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Seeds of the Kingdom

How to Live a Happy Life

by John Sainsbury

22 November 2020

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Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.
Psalm 1:1, NIV

Surprisingly, the first word that introduces Psalm 1 is ‘blessed’ (which might best be translated ‘happy’.) I can’t imagine many people who, given the choice, would rather choose to be sad, when they were presented with the opportunity to be happy. So, who is the happy one that the psalmist writes about? Well, seemingly, the happy person is someone ‘who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers’. But what does that really mean?

I live near the sea, and on a lovely sunny day I like nothing more than to walk with my dog on the sandy beach. I am often joined by someone who just wants to tag along and share their heart and seek wise counsel, which, hopefully, I am occasionally able to provide.

But the psalmist warns that the happy person isn’t going to remain so if they seek counsel from someone who is consciously choosing to ignore God’s wisdom, but rather seeking to live by their own standards and choices. Living that way, says the psalmist, isn’t going to lead to a happy life. Nor will the path to happiness be found if the advice is given by those who have no interest in doing what God says will be best for us. They are those who ‘stand in the way of sinners’.

Finally, the psalmist notes that, if a person continues to live this way, then their attitude will probably harden to such an extent that they will start to mock and ridicule any who might choose to live a life which doesn’t share their values and ideals. And frankly, the psalmist suggests that their chances of genuine happiness (blessing) are limited as a result. Indeed, the ultimate outcome of their choice to live without God will be that they perish (Psalm 1:6).

So, if that’s not the root to a happy life, what does the psalmist suggest is a more positive way forward?

Surprisingly, he doesn’t advocate that we need to do anything. Rather he suggests that we should just be ‘like a tree planted by streams of water’. The tree sucks up life-giving nutrients from the perpetual source of water nearby and ‘yields its fruit in season’. In the same way we should delight in sucking up God’s source of wisdom, found in the words of the bible.

Then the promise is that whatever we do will prosper (Psalm 1:3), and we will be the ones God watches over (Psalm 1:6).

Prayer: Father God, may I be one who delights to learn more of what it means to walk in Your ways, and be someone who has the courage to walk in Your ways, even when I am potentially mocked and ridiculed for doing so. Help me to remember, Lord, that this is the true path of happiness for my life. Amen.

John Sainsbury and his wife Sue are part of the leadership team at Ellel Grange. John has served as a church leader for many years, most recently as Lead Pastor of the Garstang Free Methodist Church. He has a passion for seeing many brought into the fulness of life that following Christ brings.


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