The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

What’s the #1 Reason We Act the Way We Do?

Posted on: May 31, 2016

#1 Reason We Act.001


The #1 reason we act the way we do is that we think it will bring us the greatest happiness. That happiness may not actually be very great, but it appears to be the greatest available to us at the time.

Sixteenth-century French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote:

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war and others avoiding it is the same desire in both, attending with different views. The “will” never takes the least step but to this objective. This is the motive of every man, even of those who hang themselves. [Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensees, translated by W. F. Trotter (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1958), 113]

He went on to say that people try in vain to fill the desire for happiness with whatever they can lay their hands on in the world around them. But these are all inadequate, because the “infinite abyss” can only be filled by “an infinite object, that is to say, only by God Himself.”

Scripture supports the idea that it is all right to want to be happy. The psalmist writes, “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103). “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11). “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1).

It seems that God intends us to be happy. Where we go wrong is in looking to someone or something other than God for the fulfillment of our happiness.

C. S. Lewis agreed:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion…is not part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised to us in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmen’s Publishing Co., 1965], 1–2)

The genius of God’s system is that everything He asks of us, He does so in order to give something good to us and keep some harm from us. Therefore, the shortest distance between us and the life we long for is total obedience to Christ.

When we come to deeply believe this principle, it helps us make the right decisions. In fact, when we make wrong decisions, it is often because we simply don’t believe it. We’d get it right if we had to answer the question on a test, but when it comes to living out our daily lives, we prove by our disobedience that we simply don’t believe the principle.  Our challenge is to choose, by faith, to believe the principle.

If you want to be free to sail the seven seas, you must make yourself a slave to the compass. This is true in all areas of life. Every bondage has a corresponding freedom and every freedom has a corresponding bondage. For example, you can be a slave to the toothbrush and free from cavities, or you can be free from the toothbrush and a slave to cavities. But you cannot be free from the toothbrush and free from cavities. That kind of absolute freedom does not exist, because all our actions have consequences. We reap what we sow. Therefore, one of the great issues of life is to choose carefully your freedoms, for from them come your bondages, and to choose carefully your bondages because from them come your freedoms.

There is power and freedom in obedience and discipline. Yet the power to obey comes from what we believe. If we deeply believe this principle, obedience comes much more easily. If we are uncertain, obedience is equally uncertain. Therefore, we must make a strong connection in our minds between what we believe and how we act. Our belief determines our actions, our actions determine our happiness.

Romans 12:1-2 tells us:

  1. We can be living demonstrations of the fact that God’s will is good and acceptable and perfect
  2. To do so, we must be transformed.
  3. To be transformed, we must have our minds renewed
  4. To renew our minds, we must give our bodies as a living sacrifice to the Lord.

By faith, accept that your greatest happiness will only come through total obedience to God. Reinforce that belief by memorizing and meditating on Romans 12:1-2. Over time, watch yourself change.


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