Right now people are unhappier than ever. That may sound surprising because of all the progress humankind is making. Economists tell us we are the wealthiest generation in history. We have more leisure pursuits and entertainment than at any other time. We also have more modern conveniences than ever. Medical advances multiply year after year.
Yet, in spite of these advancements, we’re told by leaders in virtually every field — psychiatry, sociology, medicine, education — that this is the unhappiest generation that ever lived. And this is not restricted to secular society. The same statistics apply to the family of God — people who are saved, sanctified, filled with God’s Spirit, know God’s Word and are active in Christian community. Young people speak of being bored, even with thousands of digital entertainments within their reach. At the end of the day it all leaves them with an internal angst.
Our joy is being stolen from us! The Bible says, “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). This is not just a warning for people about addictions or gross sins. The enemy of our souls wants to rob us of all that God has in mind for us, including joy, peace, contentment, vibrancy of life — and according to the Bible, that includes happiness.
The Bible tells us, “Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; Yahweh, they walk in the light of Your presence” (Psalm 89:15). “I will turn their mourning into joy, give them consolation, and bring happiness out of grief” (Jeremiah 31:13).
How do followers of Jesus in other parts of the world endure horrifying attacks? How do imprisoned Christians in countries hostile to their faith maintain hope? They have within them a joy and happiness that sustains them through it all. The Bible they look to renews their minds, stirring within them what the Spirit has already placed in their hearts: that true happiness — given by God — is a reality in our lives.
When your head is filled with negative thoughts — when you begin to doubt God’s love for you and his pleasure in you — remember that you are a child of your heavenly Father who takes pleasure in you. His Word makes this a reality, so believe it and find true happiness!
After Saul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:1-8), he moved around a bit, making a short visit to Jerusalem with the apostles before returning to his hometown of Tarsus. Later Barnabas went there and persuaded Saul to join him in helping the church at Antioch where God’s grace was so evident (Acts 11:9-26). The two of them joined other gifted prophets and teachers, and ministered there for many months, strengthening the believers’ faith in Jesus.
As the leaders of the church in Antioch were purposely drawing near to God (worshiping and fasting), God drew near to them as promised (see James 4:8). Luke tells the story in a matter-of-fact manner, which gives us some insight into the spiritual practices of early Christian leaders.
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3).
The believers heard the Spirit instruct them to “set apart Barnabas and Saul” so they could be sent out to do some new, specific work for God. No one seemed particularly surprised by the Spirit’s directive for Saul and Barnabas to give themselves to this rather vague calling.
What was so significant about that moment? That was the beginning of Saul’s first missionary journey, and his travels changed the entire course of the Christian church. In fact, it was during his first trip that Saul’s name was changed to Paul, and he stepped out to take the lead as God used him in even greater ways than his older compatriot, Barnabas.
When God’s Spirit moves, a continual process of setting believers apart and sending them out to work for Christ is set in motion. And it is not reserved only for those in formal ministry. You may be asked to go down the street and encourage a hurting neighbor. Maybe he will call you to go on a short-term mission trip or give yourself to intercessory prayer. When the Holy Spirit is moving and you yield to his influences, life becomes both exciting and filled with challenges only God can meet.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
“So the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians … Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying, ‘I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!’” (Exodus 14:30; 15:1).
God wants you to come out of your storm a worshipper! He had made a way for you in your dark night and he has a plan to bring you out as a shining example to the world of his faithfulness to his people.
Most Christians are familiar with what happened to Israel at the Red Sea and how God miraculously delivered his chosen people. Yet, you may wonder what this incident has to do with making you a worshipper.
Here’s the scene: Israel encamped by the sea and the people were rejoicing in their newfound freedom. After four hundred years of bondage, God had led them out of the iron furnace of Egypt. As they reveled at their first taste of freedom, they were filled with the hope that freedom brings, singing and crying, “We’re free at last!” They were so excited by the promises God had given them.
This scene poignantly represents the Christian who has been delivered from sin — he rejoices in his newfound freedom from past bondages and he has a holy melody in his heart because he’s living out God’s promises. But then an attack comes! In the case of the Israelites, Pharaoh’s army attacked suddenly and unexpectedly, sending shockwaves throughout the camp. At the hour of Israel’s greatest peace, the enemy sought to devour them; at the very height of their freedom, during their hour of greatest hope, Satan tried to take them out.
“The children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold … they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord” (Exodus 14:10). In spite of their fear, the Lord supernaturally protected Israel and brought them through in victory (see Exodus 14:31).
When Satan comes at you and tries to defeat you, just as Moses told the Israelites, the Lord would say to you, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today … The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (14:13-14). And like Israel, you can come forth as a worshipper and sing aloud in triumph!
Undoubtedly, this generation has taken the sin of unbelief too lightly and right now, we are seeing the tragic results. Many believers are in depression and unrest; of course, some suffer for physical reasons, but many others endure such suffering because of their spiritual condition — often brought on by unbelief.
The Lord always uses strong language when he refers to unbelief among his people, words such as wrath, anger, abhorrence and tempting him. Moses made a point of reminding the younger Israelites of this: “You saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place … And the Lord heard the sound of your words [of unbelief], and was angry, and took an oath, saying, ‘Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land of which I swore to give to your fathers’” (Deuteronomy 1:31, 34-35).
Shortly after the Red Sea crossing, God commanded Israel to go boldly into Canaan and he gave them a powerful word of assurance: “Look, the Lord your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it … do not fear or be discouraged …The Lord your God … will fight for you” (1:21, 30). What an incredible promise! But Israel staggered at God’s pledge to them and instead of taking him at his promise, they sent spies into Canaan, who brought back an evil report — full of unbelief (see Numbers 13 and 14). You see, while the spies were there, they were influenced by Satan and failed to take God at his word. Thus, they returned to camp as instruments of the devil.
God brings all his children to the ultimate testing of their faith. In fact, you may be in this place right now. You have a wonderful history with God and he has given you his covenant promises, but the devil has come to you with lies, telling you that you’re not going to make it.
If you have begun to accept such lies and you believe God is going to fail you in your crisis, it is time for you to look into God’s Word and believe it! God has not left you to fight alone, so take his hand and walk into the promised land he has prepared for you.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light … He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light” (John 1:6-8).
We are told that Jesus is the light of the world, “that all through him might believe” (1:7). Yet, we read, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it … He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (1:5, 11).
Unbelief has always grieved the heart of Jesus. When he came to earth in the flesh, he brought great light into the world that was meant to open the eyes of men. Yet, in spite of this amazing show of light, Scripture speaks of examples of unbelief.
One such example is seen at Bethany when Jesus was having supper in the home of his friends Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus, whom Christ had raised from the dead. At the time, crowds were passing through town on their way to the Passover feast at Jerusalem and they were intent on catching a glimpse of the man being called Messiah and the man he had resurrected (see John 12:1-9).
In the same chapter, we find these people waving palm branches and singing hosannas to Jesus as he enters Jerusalem on a donkey. They were seeing the fulfillment of a prophecy they had heard all their lives (see Zechariah 9:9). Finally, a voice came thundering from heaven as the Father glorified his own name (see John 12:30).
Each of these things happened before a huge throng of religious people, but still the people asked a question that absolutely stunned Jesus: “Who is this Son of Man?” (12:34). Their blindness was astounding and the Lord warned: “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you” (12:35).
Jesus’ words here apply to Christians who refuse to mix the Word they hear with faith. They neglect to grasp, embrace and walk in the light they’ve been given and one day they will realize, “God doesn’t speak to me anymore.”
Beloved, accept God’s miracle-working power in your life; it will empower you to walk in freedom and assurance. When hard times come to you, you can say with confidence, “I’ve seen your light, Lord. Work your miracles in me again!”