What is the most realistically positive book ever written? Is it something by Oprah? Perhaps Peale’s classic, The Power of Positive Thinking? Something else on the self-help list?
If you agree with David Murray, your answer is that the most realistically positive book in the world is the Bible (xxiii). This is why he has written The Happy Christian. Murray’s contention is that Christians have swallowed too much of our cultural negativity and we’ve become out of balance. In this book he gives ten helps for Christians to live in Christian happiness even in our gloomy world.
What is Christian happiness? Murray defines it thus:
Christian happiness is a God-centered, God-glorifying, and God-given sense of God’s love that is produced by right relationship to God in Christ and that produces loving service of God and others. (xix)
Murray has written this book so that believers would be happy in God—or at least happier. He works to accomplish this goal using a rather strange means….math. Yuck! But Murray’s math is positive math. It is “ten simple formulas, which will add up to a grand total of a positive faith and life.” (xxiv)
In the first chapter Murray’s equation is that Facts > Feelings. This was, in my opinion, one of the most helpful chapters. Here we are given a helpful grid for finding the facts in the midst of our feelings and circumstances.
The second equation is that Good News > Bad News. Here Murray takes on the negative media that we so often consume. This is a much needed chapter. He even encourages pastors to preach the good news more than the bad news.
His third formula is that done > do. Here he looks at the finished work of Christ in the gospel. This bleeds over into this fourth chapter which is that Christ > Christians. Yes, believers are messed up—but Jesus isn’t. This is a tremendously helpful chapter for anyone who gets frustrated with fellow believers.
The fifth formula is that future > past. Here the reader is given a reason for having firm biblical hope in spite of our past mistakes. What God has planned for us is much better than anything in our past.
The sixth and seventh equations are connected. One is that everywhere grace > everywhere sin. This chapter looks at common grace. The next chapter looks at praise > criticism. Even in our messed up world there are things and people to praise. The more we praise others and the more we see God’s grace everywhere the happier we will be.
Eighth, we learn that giving > getting. Givers are happier than hoarders. Ninth, those who work hard are actually happier than those who play hard. He closes out the book by looking at the blessings of diversity.
This will likely be in my top three best books of 2015. The first four chapter for me where life-changing. I’ve made it no secret that I’ve battled depression. I needed this book at this time to begin putting some positive graces in place of negative thinking. Far too many books dealing with depression and wrong thinking are negative and defeatist in tone.
Murray might have done more for my mental health in this book than he did in Christians Get Depressed Too (which I found immensely helpful). Reading this book I feel like I’m given a few great tools to help me fight.
I do wish that the book had been a tad shorter. One of the things I appreciated aboutChristian Get Depressed Too is that it was mercifully brief. I think there is much more to talk about on this topic, though, and so I understand why it is longer. Truthfully we have been given an eternity of things to be happy about. Yet, for this particular book I think it might have been better to have been just a bit shorter.
Nonetheless, this is one of the best books you will read. It is written clearly, graciously, and perceptively. You will be rebuked, encouraged, and drawn to the happy Christ.
This book is also realistic. It is not some sort of pop-psychology mumbo jumbo that calls us to be happy in spite of the facts. No, Murray takes real biblical truths and focuses our eyes upon them instead of the gloomy news of today. In this regard he is doing the same work that the apostle Paul did in places like Romans 8; namely, fixing our gaze on the happiness of heaven.
You’ll want to pick this one up for sure. You can do so here.