So I made the mistake of clicking on the video posted by Elliot Rodger. In case that name does not ring a bell, Elliot is the young man who decided to travel to Santa Barbara last Friday, May 23rd, the day he referred to as “The Day of Retribution,” and execute as many young women and co-eds as possible. Before taking his own life Elliot fatally stabbed his three roommates and gunned down two young women and another young man in Isla Vista. Six young, promising lives snuffed out on one man’s desire to repay society for the injustices he claimed to suffer. In a YouTube video, the last he ever posted, he shared his hatred for women because in all of his 22 years not one young woman ever responded positively to his romantic or physical advances. He lamented in his loneliness and apparent jealously for others finding companionship with someone of the opposite sex.
While watching and listening to his rather lengthy, meandering, and misguided thoughts it became apparent that Elliot believed he was entitled to happiness and the lack of ever being with a woman caused him unhappiness. There was much more to Elliot’s video, but I could not get past this young man’s sense of entitlement. To him happiness (or lack thereof) was obviously of paramount importance, and that perceived happiness could only be found in the conquest of any woman who would respond to his advances. Mind you this was a young man who seemed to experience a fairly lavish lifestyle. His parents were both involved in the Hollywood entertainment machine; he walked red carpets, rubbed elbows with celebrities, drove a BMW. From an outsider’s point of view he seemingly had a lot going for him. But he was not happy and in his mind he deserved to be. So in his mind, because he was not any, all, and every woman must pay.
So, was Eliott correct in his belief that he deserved to be happy? Really, does anyone deserve to be happy? Is happiness in life the end goal of the human existence? Did God put humans on earth for the sole reason to find and experience happiness? I do not know if Elliot believed in God or not, but it seems safe to presume that his spiritual beliefs notwithstanding, he believed happiness was the prized goal of human existence and source of worth.
So, is it? Is God’s purpose for our lives ultimately measured in our individual happiness? Did Jesus leave his father’s side, come to earth, experience life as a human being, and die a horrific death, so you and I can be happy?
No. At least that’s not the message I get when I read the New Testament.
Happiness is something we as humans get to enjoy. To Elliot’s point happiness may be found within the relationship with a person of the opposite gender. However, Jesus tells us happiness is found in a life well lived in accordance to God’s will (Matthew 25:21ff) and in the repentance from sin (2 Corinthians 7:9). In the Old Testament men and women were happy in the birth of a child, a victory in battle, and God’s deliverance and protection from calamity. Clearly happiness can and should be experienced, but it is not our ultimate goal in life.
Even though the announcement of Jesus’ birth was a joyful announcement (Luke 2:10) he did not come to make anyone happy; he came ultimately to make us holy (see Ephesians 4:24; 2 Timothy 1:8-10). Hebrews 12:14 encourages all who believe to, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (NIV).” Notice what this verse does not say, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be happy; without happiness no one will see the Lord.” Our happiness is very much dependent upon our external circumstances, but our holiness is dependent upon Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, and the resulting grace therein. This is why the apostle Peter, who was one of Jesus’ best earthly friends, could write, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16).”
The clarion call of the gospel message is to a life of holiness made possible only in a life with Jesus Christ. In fact, once we find our way to come to grips with God’s ultimate desire for us is holiness and we begin to live our lives under the authority of God through Jesus as revealed through the Holy Spirit then and only then will we experience true happiness; that happiness that is unencumbered by our external circumstances.
Do not fall for the lie that happiness is the key to life. It is not. Jesus did not emerge on the scene in order to make people happy. He emerged to bring them life; life eternal and abundant. He came to offer lost souls a new, better way than the world offers. He came to demonstrate that there is so much more to life than what we currently know and experience. He came to make you holy so life as you know it has purpose and your destiny is firm and secure in the hands of a faithful, just God.
Happiness is great. I admit, I long to be happy. I like to make people happy. But, when the pursuit of happiness supersedes one’s pursuit of holiness it can and will only lead to destruction. Unfortunately last week we all saw that play out. One man’s unstoppable pursuit of individual happiness drove him de-value the lives of women in general and to destroy any human life that crossed his misguided path.
Seek holiness and find true happiness.
By Jason Kleber
Watching the Ranchero Overpass burn uncontrollably and come crumbling down presented a vivid reminder of how our best laid plans can dissolve so quickly in front of us. All of our work, preparations, and hopes in life can similarly become so easily and quickly engulfed in disaster. Sometimes all it takes is one small spark.
In the midst of the emotions that accompany our personal disasters--anger, confusion, helplessness--comes a difficult choice. We can choose the hopelessness before us, or we can choose to trust God and force ourselves to see hope rising.
The Book of Acts offers us a portrait of how God works for good in all things, even when things come crumbling down. In the beginning of Acts, Jesus ascends leaving Peter to lead his Church. The Holy Spirit fills the believers and Christ's Church begins to grow rapidly. By the end of Acts 2, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42 NIV). Peter and John withstand the persecution, imprisonment, and flogging of the Sanhedrin and still march on healing in the name of Jesus, teaching, and growing Christ's Church.
But then in Acts 6, a spark ignites a flame that seems as if it will devour the Church. Stephen is falsely accused of blasphemy, brought before the Sanhedrin, then stoned for proclaiming Jesus as Christ. "They all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul." (Acts 7:58 NIV)
It looks as if the flames begin to devour the Church. "And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison." (Acts 8:1, 3 NIV)
It looked hopeless. Everything appeared to be crumbling down, and where was God?
He was working, once again. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28).
The dispersion of the church was not a victory over God and Christ's Church, but just another futile example of how the plans of man come crashing down. As Saul dismantled the church, he was actually already beginning to fulfill his purpose for Jesus and he hadn't even converted yet.
The result of the "scattering" is that Phillip took the gospel "to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there." (Acts 8:1, 3, 5 NIV)
Phillip then meets an Ethiopian on the road, leads him to Christ, baptizes him, and the message of Jesus as Christ now heads to Africa as Phillip takes the message on to Caesarea.
From the firestorm that appeared to devour the Church, hope was rising throughout the world. God was taking what looked like a disaster and turning it into the vines of salvation for many nations.
Then one man, who burned against the Church, would become one of Jesus' greatest catalysts. On the road to Damascus, Saul met Jesus. Hope was about to flourish.
Too often we read of Saul in Acts and just see his hatred that raged against the Church as just a foil for the servant he would become in Paul. However, these are not chapters of just transition for God. In the midst of the disaster, He is still working for the salvation of a world bigger than the apostles had envisioned.
In our circumstances it is easy to see ourselves. It is easy to see our agenda. It is easy to see our wreckage. It is not always so easy to see how God is still faithful, never forsaking us, but always working for his greater good.
When everything is burning and falling, have faith. Hope is rising.
From upcoming events to random thoughts, each week this is the place to hear from a staff member or guest writer.