Dr. Landon Galloway

It’s that time of year again – the time where we make all sorts of resolutions about how the upcoming year will be different than the year that just passed. We will promise to exercise more, eat less, budget tightly, and give generously. The underlying motive behind our resolutions is the sense that something is off. Something isn’t quite right with our lives. We may be content with where we are in general, but there is a nagging sense that we should be better. And, once we identify and fix those weak spots, perhaps we will finally find true happiness. 

We are all in pursuit of happiness. The abiding question is why we haven’t arrived yet. Why do we feel that there is something lacking? I resolved to fix myself at the beginning of last year, so why do I still need fixing? Is it even possible to find happiness? In a world of tension, injustice, confusion, ambiguity, and uncontrollable chaos, is happiness even achievable?

A wise man once said that happiness is like a cat. The more earnestly you pursue it, the faster it runs and hides.  However, if you ignore it long enough and go about your business, you will soon find it cuddled at your feet. Perhaps, we have yet to find happiness, because we are too busy looking for it. What if contentment and joy are byproducts of a life in pursuit of God instead of ends in themselves? Godly happiness is not based on circumstances, but on our complete satisfaction in God. There is a way to be happy in the new year, but it has little to do with workout plans and budgeting strategies. (But, you should probably do that stuff too.)

Psalm 1 promises happiness to the one who shuns ungodly beliefs and behaviors and clings to God’s word. The Psalm starts with, “Blessed is the man.” The Hebrew word translated “blessed” is esher, which is often translated as “happy.” The Psalmist is giving us the path to happiness! If we follow the directives in the Psalm, then we will be on our way to finding blessing and joy in our lives. He gives us three things not to do and two things to do in order to live a blessed life.

3 Things Happy People Don’t Do

1. They don’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly.  In other words, they do not accept the prevailing worldview of society. They don’t determine what they believe about human sexuality from Hollywood or how they feel about race from cable news. They seek counsel from God’s Word and godly leaders rather than their Facebook feed. In sum, they reject the beliefs of people who don’t know God. 

2. They don’t stand in the way of sinners. The Psalmist shows the progression of sinful behavior. It starts with accepting ungodly counsel and quickly moves to standing alongside sinners on the path to destruction.  Invariably, belief morphs into behavior. Once we accept wrong beliefs, it won’t be long until we indulge in wrong behavior. Happy people do not choose this path, because they recall the words of Jesus. Though the broad path seems open and inviting, it does not lead to self-fulfillment, but self-destruction. They choose not to participate in the behaviors of people who do not know God. 

3.  They don’t sit in the seat of the scornful. The progression continues.  Those who believe and behave like sinners will soon become like them. The unhappy person listens to ungodly counsel, succumbs to ungodly behaviors, and eventually takes a seat and identifies with boastful wrongdoers. Have you ever had an epiphany that you had substantially changed for the worse? That a hobby became a habit? That the innocent indulgence had transformed to an enslaving excess? If so, you certainly understand why the happy ones do not become like people who do not know God. 

The first phase of finding happiness in the coming year is negative. Before we are told what we must do to find contentment in Christ, we are told what we absolutely mustn’t do. Before we are told what to add to our lives, we are told what we should take away. This is the opposite of a typical New Year’s Resolution. Instead of promising to do more this year, we are challenged to do less. 

So, what beliefs should you reconsider? Have insipid thoughts of bitterness, anger, jealousy, materialism, or racism invaded your personal worldview? What behaviors have created unhappiness in your life? Could it be that gossip, immoderation, or procrastination are hijacking your happiness? Have you morphed into a person that you no longer recognize by tolerating destructive beliefs and behaviors? 

Fortunately, the Psalmist did not leave us only with the negative. Some Christians think that the godly life is only about removing sin and separating from the world. However, there are no spiritual vacuums. The only way to replace the negative is to flood the space with the positive. 

2 Things that Happy People Do

1. They delight in the Law of the Lord. “The Law of the Lord” is the Psalmist’s code for the “Bible.” Notice the word “delight.” The blessed one does not simply read, hear, or study the Word, he delights in it. What brings you delight? What is your first thought in the morning? What is the content of your daydreams? What do you work into conversation? What do you think about before you go to sleep? That thing is your delight, and it is imperative that you identify it. Because, your delight determines your direction. Many of us merely tolerate God’s word, but happy people delight in God’s word. 

2. They meditate on it day and night. Meditate is a strong word. It means to thoroughly digest and to give complete attention to. The Hebrew word can literally mean to “mumble under the breath.” We often witness this type of meditation in Israel, where faithful Jews at the Wailing Wall mutter passages from the Torah in the midst of chaos and crowds. They are so absorbed in God’s word that they are able to block out all external and internal distractions. Happy people meditate “day and night,” refers both to all the time and to specific times. Their minds are occupied with godly thoughts throughout the day, and they set aside specific times to prayerfully read and study the Scriptures.

After we conquer the sinful beliefs and behaviors hindering our happiness, we commit to filling the void with God and His Word. These are the steps to true containment. In fact, we will find ourselves as “trees planted by the river of water, whose leaves do not whither. And whatever we do will prosper.” The happy life is positioned by the river, so that our happiness is not located in our efforts, but in our connection with the Source. The happy life is planted, so that our lives are deeply rooted in Him and experience consistency and stability. The happy life is productive, because, as we abide in Him, we bear much fruit. The happy life is prosperous, because He brings life in every season and through every situation.

The happy life is positioned, planted, productive, and prosperous. That’s the life I want. That’s my resolution for this year, next year, and beyond.  

Dr. Landon Galloway has been the director of DLI since 2011. He is responsible for devising DLI’s unique, online platform that allows students to obtain formal educational training while gaining practical experience in their own local church.

In addition to his role, Landon has also served as a pastor at Grace Church in Houston, TX since 2017.

He earned the Bachelor of Arts in History at Mississippi State University, the Master of Divinity and the Master of Arts in Biblical Language from Oral Roberts University, and the Masters of Theology and Doctor of Philosophy from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His primary research interest is the rhetorical and literary features of the New Testament narratives, particularly Luke-Acts.

Landon is happily married to Sarada, and they are the proud parents of two daughters, Vanna and Zarra.