Home Pastors Articles for Pastors Why You Don’t Have to Choose Between Happiness and Holiness

Why You Don’t Have to Choose Between Happiness and Holiness

If we believe the lie that saying no to sin means saying no to happiness, then no amount of self-restraint will keep us from ultimately seeking happiness in sin. John Piper writes, “Enjoy a superior satisfaction. Cultivate capacities for pleasure in Christ. … You were created to treasure Christ with all your heart—more than you treasure sex or sugar or sports or shopping. If you have little taste for Jesus, competing pleasures will triumph.”

Holiness doesn’t mean abstaining from pleasure; holiness means recognizing Jesus as the source of life’s greatest pleasure.

Spurgeon said, “Holiness is the royal road to happiness. The death of sin is the life of joy.”

A gospel that promotes holiness over happiness isn’t good news.

Too often our message to the world becomes a false gospel that lays upon people an impossible burden: To be a Christian, you must give up wanting to be happy and instead choose to be holy. “Give up happiness; choose holiness instead” is not good news in any sense, and therefore it is not the true gospel! It bears more resemblance to the legalistic worldview of the Pharisees Jesus condemned (see Matthew 23:2-4).

Theologian and seminary professor Bruce Ware told me, “Of the 80 kids who grew up in our Bible-believing church, my sister and I can count on one hand those now walking with Jesus.”

If given a choice, people who grow up in evangelical churches will predictably choose what appears to be the delightful happiness of the world over the dutiful holiness of church. Satan tries to rig the game by leading us to believe we can’t have both happiness and holiness. Offer people a choice between being hungry and thirsty or having food and drink, and their choice is obvious. Never mind that the meal may be laced with cyanide or the drink injected with arsenic. Any offer of happiness, with or without holiness, will always win over an offer of holiness devoid of happiness.

C.S. Lewis wrote to an American friend, “How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing … it is irresistible. If even 10 percent of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?”

Holiness and happiness are like spiritual DNA.

DNA’s double helix is perfectly balanced at the core of human life. Two strands wrap around each other, forming an axis of symmetry and providing a perfect complement for each other.

God has made holiness and happiness to enjoy a similar relationship: Each benefits from the other. For those of us who are Christ-centered believers, our lives should overflow with both. Neither alone will suffice; both together are essential for the truly Christ-centered life.

When Jesus says, “Be perfect” (Matthew 5:48), we should recognize that true happiness in him is part of what he intends. Our pleasure is won in the “Aha!” moments of discovering firsthand why God’s ways really are best. The more we discover God’s ways and experience the goodness of his holiness, the less we try to find happiness apart from him.

Learn more in Randy’s book Happiness.  

Previous articleLouis Zamperini Testimony at 1958 San Francisco Billy Graham Crusade
Next articleThe Evangelism Conversation No One Is Having
Randy Alcorn is the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (www.epm.org), a nonprofit ministry dedicated to teaching principles of God’s Word and assisting the church in ministering to the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled, and unsupported people around the world. Before starting EPM in 1990, Randy served as a pastor for fourteen years. He is a New York Times best-selling author of over fifty books, including Heaven (over one million sold), The Treasure Principle (over two million sold), If God Is Good, Happiness, and the award-winning novel Safely Home. His books sold exceed ten million copies and have been translated into over seventy languages.