the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Lately I have run across a number of people who ascribe to the “I'm happy so everything is okay” philosophy of life. These are the sort of people the psalmist speaks of when he says, But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my feet almost slid out from under me. For I envied those who are proud, as I observed the prosperity of the wicked. For they suffer no pain; their bodies are strong and well-fed. They are immune to the trouble common to men; they do not suffer as other men do. Arrogance is their necklace, and violence their clothing. Their prosperity causes them to do wrong; their thoughts are sinful. They mock and say evil things; they proudly threaten violence. They speak as if they rule in heaven, and lay claim to the earth. Therefore they have more than enough food to eat, and even suck up the water of the sea. They say, "How does God know what we do? Is the sovereign one aware of what goes on?" Take a good look! This is what the wicked are like, those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer (Psalms 73:2-12).
The modern examples of this kind seem to have it made. They generally ignore ethical barriers to the satisfaction of their desire and they claim they are happy and at peace. In many cases their relativism is so extreme, it is without any logic whatsoever. This allows them to dodge the evidence of their foolishness no matter how compelling the argument arrayed against their worldview may be.
In these situations I will invariably point out that happiness is no indication of whether they are living the sort of life they should. Certainly, the man who refuses to deny his fleshly lusts will experience a certain form of happiness. After all, happiness can be defined as the gratification of desire and the enjoyment of pleasure. Thus, we should expect the unregenerate man to experience 'happiness' to the degree that he indulges his desire. But this is not true happiness – or joy.
True happiness is found in acknowledging that life's pleasures are a gift from God (Deuteronomy 14:26, 1Timothy 6:17). Most profound is the joy one has in knowing they are a child of God in Jesus Christ. The joy that comes from knowing Christ is impervious to the cares of the world (John 16:22,33, 17:13; Romans 15:13). It provides peace and enables believers to experience the joy of God's salvation even in the midst of trial and tribulation (Habakkuk 3:17-18, Matthew 5:10-12, 2Corinthians 6:10, Colossians 1:24, James 1:2).
I have spoken with “happy pagans” both young and old and it is not necessarily true that the unregenerate pleasure seeker will eventually wake up and smell the coffee. Our evangelistic efforts with this kind of person should not focus upon the idea that they might one day realize how empty their hedonistic lifestyle really is. Instead we must confront their sin with the Word of God.
Our job is to take every opportunity we have to to tell them their happiness is a false hope and that they need to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 2:38). We are under obligation to tell them that the destiny of the wicked is punishment and God will put them in slippery places [and] bring them down to ruin. How desolate they become in a mere moment! Terrifying judgments make their demise complete! (Psalms 73:18-19). It is the Word of God that is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart not the latest program of friendship evangelism from the emerging church (or whatever they are calling it these days). Understand, I am not suggesting we shouldn't be friendly; I am saying it is inherently unfriendly to soft-pedal the Gospel.
In short, we must tell happy pagans in our acquaintance that their happiness leads to eternal damnation.