1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
In his autobiography, Billy Graham tells a story from a visit to the Caribbean. One of the wealthiest men in the world ask Billy and his wife to come to his lavish home for lunch. The man was 75 years old and throughout the entire meal he hardly spoke. Something was bothering him, and he seemed close to tears.
He finally looked up at the grams and said, “I have to confess something. I am the most miserable man in all the world. I don’t understand it. I can go anywhere I want in my yacht, private plane, or helicopters. I have everything I want to make me happy, and yet I am as miserable as hell.” Doctor Graham talked and prayed with him trying to point him to Christ, who alone could give him real happiness
That afternoon the pastor of the local church came to call on Ruth and Billy at their cottage. He was an English widower he was also 75 and he spent most of his free time taking care of two invalid sisters. Doctor Graham could not get over this man’s enthusiasm for life, his love for Christ, and his love for other people.
This pastor, who did not have a fraction of what the other man had, said something that doctor Graham never forgot. “I don’t have two pounds to my name, but I am the happiest man on this island.” When the man left, Billy Graham looked at Ruth and said, “Who do you think is the richer man?”
There is a way to live and to die truly happy and then to find out after death, that real eternal life has only just begun. Such a way is found in our text for this morning.
Let me ask you a few questions this morning. Are you happy? Are you happy with your life? Are you happy with your job? Are you happy with your finances? Are you happy with who you are, where you are, and what you are accomplishing with your life? This morning, I want to see what the psalmist had to say about such a life.
in 1835, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Music is the universal language of mankind, poetry their universal pastime and delight.” The ancient Hebrews had the same understanding well before Longfellow. In fact, the longest book of the Bible, the book of Psalms, is a collection of 150 songs. Originally, psalms were not read or taught; they were sung. And the very first song in this musical collection is about happiness.
It should not surprise us that happiness is not tied to prosperity, profits, or people. It has nothing to do with means, money, or mistresses. The rich and famous can still be unhappy.
You would think that someone rich and famous like Howard Stern would be a happy man. However, when he had a personal trainer and was in the best physical shape of his life, in therapy and getting his mind together, living with a young, beautiful model, and earning $100 million a year doing what he loved to do, he said, “I am never happy I haven’t been happy in a day of my life.”
When the first verse of the first chapter of psalms talks about a man who is blessed, the Hebrew word literally means to be happy. Perhaps the Hebrew title for this song was, “How to be happy”. Contrary to what people think, God is not some cosmic killjoy who loves it when we are miserable. God wants you to be happy, but he wants you to be happy the right way. Not just internally and externally, but especially eternally. The psalmist shows us that the key to a happy life is living a life that is centered upon God.
Happiness is found in favoring the right people.
The psalmist begins with what sounds like a negative, but it is undoubtedly a positive. I love the way The Message translates the first verse. “How well God must like you, you don’t hang out at the sin saloon, you don’t slink along the dead-end road, you don’t go to the smart mouth college.”
That is a descriptive way of talking about the three different kinds of people you make up what we would call the wrong crowd: the ungodly, the unholy, and the unbelieving.
The ungodly have no room for God in their life. The unholy live as if there is no God. And the unbelieving mock God and the whole concept of sin. In short, these are people who will lead you further away from God, truth, and happiness.
If you want to be happy, you cannot act on the advice and counsel of people who push away, ignore, or mock God. Getting spiritual council from unspiritual people would be like getting advice on brain surgery from an automobile mechanic.
The psalmist warns us in verse one that we are wise to pay attention to who we associate with. First, you walk among the wrong crowd, then you stand around the wrong crowd, and then you join in or sit down with the wrong crowd. This is the way it always works. First, you start listening to what they say, and then you start hanging out with them, and then you start living like them.
We don’t need to be listening to the ungodly and to the anti-godly. We do need to be talking to them and to be a friend of sinners asked Jesus was. Yet, we can’t give in to their influence and become like them.
This simplest strategy is to favor the godly people in your most important relationships.
Happiness is following the right principles.
The psalmist goes on to say that the mark of a truly happy person is someone who wants to study the word of God, so he can discover the will of God and do what God wants him to do. When God says, do this, he is simply saying, help yourself to some happiness.
The more you learn how God wants you to live and the more you live what you learn, the happier you will be.
Ask any golfer how it was when they first started playing golf. It was far more frustrating than enjoyable. There was a lot more hurt than happiness. Then, talk to the golfer who has taken lessons, practiced over the years, and played with the best golfers. They can hit the ball farther, get a lower score, and get themselves out of a sand trap. The more you practice, the more you learn, the more you will enjoy it. But take note that you will also discover the friendship of those who are better at the game. That will pay off in ways that you cannot imagine.
It is not enough just to read your Bible and put it down with a forgetfulness, or to read it to check off your To Do List. You must go farther. Think through what you read. Think about how to apply it to your life. Ask God what He is trying to tell you. Then you will find enjoyment in the practice of his word.
God word helps you to get a grip on life. It will inform you of those things that are good and bad, right and wrong. Like a golfer, it will posture you for success, put you in the best position to be happy. Then, when you are aligned with God’s principles, facing the direction he wants you to go, he will see to it that you are happy and full of his joy.
Happiness is always fulfilling God’s purpose.
In the third verse, the psalmist tells us that when you live such a God centered life that you are favoring the right people and following the right principles, “You will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”
Why do you think the psalmist compares happy people to trees? First, when you take root in God’s word, you will be unshakable in what you believe. You will be unwavering in how you behave. You won’t get into the ditch of sin on either side of your life. You won’t stay right in the middle of God’s highway of happiness.
The people who have truly moved this world have been people the world could not move. People like Doctor Martin Luther King junior we’re like a good tree, which took root in believing the right thing. I shudder to think where America would be now in our racial tensions if it were not for Doctor king. The reason he could move this nation was because this nation could not move him. He took root and what was right, the belief that all men are created equal and should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
Second, if you bear the fruit of living God’s word, you will not wither away in the wind but bear fruit. Every life bears fruit, but some is ripe and some is worthless. That is why we go on to read in the fourth verse, “The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away. When the grain was thrashed in the breeze, the worthless parts would fly off in the wind. The wheat, the fruit, is what settled down to be used.’
The truly happy person is a person who is living a rooted life, a life of purpose, a life that makes an impact on others. Real happiness is found in favoring the right people, following the right principles, and fulfilling God’s purpose.
The write is not calling us to isolate ourselves from the world or its people. Jesus didn’t. We are called to be salt and light to the world, so we must engage them with a view to life and answers that make godly sense.
But life is a balance. To have only worldly friends stacks the cards against us. In time, like the psalmist says, we will be sitting with them and doing what they do.