Life, Liberty and the Pursuit

By Grant Gaines

If you went through the public-school system, it’s very likely that at some point in your schooling career you were asked to memorize the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. Do you still remember it?

Let me give you a little help to start it off and see if you can finish it: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are” Do you know how that sentence ends?

“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Those seven words right there are more than just a random assortment of letters, they are what the Founding Fathers of our nation declared as “unalienable Rights.” “Unalienable” simply means that it cannot be taken away. In other words, no one – not a military, government, or an individual – can rob a person from Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

But just exactly how do we obtain these three qualities? Glad you asked! In James chapter one, we find our answer.

Before we jump into Scripture, can we all agree that there is a BIG difference in being “alive” and truly “living”? Anyone with a pulse is alive, but I think it’s fair to say that some people live a fuller life than others, wouldn’t you agree? Some people just skate through life trying to make it to the weekend while others seem to thrive 24/7.

What’s the difference between the two? Why does one person seem to just be alive while the other person has apparently taken hold of this “Life” that the Founding Fathers made appear so appealing? According to James 1:18 and 1:25, the simple answer is the Word.

James 1:18 (NIV, bold mine) declares, “[God] chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth” and then just three verses later, James 1:21 (NIV, bold mine) charges its reader to, “humbly accept the Word planted in you, which can save you.”

Did you notice what those two verses said the Word can do to those who live by its truths? It gives “birth” and it “saves” us. In other words, the Word of God (the Bible) gives us spiritual life and then sustains that life. If you want to walk through this world with a spring in your step and a mission in your heart, you must be intimately spending time with the Lord in His Word!

A great example of this truth is found in Genesis 2:7 (NIV) which recounts the creation of Adam by saying, “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Notice that God created Adam but Adam didn’t become a living being until the LORD, “breathed into [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life.” It was the breath of the Lord brought Adam to life.

That’s important to remember because 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV) reveals that, “All Scripture is God-breathed” Just as the LORD’s breath brought Adam to life in Genesis 2, His breath (also known as the Scriptures) bring us to true life each and every day.

But as the preamble continues, so does James 1. Not only does the Word of God give us Life, it also brings us Liberty. James 1:25 (NIV, bold mine) speaks of this Liberty when it promises, “But the one who looks intently into the perfect Law that gives freedom [aka “Liberty”] not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

It’s not our will, our money, or our standing as citizens of the United States of America that brings true freedom and liberty, only the “perfect Law” can do that. And what exactly is this “perfect Law”? Well, according to the context of James 1:22-27, that perfect Law is the Word of God.

And how exactly does it bring us freedom? By giving us the rules and regulations that promote the maximum amount of freedom we can experience this side of eternity.

Much like driving laws which on the surface level can seem like major restrictions to a driver’s freedom, the commands listed in God’s Word can seem suffocating to some. However, without any speed limits, turn signals, stop lights, divided highways, and other driving rules, driving wouldn’t be more fun, it would be more chaotic! People could do whatever they wanted which would result in A LOT of accidents. The rules that are in place are there for a reason – so that all drivers can enjoy the freedom of a safe traveling experience.

The same could be said for God’s Word. It’s easy to think that when the Lord commands us to “do this” and “not do that,” that He is restricting that amount of fun and freedom we as humans can enjoy. However, if everyone did what they wanted to, there would be a lot of violence, heartbreak, and regret in our world. The commands of the Lord are there for a reason – to help His creation experience the maximum amount of joy as they walk in His ways.

But the blessings of the Word don’t stop with just Life and Liberty. As James 1 continues, James 1:25 (NIV, bold mine) speaks on the third and final of the unalienable Rights – the pursuit of Happiness. “But whoever looks intently into the perfect Law that gives [Liberty], and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

That word “blessed” is just another word for “happy.” So, you could rewrite that verse to say that those who apply the Bible to their lives will be happy in what they do.
Isn’t that what the Founding Fathers were hoping the citizens of their newborn nation would be able to achieve when they penned the Declaration of Independence hundreds of years ago? They didn’t want people to merely go through life as they had done for so many years when they were oppressed in England. They wanted their citizens to live a life full of liberty in which they could freely pursue happiness.

James 1:25 says that the way we achieve this happiness is through pursuing an active application of the words we read in the Bible. The Bible is not an ancient textbook to be merely studied and examined, it is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and should be applied to our daily lives.

And it’s when we apply the Word of God to our lives that we discover these inalienable rights – Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Have you spent time in the perfect Law that gives liberty today?

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?
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©Grant Gaines 2017

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