George Mueller once said “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.”
Psalm 1 answers the question, how does one find their soul happy in the Lord? Let's read Psalm 1 together as Christians have done from the beginning.
We begin a new series in the book of Psalms:
The opening verses of Psalm 1 start with "Blessed is the one" "Happy is the one" Not just happy, it's in the plural, 'happiness' is the person who…
The world offers short term pleasure and the word offers lifelong happiness. But this happiness will include praises to God, confession of sin, and lament in our suffering. There are over 60 psalms of lament. There are many types of Psalms. Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm and it answers the question you have been asking all your life. How do I find true and lasting happiness?
Point 1 The happy soul says “No!” to the world's influence.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, ~Psalm 1:1 (NIV)
The wise one who seeks true happiness has 3 postures. They do not walk, they do not stand with and they do not sit among the wicked, sinner scoffers. There is a descending tragedy. The wise one will not be drawn into ideas and behaviours that silence God or oppose his ways. Happiness puts up a fence, they will not entertain those ideas, they will not engage with those behaviours, they will not embrace those who stand against Christ.
Don’t misunderstand, it's not like we put our thumbs in our ears and say ‘I'm not listening.’ We are to take every idea prisoner for Christ and run every idea through the lens of the bible.
Those seeking to influence are described in 3 words, Wicked–Sinners–and Scoffers. Those who defy God and have no shame.
A friend of mine, a solid Christian has read a book on how the bible is not against same-sex marriage. It's written by a person who claims to love Jesus and loves his same-sex partner. My friend has a strong level of empathy and the book is drawing him away from 2000 years of consistent bible teaching on sexuality, to a view that is been agreed to for 30 years, promoted by the world marked by sinners and scoffers. To be fair he is doing the right thing by asking me to read the book and speak to the issue.
So the question is clear Who is influencing you in your life? Who are you opening yourself up to? Who has your ear? Every day is a battle for ideas and we are called to take every thought prisoner for Christ. Don’t let the world set the agenda for your life and faith a favourite singer, lecturer or influencer, a radio or TV personality, a preferred Podcaster or blogger or a friend or parent.
Come back to the question, Who has your ear? Who do you drop your guard with? Who do you find hard to resist? Who is shaping your values? Which set of ideas has your heart and mind? So often Christians take up an ideology that is fashionable and then dip into the bible to find the verses that justify their ..'ism' Scienceism, Feminism, Chauvinism, Capitalism. Each has a partial truth but treat it as the whole truth. I know it sounds sophisticated. Don’t be seduced.
Remember when you were young and you did something stupid and Mum said, Who told you to do that?...my friends were doing it and she would say ‘Would you jump off a cliff if they were to do it?’ It was good argument then and it’s a good argument now.
The Christian knows that to worship God and by pleasing him we are to no longer conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind. That is how we worship God and please him.
Someone at youth last term asked me a question: What to do with a friendship that is tempting you to sin. My rule is simple, who is influencing who more? If they influence you more than you can influence them then end the friendship. Nothing is more important than your relationship with Christ. “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
Any time I talk to a person with an addiction sooner or later I get to saying "unless you’re prepared to end a certain friendship that’s influencing you to drink, use drugs, gamble, or sexually sin you won't stay clean". I tell them, your future you will thank you for saying no to that toxic friendship. We know the studies, the people you hang with shape your decisions. But unless you fill your minds with the truth you will not resist.
Point 2. The happy soul fills their mind with God's word
If the happy soul does not walk, stand or sit with sinners then verse 2 is his or hers.
… delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. ~Psalm 1:2 (NIV)
The Happy soul finds their joy in the law of the Lord, the law of the Lord refers to God's instructions, it can refer to the whole of the Old Testament. Finding delight in Law of the Lord is finding delight in every book of the bible including the Psalms. The person marked by happiness in its many forms finds their joy in Gods word. They meditate on Gods word day and night.
To Meditate is to murmur under your breath, to chew over the Word, to think God's thoughts after him. Christian mediation is not like Eastern meditation it's not emptying the mind, it's filling the mind with God's word. The word for 'mediate' is an active word, it's the same word in Psalm 2 when the nations conspire against the Lord's Messiah. You’re either conspiring against Christ or for Christ. Happiness is found in learning, loving, and living the word of God, because in that word we don’t find a better version of you and we find the promise of the Messiah as in Psalm 2. Psalm 2 ends as Psalm 1 begins. On the theme of happiness
Kiss the son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all those who take refuge in him. ~Psalm 2:12 (NIV)
Kiss the son or kiss heaven goodbye. Happiness is found in our relationship with the Lord Jesus who we meet in his Word. That is why Happiness is found in meditating day and night. God has so much to say to you and he has said it in his written word.
“Complaining that God is silent when your Bible is closed is like complaining about not getting texts when your phone is turned off.” When we open the Bible, we find more than 750,000 words breathed out by God himself for you. There is a lot to meditate on. Since we are the generation that has never been distracted more and find it hard to concentrate less than switch off the notification on your smartphone. You can't expect to meditate on the word of God while being reminded every 60 seconds of that text or that great deal. Take charge of your electronic world.
The happy person is one who meditates day and night. Find a time and a place to read slowly and prayerfully. Aim to read through Psalms this year.
I spent a couple of weeks early this year on the biggest psalm. Psalm 119. It is divided into 22 sections which follow the Hebrew alphabet. I found a verse in each section and rewrote it then I carried it with me and sent it to others.
Whether you’re in a Growth Group or not use the study material. Let me encourage you to memorize verses. This term in Growth Groups we are going to spend two weeks on Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd. Our aim to memorize it. Feed off Gods word and you will thrive.
Point 3 The Happy soul will bear fruit.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. ~Psalm 1:3 (NIV)
The wise one is likened to a tree whose roots draw life-giving water, who is fruitful in season and whose leaves stay green. Which means the one who meditates on Gods word doesn’t just survive they thrive.
We have plastic plants in our unit, they always stay green but they are not real. We also have real plants outside and they need to be watered. We chose cactus so that we don’t have to remember all that often. The lavenders are struggling because I'm not consistently watering them. They remind me of me when I starve myself of Gods word.
Did you see the summary? For the person who sinks deep into the word of God, whatever they do prospers. So, yes, there is a prosperity gospel in the bible, of course, there is. If prosperity is furthering God purposes. If prosperity is bearing fruit to the glory of God, bring it on. If prosperity is persevering in suffering with joy, hallelujah! Not the ugly prosperity gospel that names and claims health and wealth. “Come to Jesus so you can satisfy the selfish desires of your soul. As someone rightly said “Prosperity gospel is like marrying someone for their money”
Just read Psalm 73, the writer envies wicked because everything they do turns to gold as they curse God. • He thinks it’s a waste of time to worship God until he realizes that he’s using God.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. ~Psalm 73:25 (NIV)
That is how his soul is happy again in the Lord. He realises that God is enough!
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. ~Psalm 1:4-5 (NIV)
There is no future for those who oppose God, they are like chaff, the husks that get blown away into oblivion, of no use with no future. The wicked and sinners are now mentioned again, this time the wicked who were so influential will not stand in judgment. This time the sinners whose conversation were persuasive will be absent in the heavenly church. Listen to them and you will be with them, shut out from the presence of the Lord.
We have here 2 ways to live and 2 destinies.
I was at a coffee shop preparing this sermon and two retired men were talking next to me. One of them spoke about hearing of a man who died, he said “when is the funeral?” The friend said it was yesterday but don’t worry it was private, he gave orders to ‘Take me to the crematorium and get rid of me.’ He saw his death as the end, like chaff blown away.
So different from Rapunzel who we heard at the funeral say ‘I’m so looking forward to going on holidays with God forever.’ The closer to face death the greater her happiness, for she knew the Lord watched over her soul. As one pastor put it “Our sin is not that we long to be happy but that we are stupidly and blindly determined to find it in something or someone other than God and all that he is for us in Jesus.”
We thank you for wanting us to be happy. Forgive us for seeking that happiness apart from your dear Son. Teach us to find our joy in your Word. Inspire us to meditate on your Word day and night. May we take refuge in your Son and reject the lies of this world. May our happy souls bear much fruit for your glory.
In Jesus' name, Amen.