The Pursuit of Happiness #3: The Key to the Return to the Blessed State: Repentance, Humility and Prayer.


Everyone of us needs to have a deep and abiding relationship with Christ, and if you know Him, you'll want more of Him. What a blessing it is to be forgiven of our sins, but without a relationship with Him we are left to our own transgressions, our bodies wasting away.

Todd WagnerNov 9, 2014Psalms 32; Isaiah 59:1-2; Psalms 66:18; Zechariah 1:3-4; Joel 1:14-15, 2:12-17; Deuteronomy 8:1-20

We've been in the middle of a series that God is declaring to us a means through which we can find life, true freedom, and how we can pursue a life that will lead to the blessed state. The word we use in English for blessed is happy.

Every week in this series that we've been talking about what happens when a country, an individual, a church, a land rejects God as the means through which life can be found, liberty can be attained and maintained, and where happiness can be pursued, I've given you moments of application, things to personally do, if, in fact, you yourself want to jump on that train that God is declaring to you is there so it may go well with you.

What I wanted to do as a part of this series (and we're doing it today) is spend some time letting you do just that. We're going to do it individually, and then we're going to do it corporately. We're going to set you up for success. If you've never talked to God before… I mean that. As a guest who came because a friend has been begging you, this is a great day to be here.

When you communicate to a group this large, it's really hard to try and really understand where everybody might be, what they're going through, and what they're carrying into this. When I'm talking about stuff like the economy or, the week before, marriage, there might be some people who aren't right now financially struggling. There might be some people who are just really hurting. Maybe they lost a child this week. Maybe they've never been married, and they wish they were, and I'm talking about marriage.

It's really hard to think about how I can make sure I touch every single person every week. Well, I don't have that concern or that fear today, because I know every single one of us either needs to have a deep, abiding relationship with Christ, or if you know he is risen and he is good, you want more of him.

I also know if you purpose to live a godly life, the Enemy wants to do anything he can to tank your affections for God, to discourage you because of your own sin and because of your own proneness to wander. You might come in here on a bad stretch. You may be wondering where life is and if God is still eager and willing to use you.

You may be coming in and just feeling the appropriate weight of sin, knowing that if there is a God who is there whose eyes go to and fro throughout the earth looking for those whose hearts are completely his that he might support them, he wouldn't stop on you. In fact, what has stopped on you is the burden of a lack of life, a lack of freedom, and anything but happiness. Anxiety, despair, confusion, and pain mark your life.

Well, I have the remedy for you, and I'm declaring it to you today. Listen to Psalm 32. It's called a Maskil, which when you see that, it's just a Hebrew word for it's a psalm you should meditate on. In other words, if your life isn't filled with life, if you're not experiencing real liberty and victory, that abundant life Jesus said he came to bring, if you don't know how to get happiness or happiness doesn't define you, this is a good psalm for you. How happy… The Scripture says…

"How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah."

It's a Hebrew word for pause. Meditate. Think about that. Are you here today and you know you're not experiencing life? You're not free, and you're not marked by true happiness and joy. What God wants you to do in this moment is to go, "Hey, do you like what you have? I love you, man. Be free. Go ahead. Do it all you want, but I'm going to tell you it's only going to get worse. If you try and compromise my definition of marriage, if you try and find life in anything that would be an idol (which is anything other than me)…"

God would say to you, "If you like what you have, keep doing what you're doing. But if you keep doing what you're doing, you need to know something. The load is going to get heavier. The soul is going to shrink more. The days are going to get darker." If you're not experiencing that pain, just know this. The light is going to go out one day, and you're going to meet the Man. Think about that. Selah.

"I acknowledged…" Finally, in the midst of knowing that's not what I wanted. "…my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord'; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah." He is not angry at you. He is a Father who wants that relationship to be restored, but you just have to come home. You have to acknowledge you have no kinship with the Holy Father who created you.

You, like your forefathers, left him. You chose in your heart to find life apart from him, and you're no longer free. You're a slave to sin and death. You can't even do the good you want to do. Maybe even as a believer, you sing, "Lord, I need you," but you have not needed him. You've not abided with him, sought his Word, fellowshipped in community, been a member of his community, been obedient to what he said.

Maybe you've never known him. You've been stuck in dead religion, and you left the church because you were sick of it. Or you never even heard about the church, and you're here this morning. It's not going well with you. You just need to acknowledge that. Ask for his forgiveness. Accept his provision, and he will forgive your sin. Selah.

"Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah." Meditate on them. Think about where you are this morning. We just sang about the scandal of grace, about how his love comes down.

If you're a member of his body, friends should encourage you day after day. I was with some men this morning just reading Scripture for 45 minutes and just encouraging each other with things that are true. God wants that for you. Every now and then, he wants somebody to interrupt your day after tea and just go, "I have an announcement. The first announcement is Jesus is Lord." He loves you. He has not forgotten.

This world doesn't intimidate him. This is his history being unfolded, and the reason there's chaos is most of history is rebelling against him. But you don't have to. In fact, you can be a means to call him back. Just think about that. If you wait until that one moment where the flood really hits, where the thing really crashes, it says when we just read right here, that won't be the day to reach out to him. It will be too late. The door will be shut. Meditate on that.

Verse 8. The Father says to you, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you." Just exactly what you need. "Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you." Don't make pain or discipline jerk you back to God. Just respond with humility.

Verse 10: "Many are the sorrows of the wicked…" He knows. He knows you're sad without life, without liberty, without true happiness, without provision and blessing in your family, without what he intended for you to have. "…But he who trusts in the Lord, loving-kindness shall surround him. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart."

For you have received the declaration, and it will go well with you. That is my testimony. I have to tell you. I don't have time because of what I want to do today. This week, my life has been filled with incredible joy because the testimonies of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. He has taught me to walk with him. I have experienced the blessing of that with my wife, with my children, with my children's friends and relationships.

It is good. I'm not bragging. I'm just telling! I'm saying there is room here, so come on. Okay? The Lord is good. Are you all mad about that? I'm just telling you. Let me testify. My life isn't easy. It's just really good. I say that as a man with cancer. I say that as a man who has conflict with his wife. I say that with a man who has conflict with his flesh. It is good. Come on.

Some of you, though, wonder why God doesn't hear you. Here's the reason why. Isaiah 59 says this: "Behold, the Lord's hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities [your sin] have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear."

God isn't just there to chat when you get around to it. You are a sinner. He is holy. Your life is not on the course of repentance and humility before him. Though you're just throwing up statements to God, he doesn't hear you because you haven't addressed the problem. Psalm 66 says this in verse 18: "If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear." Gang, that is why God doesn't hear you.

If you're a man and you're not loving your wife as Christ loved the church, 1 Peter specifically says, "You don't want to love a wife? That's fine. When you try and ask me to love and shepherd you and cherish and honor you, forget about it." That's 1 Peter 3. "You want to be a pigheaded, hardhearted sovereign? I'll let you meet a pigheaded, hardhearted sovereign until you get your life right." Don't you live in disobedience and then ask God to be tender toward you.

Let me declare something to you. If we confess our sins, he is not a hardhearted, pigheaded God. He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Zechariah said this to people who were apart from God:

"Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, "Return to Me," declares the Lord of hosts, "that I may return to you," says the Lord of hosts. "Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, "Return now from your evil ways and from your evil deeds."'"'"

Evil ways are anything that is not running toward righteousness. Leave your evil deeds. The Scripture says what was true in Zechariah's time is they did not return. They did not give heed. God loves you, and what he does is nationally he'll bring around events that make the entire nation eventually seek him. But a nation is made up of people, and God is concerned about people. When people do well, it goes well with all the people.

Maybe in your own life, there's been a moment where you have just felt this storm and not the sunshine of blessing God intends. You felt just this rain of terror, this rain of addiction, and this rain of despair. You're sick and tired of tweaking your meds. I have a solution. In 2 Chronicles, chapter 7, it says, "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people…" You can be his people.

"…who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." I declare to you that today is the day of salvation. What I want to do is just give you an opportunity to meditate on truth. In your Watermark News this week, I have inserted Scripture. I have inserted moments of meditation and prayer. We'll flash a few more up here. I want you to be still with the God who declares to you that he is the God of life, liberty, and happiness.

This is not about America. This is about right now you in your little 3-foot world. God wants to bring healing and hope. He wants to renew you. If you've been a faithful prophet of God, rejoice. Thank him, and go through and see how you can still improve the way you manage his money, if you can improve the way you deal with your marriage, if every way you should you're pursuing liberty according to God's Word and if you define life as fully as he said you should.

Be still and talk to God. If you are here and you've never had a relationship with God, start by asking him to forgive your sin through the provision of his Son Jesus Christ who has come to declare to you forgiveness, freedom, and his righteousness given to you. Start talking to God by saying, "God, I'm a wretch. If there is such a thing as amazing grace, I have been told this morning I can receive it through Jesus Christ. Will you teach me more of him and tune my heart to hear more of it today? I want to come to you. Will you forgive me?"

Be still before the Holy God of the universe. That song says, "O God of Jacob." The reason that says that is God wants you to go back and look at who he is. He has anchored himself in the context of history. This is not a myth. This is not speculation. It's historical reality. Go look at the people of Jacob. Jacob's name was changed to Israel from "one who deceives and trips up" to "God strives with."

God desires for Jacob to live with him and experience the blessing of life, liberty, and happiness. That's what he wants with the people of Jacob, but the people of Israel did not listen. They went through the external performance of declaring at times that God was good even as they were, in all practical reality, disintegrating their family, disintegrating their economy, disintegrating their morality.

Their national motto was, "In the God of Jacob we trust." Their national manner was not. Individually priests would perform the rights of worship. Individually, those priests were not righteous. The prophet Joel spoke to these people. This is what he said in the very first part of his book to that nation. He said, "Consecrate a fast…" In other words, bring them together.

"…Proclaim a solemn assembly; Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land To the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. Alas for the day! For the day of the **** Lord ***…"* That is not a day when God brings blessing. It's a day when God shows you he is not to be trifled with. "…and it will come as destruction from the Almighty."**

A little bit later in the second chapter of the book of Joel, in verse 12, it says this: "Yet even now…""Let me clarify what I want to see from you." "'Yet even now,' declares the Lord , 'Return to Me with all your heart…'" Don't just rend your garments. Don't just rush to church. Don't just sing, "God bless America." Don't just sing personally about your need for him. Need him.

"'Yet even now,' declares the Lord, 'Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.' Now return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness And relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent And leave a blessing behind Him…"

All you can do is all you can do, which is to turn to him. I mean, wholeheartedly. Church, listen. Watermark, turn to him, not just with feigned understanding but with radical devotion. God always starts with judgment in the world by dealing with his people. Go look at what the God of Jacob did. Before he brought horrors to the nations, he got the attention of those who already said they knew him.

Let's bring it home to the God of George, not the God of Jacob. George Washington was our very first national leader, and George Washington, the very first day he was asked to lead our country… At the time, our capital was in New York City. The church Washington worshiped at actually was just hundreds of yards away from probably the greatest moment of horror our nation has ever faced.

Washington, before he went and addressed the gathered leaders of the colonial states, stood before the people with an open Bible. Among other things, he said this. He said, "Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious…" What in the world does that mean? They talked smart back then. It meant we ought to be no less persuaded that the kind, the favorable, the appropriate, and delightful "…smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained…"

That's the God of George. He just said, "Listen, people. We are about to run a grand experiment here that we can order ourselves and live with true freedom and not oppression and find true life. We get to now pursue happiness. If we lose this freedom, we have been a people that in our freedom have committed suicide."

He said, "…and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment…" He said, "…I shall take my present leave." "I will be your president."

"But not without resorting once more to the benign parent of the human race, in humble supplication that since he has been pleased to favour the American people, with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquility, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of Government, for the security of their Union, and the advancement of their happiness; so his divine blessing may be equally conspicuous…" Which means easily seen. "…in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend."

With an open Bible, he said, "All right, folks. Let's give it a go." What we've been doing ever since with increasing arrogance is closing the Bible, chasing his commandments away from anything that would even hearken to the necessity of what our founding father said. We mock at God if we think we can mock at him and not eventually feel the sting of it.

When the God of Jacob addressed a land back as they were getting ready to move into it (the nation of Israel again now, the people of Jacob), he says this in Deuteronomy 8. He says, "All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply…"

See, that's what God wants. "…and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years…" In other words, you couldn't have gotten here without divine providence and grace. That's exactly what our forefathers said.

"…that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord."

That sounds very puritanical, almost like they celebrated with thanksgiving to God that he had supernaturally allowed them to survive through the winter. Now America is not Israel, but I'm just telling you we're replaying the same story. God doesn't change yesterday, today, or forever. Let me just share with you what he says. He goes down through here, and he says in verse 18 toward the end of this chapter, "But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth…"

The blessing you're going to come into is going to be from God. "…that He may confirm His covenant which He swore…" He didn't make a covenant with America. America made a covenant, though, with him. America said, "We know, God, that no life, no liberty, and no consistent pursuit of happiness could ever happen apart from your revealed Word." Then we've just ignored it.

Verse 19: "It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish." In other words, this time will not be different. The chapter closes with these powerful words. "Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the Lord your God."

It's true individually, and it's true corporately. What should you do? You should just rend your heart. You should just say, "Okay, Lord, right now my problem is not everybody else. I'm going to get in my own little 3-foot world. I'm going to repent. I'm going to do everything I can to make my family better, to be a better steward of God's resources, to stop chasing after life through principles and practices that will lead to bondage. I'm not going to try and find liberty apart from letting you set me free from sin and death."

What I've done is I've shared with you… On the back of that little sheet I handed out, you'll see there are prayers for the nation. There are 10 different ones that are out there. I got them from a group of friends of mine who have put together what's called the American Prayer Initiative. Every day I get two emails. Every day! I get one from Watermark driving me into the Word of God at, and I get another one from my friends at the

They email me every day Scripture and topics to pray for my country. I commend it to you, and I have given you a sample of the prayer. The Scripture is not on here that goes with each of these days. The one I have before me is the family. Some of you have the common defense. Some of you have the economy. Some of you have immigration. Some of you have life. Some of you have liberty.

What I want you to do is I want you to turn to people who are next to you. You don't need to be eloquent. You just have to be literate. If you can't read, just look and say, "I can't read. Would you help me?" We won't laugh at you. I think most of us in this room can read. What I want you to do is just take turns reading prayers.

Now here's the deal. Moving your mouth doesn't change a thing, but I would encourage you to engage your hearts with your lips. Let's go to pray for our nation. There are 10 different topics here. You'll get a different one emailed to you every day if you'll sign up and fulfill the command of 1 Timothy, chapter 2. I ask you to pray for our country.

I just said before we get our country in order, spend some time getting yourself in order. Now we're going to come to him as his people, and we're going to seek the welfare of our land that the propitious smiles of heaven may shine on us because we will align ourselves with his Word. It may not be too late. Let's pray. Read out loud to one another the prayers before you.

We have nor forsaken our assembling together. You have been with the church. Will you be the church? You have been to a sacred assembly. Will you be a sacred follower of Jesus?

If you are here today and you're still confused about how you can stand before the Lord and not shrink back at his coming, that you can boldly enter into the throne of grace because you've received mercy to help you in a time of need, if you don't know how to do that, if you're not sure, 100 percent sure, you've been reconciled to God, would you please not leave before you come and let us talk to you and pray with you?

Now is the day of salvation. If you have received salvation, would it live in your heart, and would you stand? Would you love? Would you disciple your children? Would you be more excited about building into their hearts today than you would a football game? Would you be more excited about loving and shepherding your wife than you would your business this next week?

May God give you great profit in business, and may you use all of it for his glory. May you not be distracted by the work. May you stand before the world in holiness and in all the brokenness that's there. Will you be his people?

Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.