People love extremes, Christians included. At one end, we have the prosperity mind set that says a lack of happiness is a sure sign of a lack of faith. And then there is the other end that sees Christianity with every negative possible. In David Murray's book The Happy Christian, a balance is struck between those two extremes. While this book does not promote the power of positive thinking, it does promote the reality of a positive faith in Christ.
Murray sets out in this book to combat what he sees as a ramptant negativity in the world, a negativity which has invaded the church. The subtitle for the introduction is "The Happiest People in the World." And so Christians ought to be. Given what we have in Christ, we have cause for rejoicing.
Murray points out that we are what we think:
A positive faith produces a positive life; a negative faith, a negative life. That shouldn’t surprise us. King Solomon wrote, “As a person thinks in his heart, so is he.”
We are what we think and believe.
In ten chapters, Murray provides formulas for putting a positive faith into practice, dealing with areas such as the media, our salvation, how we look at the future, extending grace to the world, giving praise, giving finances and time, our work, and celebrating diversity.
Murray has done extensive research about the habits of happy people in general. Many of his findings look at how unbelievers change their thought patterns and attitudes to exhibit more happiness. He returns to the point often that if those who are outside of Christ can be happy, how much more should we as Christians be happy? Have we not a precious hope that brings happiness? Murray challenges us in this book to look at our faith in the positive, not always the negative. He does not turn a blind eye toward or excuse sin, but he encourages us to remember that the truth of how much we have in Christ, which should evidence itself in a positive faith.
I particularly liked his chapter "Happy World," where he talks about common grace, which he refers to as "everywhere grace." I, myself, tend to look at the world without seeing the grace everywhere. Sometimes, we as Christians look at those outside of Christ as interlopers into our domain, and we look look at them with a miserable glance. We ought to be looking for signs of grace wherever we can. We don't ignore sin, but neither do we ignore the evidences of God's grace whever it can be seen. I appreciated his comment about our reluctance to patronize services from unbelievers, insisting that "Christian" services, etc., are more virtuous:
Sometimes Christians and churches may decide to buy a certain good or service from a company simply because it is a Christian company. The product or service may not be the best, but it has a Christian owner. That’s faulty thinking, thinking that results from failing to understand God’s everywhere grace. If God has enabled a non-Christian to make the best product or provide the most efficient service, we should gladly buy from him or her and regard it as God’s grace to that person and to us.
The fact that unbelievers can excel in their work, produce beautiful works of art or music, or counsel someone who is hurting is evidence of grace, and we ought to rejoice in that. I believe it would help us show more love toward those who don't believe.
I really benefitted from this book. I tend to be someone who sees the worst-case scenario before I see the benefits. It was a challenge for me to think about how that can inadvertantly make it seem like the Christian life is dire and gloomy. This was a refreshing, encouraging read.
The only thing I didn't like is that the Scripture passages which were the foundation of the arguments were relegated to the footnotes rather than included in the text. I'm sure the publisher has reasons for this, but I would rather not have to flip to the back of the book to find the reference. It was a minor thing, and did not really detract from the content.
Thomas Nelson has generously allowed me to offer a free copy to a lucky winner. If you are interested in getting a free copy of this book, and you live in Canada or the United States, please leave your name in the comments. A first name and a last initial should suffice in the event that two people with the same name enter the draw. I will announce the winner on February 17th, a week from today, and you will receive the book from Thomas Nelson directly.
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Thanks to Thomas Nelson for their generosity in providing me with this book in exchange for an honest opinion.