Pascal, happiness, and the fire

I hate when I do this!  On Sunday, I intended to end the sermon with another quote from French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal.  Pascal was a genius who made significant contributions to scientific and mathematic research.   In fact, some universities provide classes that just deal with Pascal’s mathematics.  His is most known for Pascal’s Wager, published in his work titled, Pensees. The idea is that even though the existence of God cannot be absolutely proven, it is a reasonable wager to believe in God and live for him.  A person who wagers his life on the reality of God and is wrong will lose nothing, but a person who “bets” his life that God does not exist and is wrong will have lost everything.

His quote on happiness fit well with our series in Ecclesiastes about the pursuit of happiness.

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 of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.

The pursuit of happiness is not a bad thing, in fact, we are wired to experience joy, pleasure, peace, and happiness.  The issue is that these things are found only in relationship with our Creator, living for His glory.  When we find satisfaction and happiness in God, He is glorified in us, or as John Piper puts it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”  For Pascal, he discovered this joy at the age of 31 on November 23, 1654 at 10:30 PM, when he met God and was profoundly and unshakably converted to Christ.  It is interesting that the Wikipedia article on Pascal calls this a mystical experience.  His conversion left him changed, and Pascal spent the rest of his life in the study of theology and philosophy, seeking to defend Christian belief and the Gospel to a world entrenched in rationalism.  At the end of life a short eight years later, a piece of parchment was found sewn in the inside of his coat, which he had written about his conversion and finding happiness in Christ.  These are the words he desired to remember (and with which I’d hoped to end my message).

Year of grace 1654, Monday 23 November, feast of St. Clement . . . from about half past ten at night to about half an hour after midnight, FIRE. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of philosophers and scholars. Certitude, heartfelt joy, peace. God of Jesus Christ. God of Jesus Christ. “My God and your God.” . . . Joy, Joy, Joy, tears of joy. . . Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. May I never be separated from him.

My prayer is that we may discover what it means to find happiness, joy, peace, contentment in the deep well of grace found in Jesus Christ, and may lay aside the short sighted pursuits sought by Solomon and may be filled with the fullness of Christ!  God bless.

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