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Faith & Feelings

One of the great privileges of growing up in an old-fashioned, Bible-believing church is the lyrics of the great old hymns that get etched upon the memory. They create a reservoir of song from which the believer can draw in response to the scriptural admonition: “Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). One of my favorites is an Isaac Watts Hymn written in 1707—“Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed.” Its refrain: “At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day!” 

I remember vividly the night in late 1959 when the burden of my heart rolled away at the moment I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I also remember the thousands of occasions since then when I was NOT HAPPY all the day. 

This has been perhaps the greatest failure of evangelical churches in discipling new converts. Instead of training them to be soldiers engaged in spiritual combat, much like Marine boot camp takes raw civilian recruits and transforms them into combat soldiers, the church too often paints a picture of pure happiness and bliss upon their decision to follow Christ. 

But the God who saves sinners is far more concerned with their HOLINESS than their HAPPINESS. He is far more concerned with what we are BELIEVING than what we are FEELING! It is far more important for the believer to be HOLY all the day than HAPPY all the day. 

The truth is believers can be miserable all the day due to missteps. I submit to you Samson was NOT HAPPY all the days after the Philistines plucked out his eyes. King David was NOT HAPPY all the days he spent (nearly a year) concealing his murder-adultery UNTIL the day the prophet Nathan confronted him with his unconfessed sin. The apostle Peter was NOT HAPPY all the days between his denial that he knew Jesus and his post-resurrection meeting with Jesus on the shores of Galilee, at which time Jesus assured him he had a lot of ‘feeding of the sheep’ to do.  

Nothing does more to bring happiness back into the life of a believer than to hear from his Lord that there is STILL Kingdom usefulness in his or her future! Take, for example, the prophet Jeremiah. I would challenge any student of scripture to find a more extreme example of a godly man engaged in Kingdom business that got more discouraged, more bitter, more DOWN IN THE DUMPS than Jeremiah did. 

In reading Jeremiah 20:7-18, you discover Jeremiah actually accuses God of deceiving him, and concludes: “I am in derision [NOT HAPPY] daily, every one mocketh me” (20:7). He goes on to curse the day he was born, wishes he had died in the womb, and that his mother had carried his dead body in her womb for the remainder of her days (20:17). 

Put yourself in Jeremiah’s shoes. Here was a young man God gave to “the nations” in order “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (1:10). Now some thirty-plus years into his ministry (during which he was winning NO popularity contests), he FEELS like the ONLY one being rooted out, pulled down, destroyed and thrown down is HIM! In other words: “This prophecy business ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Boy, did God give me the raw end of this deal!”

Can you see a friend (assuming he had one) saying: “Ah, come on, Jeremiah, you’re just having a BAD DAY,” to whom he might respond: “Yeah, right, how about a LOUSY LIFE!” 

It’s instructive God had no rejoinder, no rebuke for Jeremiah, at least none recorded in the text. Instead, his Lord gives him another preaching assignment that involved king Zedekiah, an assignment with which Jeremiah immediately engaged himself (21:1-3). God offset whatever Jeremiah might have been FEELING with BELEIVING there was more usefulness, more service to render. God got Jeremiah OUT OF HIMSELF by a renewed focus on things OUTSIDE OF HIMSELF—namely, the WILL OF GOD in delivering the truth through preaching, an activity consistent with his calling!

Believers in Jesus are not necessarily happy all the day, every day. But a loss of HAPPINESS need not involve a loss of HOLINESS! A man or woman steadfast in what they BELIEVE need not concern themselves too much with what they FEEL in times of difficulty.


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