Every one of us has the inclination to make the Christian life all about us rather than recognize that it’s all about Jesus. We’re susceptible because we are sinful, and because a self-oriented brand of discipleship appeals to our deep craving for both autonomy and pleasure. That’s why it hooks us. It just feels so right. So we must recognize this inextricable link between self-love and self-focus.
“God just wants you to be happy.”
Sara listened intently as the ministry leader spoke. She’d waited weeks for this one-on-one meeting, and she wanted to absorb every word. She was quiet for a moment as she thought about how to apply the leader’s words to her months-long battle with discouragement. “I believe God wants my happiness,” Sara finally replied. “I mean, isn’t that what the Christian life’s all about? But if it’s true, why is my life stuck? I’m still single, bored at work, and trapped in the same old sins.”
“Maybe you’re not trying hard enough,” the leader suggested. “When it comes to sin patterns, God helps those who help themselves. As for marriage—just keep on being a good person and loving your neighbor, and before you know it, God will bless you.”
Does God Want Our Happiness?
So many today hold to the health-and-happiness view of the Christian life and the belief that blessings can be manipulated from God by means of good morals. We hear such thinking in podcasts, and we read it in books. It’s preached from pulpits and promoted on ministry websites. But it’s nothing new; it has been around since the church began. The apostle Paul addressed it, and living as he did in a culture not yet dominated by intolerant tolerance and trigger warnings, he defined it with ruthless accuracy:
Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people (2 Timothy 3:1–5).