A Book That Begins With A Lie

It’s never a good idea to start a book with a falsehood, but that’s how Joel Osteen begins his best-selling book, Your Best Life Now. Here’s the first sentence of the Introduction:

“The future is yours for the taking.”

Osteen clearly agrees with this common phrase, heard in many graduation ceremonies, as he goes on to explain why it doesn’t always work out for some people.

Contrast this opening falsehood with a truthful saying we often hear in Christian circles:

“We don’t know what the future holds, but we know God holds the future.”

Starkly different theologies right there.

The future is yours versus the future is God’s.

You can take the future into your own hands versus God holds the future.

These are two very different views of God, of humanity, and of living the Christian life.

A Slither of Truth
As with so much of Osteen’s theology, there’s a sliver of truth in what he’s saying. Our future is influenced by our present choices. But influenced by is very different from determined by.

Yes, what we choose today may have an impact on tomorrow, the next year, and even extend to future generations. Who we decide to marry, where we choose to live and work, whether to make that phone call or write that email, all of these things influence beyond the present moment and may have a bearing on the rest of our lives and on the lives of others.

However, that’s a very different thing to saying that we can take the future into our own hands and determine our future by our present choices. That completely fails to take account of the sovereignty of the God who has His own plan for our life and can thwart and overrule any of our choices.

This means that our good choices do not always mean happy outcomes, and, thankfully, bad choices do not always mean unhappy outcomes.

Yes, we must live responsibly and make our choices prayerfully, but all our choices are ultimately under the overall sovereignty of God.

A Terrifying Message
Although Osteen is trying to inspire people to take charge of their lives and make a better life for themselves in the future, his message here actually scares the wits out of me.

If the future is in my hands, then I will either work it out independently without reference to God’s wisdom, God’s glory, or God’s will for my life.

Or else I will be paralyzed with fear at the thought that I’m in total charge of my destiny and everything depends entirely upon my decisions.

That’s why I’m utterly baffled that Osteen can teach that the future is in our hands and then say:

“No matter where you are or what challenges you are facing, you can enjoy your life right now!” (K50)

There’s no way I could enjoy my life right now if the future is entirely in my hands. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or do anything profitable with that crushing responsibility on my shoulders.

But if my sovereign God not only knows but holds my future, if God can guide and bless my good choices and even overrule my bad choices for good, then I can enjoy my life right now.

Moreover, trust in God’s sovereignty means I can enjoy my life even in the midst of pain and suffering, even pain and suffering that has resulted from my poor decisions, and those of others.

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The Indispensable Value of Practical Theology

Reformed Christians are famous (some would say “infamous”) for our emphasis upon theology; especially biblical theology, systematic theology, historical theology, and exegetical theology.

Just look at our creaking bookshelves and impressive libraries!

Critics, though, often ask, “Where’s your practical theology?”

And they sometimes have a point. At times we do struggle to translate the knowledge our heads are bursting with into our vocations, our families, our evangelism, our ethics, and other areas of the Christian life.

Practical Opposition
Indeed, some Reformed believers are practically opposed to practical theology. Any hint of “ought” or “should” or “don’t” raises cries of “Legalism!”

Others think practical theology a kind of second division theology; a little brother to the BIG BOYS; something for smaller minds.

However, without practical theology, we will never make any real lasting progress in any of the other theologies – biblical, systematic, historical, etc.

How so?

Doing and Knowing
Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

Did you see that? Doing leads to knowing! If we do, we shall know. Action leads to knowledge.

I can’t fully explain that connection, but Jesus established and emphasized it. The verse teaches that if we don’t do what we know, we will not know for long, we will not know for sure, and we will not know in a way that leads to praise and glory for Christ.

Unsustainable Theology
We are right to be concerned about a Christianity that only does, does, does, and never knows – that’s unsustainable.

But Jesus says we should be equally concerned with a Christianity that only knows, knows, knows, and never does – that too is unsustainable.

So, if you are struggling to learn, retain, or enjoy biblical theology, systematic theology, or historical theology, the answer for you may be to do more practical theology.

PS: If you want to know where to start, have a look at these free books full of practical theology for leaders, families, students, and churches. 

Order The Happy Christian Now For $100 Of Free Resources

Free Resources Graphic

“Happy is a cheap word nowadays, hardly strong enough to describe the realistic, joyful, triumphant Christian life into which David Murray labors to lead us. His book overflows with earthy, deep-rooted biblical wisdom that many miss but all of us need.” J I Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College.

Want to spread some happiness? Here’s a special offer you might want to share with your friends.

If you buy or pre-order The Happy Christian before February 24 you’ll get over $100 of free books and films.

Here’s a quick description of what you’ll get.

Free Study Guide

The Happy Christian Study Guide.
Why not read The Happy Christian in your Bible Study or Small Group and use these questions to help you get the most happiness out of the book and into your heart and life!

Six Free Ebooks (EPUB, MOBI, and PDF)

1000 Happy Quotes: A History of Happiness
1000 quotes from a selection of Christian leaders through the centuries, including Augustine, Martin Luther, Thomas Manton, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, etc., and right up to the present day with a selection from R. C. Sproul, John Macarthur, John Piper, and others.

100 Days of Happiness: A Daily Diet of Nourishing Joy
Put The Happy Christian into practice by snacking on these short and instructive devotionals, and watch as your happiness expands, deepens, and grows into a healthy habit for the rest of your life.

The Happy Leader: Leading for Spiritual Profit
As the happiest Christian leaders model biblical leadership and thereby produce the most spiritual profit for the Christians and churches they lead, here’s a practical study of 14 biblical models of leadership including servant, shepherd, leader, steward, captain, etc.

The Happy Church: Holy, Healthy, Happy Churches
As we cannot be healthy and happy Christians without being in a healthy and happy church, this book explains seven marks of holy, healthy, and happy churches.

The Happy Student: Happiness and Success at School
What makes for student happiness and success? Here are my seven answers after 30+ years of studying, pastoring, professoring, and parenting.

The Happy Family: God’s Guide To Family Flourishing
As God has designed the family for our good, if we want to get the maximum good out of it, we need to obey His instructions for all the different family roles and relationships. This book will help Christian families function more biblically, more happily, and therefore more persuasively in an anti-family age.

Six Free Films

God’s Technology + Study Guide
God’s Technology is a 40 minute film download that many families and churches have used to train their children to use technology in a God-glorifying way.

Christians Get Depressed Too Films + Study Guide
Recognizing that for many Christians it is a tough battle to get to a place of happiness, I wrote Christians Get Depressed Too, to give hope and help to the depressed. We’ve now followed that up with five (35 minute) films for download, featuring five different Christians telling five very different stories of how God gave them hope and help through depression.

Happy App

By the end of January, the Happy Christian App will also be available free of charge in the Apple App Store, Google Play store, and the Kindle Fire app store. This App will deliver daily articles, devotionals, quotes, and news items to generate and maintain Christian joy.

Next Steps

Step 1. Order The Happy Christian from your favorite retailer like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local Christian bookstore before the book releases on February 24.

Step 2. Email your receipt or proof of payment to TheHappyChristianBook@gmail.com

That’s it! You will then immediately receive links to your free downloads in your inbox.

Step 3. Share with your friends and followers.


Happiness For Sale

“Basically, everywhere in the world, giving is associated with being a happier person.” Michael Norton

Can money make you happy?

Short answer, “Yes…if you give your money away!”

Harvard Professor Michael Norton wrote a book about this called Happy Money, the Science of Smarter Spending. In it he presents data to support his regular challenge to audiences: “If you think money doesn’t buy happiness, try giving some away.”

Happy Giving

In the book, Norton and co-author Elizabeth Dunn explain the results of numerous experiments in which Canadian college students, poor Ugandans, and Belgian pharmaceutical salesmen were given money to spend on themselves or others.

In every case, the persons who were told to give their money away were happier than the persons who were told to keep the money for themselves.

Happy Findings

A few of their other findings:

  • The most generous givers tend to be at both ends of the wealth spectrum.
  • Poor people tend to be more generous the middle class.
  • Giving to religious groups, even when compulsory, tends to make people happier.
  • Giving to a person you know makes you more happy than giving anonymously.
  • Money does not make the average U.S. citizen happier after they reach an income of $75,000 a year. From that point on, most persons claim they would need to triple their current income to be completely happy.

An explanation, illustration, and confirmation of the most neglected beatitude:

“It is more blessed to give than receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Happy Soul-Winning

“There are many more sinners brought to Christ by happy Christians than by doleful Christians.” Charles Spurgeon

There’s a reason why comedians are popular and draw crowds. People feel happier when they are around happy people. Even memories of our school days remind us that funny kids are popular kids.

Happy Attraction

That’s one reason why the happiest Christians tend to be the best soul-winners. Their attractive cheerfulness draws people rather than repels them. Even non-Christians enjoy their company and gladly choose to spend time with them. You can’t evangelize if people avoid your miserable company and run when they see you coming.

Happy Contrast

Another reason is that genuine happiness is quite rare and people notice it when they come across it. They are intrigued and curious. They watch and study this unusual human specimen. They want to find out what makes such a person tick. They listen when they speak and try to work out what makes this person different.

In contrast, the sad Christian doesn’t stand out at all. He’s just like most everyone else in the world. Nothing special or different about him. No curiosity or puzzle there.

Happy Words

The happy Christian has a positive witness. He’s not always criticizing and condemning the world, but is pointing to Christ and highlighting His benefits. He uses the carrot more than the stick. He motivates by love more than fear. He draws with promises more than drives with threats.

Happy Hope

The happy Christian also wins souls by his optimism. He rejects fatalistic pessimism because he knows that God also loves to win souls, that He delights to save sinners, that He is not only able but willing to do so, and that He will receive any and all who come to Him by Christ.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise.”
Proverbs 11:30