By Andrew Locher
How happy are you right now—at this very moment? Are you full of joy for your life and optimistic about your future? Or are you, after coming out of the spring holy days and maybe having weakened a time or two in your struggle to continue conquering sin, a little down and discouraged?
Most people struggle through life with some form of discouragement or low self-esteem, which often leads to depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 25 percent of all Americans age 18 and older suffer from at least one diagnosable mental disorder, the most common being depression. Many actually suffer from more than one mental disorder at a time. In fact, 45 percent of those with a mental disorder meet the criteria for two or more!
Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people between 15 and 44 years old! Despite the great wealth and comforts in this country, our people are correspondingly discouraged and depressed!
Those of us in God’s Church should be the happiest and most fulfilled people on Earth.
Solomon wrote, “To the man that pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God” (Ecclesiastes 2:26, New International Version). Put simply, if we follow God’s instructions, we will be happy.
This “righteousness builds happiness” approach is what we strive to teach at Imperial Academy and Herbert W. Armstrong College. This teaching is based off of the instruction given at Ambassador College. Referring to Ambassador College, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “If the way of God is to lead to happiness, then happiness ought to be found in the colleges disseminating that way, and living by it. The students … will tell you that they live in the happiest, and most joyful place on Earth.
“True, these students are human. They have human nature to fight. To say that no problems present themselves among students at these institutions would not be true. But we have God’s knowledge and guidance in solving them—and they get solved! Valuable lessons are learned in the process! …
“Living in such an environment—receiving such instruction, which rings true, and is true—imbibing such enthusiastic happiness which permeates theses colleges, and which is contagious—does produce the fruit of joyful conversion. And that, in turn, bears the fruit of happiness in those who yield to it!” (Plain Truth, July 1962).
Not all of us are surrounded by such a joyful environment, but we can model our lives around the very same principles exhibited at God’s college which result in a positive self-esteem. Herbert Armstrong wrote in the Seven Laws of Success, “God has set in actual, inexorable motion definite laws to produce for man every happiness, security and good things he desires ….”
So what are some of those rules and laws that produce happiness? How can we achieve happiness and godly, positive self-esteem?
1. Understand that life has purpose.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18). The vision God refers to in this verse an understanding of the reason you have been called—your incredible human potential. Not only must we understand that purpose, God expects us to love all that the future portends. Lack of love for our future was prophesied to be a trait of God’s Church during the Laodicean era (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
Understanding your purpose in life will lead you to be extroverted, happy and filled with enthusiasm. You are called to be God. You might be young now and without much responsibility, but you are destined to be royalty in God’s Family. You are training right now to be kings! You will be able to work with God’s Family of billions of children, serving as their leaders and being an example.
The World Tomorrow is so much more than your own planet, your own cheetah—even more than a never-ending supply of cheesecake! God is offering you a royal position in His Family! You will be used to help heal people of the fruits of negativity we see in this world. You will be a teacher, not just of algebra, English and Social Studies, but you will be a teacher of happiness!
Obedience to the law and truth of God now is how we develop that vision of the World Tomorrow. So if we are negative, we should analyze whether we are keeping the law. Christ said that doing the things He commanded would make us happy (John 13:16-17). Satan wants to convince us that the very opposite is true; that doing our own thing and serving ourselves makes us happy. But that is the way the world has gone for nearly 6,000 years and all it has produced is misery, discouragement and disenchantment. It is really only God’s law of liberty that defines and delivers happiness (James 1:25).
God wants you to be part of His royal, eternal, godly family. And if God wants you in His Family, who are you to believe that you are not good enough?! Sure, we all have to work for it, but keeping this truth of your future close to you will help you grow into your future position. The knowledge of your future will charge you with godly confidence, thus enhancing your self-esteem.
2. Realize that a negative self-image can keep you out of God’s Kingdom.
In the parable of the talents recorded in Matthew 25, the master gave each of his servants a certain amount of money before he left them, expecting them to work what he gave them—to invest it, to use it to produce more for when the master returned. The first two servants did exactly that, and were handsomely rewarded, according to how much they gained. The last servant refused to work with what the master gave him.
Approaching the master, the final servant said, “Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine” (Matthew 25:24-25) The servant had drawn back in self-pity, overly worried and afraid to step out, which resulted in complete inaction.
Notice God’s response: “Thou wicked and slothful servant …” (verse 26). God saw that man’s lack of confidence, his negative self-image, as wickedness. This means that God expects us to fight those negative thoughts that stop us from stepping out and taking action. We might choose to become insular, full of self-pity and depressed to the point of not getting out there and being full of confidence, but that is not God’s way!
This servant felt sorry for himself. He understood that when the master returned there would be high expectations for what he could have done, yet he had such a low self-esteem that he didn’t act. The truth is, the master would not have given the servant the talent if he didn’t have the ability to use it for productive gain.
In the same way, God expects so much out of His youth. He has extremely high expectations for all young people growing up in the Church. God will be extremely unhappy if, when Christ returns, we have done nothing with what He has given us.
God expects for His Son to return and see that we turned that one talent into multiple through positive, aggressive work in our lives to become more like Him!
If we don’t, our future is recorded in verse 30. God says that unprofitable servants—those who are negative, selfish and self absorbed—will not be in His Kingdom.
3. Experience success.
The key to experiencing success is to set attainable and realistic goals. Remember that you are a work in progress. It takes time to become a sincerely positive, outgoing, forward-thinking and confident person. Have courage to accept new challenges and opportunities, and God will back you up.
Think of the analogy of the diamond. Diamonds are formed deep beneath the Earth’s surface, 100 miles beneath the upper mantle. The combination of the high pressure and high temperature is necessary to produce diamond crystals. Eventually, these diamonds are brought to the surface of the Earth through very rare, deep-rooted volcanic erruptions. The process of creating a diamond can take up to millions or even billions of years.
Just as it takes time under those conditions for diamonds to develop, it will take time to change a self-focused disposition to one that is completely confident in God’s lead in his or her life.
Patiently analyze and methodically conquer one part of the problem at a time. Seek counsel for direction in how to conquer specific things holding your back. Seek to be positive and encourage others, and you will find that you become more encouraged and positive yourself.
It takes courage. But realize that if God presents you with an opportunity to be a little more outgoing or to develop more confidence, He will also provide you with the ability! (Philippians 4:13).
There truly is a way to find happiness in this life. Build godly self-esteem by understanding your purpose; remember that negative, self-absorbed people will not be in the Kingdom of God; and start with small, attainable goals to experience the joy of success.
God needs you to be a positive teen! Break out of your comfort zone and build godly self-esteem.