As I continue to study the life of Christ, I find myself wondering if He really enjoyed his life on Earth because it seems like it must have been very difficult to challenge the status quo, live a life of traveling from place to place, never owning His own house, and finally facing His own heinous murder. If I was in His shoes, trying to enjoy that life would have seemed impossible. I would have been constantly stressed, thinking about what was to come. (Jesus did exhibit a bit of that stress in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed to the Father to take this cup from Him as He sweat blood from his brow. Today, researches confirm that you can actually sweat blood from extreme stress.) Nevertheless, there are stories shared in the gospels showing Jesus having a good time. A wedding was one of those times. After all the wine was gone, His first miracle was to turn the water into wine, and not just some cheap stuff, but He made the best wine ever, and it was saved for last! (I imagine it was a deep, robust Cabernet Sauvignon that would be best with a small piece of dark chocolate.)

The Sermon on the MountCarl Bloch, 1890How did Jesus live despite knowing what was to come? He always prayed to His Father in heaven before making decisions. He focused on bringing God’s kingdom to earth, not on putting bread on the table each day, and encouraged his followers to trust God. He celebrated life with enthusiasm from the time that He performed that first miracle at a wedding to when, in His resurrected state, Jesus made breakfast for his friends

Christ’s life on earth was full of loving people, being with the very ones He came to save, despite the fact that He knew what He’d have to endure. It’s something we all face at times—life this side of heaven can be very painful. Most of us can relate to that, but how many times is this preached? Instead, we’re told to pursue our own happiness (at least in America), and this motto has slipped into the churches. In many ways, we have been enculturated with values that are not Christian but American. Not all American values line up with the life of Christ. His life is the one we’re supposed to be following, as we’re supposed to be “in the world, but not of it” (1 John 2:15-17). That means we are not supposed to allow the culture around us to sway us into its mindset. What is that mindset?

Indulge yourself because you’re worth it; bigger is better; more is good; money buys happiness; sex is everything (but means nothing); there is no one-way to religious truth; and your personal happiness is the ultimate goal in life.

The Declaration of Independence states that we have “the right to pursue happiness,” but the original meaning of this ‘right’ has been redefined over the past centuries from an ideal that meant the pursuit of happiness involving the good of many (i.e. how can I prosper to help the community), to today’s pursuit of one’s own individual happiness, or how can I prosper to help myself. This doesn’t sound too Christian to me. It’s not about “us,” is it?

“Institutional self-reform is rare; the conscience is willing, but the culture is tough.” This was written by a historian who ended his life work by writing a book on the past 500 years of cultural history in Western civilization, entitled From Dawn to Decadence. He noted that as a society, we’ve fallen into great depths of decadence, and expressed concern for the direction we’re headed. Jacques Barzun was not a Christian, but even he did not see this fall into decadence as a good move for humanity.

We must understand how to live in the world yet not be like it, otherwise we won’t act any differently than someone who is not following Jesus. When we spend time with God daily, reading His word and praying to Him, His love fills us up so that we can influence others in our workplaces, schools or wherever we engage with people, without being affected by the culture, which can pull us away from the Christian lifestyle. A godly lifestyle expresses selflessness, a pursuit of God’s will not ours, an eternal perspective that helps us to not cling so tightly to material or physical pleasures, and a generosity that gives to a hurting world.

Don’t buy into the lie that it’s all about your happiness. God’s will is the best, and ultimately this brings a peace that surpasses all understanding. If that doesn’t bring you happiness, then I don’t know what will.