Plants (Psalm 1:3-4)

The person who lives according to the Word is illustrated by a lush and healthy tree (v. 3). (Don’t you love the symbolism of the psalms?!) Few things give me more enjoyment than a beautiful tree—a towering pine, a tropical palm, or a stretching live oak. If you live according to Scripture, your life will be good: well-watered, fruitful, and fulfilling.

Christianity isn’t a life of morose misery. God wants you to have joy that is full.

On the other hand, if you live according to the world, you should expect sorrow and regret. The life of the ungodly person is dry and dead—like “chaff,” the dusty husks that fall to the ground when someone is winnowing wheat (v. 4). We moderns might say that the wicked person is like a tumbleweed, a hay bale, or a dry brown lawn.

Two Destinies (Psalm 1:5-6)

Although Psalm 1 begins with an offer of happiness, its ending is deadly serious. The one who walks according to the world will have a dry, sorrowful life, followed by a dry, sorrowful eternity. Verses 5 and 6 tell us that sinners will “perish”—a description of eternal damnation. We need another option. Thankfully, God gives us a final contrast. The person who lives according to the Word (v. 2) will enjoy a fruitful life (v. 3) which will culminate in eternal happiness (vv. 5–6).

God wants you to be happy, and He brings you true joy by making you holy through Jesus’ saving work.

This article by Chris Anderson is an excerpt from Day 2 of Gospel Meditations on the Psalms. For more spiritual encouragement, order the book below.