Is “The Pursuit of Happiness” a Selfish Aim?

In the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said that all people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that amongst these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. For many, this predicates the current American trait of self-indulgence. However, for Jefferson, “happiness” was something more substantial than simply the pursuit of personal pleasure. He dreamed of a nation in which people would devote their lives to pursuing what they believed would bring them the deepest, widest and most durable pleasure possible.

In current secular usage the word “happiness” means, enjoyment of agreeable sensations from the possession of: a contented mind, one’s position, satisfaction, good fortune, success, prosperity, or favour. Recently there has been a tendency to reduce this meaning by saying that happiness depends on happenings, whereas joy has a much deeper and more profound satisfaction and permanence to it. However, this devalues the word “happiness” and causes some confusion. The definition of “happiness” is not so trivial or short-term.

Therefore the pursuit of happiness is not necessarily a selfish pursuit. It depends what we seek our happiness in?John Piper gives a Christian standpoint, he says that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied with him. C S Lewis once said, “It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he or she can”. He knew the promises and rewards of happiness God holds out to believers throughout the Bible. And these are not putting our happiness before God himself, for our greatest pleasure is always the measure of our greatest treasure.

Jonathan Edwards had in mind that deeper , more durable pleasure when he wrote, “I am resolved to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all power, might, vigour and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or canbring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of”. This, clearly was a very focused man. By “the other world”, he was referring to heaven. The Bible is, in fact, indiscriminate in its pleasure language, using words like happiness, joy, contentment, delight and satisfaction as synonyms to describe the same kinds of experiences.

So where does your greatest happiness, delight, joy, satisfaction come from?

Being powerful is like being a lady, if you have to tell people you are, then you aren't. Margaret Thatcher
The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but God will make us good because he loves us. C S Lewis
Fear is misplaced faith. Kris Vallotton
God has already seen every mistake, every failure and every weakness, and the good news is he's already forgiven you. He is not holding it against you. Joel Osteen
God is not nearly so interested in changing your circumstances as he is in changing you. Joyce Meyer
Pray, and let God worry Martin Luther
Those who never change their mind never change anything. Winston Churchill
What you do (for a living) is not who you are.  Celia Apeagyei-Collins 
 People who write you off when you fail know nothing about history and even less about life. No person ever fully succeeds until they fully fail. Lance Wallnau 
There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael.  C S Lewis
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Jim Elliot
You never know how much you really believe anything until it's truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life or death to you. C S Lewis
If you know you are loved, faith is easy. It's easy to trust someone you know loves you. David Forster
Every moment that you spend upset, despaired, anguished, angry, afraid or hurt, because of the behaviour of someone else in your life, is a moment in which you have given up control of your life. Unknown
Remember, you do not have to live today by how you feel, nor by what you think about yourself, nor by what someone else thinks about you. The person who created you thinks you are wonderful, and he waits with open arms for you to agree with him. David Forster
Shift gears from doing something in God's presence to simply being in God's presence. Lance Wallnau
Your future doesn't depend on what is in front of you, it depends on who is in you. Lance Wallnau
Did you know that you are utterly and completely loved by God, without doing a single thing, good or bad. David Forster
no one knows how bad they are until they have tried very hard to be good.. C S Lewis
If we are living daily by faith, we will be constantly over our head; Beyond our ability to do this our that. We should all be in that place in some area of our life. If we are not, we will be like an old wineskin; too rigid and inflexible to receive the Lord's new wine. Rick Joyner
For a believer intimacy with God is not an option, it's a necessity. Guidance and direction depend on this intimacy and sensitivity to Holy Spirit. There is no substitute for the latter. Graham Cooke
Jesus reveals the Father to us. He gives us peace and rest. He is not a hard taskmaster. David Forster
The God who creates everything, pursues you. Don't let anyone tell you you're are worth less than that. Louie Giglio
In the kingdom, physical obedience brings spiritual release. Bill Johnson
Don't be surprised if you pray for nearness to God and he sends a trial. Nearness always requires dependence. Desiringgod.org
Our corporate worship doesn't meet a need in God, it meets a need in us. Sam Storms
How you feel is not who you are. Feelings are great servants and terrible masters. Kris Vallotton
There is a lot that is good in your life. Don't take it for granted. Don't get so focused on the struggle that you mis the gift of today. Joel Osteen
The enemy commits identity theft when you believe you must earn what God freely gives. Alison Brown
If you agree with your creator and receive what he freely gives, you will have serenity in your identity and confidence in your countenance. David Forster
If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got. David Forster
A satisfying and exciting life organises around an identity focused on Jesus, not the church..  Graham Cooke
Satan cannot impose his will on anyone, he has to have our agreement.  Graham Cooke
Every day adjust yourself to where God is taking you, that is, toward the prophetic vision he has given you. Lance Wallnau
Real faith is not faith in an outcome (of a particular situation or circumstance), it's faith in a person. David Forster
Be in no doubt that God will redeem the losses and mistakes of your past life. David Forster
God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from himself, because there is simply no such thing. C S Lewis
Wealth, women and status; these are the major temptations that can draw a man away from God. Each is morally neutral; yet given the appropriate significance, each can control us. David Forster
The devil's finest trick is to persuade you that he doesn't exist. Anon
Fear is the enemy of love. The two cannot exist together. We have to choose daily: Fear or Love. David Forster
You are not saved because of the quality of your faith. You are saved because of the object of your faith; The Redeemer! Tim Keller
Revival goes from the bottom up; Reformation goes from the top down. Therefore reformation is institutional and revival is personal. Lance Wallnau
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Albert Einstein
Inner peace is key to experiencing God's presence. Rest is a weapon against the enemy Graham Cooke
Fairy tales don't tell children that dragons exist. Children know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed. G K Chesterton
When you are at peace with God, you will be at peace with yourself and with other people. David Forster
You can believe in Christianity in the same way you believe that the sun has risen; Firstly, because you see it and secondly because by it you see everything else. C S Lewis
A little while ago I became old enough to start believing in fairy tales again. This means there are far better things ahead of me then what I have left behind. C S Lewis
Your unfinished destiny is your most potent argument with death. Graham Cooke
I am not focused on what I am not, I am focused on what he is for me. David Forster
Reaching the Heights