What Determines Happiness

By Jimmy Tuten

Our nation is founded upon a declaration that gives each person the right to pursue happiness. Ibis desire of our founding fathers was motivated by the knowledge that Jehovah desires man’s greatest good. God wants man to be happy. The entire Bible is permeated with the word “blessed” which means “happy.” Quite contrary to the thinking of some, you do find happiness by searching for it. But one must search for it in the right places, i.e., “seek ye first the kingdom of God. . . ” (Matt. 6:33). We are all guaranteed the pursuit of happiness, but we have to catch up with it ourselves. Then when we discover what true happiness really is we must take it with us into every relationship of life: our marriage, our jobs and everyday discipleship. It is a by-product of achievement. This is what the beatitudes of Matthew 5 are all about; the giving of wholehearted effort to the most worthy cause of our Lord. Happiness is within us and it does not get there by itself. So we are as happy as we make up our minds to be and it is in the heart, not your circumstances. “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth” (Rom. 14:22). Where you are and what you are determines happiness. No one will be truly happy until that person is a Christian with a sense of accomplishment and concern for others.

“Happiness” Defined

From a form of the Hebrew ‘a-shar, I ‘to declare happy” and the Greek makarios, “happy,” happiness is defined as “a state of well-being characterized by relative permanence, by dominantly agreeable emotion ranging in value from mere contentment to deep and intense joy in living, and by a natural desire for its continuation” (Webster). It differs therefore from mere pleasure, which may come about simply through chance contact and stimulation. The happiness described in the Psalms and Proverbs, and particularly those spoken by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, are often called “blessedness” (beatitudes). “Happiness,” though, is a more exact rendering of the Bible terms used, for both Hebrew and Greek have distinct words for “blessing” (Hebrew, ‘barakh, “to bless;” Greek, eulogeo, “to speak well of, to bless”). Furthermore, “blessed carries the idea of the action of blessing, while “happy” brings to mind the state or condition that results from the blessing of God. One will find that many of the modern versions render ‘a-shar’ and makarios as “happy,” “happiness.” The KJV renders the Greek “happy” in Acts 26:2 and Romans 14:22. While men maintain that happiness is the greatest attainable good, only the Bible gives the solution to what constitutes happiness.

Happiness Sought In I’he Wrong Places

(1) Happiness is not found in wealth. Though many think so, happiness is not in what you have. If it could be bought, few of us could pay the price. In fact, we would be unhappy because of the price. Yet the sin of affluence is alarmingly increasing. “It is the preoccupation with possession, more than anything else that prevents men from living freely and nobly” (Bertrand Russell). Many of us grew up under the ethic: be thrifty, hardworking, and frugal, and then to accept fortune or riches as “grace.” The sad part is that this developed into a “pile-up-wealth syndrome” that has developed into a belief of imperativeness and consumption. We see this greed, but where is the treatment? Most of us have come to associate happiness with possession. While this accumulating and storing away can be attributed to habits of an earlier age when thrift and saving determined survival (the depression), the psychological conflict between alternative options will only frustrate. I thought I would be happy with cable television, but I am not that pleased because of the incompatibleness involved. There was no problem determining what to watch on the three available stations prior to this, but now I can’t decide which channel to turn tot I do not have much time to watch TV as it is. The very fact that you can’t get all the journals you would like to get, nor the new books that seem to engulf us, further illustrates my point. The overload of possessions, things, gadgets, opportunities and money requires us to make innumerable choices and our once “simple life” has been turned into frustration that gnaws at us with guilt feelings. Happiness is not found in possessions!

Solomon had great wealth (Eccl. 2:4-10). Did he find happiness in all this? No indeed! He said, “then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of Spirit, and there was no profit under the sun” (Eccl. 2:11). It was our Lord who said, “for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk. 12:15).

It would do us all good to remember the fable of King Midas, the ancient Greek story of a worshiper of gold, and the-richest man of his time. It is said that he loved gold so much that he spent hours counting his treasure and was thrilled as his fingers ran through the yellow coins. This love of gold obsessed his whole mind and he prayed that everything that he might touch would turn to gold. In time his wish was granted and he ran into the garden. With glee he touched the lovely blossoms and one by one they turned to cold, lifeless gold. Then his little girl, the darling of his heart, came in and not thinking, he took her in his arms and she became a golden lifeless statue. How well does this describe man who sees everything he touches turning to material things. When we speak of our children we speak of their material success, seldom of their spiritual prosperity! This curse of the touch of gold will never make us happy. True happiness comes not from having much to live on, but much to live for. Sir Thomas Vaux was right when he said:

Our wealth leaves us at death, Our kinsmen at the grave;

But virtues of the mind unto the heavens with us we have:

Wherefore, for Virtue’s sake, I can well be content.

The sweetest time in all my life to deem in thinking spent.

(2) Happiness is not found in pleasure nor popularity. Solomon tells us of the folly of confusing “pleasure” with “happiness” (Eccl. 2:1-3). It is vanity and vexation (v. 11). Haman learned to his sorrow the folly of seeking happiness in popularity (Esther 5:9-13; 7:8-10). Look at the daily reports. Who is he that kills himself? Who is taking the over-dose of sleeping pills? Who is he that turns to alcoholism? Many times it is the person that has everything the world can offer. Sometimes this person has beauty, glamour, wealth, and popularity; yet does not desire to live! How sad. The simple fact is, “happiness is much more dependent on the mental attitude than on the external resources” (Win. Lyon Phelps).

The Basis For Happiness

The Bible and experience teaches that the basis for happiness is: (1) Something to do. (2) Something to love. (3) Something to look forward to. It is living together with God, doing His will, walking in the light and joy of His love. Happiness is having something to live for. Read carefully Psalms 1:1-6 and you will see a happy man described, i.e., one who has joy of which neither crosses nor losses can deprive him. David is showing the secret of joyfulness. Without seeking it for its own sake, happiness comes from following the Law of God and finding happiness therein. God has annexed happiness to a life of loyalty to him. You say, “this is too commonplace, too simplified!” This may be true. But the very fact that multitudes have not given attention to this simplified, divine means of finding happiness is why so many are miserable in life. Psalms I shows that negatively speaking the happy man does not enter into the path of the wicked, nor go into the way of evil men. Positively speaking, it is the keeping of the Law of God before one’s eyes and in one’s heart. It may be that in the avoidance of evil men one may not have companions for a while, but he will not be lonely. His constant companions are godliness, purity, and reverence. Meditating in the Law of the Lord day and night gives one ample material for thought. The result is rich nutriment for character: the study of that which reveals the mind of God makes one like a fruitful tree. One may line his book shelves with modern day versions of happiness, but the Bible retains its supremacy as the book to regulate life. Those who regulate their lives by it are intrinsically happy because of what they are. The happy life is planted, not dropped into its place by mere chance. It is planted by God’s own hand as we follow His directions (1 Cor. 12:18). “Of his own will begat he us with the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (Jas. 1: 18). As such the happy man draws life and freshness from an unfailing source (“by the waters”). We are “rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith . . . ” (Col. 2:7). An avalanche of hardship may break the trunk, but one’s fife will not be uprooted.

The Key To Happiness

(1) The happy person gives wholehearted effort to some undertaking. Loafing or drifting never leads to happiness. To be happy one needs a cause to motivate him, to get the adrenalin flowing and to have direction in life. Life is rescued from emptiness and given direction that it might have positiveness.

(2) The happy person has a goal in life. Goals help us overcome obstacles, win victories and gain the crown of life (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Jesus showed the need to strive with purpose when He said, “but seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

(3) The happy person consents to the frustrations of life. . . For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11). It is the person who has nothing beyond themselves to search for that is unhappy when disappointments and hardships arise. Like Job we should say, “the Lord has given … and taken away” (Job 9:12; 1:21). Many of us can testify to the fact that the loss of a loved one is life’s most difficult experience (be it by divorce or death). When this experience comes, what do you do? One can sit around mourning in self-sympathy and self-pity, or one can get up and get going by meeting the disappointments with courage and resolution. The world is filled with people whose lives reached their highest heights as they became active in the midst of a great sorrow.

(4) The happy person keeps the wonder of appreciation before him. So many are unhappy because they have lost the sense. of amazement: the wonderment of creation (Rom. 1), of man himself (Psa. 8), and of the simple things of life. There is more beauty around us than one can take in during a life-time. How long has it been since you marveled at the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset? When did you last sit down to look (I mean really look) at the beauty of the rose petal, the loveliness of the daffodil or the radiance of the purple dahlia? There is beauty in the salty foam whipping up in the surf on the beach and the deformed pelican who comes to the boat for a handout while you are fishing. God gave us the beauty of nature and intends that man enjoy it. As Keats once said, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” The happy person takes time to stroll through the woods, to get up and watch the ever-changing sunrise, and to enjoy the simple things of life. It is better to appreciate something you have than to have something you do not appreciate. Carve your name on the marvel of God’s beauties. You will be a happier person.


There is an old legend about Aaron, a fisherman, who lived on the banks of a river. Walking home with his eyes half-closed one evening after a hard days’ toil, he dreamed about what he would do when he became rich. Suddenly, he saw a bedraggled leather pouch half-buried in the sand. He picked up the pouch and found it empty except for a number of small gritty stones. Absent-mindedly, he began throwing the pebbles into the water, one by one. Each time he threw a pebble he would say something like, “when I am rich, I’ll have a large house.” He kept throwing the pebbles into the water and finally said, “when I am rich, I will be happy!” This went on until there was only one stone left. Aaron stood still, deep in thought, and held the one remaining stone in his hand. A ray of light caught it and made it sparkle. He suddenly realized that he was holding a valuable gem. He also knew now that he had been throwing away the real riches in his hand while he idly dreamed of unreal riches in the future. And he stood deep in thought.

My friend, you hold in your hands the power to be happy in life. You must be alert, ready to take full advantage of each situation which beckons you to keep its potential treasures, be they monetary or otherwise. Alas! So many of us are like Aaron. We dream of happiness for the future while right now we toss away the riches of God’s grace of joyfulness. The world owes you nothing except the opportunity to be a success at whatever you do. Seize the opportunity! Walk in the precepts of the Lord and obey the gospel now (2 Thess. 1:7-9; Mk. 16:16). You want happiness? Then be what God wants you to be and do what He wants you to do. “Rejoice evermore” (I Thess. 5:16). “One thing have I desired of the Lord that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and enquire in his temple” (Psa. 27:4). “And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in his salvation” (Psa. 35:9). Happy is the man who renounces everything that puts a strain on his conscience.

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 19, pp. 579-581
October 6, 1983