“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These very familiar and wonderful words in our American Declaration of Independence seem almost divinely inspired. They recognize first of all that it is “self-evident” that there is a “Creator” and that “all men are created” by Him—despite the skepticism of atheists, secularists, and evolutionists. And then appears that most felicitous phrase—“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Now, although Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues who prepared and approved this Declaration (our founding fathers) may have been thinking mainly of physical life, political liberty, and worldly happiness, the phrase surely also could and should include spiritual life, liberty, and happiness as well. Otherwise it could hardly be true that all men are created equal in seeking them. There have been millions through the centuries who have experienced very little earthly freedom and happiness in their physical lives, and they surely did not have equal opportunities to search for them. Many people—particularly children who died in infancy (or were aborted before infancy)—never even enjoyed real physical life.
As far as spiritual life is concerned, on the other hand, it is true that Jesus Christ is “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” and that “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:9, 4). The Bible assures us that all are indeed created equal in this respect, for “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). All who search sincerely for true spiritual life will indeed find it, for He said that “he who seeks finds” (Luke 11:10), and He also said that “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Therefore, “he who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).
With reference to spiritual liberty, Christ is also the answer to that search. Spiritual liberty, of course, is liberty from the penalty of sin at God’s coming judgment, freedom from the power of sin in this present life, and eventual freedom from the very presence of sin in heaven and in the ages to come. “If you abide in My word,” Jesus said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . . Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:31-32, 36). Thus, true life and true liberty are found in Christ—and only in Christ.
What about the pursuit of happiness? Christians often have suffered because of their faith in Christ, but Peter says: “If you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed,” and “if you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you” (1 Peter 3:14; 4:14).
There is much more to Christian happiness, of course, than just being able to “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings” anticipating the time “when His glory is revealed” and we can then “also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13). Consider a few of the many promises of happiness in living for Christ day by day.
We are happy just because we know that the mighty God of all creation is our God—our heavenly Father. “Happy is he…whose hope is in the LORD his God: Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps truth forever” (Psalm 146:5-6).
We also ought to be wonderfully happy just because we live in a land founded on faith in that God and His Word. “Happy are the people who are in such a state; happy are the people whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 144:15).
If one would indeed pursue happiness, he should surely be able to find it here in the United States, if anywhere. Our very Declaration of Independence begins and ends with a devout recognition of this great God of the universe. The opening sentence refers to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” and its last sentence expresses “reliance on the protection of divine Providence.”
It is true that some of the signers of the Declaration were deists or Unitarians rather than evangelical Christians. But even those men all believed in God as Creator, in the general authority of the Bible, and in the moral and ethical perfections of the teachings of Jesus Christ. They were all profound thinkers and courageous leaders, 56 men altogether, representing all 13 of the original colonies.
It is significant that all were at least nominal believers in the God of the Bible and in His supernatural creation of all things in the beginning, and in Jesus Christ as the chief Founder of our nation’s religion. None were atheists or Muslims or Buddhists or from any other non-Christian religion, and the same was true of the body of distinguished men who several years later formulated our national Constitution. It is understandable why God has signally blessed our nation. Indeed, “happy are the people whose God is the LORD.”
There are also a number of other more individualized biblical criteria for true happiness. For example, the attainment of true wisdom will result in true happiness. “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding….[Wisdom] is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her” (Proverbs 3:13, 18).
And how does one start to find true wisdom? “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). True wisdom, of course, must be based upon true knowledge—that is, true science—so how does one go about acquiring true knowledge? “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Furthermore, it is in Christ Himself (who created and upholds all things) that “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
True happiness is also found in obeying God’s commandments. “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). As Paul said,“We know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8). “The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart” (Psalm 19:8).
After all, He is our Creator, and He would only establish laws concerning our behavior that would contribute to our happiness if we conform to them.
Another great blessing of God was the establishment of the family as the basic unit of human society. “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh;’…Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:6-9). To that first male and female He created, God also gave His first command: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).
Father, mother, and children—the family! “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them” (Psalm 127:3-5).
Happiness is also a byproduct of a clear conscience. “Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (Romans 14:22). Those who patiently endure affliction and suffering, especially if these arise because of faithfulness to God, can actually find happiness in suffering. “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure” (James 5:10-11).
Finally, the Lord Jesus Himself, after an act of true humility and service, said: “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you….If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:15, 17).
Christ even suffered and died for us, “leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21), and this brought Him true happiness and joy. “Therefore…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, we need to remember with great thanksgiving those godly men who, as they signed the Declaration, realized that doing so meant that they must “pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” It did indeed, before the War for Independence was finally won, cost many of them their fortunes and several their lives, but not their sacred honor. They secured for us the happiness of living in the most blessed nation in the history of the world, and we honor them for such a legacy.
Adapted from Dr. Morris’ article “The Pursuit of Happiness” in the July 2005 edition of Acts & Facts.
* Dr. Henry M. Morris (1918-2006) was Founder of the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in hydraulics from the University of Minnesota.