Adam Faughn, preacher for the Lebanon Road Church of Christ in Nashville and a good friend, recently wrote a response to a message delivered by Victoria Osteen in which she stated that worship is simply about our own personal happiness. An edited version appears here for your reading.
1. God’s Primary Concern is Not Our Happiness. It’s Our Holiness. Mrs. Osteen’s words only reflect a very commonly held view in modern religion, and that is that God’s primary concern with my day- to-day walk is that I be happy. While that certainly sounds good, it is not the message of Scripture. Yes, I know we are to be people of joy (Philippians 4:4), but joy and happiness are not the same thing. When Paul was shipwrecked, when Christians were run from Jerusalem, and when Stephen was stoned, were they happy? Well, then I guess they weren’t living right, according to some. But they were certainly people who were holy, and that is what matters to the Lord (see 1 Peter 1:16).
2. Worship is Primarily toward God. Worship is ascribing to God what He is due. Every aspect of our worship (singing, Bible study, prayer, giving, and communing) is God-centered and is meant to lift Him up as the only One worthy of such adoration. Anything less than that puts something else before God, which is the very definition of idolatry. If I come to worship seeking my own happiness, I have made my personal feelings my idol.
3. Our “Horizontal” Goal in Worship is Teaching and Admonishing, Not Happiness. We are told in the New Testament that our singing is to be such that it teaches and admonishes (Colossians 3:16). There is an encouragement bound up in admonition, but the word also means “to warn.” Teaching can lead to happiness, but not everything we teach is going to make us happy in the moment.
4. Knowing God is Pleased is My Joy. This is where the “God wants you to be happy” doctrine misses it. Their idea is that, if I’m happy then God is happy. Instead, when I have done my best to worship God and I know He is pleased, then I am filled with joy.
Victoria Osteen is not the first person to teach this idea of doing what makes you happy and that will please God, and she will not be the last. Our joy as Christians is to lift God up before the world, no matter if it brings us some earthly happiness or not. We would all do well to understand this concept.