March 24, 2023

The Cure for Our Unhappiness

R.C. Sproul
The Cure for Our Unhappiness

What would it take to make you happy—truly happy? Today, R.C. Sproul gets to the heart of our discontentment and conveys the source of lasting fulfillment.


The world is filled with warfare! Not just global war or national conflict of armaments clashing with one another. But there's warfare in the church, there's warfare in the community, there's warfare in the statehouse, there's conflict all around us. Quarrels, fights, disputes, contentions. And James says, "Where do these things come from?" And he said, practically speaking, they all come from something that's wrong deeply within our hearts. And the one motivating factor that creates these wars and conflicts is envy. One of the deadly sins of the Old Testament, and one that we hardly ever speak of in our own day. Isn't it interesting that in Israel, when God created a nation and gave to that nation their constitution, their bill of rights, the 10 overarching laws that would govern all of their interaction and all of their culture and all of their legal structure, that he included in the top 10 of those laws, in the 10 commandments, the commandment "Thou shalt not covet."

Sometimes we think that covetousness is something that is only found among the poor, that they covet or envy the possessions, the wealth, the prosperity, or the position and status of the wealthy. But no, it's a human problem. The richest man in the world may not be satisfied with his prosperity and still covet something that somebody else has. Covet and envy cross class lines, and in fact, they create class lines, and we've heard much in our day in the political and economic struggles that are tearing America apart at its seams, the problem of class warfare. Conflict begins out of a heart that is filled with envy because somebody else has something that we don't have, and we want it for ourselves.

The oldest philosophy that stands opposed to God is the philosophy of hedonism, that defines the good in terms of the pleasurable. Well, I'm not opposed to pleasure. I don't like pain, do you? I enjoy pleasure. And one of the reasons why sin is so tempting is because sin does bring pleasure. Short term, for a season. And what it can never do, however, is bring happiness. Happiness is an inner state of delight, a blessedness of contentment, where there is no room for greed and covetousness.

You remember the apostle Paul saying, "I've learned how to be abased. I've learned how to abound. And I have learned in whatsoever state, I am therein to be content." Those are the words, beloved, of a happy man. He didn't covet anything! He was satisfied. He enjoyed a peace and joy in his spirit and in his soul that was extraordinary. And you who are Christians know moments of that kind of peace. When you are alone in the presence of God, you're communing with God, you're in fellowship with God, you know that your sins have been forgiven, and you say, "What else do I need? I don't need anything else." Until dinner time, and you're worrying about the budget, and you're worried about the bills, and you're hungry, and all of a sudden you start, "Oh, if I just had a little bit more money, if I just had a better car, if I just had a nicer house, those things would finally make me happy.

Think about your life. I think about my life. I think about, when I was growing up as a child, I had a pretty happy life, but there were certain things that nagged at me. I couldn't wait until I was 16 years old, because I knew that when I was 16, I'd be able to get my driver's license and I would be able to drive a car, and then I would be happy. Well, I got my driver's license, and then the next thing was what? I had to go through this thing, "May I have the car tonight? Can I have the car?" And I said, and I thought, "Boy, if I could just have my own car, then I'll be happy."

And voila, I got my own car. And I thought, "Well, I got that taken care of. And now if I could just have a girlfriend, that'll make me happy," get the girlfriend, say "Now if I can just get married," that [inaudible 00:05:19], "If I can just get done with college," and then you graduate, and you think, "Now, if I can just get a job," and you get the job, and you're still not happy. "If I can just get a raise, that'll make me happy. If I can just get a promotion, that'll make me happy. If I can just own my own house, that'll make me happy. If we can just have a healthy child, that'll make me happy."

And I'm now been through all of that stuff and prospering, God has been gracious to my family. I think it's nicer now than it was then. But the degree of happiness that I enjoy in my life, it's just a tiny bit more than it was then, and has very little to do with possessions, and very little to do with pleasure. And yet we're still deceived by the temptation that you will only be happy if you can experience all the pleasures that you want out of life. You know, Paul had the thorn in the flesh. He thought that if he could just get rid of that thorn in the flesh, he'd be happy. And so he'd beseeched the Lord three times to remove that thorn, whatever it was, until finally God said to Paul, "Paul, no. Not going to do it. My grace is sufficient for you."

Take out a pencil today, sometime, just a few minutes and write down on that paper a list from one to 10, and put next to those numbers the 10 things that you want the most out of the rest of your life. And then look at that list and say to yourself, "Why do I want these things?" Are these the things that really matter? Are these the things that will make me truly happy and truly fulfill me as a creature made in the image of God? Are these things that I've listed here the things that I could walk into the very presence of God and without embarrassment and without shame, say to God, "God, would you please give me these 10 things?" See if you can find a mirror of your own soul in that list. And then when you're done, get on your knees and say, "God, give me humility that I may enjoy your grace."