Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Book Review: Happiness

Two years ago I started reading Happiness by Randy Alcorn. I have greatly enjoyed reading this book, and I have learned so much! I was given a complimentary copy from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review. I never thought that it would take me two years to finish reading this book and write my review. My thanks to Tyndale for their patience with me!

Happiness is a very big book (481 pages), and it has been a slow read for me. I could have read it quickly simply to get through it. But it is so good, and there is so much Scripture referenced in it, that I wanted to take my time. I went through this book slowly and carefully with my Bible next to me and my pen in hand. I underlined and starred numerous sections. I looked verses up in my Bible and took notes. I studied what Scripture has to say about happiness while I read this book. 

Our message shouldn't be "Don't seek happiness," but "You'll find in Jesus the happiness you've always longed for." - Randy Alcorn

I want to share with you just a little of what I have learned by reading Happiness.

It seems to have become a common misconception that as Christians we are to be joyful, but not happy. Sometimes it is taught that joy is godly, and happiness is worldly. We should be joyful, but we should not seek to be happy. Joy is enduring; happiness is fleeting. God cares about our holiness, but not our happiness.

The Bible does talk a lot about joy and rejoicing, but it also talks about happiness and gladness, and these words are used parallel to one another in Scripture. It has only been in recent years that Christians have begun to think that we shouldn’t be happy; we should be joyful instead. It was interesting to read about this change in thought and teaching, which Randy covers in chapter five, What’s the Difference between Joy and Happiness?

It is not just okay to be happy; it is good to be happy. We are even commanded to be happy! Randy Alcorn says, “Paul’s words in Philippians 4:4 are often translated ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.’ They could also be translated, ‘Be happy in the Lord always, and again I say be happy.’ Commenting on this verse, Spurgeon said, ‘It is intended that we should be happy. That is the meaning…that we should be cheerful’” (page 18).

Happiness is divided into four sections:
  • Our Compelling Quest for Happiness
  • The Happiness of God
  • The Bible’s Actual Words for Happiness
  • Understanding and Experiencing Happiness in God

I found each of these sections to be helpful, insightful, and fascinating!

I appreciated reading quotes from Christians who have written about happiness many years ago and in recent years. Here are a few of my favorites:
Those who are "beloved of the Lord" must be the most happy and joyful people to be found anywhere upon the face of the earth. – Charles Spurgeon 
He has no design on us, but to make us happy…Who should be cheerful, if not the people of God? – Thomas Watson 
I assert without hesitation, that the conversion described in Scripture is a happy thing and not a miserable one, and that if converted persons are not happy, the fault must be in themselves….I am confident the converted man is the happiest man. – J. C. Ryle 
There is nothing that more tends to strengthen the faith of the young believer than to hear the veteran Christian, covered with scars from the battle, testifying that the service of his Master is a happy service, and that, if he could have served any other master, he would not have done son, for His service is pleasant, and His reward everlasting joy. – Charles Spurgeon 
If you ask me, "Doesn’t the world need to see Christians as happy in order to know the truth of our faith and be drawn to the great Savior?" my answer is "Yes, yes, yes!" And they need to see that our happiness is the indomitable work of Christ in the midst of our sorrow. – John Piper 
If you have nice little categories for "joy is what Christians have" and "happiness is what the world has," you can scrap those when you go to the Bible, because the Bible is indiscriminate in its use of the language of happiness and joy and contentment and satisfaction. – John Piper 
O cheerful, happy, joyous people, I wish there were more of you! . . . Let the uppermost joy you have always be "Jesus Christ, Himself.” – Charles Spurgeon 
Despite your tribulation, take full delight in God your exceeding joy this morning, and be happy in Him. – Charles Spurgeon 
The people of God ought to be the happiest people in all the wide world! – A. W. Tozer

If you ask me, "Doesn’t the world need to see Christians as happy in order to know the truth of our faith and be drawn to the great Savior?" my answer is "Yes, yes, yes!" And they need to see that our happiness is the indomitable work of Christ in the midst of our sorrow. – John Piper

While reading Happiness, I was struck by how often we are commanded in Scripture to be happy, and I've been reminded of how much we have to be happy about. Of all people, Christians should be the happiest on earth! The gospel is good news of great joy - good news of great happiness! What a wonderful thing to remember during the Christmas season and throughout the year.

If forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternity in Heaven with Jesus isn't a reason for happiness, then I don't know what is. It is the hope of the Gospel that keeps me going on the hard days. It is the promise of eternal life that brings me happiness when the sorrows of life in a fallen world overwhelm. Pursuing Christ and enjoying His good gifts brings happiness in the midst of suffering.

Happiness was an excellent book to read, and it is one that I will keep on my bookshelf as a reference for years to come. I highly recommend Happiness! This is a message that is needed by Christians today. It is a message that is needed by the world. There is true and lasting happiness to be found, and that happiness is found in knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior and living for Him alone.

Happiness is a good and thorough book. If you aren’t able to read such a long book, you might enjoy 60 Days of Happiness. If you want to read Happiness, you can find it at the EPM store and on Amazon.

Randy Alcorn is an author and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM), a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching principles of God's Word and assisting the church in ministering to unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled, and unsupported people around the world. His ministry focus is communicating the strategic importance of using our earthly time, money, possessions, and opportunities to invest in need-meeting ministries that count for eternity. He accomplishes this by analyzing, teaching, and applying biblical truth. 

Before starting EPM in 1990, Randy served as a pastor for fourteen years. He has a bachelor of theology and a master of arts in biblical studies from Multnomah University and an honorary doctorate from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and has taught on the adjunct faculties of both. A New York Times bestselling author, Randy has written more than fifty books, including Heaven, The Treasure Principle, and the award-winning novel Safely Home. His books have sold more than ten million copies and have been translated into more than sixty languages.

Randy has written for many magazines, including EPM's Eternal Perspectives. He is active on Facebook and Twitter and has been a guest on more than seven hundred radio, television, and online programs.

Randy resides in Gresham, Oregon, with his wife, Nanci. They have two married daughters and are the proud grandparents of five grandsons. Randy enjoys time spent with his family, biking, snorkeling, underwater photography, researching, and reading.

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