If You Want To Be Happy

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:23 CSB

If you want to be happy . . . study Christ.

That's the counsel I received from Robert Murry McCheyne. McCheyne was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1813. In 1836 he was ordained as pastor of St. Peters Church (Church of Scotland), a new church in Dundee.

McCheyne's time on earth was short. He died at twenty-nine. And though he has been dead some one hundred and fifty years he is part of Abel's cohort, people of whom it can be said,

Though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.
— Hebrews 11:4 CSB

McCheyne saw himself as a disciple sitting at Christ's feet, gladly receiving Jesus as his all in all. He longed to "drink deeply" of this relationship. To that end he composed his thoughts on personal holiness. He entitled this examination of his heart and life, Reformation, addressing those matters he wanted to amend in his own life. He begins:

It is the duty of ministers in this day to begin the reformation of religion and manners with themselves . . .

Amen to that! I highlighted so much from his biography, but particularly passages from those seven pages that make up Reformation. So here I am, at 60, being schooled by a man half my age..

McCheyne draws a very straight line from Christ to happiness. He writes:

I am persuaded that I shall obtain the highest amount of present happiness, I shall do most for God's glory and the good of man, and I shall have the fullest reward in eternity, by maintaining a conscience always washed in Christ's blood, by being filled with the Holy Spirit at all times, and by attaining the most entire likeness to Christ in mind, will, and heart, that is possible for redeemed sinner to attain to in this world.

My soul resonates with McCheyne, both as a man who wants to know Christ better and as a pastor/preacher whose faith can get dusty and whose awe of Jesus grows old. These words from his pen resonated:

Often the doctrine of Christ for me appears common, well known, having nothing new in it; and I am tempted to pass it by and go to some scripture more taking. This is the devil again--a red-hot lie. Christ for us is ever new, every glorious. "Unsearchable riches of Christ" -- an infinite object, and the only one for a guilty soul.

I put a "TK" next to that paragraph. Yep, that's me. I know my soul is in a troubled state when my words from the pulpit are not matched by a heart that's panting after God. The solution to this deadening dilemma? Study Christ!

I ought to study Christ as a living Saviour more.

I hesitate to quote a lengthy passage for fear you will tire, but I fear not quoting his words in a broader context lest I do you a great disservice. So here goes:

I ought to study Christ's omnipotence more; Hebrews 7:25; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 6:14; Romans 5:9, 10.

I ought to study Christ as a living Savior more--as a Shepherd, carrying the sheep he finds--as a King, reigning in and over the souls he has redeemed--as a Captain, fighting with those who fight with me, Psalm 35:5--as one who has engaged to bring me through all temptations and trials, however impossible to flesh and blood.

I am often tempted to say, How can this man save us? How can Christ in heaven deliver me from lust which I feel raging in me, and nets I feel enclosing me? This is the father of lies again! "He is able to save unto the uttermost."

I ought to study Christ as an Intercessor. He prayed most for Peter who was to be most tempted. I am on his breastplate. If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million of enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; he is praying for me.

Rich words from a young man! McCheyne -- often sick -- contracted typhus in March of 1843 and died on the 25th of that month.

A short life. So sad! Right? Not so! McCheyne's life was Jesus. It was the life of Christ in him that bubbled up as an artesian well of joy and happiness, a happiness that exceeded life's trials.

If you want to be happy . . . don't look for it in things. You won't ultimately find it there. Happiness is found in a person. It is found in Christ.

Study Christ!


  • I encourage you to read Andrew Bonar's biography of McCheyne. It is a classic!

  • You can read Reformation in its entirety in Robert Murray M`Cheyne by Andrew .A Bonar, 1844, Reprinted 2015. The Banner Of Truth Trust, Edinburgh. Printed in USA by Versa Press, Inc. Pages 229-43.

  • "I am persuaded . . ." from Robert Murray M`Cheyne, page 230.

  • "Often the doctrine of Christ . . ." from Robert Murray M`Cheyne, page 233.

  • "I ought to study Christ as a living Saviour more" from Robert Murray M`Cheyne, page 236.

  • "I ought to study Christ's omnipotence more" and following from Robert Murray M`Cheyne, page 235-36.

  • David Robertson, the pastor of St. Andrews since 1992, has an excellent brief summary of the life of Robert Murray McCheyne. You can read it by clicking here.