St Augustine was an early Christian theologian and writer whose writings still have an influence in church thinking today. He was baptised, became a priest, a bishop, a famous Catholic writer, founder of a religious priests order, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived. He became very devout and charitable too.
On the wall of his room he had the following sentence written in large letters: “Here we do not speak evil of anyone.” St Augustine overcame strong heresies, practised great poverty and supported the poor, preached very often and prayed with great fervour right up until his death. But in his younger life he rejected Christianity and spent a wild youth, with his mother Monica praying for his conversion every day.
He wrote much, and is still quoted today. I am interested in some of his thoughts. The most well-known is his prayer: “You have made us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You”. But in another article he was writing about prayer, and said something very simple which caught my attention: “Pray for a happy life”. Maybe from his own personal experience he knew he was not happy until submitting his life to God.
Many of us pray for a happy and successful life. It makes sense. It was William Barclay who wrote the prayer: “Dear God, give us the spirit which can enjoy life, and which can help others enjoy it.” (from A Barclay Prayer Book). I believe that God wants to give us a happy life. The problem is we don’t agree with his definition of happiness. Our human nature can be our own worst enemy and our biggest inhibitor to happiness. We are all born into sin, so we are sinners from birth. Thus the need to be born again. And Jesus gives us the chance to change. And that’s called conversion.
Life can feel frustrating, maddening. At times, happiness and contentment may seem achievable only in your wildest dreams. Have you ever wondered how are we able to be happy? Where does happiness come from? It is a gift from God. True happiness is only found in Jesus Christ. Nothing gives you an everlasting joy and happiness like Jesus Christ. Many people try to substitute Christ for other things to make them happy, like their jobs or hobbies or accumulating wealth—but this joy only lasts for a moment. Charles Spurgeon said a long time ago: “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 (VOICE) in God’s Word says, “There is nothing better for us than to be joyful and to do good throughout our lives”.
The Secret to Happiness
Fanny Crosby wrote over 8000 hymns. She lost her sight when she was only six-weeks-old. She lived into her nineties, composing thousands of well-loved hymns. On her 92nd birthday she cheerfully said, “If in all the world you can find a happier person than I am, do bring him to me. I should like to shake his hand.” That’s an astounding confession. How can you go through 92 years blind and still be happy? Our happiness can be anchored in God, regardless of our circumstances. Most of us rely on our day-to-day life to be happy but it’s more than that. How much better it is to believe the Bible and Psalm 16:11 (VOICE) with the prayer: “You [O Lord] direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment”.
Some time ago, a man and his son decided to find out the secret to happiness. So one day, they turned on their computer, booted up a search engine on the Internet, and typed in the words ‘true happiness’ hoping they would find the answers. However, after several minutes of searching, the computer said, ‘No documents match the search’. In other words, the computer indicated that true happiness could not be found in the world. What gives you a feeling of joy and a sense of wellbeing? How do you define ‘happiness’ anyway? Humpty Dumpty said to Alice in Wonderland, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more or less.”
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And the word happiness can mean many things—but in Jesus Christ we find a deep happiness which stays with us all the time, regardless of what’s going on. Circumstances that are beyond our control have little to do with our being happy. Happiness is based upon our response to life’s circumstances and our doing what is in our power to do to create a better life each day.
Each day, as we wake from our sleep, we need to adopt the attitude expressed in Psalms 118:24 (NASB), “This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The Apostle Paul commands us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NASB), “Rejoice always.” Again, in Philippians 4:4 (NASB), “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”