The Secret of Happiness

In 1943, Japanese occupation forces ordered hundreds of American and European “enemy nationals” to an internment camp in China’s Shantung Province. They had to endure months of boredom, frustration, overcrowding, and fear.

Personalities clashed, tempers flared. The two groups thrown into sharpest relief were the businessmen and the missionaries—they held each other in strictest contempt. Petty squabbles multiplied.

But one man seemed able to span the gap between these two groups, a man described by an internee as “without a doubt the person most in demand and most respected and loved in camp”—Eric Liddell, a missionary from Scotland.

A Russian prostitute in camp would later recall that Liddell was the only man who’d ever done anything for her without wanting to be repaid in kind. When she first came into camp, alone and snubbed, he put up some shelves for her.

Another internee recalled, “He had a gentle, humorous way of soothing ruffled tempers.”

At one angry meeting of the internees, everybody was demanding that someone else do something about the restless teenagers who were getting into trouble. Liddell came up with a solution. He organized sports, crafts, and classes for the kids, and began spending his evenings with them.

Liddell had won fame and glory at the 1924 Olympics, taking a gold medal in the 400 meters race. But in that cramped, wearying compound, he showed himself a winner in the Christian race as well, earning the admiration of the most worldly internees.

What made him so special? You could have discovered his secret at 6 a.m. each morning. That’s when he tiptoed quietly past sleeping companions, settled down at a Chinese table, and lit a small lamp to illuminate his notebook and Bible. Eric Liddell sought grace and strength each day in the riches of God’s Word.

The Guidebook to the Christian Lifestyle

The Bible was written as a guidebook for the Christian. It is full of stories of real people like us who have experienced the same challenges we face every day. Getting to know these Bible characters—their joys and sorrows, their problems and opportunities, their search for fulfillment—helps us mature as Christians.

The psalmist David pictures our daily dependence on the Word of God by comparing it to what we would call a flashlight:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
—Psalm 119:105.
(Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptural texts in these guides are from the New International Version of the Bible [NIV].)

The illumination we get each day from the Bible enables us to take the next step forward; it’s how we make progress. It makes clear the qualities we need most in our lives and the principles of spiritual growth. Above all, the Bible presents us with Jesus, the Light of the World. Life only makes sense when Jesus is shining on it.

A Transforming Friendship

Christ wants the Bible to be as real to you as a personal letter from a close friend.

“I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
—John 15:15.

Jesus passed on the most important truths in the universe because He wants the very best for us. His Word brings us into God’s inner circle: those He confides in and personally instructs.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”
—John 16:33.

In order to experience this peace, this secure relationship with Christ, we need to read the letters He sends us. That’s what the Bible is: correspondence from heaven. Don’t leave those letters unopened just because they’re so familiar or have always been lying around. The transforming message you need is waiting to be discovered somewhere in the Word of God.

Here is one typical testimony about the Bible’s impact:

“I needed help, and I found it in Jesus. Every want was supplied, the hunger of my soul was satisfied; the Bible is to me the revelation of Christ. I believe in Jesus because He is to me a divine Saviour. I believe the Bible because I have found it to be the voice of God to my soul.”
—Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, page 461.

The Bible Summarized
in Ten Commandments

Today we have the entire Bible as the guidebook for a healthy Christian lifestyle. But before humanity had the Bible, God gave His people, Israel, the Ten Commandments as a summary of biblical guidelines for daily living (Exodus 20).

A brief look at the Ten Commandments helps us understand why Jesus, the prophets who wrote the Bible, and many modern scholars have been led to affirm that the Ten Commandments are an indispensable basis for right living.

The Ten Commandments naturally fall into two divisions. The first four define our relationship to God, and the last six define our relationship to other people. They are found in Exodus 20:3-17.

The first two commandments outline our relationship to God and to His worship.

I. “You shall have no other gods before me.”

II. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them. . . . ”

The 3rd and 4th commandments sketch our relationship to God’s name and to His holy day.

III. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

IV. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. . . . ”

Commandments 5 and 7 safeguard family bonds.

V. “Honor your father and your mother . . . . ”

VI. “You shall not murder.”

VII. “You shall not commit adultery.”

Commandments 6, 8, 9, and 10 protect us in social relationships.

VIII. “You shall not steal.”

IX. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

X. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbors wife . . . or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

The Ten Commandments are a condensation of the Bible teaching on how we ought to live. They define our relationship both to God and to other people. They are the guideposts of a Christian lifestyle.

What Jesus Said About
the Ten Commandments

One day as Jesus was teaching, an enthusiastic young man hurried up to Him and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16). Christ could see that he was wrestling with a money problem and advised him to get rid of his possessions and to “obey the commandments” (verse 17).

The young man tried to sidestep Christ’s diagnosis of his problem by asking which commandments He was talking about. Jesus listed several of the Ten Commandments: those against murder, adultery, stealing, lying, and dishonoring his parents (Verses 18, 19).

Finally, the “rich young ruler” turned and walked away sadly (verses 20-22). He wasn’t willing to take the prescription. He could give mental assent to the Ten Commandments, but he wasn’t willing to obey the spirit of the law by abandoning his selfish way of life.

Guide to a Happy Life

The Ten Commandments show us the boundaries within which healthy relationships, with God and each other, can grow. This is why God could appeal so passionately through Isaiah:

“If only you had paid attention to my commands, YOUR PEACE would have been like a river, YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS like the waves of the sea.”
—Isaiah 48:18.

Jesus pointed to obedience as the way to real joy:

“If you OBEY MY COMMANDS, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I HAVE TOLD YOU THIS SO that my joy may be in you and THAT YOUR JOY MAY BE COMPLETE.”
—John 15:10, 11.

The Bible presents the Ten Commandments as an unchangeable, indispensable, perfect guide to happy living. Human experience testifies to their timeless validity.

Jesus was one in a chorus of voices who declare that the road to happiness is paved with loving obedience to God’s commandments, for they are God’s basic principles for living a happy life.

The Ten Commandments
an Indispensable Old Testament Guide

The book of Ecclesiastes is a report of Solomon’s search for happiness. He records his quest for happiness in the riches of the world. He built magnificent houses, planted productive vineyards, beautiful gardens, and orchards of luscious fruit. He multiplied servants. He found himself surrounded with every material thing a person could desire. But finally his “bubble burst.” He said,

“When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
—Ecclesiastes 2:11.

Solomon then turned to searching out the pleasures of this world in hope of finding happiness. He was taken in by wine, women, and song. Upon reaching the end of this rainbow he found no pot of gold. His conclusion:

“This too is meaningless.”
—Verse 23.

Turning down one dead-end street after another, Solomon finally decided that he had made a mistake in seeing phantoms as a reality, and he declared:

“Meaningless! Meaningless! . . . Everything is meaningless!”
—Ecclesiastes 12:8.

Solomon had once tasted and seen that the Lord is good. As he compared his early life of obedience to God with his determined and reckless chase for happiness in the things of sin, he came up with this verdict:

“Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
—Ecclesiastes 12:13.

Solomon felt he could find a shortcut to happiness in a reckless life. Toward the close of his life, he was man enough to admit his error; and Solomon published his failure to the world in the hope that, by reviewing his experience, he could save others from the same error. Solomon admonishes:

“He that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
—Proverbs 29:18, KJV.

The Ten Commandments
An Indispensable New Testament Guide

In the New Testament, Paul testified:

“So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.”
—Romans 7:12.

James adds his weight to the testimony of Paul by stating:

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.”
—James 2:10-12.

Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of the past century, declared: “The law of God is divine law;—holy, heavenly, perfect. . . . There is not a command too many; there is not one too few, but it is so incomparable that its perfection is proof of its divinity.”

John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist church, wrote this about the enduring nature of the law:

“The moral law contained in Ten Commandments . . . He [Christ] did not take away. . . . Every part of this law must remain in force upon all man- kind and in all ages.”
—Sermons, vol. l, pp. 221, 222.

Several years ago, W. J. Cameron made this statement in an address given on the CBS radio network: “There are certain minimum terms on which people can live together, and if these be broken, social stability is lost. . . . The most comprehensive statement known to us of the minimum terms on which society can be maintained is the Ten Commandments. . . .

“This is the basic law on which all Anglo-Saxon laws are founded. Basic, because it is first written in the normal constitution of human nature. Commandments so-called, they simply state what right-minded people naturally do, and what no law can compel wrong-minded persons to do. Thus, they are more than commandments; they are the profound constitution of good society. Analyze any one of them and in it you will find an indispensable social necessity. No strong social structure has arisen where any of these elements has been lacking.”

Billy Graham, the world’s most respected evangelical evangelist, regards the Ten Commandments so highly that he has written an entire book about their importance to the Christian.

Power to Obey

We now have the Bible answer to the question: Which will lead to happiness—entering into a life of disobedience and sin, or into a life of obedience to God? The Bible and the Ten Commandments are an unchangeable, indispensable, perfect guide to happy living. Human experience testifies to the validity of this Bible truth.

Yet hearts are still in conflict. One lady expressed it like this: “I believe the Ten Commandments are binding, I know the Bible teaches that I should follow them, I believe that most of the great preachers accept them as being a guide to our conduct, I am certain that keeping them leads to happiness, and I have tried my very best to keep them; but I just can’t do it. I simply can’t keep them and I’m beginning to believe that no one else can.”

It’s a common experience to find greater difficulty in keeping the law than in coming to believe in its validity. Why? People do not have the innate ability to keep the law. Nothing which we possess by nature can elevate our life into a perfect obedience to God’s law:

“The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”
—Romans 8:7.

An unbelieving sinner may try to live a life of obedience to God’s commands. But in answer to such trying, over and over again from within the sin-polluted heart of a person comes the frustrated response, “I can’t obey!”

There is only one way of obedience; the Ten Commandments tell us that we are sinners in need of a Saviour:

“Through the law we become conscious of sin.”
—Romans 3:20.

The function of the law is to lead us to the utter realization that we are hopelessly lost. For what reason?

“The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”
—Galatians 3:24.

Jesus is the answer! Once we are at Jesus’ feet in absolute helplessness, by faith we can receive power from Him to obey the law.

Loving Obedience to
the Ten Commandments

Jesus tells us that obedience is the result of love:

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
—John 14:15.

If we love God, we will obey the first four commandments which define our relationship to God; and if we love people, we will obey the last six commandments which define our relationship with others (See Matthew 22:36-40).

The Apostle Paul agrees with the thought that love for God and for our neighbors will result in our being law-keepers rather than law-breakers:

“HE WHO LOVES HIS FELLOWMAN HAS FULFILLED THE LAW. THE COMMANDMENTS, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, ARE SUMMED UP IN THIS ONE RULE: ‘LOVE your neighbor as yourself’. . . Therefore LOVE IS THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW.”
—Romans 13:8-10.

The person who tramples on the Ten Commandments sins:

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”
—1 John 3:4.

But thank God, we have a Saviour who came to this world and died, was resurrected, and now lives for one purpose:

“But you know that he appeared SO THAT HE MIGHT TAKE AWAY OUR SINS.”
—Verse 5.

Our Saviour forgives and removes our sinfulness:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
—1 John 1:9.

And He promises to give us His love to love with—the great antidote to a life of selfishness:

“GOD HAS POURED OUT HIS LOVE INTO OUR HEARTS by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
—Romans 5:5.

We have no innate ability to keep God’s law. In fact, our sinful minds reject God’s law (Romans 3:10). God’s love “poured out . . . in our hearts” is our need, for “he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law” (Romans 5:5; 13:8). Love is the motivating power of the Christian life. Because we love God, we naturally want to obey Him, “for Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

God’s Grace and Obedience to the Law

Salvation is a gift. We cannot earn it. We can only accept it by faith. We receive justification (right standing with God) as a gift, solely through faith because of God’s grace.

“For it is BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED, through FAITH—and this not from yourselves, it is THE GIFT OF GOD—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
—Ephesians 2:8, 9.

We cannot keep the commandments by our own works—by trying. We cannot keep the commandments to be saved. But when we come to Jesus and are saved, his love fills our hearts. And as a result of this divine grace and acceptance, our desire to follow and obey Christ intensifies; we begin to obey His commandments through the power of His love in our hearts. Christ’s “love is shed abroad in our hearts,” and we begin to love with His love (Romans 5:5, KJV).

“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”
—l John 5:3.

According to John, “Everyone who sins breaks the law” (1 John 3:4). But after suggesting that the Christian is no longer under the condemnation of the law because of Christ’s death for our sins on Calvary, Paul adds:

“Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”
—Romans 3:31.

Paul stresses the futility of human effort and indicates that we are not under the law as a way of salvation, but “under grace,” then he asks:

“Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”
—Romans 6:15.

Since “faith without deeds is useless [dead, KJV],” a heart motivated by love produces a life of loving obedience! (James 2:20, 22; 1 John 5:2). To love Christ is to obey His commandments:

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.”
—John 14:21.

Paul echoes Jesus’ teaching:

“What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”
—Romans 8:3, 4.

Living in the Spirit’s power translates into a growing ability to fulfill the “righteous requirements” of the law.

Eric Liddell demonstrated that, even in the worst of circumstances, the believer who is plugged into God’s power can live a contented, obedient life. Liddell demonstrated a winsome grace in a time of stress and fear. His love relationship with God enabled Him to meet “the righteous requirements of the law” through his loving relationships with others in the internment camp. A love relationship with the crucified and risen Saviour can produce that quality of life. For when Christ’s love fills our hearts, it becomes our nature to obey His commandments.

“The requirements of the law are written on [our] hearts.”
—Romans 2:15.

Have you discovered this secret for yourself? Jesus’ love for you caused Him to give His life for your sin. He offers to empower all your relationships with His love and to “equip you with everything good for doing his will” (Hebrews 13:21). What is your response?

Dear Father in heaven: Thank You for giving us Your Word as a guidebook for Christian living. Thank You for giving us Jesus as our Saviour and our Example. Thank You for the power of Your love which makes it possible to live for You according to the Bible and the Ten Commandments. Thank you for the fulfilling life that loving obedience brings. Please fill my heart with more and more of that love. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.