A Happy Man
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
“The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
“Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
“For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”—Psalm 1
This is the inspired prayer and praise book of Israel, and it is fitting that we should have this picture of the man whom the Lord delights to bless, or the happy man, as an introduction to the sacred psalter.
I want tonight to give you just three thoughts from his psalm, regarding the man who is spoken of here, and the man whom we may emulate.
I. His was a Happy Life
II. It was a Prosperous Life
III. It was Eternal Life
The word “blessed” in the Hebrew is in the plural and could be just as correctly translated, and it may be more so. “Oh, the happiness of the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.” I think the general conception of Christianity is that it is a sort of “joy-killer.” That if a man or woman give themselves up really to the Christian faith to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, that is the end to all joy and pleasure, at least as far as this world is concerned. They think the benefits of salvation are to be realized in some other realm.
Henry Ward Beecher, in speaking of this class of people, said that if they prayed as they really felt, they would say that religion was the most inconvenient thing in the world; that it made them do a lot of things they did not want to do, and go to a lot of places they did not want to go, but that they would have to go on or be damned in the end.
This is certainly not in keeping with the Word of God—a glad and happy life. I believe gladness of heart is God’s ideal for His people. He said to Israel, through Moses, when they were leaving Egypt to go into the promised land, “If they will fear my name and will keep my commandments always, it shall be well with them and with their children forever” (Deuteronomy 5:29). “If they hearken unto me their peace will be as a river, and their righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:18). “If they would hearken unto Him, and walk in His way, He would subdue their enemies under them, and turn His hand against their adversaries and feed them with the finest of the wheat, and with honey out of the rock He would satisfy them” (Psalm 81).
Surely these passages indicate, in an unmistakable way, that the purpose of God for His people is a glad victorious life.
When we come to the New Testament, what is the offer that Christ makes to men? When He says: “Come unto me.” What does He offer for the coming? Is He going to bow down our heads like a bulrush? Is He going to put out the sun in the sky? Is He going to fill the air with discordant sounds?
Listen! “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “My peace I give unto you.” “These things speak I unto you, that your joy might be full.” The purpose of God, as it is revealed in the New Testament, is just as the purpose of God revealed in the Old Testament. He wants us to have a glad and happy life. All about us in nature, it seems to me, we have evidence of this great fact.
Do you ever stop to think how many beautiful things God has made in nature, seemingly for no other purpose than to contribute to our happiness? Every flower, every blade of grass seems to say to me, “God loves the human family and God wants men to be happy.”
You remember what David said, and I think he was feeling then like I am feeling now, as he was looking at the beauties of nature,” The lines have fallen unto us in pleasant places.” “Surely we have a goodly heritage,” and if David could say it in his day, if he could see it in Palestine thousands of years ago, how much more can we say it in this country where we are living our lives!
Paul says the goodness of God should lead men to repentance. It seems to me when we think of the condition of the poor old world, of the millions tonight that are destitute, starving, dying in desolation over in some parts of Europe and Asia, we ought to get down on our faces before God and say with David, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.”
The Mission of the Gospel
Gladness of heart is not simply a quality in nature that I may or may not have. It is not merely a temperament. We sometimes hear people say, “He or she has been born with a sunny disposition, while others are born with a sullen disposition.”
It is the very genius of the New Testament Christianity to change a man’s nature. That is the mission of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, no matter how degraded and damned he may be—and I think some people are damned into the world rather than born into it. God not only gives us a code of ethics, an example to follow, but the first thing He offers to do is to change our nature. “If any man is in Christ he is a new creature.”
I know of a man who is a preacher of the Gospel, who was one of those fellows born with a sullen disposition. He used to bring a cloud in his home every few weeks. He had a wife and son. As the boy grew up he often wished that he might take his mother away and provide for her. His father would say those mean, wicked things that men sometimes say, and then for days they would never speak to each other.
One morning before going to business, this man had an outbreak of temper and did not come home at the usual hour. When he came in he was gloomy and mum, and after they had sat at the table for a moment or two, he got up and went away, and left his wife and son. He went upstairs, shut himself in and tried to read, but he could not read, and by and by he went to the bedroom on the third floor. Before going to be he groaned, “Oh, God! Must we go on living like this?”
He went to sleep and he had a dream. He dreamed that he was in his study and happened to look out the window, and thought he saw a man coming up the path. He got up and looked to see who it was. As the man came nearer he said to himself, “It is the Lord Jesus Christ coming to my house.”
Then he began to straighten up things in the room where he was. While he was doing this there was a knock at the door. He waited a moment; then another knock. So he went to the door and opened it. There stood Jesus, and looking at him, the Mas[ter said,] “May I come in?”
The man replied, “Yes, Jesus, I welcome you to this house.”
When Jesus came in He put up his hands and said to the man, “I will sprinkle you with clean water, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”
“I will take out that heart of stone and will give you a heart of flesh. I will give you a new spirit, and I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.”
That might have been a dream to that fellow, but I bless God that it may be the experience of every man and woman in this congregation. He is waiting at the heart-door of every sinner in this house to do that very thing.
But listen! When he heard those words he woke up, only to find it was a dream. He was crying; it was so real. He got out of his bed, fell down on his knees and said: Oh, Jesus! I see it! I don’t need to go on living like this. Thou canst give me a new heart, and a right spirit.” He went to bed and slept like a child.
He got up in the morning and came downstairs. When he opened the door and his wife and son looked on his face they could hardly believe it, because that kind of a spasm lasted generally about two weeks.
“I suppose you are wondering what has happened,” he said. “Something very wonderful happened last night.”
He then told them of the dream. He told them what he did, and he told them of the great joy and gladness that came into his heart. The wife and son began to cry, and he got his Bible and got down on his knees, and the son came to Christ right there.
Christianity Offers to Change Your Nature
When you are looking at yourself and saying, “I cannot do it,” you are telling the truth but you can do all things through the Christ who strengthens men, when He comes into their lives. He will give you the “oil of joy for mourning; the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”
This does not mean exemption from trial. The whole thing is compatible with trouble, as Paul says, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing: as poor yet making merry.” The very philosophy of Jesus’ teaching was this: “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace.” So it is possible for a fellow to be sorrowful, and yet glad. The Lord Jesus Christ can make that your experience if you will let Him.
The Secret to a Successful Life
It is not only a happy life, but it is a prosperous life. “Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
You may not agree with me, but I believe that Christianity holds the secret to a successful life. I am not speaking simply of just being decent and clean, but I am thinking of material things—bread and butter and clothing.
A few months ago England’s Prime Minister, Lloyd George, made this statement to a number of non-conformist ministers whom he invited to Downing Street for breakfast. After returning thanks, this is what he said:
“Gentlemen, I have invited you here to say this: That England needs a revival of spiritual religion more than she needs anything else in the world, and unless she gets it her material condition will not improve. I charge you ministers with the responsibility of fostering and promoting such a revival.”
I am quoting that because I want you to see that Lloyd George believes that spiritual religion and the prosperity of the nation somehow go together. Is it not a fact in history that the nation that honors God and honors God’s Word is secure, and will be successful, and the nation that disregards God’s Word will utterly fail ultimately? When a man or a nation takes the Word of the living God and undertakes to honor Him, I believe that man or that nation is going to prosper.
A little time ago in preparing an address for the British Foreign Bible Society, I came across a statement made by Mr. Choate, at that time ambassador to the British Court. He was the speaker on the occasion of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Bible Society, and among other things, he said:
“On leaving England the Pilgrim Fathers carried with them their only possession of lasting value. They carried it to the shores of New England, and that wonderful possession was a King James version of the Bible, and upon that Bible the new State was founded. It was their only readable book. It was the ‘ark of their covenant.’ It was their ‘shelter from the stormy blast,’ and ‘their eternal home.’
“New England, in the first generation, was the most Bible reading and Bible loving community that the Earth has ever known. Her laws and customs were founded on that Book, and the rule at that time in New England was to read the Bible through twice every year.” That is a great foundation upon which to build a nation.
“If the light becomes darkness, how great will that darkness be?” And as surely as it has been so in the past, it will be true in the future. It we turn from “The Faith of Our Fathers” the light will become darkness. The Word of God is settled in Heaven, and when man will honor it, God will honor the man.
The Gospel Meets Our Needs
Did Christianity ever make anyone poorer?
I was speaking on the street in Hamilton one Saturday night, when a man in the crowd asked, “How much do you get out of it?” That was pretty clever. Well, the crowd laughed, and I waited a moment and said: “I will tell you. I got out of it everything I have on Earth; the clothes I have on my back; my home, and I have some money in the bank. Everything I have on Earth, I got out of it.” I want to say that to the praise and glory of His grace. Why Jesus was speaking of things to eat, and things to drink, and things to wear, when He said, “You don’t need to worry about these things.” “Your Heavenly Father knoweth you have need,” and if you will “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He will add unto you all these things.” I believe that! Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise for this life.
I could stand here for an hour, illustrating this fact, from the scores of lives that I have seen transformed—drunkards, poor, hopeless—depraved men and women, who could not save a dollar, who could not provide for their families, but they met the Christ who changes men, and now they are fathers and husbands in the truest sense of those terms.
You can look for some new and better things if you like, but for me the “Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation.” It meets the needs of the human heart, and it solves the problems of the home.
If there is somebody here that is discouraged because of some passion, some evil habit that has well nigh damned you, Listen! Christ can break the power of canceled sin, and He can set you free.
I think of a man in Hamilton a couple of years ago. He came into the church with his wife, and I was talking along the line of “Christ meeting our needs.” That man and wife went out of that service under conviction. He said to his wife, “I think our great difficulty has been that we have excluded Christ from our lives. Let us make a surrender of ourselves.”
The man had been out of work for months. As they knelt to pray, he said: “Oh God! Hear our cry for food. Thou knowest how real our need is.”
Don’t you think God will hear the prayer of a hard-working man when he cries for bread for his children? Why, He would not be God if He did not. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.”
What did he do?
In a letter that he wrote me a few days later, he said: “On Monday morning I got up and dressed, and made up my mind that I would go out with God and face the world again. Just before I went out of the house, the bell rang, and he said Mr. So and So was there.” This man did not know a thing about the change that had come to him.
The gentleman said: “I think I have a position that will fit you.” And so it did. “If I had gone all over America,” said my friend, “I could not have found a position that would have suited me any better.” I believe that was in answer to prayer. “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will answer thee, and deliver thee.”
Not only is it a happy life and a prosperous life, but beloved people, it is eternal life. “His leaf also shall not wither.” Thank God for ever! Christ came to give us life. “I give my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”
But here we have a contrast. “The ungodly are not so.” “They shall not stand in the judgment.” “They are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.”
Ah yes! There is a vast difference between the blessed man and the man who walks in the ways of his own heart.