The Root of Happiness
I’m going to invite you to turn Psalm chapter 1. We’ll dismiss the 10 and 11 year olds for their class, and give a little intro to where we’re going today in Psalm chapter one. If you want to find the Psalms, the easiest place to do that is to open right up to the middle of the Bible and usually find yourselves right in the Psalms there.
Psalms chapter 1, for us as a church, is wisdom literature. Psalms is poetry, but the Psalms also qualifies as wisdom literature. I want to stop here for a few reasons. I’m going to tell you, I’ve shared this with you guys before, but sometimes when I preach, I just like to preach to myself and let everybody just listen in, and this morning, it’s one of those days where this psalm is one that not only inspires my heart, but it also provides us a good gut-check as believers to see if we can just examine our lives and determine if we’re on a healthy trajectory in our relationship to Christ and where God calls us to. Wisdom literature I think is important and the value of wisdom literature, we tend to highlight more as we live life, and the reason is because the older you get, the more you tend to be responsible for, and the older you get, your decisions tend to have a bigger wave in how it affects those around you.
For example, my wife and I know, today, in just a couple hours, we’re going to have another baby. And so if I start preaching, all of a sudden my mind just wanders, you know why. So just give me some grace in that and hopefully we carry some coherent thoughts. But with that, there becomes responsibility, right, it’s sort of like this sobering moment of, “Oh, Lord, I am responsible for another life now. What am I going to do with this? I don’t want to mess up. How do I do it?” And obviously you’re like, “Give me some wisdom,” right.
And so wisdom literature becomes very important because you realize that your life is about to impact other lives, so you sort of get to this moment in life where you’re a little bit more of a sponge now. Okay, I can embrace some things here, I know I’m out of my league, I want to learn. I messed up with the first two We’re going to get this third one right, right. So wisdom literature … Apologize to the kids, but wisdom literature is important for us and wisdom, it’s this practical application in life where when you study wisdom in Scripture, I think this is more true in Proverbs, the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is wisdom literature. Wisdom literature doesn’t mean that it’s always true in every circumstance, but it tends to be if you shape your life according to the proverbial statements of the wisdom literature in Christ, it sets your life up for success, right?
Psalm chapter 1 is that communication to us. It’s wisdom literature in how we direct our lives. More specific than that, this particular psalm, it really deals with happiness. I love that. You start off with the Psalms, psalms, 150 of them. They’re Israel’s top 150 charts of the songs that they would sing to each other, and the very first song, very first few words, it starts talking about happiness. To sort of, before you get into this worship book, to ask you the question, are you happy?
I realize there’s a lot of things in life that can affect happiness. Your mood, diet, exercise, seasons of life or just seasons in general. We just, getting out of the winter, it’s a more depressing time for some people. You need your vitamin D back, right? There’s different things that can affect your happiness. When it comes to wisdom literature though, when it’s describing this idea of happiness, it’s more than just the temporal. See, in our culture, here’s the crazy thing with the word happiness. It really derives from the root happenings. It almost causes us to think that circumstance should dictate whether or not you’re happy.
In that case, it’s sort of a disheartening thought. What it really means is your happiness is really determined on what happens to you, and you’re not really in control of it, so you just better hope that only good things happen in your life. Therefore, you can be happy. When happiness is related to scripture, it carries this idea that really, happiness starts on a very foundational point, and it’s deeper than just circumstances. Joy in the Lord, it’s deeper than just circumstances because there’s something sustaining about the Christian life that endures beyond the moment.
If you build your life upon that, it really lasts for eternity. It doesn’t fade away. For us, when we talk about happiness, and there are different things that we could speak of in regards to happiness, but in terms of this passage, we’re looking for a sustaining happiness of life. It’s almost like, you come to this passage and you’re sort of a clean slate, just like I described in the beginning. You’re looking for wisdom because you realize you have some responsibilities and you don’t want to mess this up, right?
In this clean slate, if I want to just build a life full of joy, which God created all good things. God wants you to be happy. God’s not a killjoy, right? God wants you to experience the joy of things, and use that joy really to worship him, to see the goodness of who he is by the good things that he’s created. This psalm story starts with this clean slate of how can you be happy? Are you ever going to be happy? I mean, what if your life stays the same? What if your relationships stays the same? What if your job stays the same, right?
When I talk about happiness this morning, I’m not going to tell you now, I know the problem to your happiness is everyone around you, so I’m going to tell you how to eliminate all of them, or I’m going to tell you how to change all of their hearts. That’s, I’m not doing that this morning. If you think that’s how happiness is the result of, we should just turn to James chapter 4 and proceed, but happiness should be at a deeper level than just your happenings, right? I’m on one today.
Happiness needs to be deeper than your happenings. That’s where this passage of scripture is starting with the idea of wisdom, this idea of happiness, and if you want to know how I’m getting happiness from this passage, this is how it starts. “How blessed is the man.” This word blessed literally means happy. So the thesis of this psalm is happiness. It’s saying to you, God cares about your happiness. At the same time, he’s writing the psalm because there’s always conflict that comes in terms of where happiness is discovered.
We fight a spiritual battle, and God is a good God that created us to experience joy in him. There is a battle for your heart and how you discover that ultimate joy in this world. Happiness is the thesis. How can you be happy? I want to know the secret. Psalm 1. I want you to know the answer to this questions, I’m not going to give the cliché answer in Christianity. As Christians we joke, we know sometimes the answer’s always Jesus, right? I want to dive a little deeper into the thought of what this means for our lives. I want us to know, I don’t want to end in this invitation of this religious living of life, but really invite us into relationship with the Lord, dive deeper into this text.
One of the perspectives I want to carry into this is this text for us is not a one hit wonder, meaning sing this psalm once, and the rest of your life is just happy. I want you to know, this is a target for life, meaning this isn’t an accomplishment, but this is a pursuit. This is where we fix ourselves to discover what this psalm is talking about, and we should saturate ourselves in this psalm not just today, but discover what it communicates every day to build on this foundation for which this blessed life or this happy life is discovered.
The psalm is saying there is a battle for happiness. It’s kind of interesting when you look in terms of life, in a human life, that when you’re young, you tend to see things very optimistically. The world’s kind of your playground. Happiness is inevitable. It’s a wonderful life you live, and when you grow up you can be anything, right? I can remember our firstborn, when we would travel as a family. Kids, when you drive around, they fall asleep and then they wake up and they see new things. All of sudden, and you pray as a parent, God let them fall asleep. I really want to get there in peace, and we want to love each other when we arrive.
Your kid wakes up and I remember our oldest, when he would, we’d go on these trips and he would wake up, we would look at the different landscape. Landscape changes so beautifully out here in the west, but we would fly to different places too. When he would wake up, he’d see the new landscape, he’d always say the same thing to me. “Dad, I love this world.” He literally thought like, the way he described things, he fell asleep and his dad would take him to a whole new planet. Dad, I love this world. He’d see the mountains and he loves it. He sees the canyons, and he loves it. He sees the beach and he loves it. He loves this world.
For kids, happiness, they look at it very optimistically, but when you get older, the number of disappointments in life grow. I think happiness has this tendency to go from inevitable to unattainable. When you’re young, you see yourself on this trajectory of happiness, and as you get older you wonder if you can be happy because of what you’ve lost. The overall thought of this psalm is to tell us you can be happy. So as to say, it’s not unattainable, but at the same time, things can pull on us, and rob us of happiness, so it’s not inevitable.
Just assuming you’re going to be happy is naïve, but being pessimistic about happiness is also unrealistic. In this psalm, the psalmist, I’m going to read verse 1 and 2 in a second, I’m going to skip a little bit ahead. The psalmist gives us the platform here, “How blessed or happy is the man,” and he starts to describe the life of two individuals, the one that finds themselves settled in the trajectory of this happiness, that the psalmist describes, or the other person that finds themselves unpleased with the journey of what life is.
Now, I want you to know when you read the psalms, this is just in general, when you go through the psalms, psalmists have a tendency to write psalms in a particular way. Psalms are poetry, right. In our culture, you know how you write a poem, you got to rhyme. You got to be good at your rhymes. You got to set up the beatbox and you just let the rhymes flow, right? In Hebrew literature, poetry is written a little bit different. They would write a statement, and then they would write a following statement that would either contrast the previous statement or be similar to the previous statement. That’s how Hebrew literature flows.
When you look at this psalm, it’s broken up this way, between verse 1 and 2, verse 3 and 4, and verse 5 an 6. 1 and 2 is contrasting between a happy person and unhappy person. Verse 3 an 4, same thing. Verse 5 and 6, the same thing. When you get to verse 3 and 4, it tells you the outflow of what happens to a person that sets themselves up on this trajectory of this happy, blessed life, so this is what it says. “He’ll be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its seasons, and its leaf does not whither, and that whatever he does he prospers. The wicked are not so. They’re like chaff which the wind drives away.”
So the psalmist describes two individuals, one, this tree, fruit-bearing life where the seasons come and go or the chaff, which blows away, the seasons come and go. In either case, what the psalmist wants us to know is life has seasons. In life, you experience ebb and flows. To base your happiness off of things which are circumstantial, in the end, it will ultimately fade. That’s where the psalmist drives you to the idea of chaff.
In the days of the psalmist they would take the weed or the harvest to the threshing floor and they would separate it, and the pieces that were unwanted were the chaff. They would literally toss up this, the harvest into the air and the chaff would separate and just blow away, as if to say in our lives, we tend to find happiness sometimes in circumstances. Like in our culture, we’ll say this. What do you pursue? Whatever makes you happy. It’s like chasing an illusion because happiness isn’t the product of happiness. Happiness is simply the result of something else.
In our lives, when we live for the circumstance, it’s like chasing the chaff. Ultimately that season will end and what delighted us in that moment will fade away. Ultimately it won’t matter. Life has seasons. I try to think about what this looks like. What does it look like to live your life full of chaff. I created an image in my head. It’s that guy that always wants to photo bomb everything, going, “Ahhh, you only live once. Every moment, live for it,” which is cool. Enjoy the moment man, but at some point, your life has to matter for something more.
So this writer is getting us to recognize, there needs to be something deeper than just the happenings on which you base your happiness. Circumstances should not dictate. That’s not to say, life can’t be difficult, but there’s something deeper. When you read this psalm, you begin to see it in the idea of this fruit, right? I want that fruit that sustains. I want that fruit that endures, and so we see things in life that look good and so we want to pursue the fruit that’s better than just the chaff. I don’t want the chaff. I want to fruit. The fruit tastes better. The chaff’s intended to fade away, but I want the fruit. I want us to know even in reading these few verses that the fruit isn’t even what satisfies in life. The fruit is simply the result.
We have a tendency in life to do that with things. We look at circumstances of other people and we’re like, “Man, their grass is greener.” Nevermind the amount of fertilizer it took to get there, right? The grass looks greener, and so we chase after the idea of the fruit of what, what produced it. But the point of this section of scripture is to get us to recognize that it’s not even the fruit that we’re after, that there’s something deeper still. It’s not about the fruit. Look what it says. The fruit is simply the result. What it’s talking about here is to get us to recognize the root and what it’s attached to. It’s not about the fruit, but about the root.
The root is important. It’s as if the psalmist is saying to us, what do you tap your life into in order to see the significance of life being played out through you? What matters to you? What do you tie yourself in? I think in life we can take some good things, some godly things, and we can wrongly make it the idol of our pursuit. There’s so many good things to experience, right, but we can make an idol of family, relationships, job. We can just desire the fruit and we forget that in order for that fruit to be healthy, the foundation for that is necessary.
That form of idolatry, when you make your life about family, at some point, parents, kids get older, and kids move on. When you make your whole life a satisfaction in that, then what happens when kids leave? Husband and wife in a home, they no longer know each other because the relationship is all about the kids and the identity is gone right? Things in life that are special, they’re still all temporal. Everything in this world is temporal. When you make your life and your identity wrapped in that, there’s not always a guarantee.
Where is it we can find the blessed hope, happiness that endures beyond all of that? I say, I think I’ve said this before in church, but we can make our job even an idol, a good, godly thing. If I’m not careful, it can be that way even with church. My job now is here, right? I made a decision early on when we did ministry, one of the goals that I didn’t want to be about, I didn’t want to be about numbers. Like, I know, you know, I want to see a church thriving, growing, experiencing wonderful things here in this valley. I want all that, but I want you to know my goal isn’t the fruit. My goal isn’t to just care about the size of the church.
Now numbers matter, right? Numbers matter. If you have a bank account and a thousand bucks go missing, you should probably say something, right? Numbers matter. You go to the grocery store and you come back. You got five kids when you go and three kids when you return, I mean, your spouse is going to probably say something about that. Numbers are important, but it’s not what you base things on. That’s just the fruit.
What’s important is the root. Where do you drive yourself? I think God is far less concerned with numbers. You know what I think he’s more concerned with this morning with us? Your heart. Where’s your heart? What’s the desire of your heart? To know him, to make him know. To seek his face, to worship him, to encourage his community. Or how many butts are in a seat?
I think God more cares about my faithfulness. If me, you, if we’re faithful, the fruit takes care of itself. It’s not about the fruit, but it’s about the root. When the root is committed and latched into the right thing, the result is beautiful. Do you know what you call a tree that isn’t plugged in with the right roots in the right place? Tumbleweed. How many of you’ve been like, man I just can’t wait to see myself a good tumbleweed? Nobody cares about tumbleweed. Seasons of life come and the tumbleweed of life goes, right?
The best thing I’ve ever said about a tumbleweed one time, well I’ve said a lot of bad things about tumbleweed, but the best thing I’ve ever said about tumbleweeds is one time I was driving down the road and I said, “That’s freaky.” Only because I happened to think it was an animal that crossed in front of me and I flipped out for a second. Then I just, I summed up the moment. That was freaky. Then we moved on.
No one cares about tumbleweed. It comes and goes. There’s nothing sustaining about it. I don’t delight in tumbleweed. You wait two seconds and then it’s done. I want something that sustains and satisfies the soul. Something that at the end of the day matters, something that when significant things of which I’m responsible for in life, come into my hands, and I know how to direct it in a way in which, you find satisfaction.
If you’re a tumbleweed, people come to you and ask, “How can you be happy?” The answer is, in a tumbleweed sense, I don’t even know, because I don’t know the meaning of life. I mean, just pursue whatever makes you happy and I hope in the end that you’re happy. The reality is, there’s only two roads. Chaff or fruitfulness.
So the psalmist starts this psalm by really laying out the two answers to that path and you see the results here but this is what he says. “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked nor stand in the path of sinners nor sit in the seat of scoffers but his delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law, he meditates day and night.” He gives one answer.
How do you find this life that sustains, that’s built on this foundation of a joy that endures beyond circumstance? His answer is God’s word, but he contrasts this, this secret to a happy life in two ways. It’s really no secret, but he contrasts it in two ways. There’s everything else, and there’s the foundation in God.
When he describes everything else in this opening psalm, he pictures three categories of people here, right? He says, the counsel of the wicked, this is how you think, nor stand in the path of sinners. This is how you live your life, the paths in which you pursue. Then he says, set in the seat of scoffers. This is where you think and how you find your identity. It’s like the psalmist is saying, your friends are the future you. Who you hang with, who you rub elbows with, that’s what you become.
Now this isn’t to say, so isolate yourself from the bad world. That’s not what this passage of scripture is saying. The Lord calls you to be an ambassador, a light in the midst of darkness, to be used in this world to make a difference, to reach the hearts of people for the cause of Christ, to storm down the gates of hell. It reminds you, greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. It’s to recognize even within your own soul, there’s still a battle, and you need encouraged.
So he tells us, guys, and I know before even reading this, that most likely, if we’ll return to the psalm, if I asked you questions on how we could pursue happiness and joy in our life, that we would start with this foundation of saying, “Okay, it’s got to rest in God.” Because the pursuit of happiness, out of happiness itself is a false dichotomy. Happiness doesn’t produce happiness, but rather, God is the producer of all things. In order to discover the joy for which you were created, you must find its origin and a root deeper than happiness itself.
The only place from which you can discover that is the one who created it and the one who created it was God. I’m sure you’d say something like that, right? Like we could have looked at this psalm and probably come to some sort of conclusion like these. The psalmist says, the answer is God’s word. To nourish yourself in God’s word.
Can I tell you what makes the word of God so powerful? It’s because the word of God is rooted in the identity of God himself. Listen to this. This is how God equates the authority of his word in Isaiah 40, in verse 8, in 1 Peter chapter 1, verse 25. They say the same thing. The word of the Lord endures forever.
So if you want a foundation that will not disappoint, a clean slate for wisdom, in order to find yourself in something that sustains, in a joy that will last day to day, it’s God’s word. The word of the Lord endures. In fact, when you look at the power of God’s word, if you just test that in the bible and you look at the power of God’s word, you start all the way back from Genesis, you see when God speaks, life begins. And God said, then it was. Morning and evening, the first day, and God said and it was. Morning and evening of the second day, when God speaks. Life begins. He creates Adam and Eve. He speaks and breathes into them life-giving spirit, which they become a living being, created in his image.
God speaks. Life begins. So what it’s saying to you is that you want a foundation of hope that endures. God has spoken so that you can connect to him and we call that God’s word. This is the miraculous thing that God does. God takes the truth of his word into your heart, through the power of his Spirit to eternally satisfy and enrich the soul.
When you embed your heart in a root that matters, the word of God, the fruit takes care of itself. Human tendency, we fixate on behavior. We fixate on the external, but God begins by transforming the heart. Now as a result, it will affect life, but God begins on the inside. So if you want to build this kind of life, here it is Christian. So follower of Jesus, so if you want to be a follower of Jesus, you are a follower of Jesus, you want to build a life that sustains in this type of joy that the psalmist is singing about, you got to sustain your life in something that matters and that answer is the word of God.
We can say this. Okay, but man, I am that, so all of it’s relevant. Didn’t need to show up today, right? I mean, it’s God’s word, right. But here’s the challenge. Let’s just press this a little deeper and just ask ourselves, are you really saturated in this? Is the word of God really the foundation of your life or do we just say that as words off our lip? Do we just make spiritual statements, or do we really see it lived out in our lives? Because what the psalmist does is he gives a couple of statements for us, just to peel back our heart and say, okay. Is this really me?
Like, Nathaniel, is this the mark of your life? And this is what he says in verse 2. “But his delight is in the law of the Lord. And in his law, he meditates day and night.” I want you to just think about those two words for a minute, as it relates to you and God’s word. Delight, meditate. Delight and meditate. Do you delight in the word of God? You think about things in life that you delight in. Like I can tell you today, at 6:00, Utah Jazz tip off. At 6:30 we’re supposed to have a baby. I’m trying to figure out how to get that child in front of a Utah Jazz game as soon as possible so that we can delight together and it is an eternal Utah Jazz fan that has just been birthed in the state of Utah. It will be wonderful, right?
I delight in the Jazz. You don’t have to tell me to be excited about the Jazz. When they’re on, I already know. No need to text me about their start time. I’ve got those dates. I delight in it, right? When you delight in something, no one has to tell you to be happy about it. When you delight in something, you don’t let go of it. It’s what you love naturally because it’s what you care about.
So the question is, if you are this person described in this psalm, bearing this type of fruit in your life, then it should be said that you’re able to look back in your life and you’re the type of person that delights in God’s word. Not only that, meditates. If we delight in God’s word, we meditate on it, because you think about the things you delight in. It circulates in your mind.
This word meditate in scripture, it also comes from the same word for where a lion growls over its food. You ever think about that? I don’t want to be in this circumstance, so I’m just going to use my imagination, but you’re walking through the Sahara here. You come upon a lion. It has now started to devour this great kill that it has accomplished, and I try to get near that lion at that moment. Either my life will be over or at best I’ll probably hear some sort of growl. Like this is mind. I am devouring it. I own this. I’m meditating on this.
This is what it’s describing in this passage of scripture, that this type of life, that bears this fruit, the root that it possesses is one that both delights and meditates. It churns scripture within their mind. Maybe if the lion doesn’t go well with you, maybe you can think more like a cow chewing its cud. It takes a bite of grass, at least, I don’t, I’ve never been on a farm, but you get near a cow. I see them. I pass them when I talk to them, but I don’t hang out with them.
I’m told this. Cow chews the cud, pukes, chews the cud, pukes. Right? It’s the same thing over and over and over. It’s just processing what’s there. Why? Because it’s delight. Then he says this. Not only do you delight, but you meditate and then in verse 20 gives this negative statement, that the type of influences that will not encourage you to make the word of God the priority. Let’s just take the reverse of that for a moment.
Because let’s acknowledge while there are people that may encourage you away from God’s word, that it’s also important to be near those that encourage you into God’s word. This world can be discouraging. I mean, I can almost guarantee everyone this morning, let’s just pretend that you did this, okay? By show of hands, how many of you in life would like some encouragement right now? I’m going to say probably the majority of us would raise our hands.
You can just assume when we meet together, because the things that we experience in life, we need encouragement. We need reminded of the source from which our joy comes. To delight, to meditate in it. To sit with those that point us to this and to exhort one another in the delight of what God’s word is about. We appreciate it as a part of God’s body.
So let me pause here for a minute and tell you this because what my fear is in reading this is that now you feel this guilt and shame for not performing in your delight and meditating on God’s word. But I don’t want that to be the result. This person isn’t writing this psalm to get you to legalistically start reading God’s word. This delighting, this meditating soul has made his heart about God, and he delights and meditates on the kingdom he loves, and the result is fruit.
This morning I’m not telling you, let’s just add one more thing on the to do list of all the things you got to do today, and now read the bible. Go home. Read the bible everybody. But rather what I’m saying is, guys when your love is God, and you want to see God’s will accomplished in this world, you’ll hitch your wagon to the things of God and know God as he desires to make himself known. The beauty is, is that God has made himself known in his word.
When the goodness of that God has made himself known in your heart, in your life, the driving force in your is to connect with him, to delight and meditate. Really, this is more of a question, is God really your love? Is he your foundation? Do you see him as the source of joy and happiness? Do you think he is a good God? Because if he is a good God then to delight in him will produce that fruit in this world.
So connect your fruit into what will sustain. Because everything else in life is chaff. It’s tumbleweed, and on top of that, I’m not telling you to read to go just gain information. We’re not about being Christians just to be intellectually smart in scripture. I know a lot of people that know a lot about the bible and I’d say have little to do with a relationship with Jesus. Give them a trivia question on scripture, they can knock it out of the park all day long, but talk about a relationship with God, it’s like a foreign concept to them.
God made himself known not so you can walk around and show yourself how smart you are with his word. It’s so you can know him, walk life with him, right? It’s not, I would say third about the last statement. It’s not about legalistically just going to church. It’s about recognizing when you know this God and you get to experience this God and you see the richness of his word blessing your life, you want to gather with those that are like-minded and encourage one another on this pursuit.
So it’s not about legalism. It’s about the delight of your hearts, the question of what do you delight in. What makes your soul sing and what satisfies the depth of who you are? Because if it’s anything other than the Lord, the answer to this psalm is just saying to us, waking up and answer the question why? Because that root, what it leads to is tumbleweed, emptiness. It may temporarily satisfy but not long term. It’s one of the hardest things to be. You look at the two positions in this psalm. One is this path of wickedness. The other is delighting in God’s word and sometimes we’ll look at that and we’ll say, what if I’m neither? What if I’m no Mother Theresa, but I’m no devil or demon either? Where’s the psalm for the normal people kind of in between that, that doesn’t want to teeter on either side, but I just want to keep it cool down the middle? How does that exist?
I want to say, if you’re wrestling with that, you’re probably, just trying to be honest. I feel like this is a little blunt, but to me that sounds like one of the most unsatisfying, unpleasant ways to live your life in this world. The bible tells you sin is fun for a season. If you don’t want to give your heart to God, at least, I mean sin is fun for a season, but in Christ there is eternal joy. If you try to play the middle of the road, you’re miserable because the world, because the world … You’re miserable, excuse me, and living in the world because you have enough of God in you to make you miserable with that.
When you’re with God you’re miserable with God because you have enough of the world in you. So either way you find yourself unsatisfied. But the delight is to ask your question, what are you rooted in? I recently, I love reading stories on church history, about individuals. One of the stories I recently read about was a man by the name of John Bunyan. John Bunyan was alive in the 1600s, towards the end of the Reformation. He wrote one of the famous works of literature called Pilgrim’s Progress.
Some even claim that it’s the second most published book in history, just behind the bible. I know some of you probably thought that was like Twilight or Harry Potter or something, but nope, it’s Pilgrim’s Progress. At least that’s what people claim. John Bunyan wrote that work, one of the most inspiring works in history, and the interesting thing about that work though is he wrote, scholars think, most of that in jail.
John Bunyan in jail had a faith that sustained him that’s just inspiring to Christians. I love reading about Christian history just because you can look at lives of individuals that based on circumstance, happenings, you would think that they shouldn’t be happy, but here they are walking with God, delighting with him enduring some of the greatest hardships. John Bunyan was one of those individuals that endured hardship. He was put in jail because he preached the gospel.
When you read his story, one of the crazy things is the punishment for preaching the gospel during his day was just to be in jail for a few months, but to get out, at the end of those few months, you had to agree not to preach the gospel anymore. Bunyan refused. He spent over a decade in jail. One of the things that intrigued me about John Bunyan in relating to this scripture is, as I just looked at his life, was when he was in jail, John Bunyan requested two things. The word of God and Fox’s Book of Martyrs.
John Fox, about 100 years earlier, had written a book about the martyrdom of Christians throughout the centuries. I thought, how incredible. Here’s a guy that his joy sustains beyond the circumstances in something much deeper, which it can delight in, seeing that during the quarter of time, how God has allowed him to do something that matters. I think if John Bunyan right now could hear this, just to see his life impacting to such a degree that we even talk about it on Sunday morning, that is something to delight in. The fruit of that.
How beautiful what God can do. Even beyond that, he asked for Fox’s Book of Martyrs, which says to me, he’s living out this verse where he’s not in the counsel of the wicked, but he wants to be around godly people, so much so that when he can’t physically be there, he wants to be inspired by the stories of those who remained faithful to God because his delight and root is in him.
See, the encouragement from the psalm for us this morning isn’t just to say oh yeah, I read God’s word. But it’s to stop in your heart and to just simply reflect, is that my delight right now? Is that what I think about and meditate on? Is that where my heart goes in those moments where I’m free? He ends the psalm this way.
It says in verse 5 and 6, “therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous, for the Lord knows the way of the righteous. The way of the wicked will perish.” All right, so you see these two positions again. The wicked will not stand in judgment. That doesn’t mean the wicked get out of judgment. It means when it comes to judgment, they have no leg to stand on.
But then, in verse 6, the Lord knows the way of the righteous. This word knows, it’s two important words. It’s yada in Hebrew. Literally means intimately. It’s the same word used in Genesis 1 that says Adam knew his wife. God knows them. They’re tapped into the Lord. That root is supplied by the nutrients of who he is. It sustains them in his joy into their soul. God knows the way of the righteous, and the question is for us then, are you righteous?
Where is your heart before God? Is it righteous? If you only have two paths here? Which one do you fall on? Can I take the middle road again? I’m not perfect but I’m not horrible either, right? Here’s what I want us to know when it comes to righteousness. Something I want to imply to just reading scripture for you is because God wants to take this word that is full of nutrients to produce this fruit in your life, but here’s the cool thing in agricultural society. When you saw vegetation, when you saw things grow, when you saw fruit produced, you not only had something to eat that year, but you realize you had the seed to plant something next year, right?
This fruit continues to produce itself. So when your root is tapped into God, it’s not just saying, okay, you’re good, but it’s saying what flows from your life now is something that can saturate itself in the life of other people. That fruit can continue to reproduce itself. When you think about God’s word for us, look we don’t need to make this so unattainable to understand that we teach it on Sunday morning and we want us to see the richness of what it is, but God wants you to take this richness in your life and let it just bleed out of who you are.
Let it flow from you. Let it not only influence your heart, but let that flow out of your life and in the influence of other people. It doesn’t look like this with my kids. I don’t go to my kids and be like, “Read God’s word. You must delight.” That’s not going to delight for anybody. You can’t force someone to delight, but when they see the joy of the Lord in your life being made known and you share that joy with them, it’s a much better experience than just simply being forced to it.
We got to start this not legalistically. We’re not asking the question or just saying to you, guilt. Go read God’s word and do it now, or you’re bad, right? That’s my best demon voice I could do. That’s not what we’re saying this morning, okay? What we’re saying is look, make God your prize. Delight in him. I’m going to share this verse with you in talking about righteousness, right. He says, in this psalm, chapter 1, verses 5 and 6, that God knows his righteous. His righteous people. Are you righteous?
Now if that gives you a pause for a minute, like ah, I don’t know, right? I don’t feel like I can live God’s rules, like I don’t know if I’m under that righteousness. This week, let me tell you, when it comes to God’s word, this is what I did, in my own personal life. I just read the book of 1 Timothy. I read the book of 1 Timothy in the morning and the evening, every day this week and I just meditated on it. Delight in it.
While I was mowing the grass yesterday, I had this thought. I thought well this is just a good example. I’ll use too I guess, but I didn’t even realize this until I was mowing the grass. It was just in my mind, so I was able to meditate about it. In 1 Timothy 1:9, Paul’s talking about righteousness here and he says this. “Realizing that the fact that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane.” Let me just stop there.
Who is, who is the law made for? That’s the debate in Paul’s day. Who is the law made for? Because in Paul’s day, people are following behind Paul wherever he establishes a church and they’re saying you have to obey the law in order to be righteous. Like God’s law is for the righteous people and those that obey this law, therefore they’re righteous. What Paul says to Timothy in this story is the law is not made for the righteous. The law isn’t to prove how good you are.
When you read psalm 1 and verse 6, and you ask yourself, am I righteous, I can tell you, if you’re measuring yourself according to the law, there ain’t a person here that can call themselves righteous. We’re all on the side of the wicked. So the point of the law isn’t about righteousness. Rather this is what Paul says in Philippians chapter 3. We saw this a couple weeks ago. “He found in him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law. That which is your faith in Christ, but righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
I want to know Christ. So this really points to where your delight comes from, where your joy and desire for meditation comes from. It’s not because you’re righteous. It’s because he is and he died for you. Christ died for you, that your root could happen to him. That was what makes the word of God so special. It’s not a list of laws that condemn us, though we are condemned by the law, but rather in the condemnation the law presents, it’s to show us where freedom truly is.
It’s in Jesus. So when I tap into God’s word, I’m not tapping into God’s word to legalistically just pursue God. I’m tapping into God’s word because I want to know this Jesus that loves me so dearly. This Jesus who made me righteous in him. The one that makes my life matter for more than just chaff. This word is important, and that’s what I want us to just really understand this morning when you walk away, is the power of God’s word can be known in my heart every day. It should be known every day.
It’s like refusing to tap into this tree that bears such beautiful fruit. Why would I ever do that with a God that loves me so dearly. As I realize being a pastor is a sacred thing, right. I don’t want to take it for granted. I know God judges what I say and I want it to be truthful, but I don’t ever want to put the position of serving in a church, in a pastoral role or and elder role above other people to the sense that you can’t have the power of God’s word the same way. Does that make sense?
God made his word known for all of us, all of us. All of us have an opportunity to go out into this world and to share this joy and to know this God. It doesn’t, I don’t have any mystical powers in this. I’m just a person that reads God’s word and uses the gifts I think God gave me. I want to know him, not always. I mean, I’m a sinner too, right. Your encouragement is important in my life as well, but this is all of us on this journey.
So here’s the answer. How are you happy? You root your life in what sustains, what brings you righteousness. What brings ultimate joy and satisfaction, and where is that? In all the things in this world, that the world could promise you, the truth is that it always and will always rest in Jesus. Does your heart delight, does it meditate? The answer isn’t to guilt yourself over it, but to fall in love with the Lord and desire to make him known in your life.