How to Be Happy in the Devil’s World East Ridge Bible Church
9400 Wallace Lake Road
Joe Griffin, Pastor
Grace Doctrine Church
1821 South River Road
St. Charles, Missouri 63303
The Philosophers 05
Principles for Developing True Happiness in the Soul 13
Exegesis of 1 Peter 1:7–8 16
Doctrinal Analysis of True Happiness 27
Biblical Principles for the Copacetic Christian 31
Inner Happiness and the Copacetic Christian 38
List of Visuals40
When I was a young boy walking through town with my dad, it was not uncommon for someone to ask, “Speed, how’s it going?” to which he’d respond, “Everything is copacetic.”
I didn’t know what copacetic meant but it was obvious by the expression on his face when he said it and the body language that accompanied it, that he considered his lot in life to be mighty satisfactory.
This attitude was captured by James Baskett in his rendition of Allie Wrubel and Ray Gilbert’s Oscar winning song, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” from Walt Disney’s Song of the South:
“Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” and “satisfactual” are not found in dictionaries but were used by Wrubel and Gilbert to facilitate the rhyme scheme of their song and whose message communicates a state of complete happiness.
Mick Jagger and Aretha Franklin each professed, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” back in the ’60s, but that’s because “the times they were a-changin’” from the halcyon days of the ’40s when Uncle Remus found everything “satisfactual.”
The word “copacetic” is classified as slang by etymologists and here is an explanation of why:
This slang word for excellent, topnotch or first-rate was labeled in one of our earlier books the probable invention of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, one of the great black entertainers of this century and certainly one of the greatest tap dancers who ever lived.
At least one reader challenged that attribution, saying that he had heard comedian Joe Frisco use the term in 1911. That may well be, but since Bojangles was probably active also at that time, all we can prove is that the word was well known in show business circles and that, while Robinson may not have invented it, he surely did much to popularize it.1
Therefore, Copacetic is indicated as slang in English dictionaries and defined as follows:
Very satisfactory; excellent; first-rate; in excellent order; fine and dandy; as it should be; cool.
The best analysis of the word, and as a result, how it plays into the title of our study, is found in Word Mysteries & Histories:
All is not copacetic when we consider how little we know about the origin of the word copacetic, meaning “excellent, first-rate.” Is its origin to be found in Italian, in the speech of southern blacks, in the Creole French dialect of Louisiana, or in Hebrew? John O’Hara, who used the word in Appointment in Samarra \sa‑mär'‑ra\,2 later wrote copacetic was “a Harlem and gangster corruption of an Italian word.” O’Hara went on to say, “I don’t know how to spell the Italian, but it’s something like copacetti.” The spelling is now fixed, however, as copacetic, even though the origin of the word has not been determined.
The Harlem connection mentioned by O’Hara would seem more likely than the Italian, since copacetic was used by black jazz musicians and is said to have been southern slang in the late nineteenth century. If copacetic is Creole French in origin, it would also have a southern homeland. According to this explanation, copacetic came from the Creole French word coupersètique, which meant “able to be coped with,” “able to cope with anything and everything,” “in good form,” and also, “having a healthy appetite or passion for life and love.”
Those who back the Hebrew or Yiddish origin of copacetic do not necessarily deny the southern connections of the word. One explanation has it that Jewish storekeepers used the Hebrew phrase kol bĕsedeq, “all with justice,” when asked if things were O.K. Black children who were in the store as customers or employees heard this phrase as copacetic.
No explanation of the origin of copacetic, including the ones discussed here, has won the approval of scholars. 3
A word is ultimately defined by its usage and the definitions just mentioned and the Creole French meaning, “able to cope with any and everything” indicates a mental attitude anchored in doctrine so that, whatever the circumstance, its daily conclusion is the same as James Baskett’s, “Everything is satisfactual.”
If a believer is steeped in doctrine, enjoys the prosperity of the sophisticated spiritual life, and has become habitual in his use of problem-solving devices, then it can be said he is a copacetic Christian. Ergo, a copacetic Christian possesses true happiness in his soul.
True happiness may be defined as follows:
Happiness is an inner resource developed from maximum Bible doctrine resident in the soul and is so advanced in its grace orientation to the plan of God that all aspects of life are evaluated with regard to eternal rather than temporal implications. Consequently, happiness is the penultimate problem-solving device.
Unfortunately the world is filled with unhappy people. The paradox is that each and every one of them is enmeshed in a frantic search for happiness. As in all things worth having, only a few actually achieve the objective that is so universally pursued.
In order to demonstrate the futility of the world’s fruitless but perpetual effort to find happiness, let’s take a look at what the great philosophers of the past have had to say on the subject.
Some of these sages’ ideas are rational on the level of human viewpoint, but each falls short of achieving the prize since true happiness can only be obtained by the believer in Jesus Christ.
II. The Philosophers:
John Locke observed that men place themselves in miserable circumstances because of poor decisions; decisions entered into originally with the hope of acquiring happiness.
Locke further observed that happiness for one man may be quite different for another. He defined happiness as being the utmost pleasure we are capable of and misery as being the utmost pain.
Happiness and misery are responses to either internal or external influences. We look on that which produces happiness as good and that which causes misery as bad or evil.
Platoof fifth-century b.c. Greece defined happiness as “spiritual well-being.” He classified it as a harmony in the soul, an inner peace which results from the proper order of all the soul’s parts. (Good definition; wrong source.)
Plotinus \plō‑tī'‑nas\, who started Neoplatonism4 in the third century a.d., made the accurate statement that “nothing external can separate a virtuous man from happiness.” (Good definition; impossible to attain.)
Sigmund Freud muddied the waters with his observation that the happy man has found a way to master his inner conflicts and to become well-adjusted to his environment. But Freud was a modern thinker and thus confused by his own pseudo-intellectual arrogance. The ancient muses were far closer to an accurate definition.
NOTE: Man cannot be the lone source of mastering his inner conflicts. Environment is not an issue in the development or maintenance of true happiness.
Such as Lucretius Carus \lü‑krē'‑shē‑as kar'‑us\, a first-century Latin philosopher, who made this insightful comment, “That which we desire seems the most desirable thing in the world; then, when we have got it, we want something else; ‘tis ever the same thirst.” (Defines the frantic search for happiness and unrealistic expectations.)
Socrates said that the happy are made happy by the possession of justice and temperance. (Valid components, but absent the origin.)
Julius Caesar also showed wisdom in his analysis of the subject: “’Tis the common vice of nature, that we at once repose most confidence and receive the greatest apprehensions from things unseen, concealed, and unknown.”
Blaise Pascal, a seventeenth-century French philosopher who happened to be a believer, said about happiness:
All men seek happiness. There are no exceptions. However different the means they may employ, they all strive towards this goal... The will never takes the least step except to that end. This is the motive of every act of every man...
"Yet for very many years no one without faith has ever reached the goal at which everyone is continually aiming. All men complain: princes, subjects, nobles, commoners, old, young, strong, weak, learned, ignorant, healthy, sick, in every country, at every time, of all ages, and all conditions.
"A test which has gone on so long, without pause or change, really ought to convince us that we are incapable of attaining the good by our own efforts. But example teaches us very little. No two examples are so exactly alike that there is not some subtle difference, and that is what makes us expect that our expectations will not be disappointed this time as they were last time. So, while the present never satisfies us, experience deceives us, and leads us on from one misfortune to another until death comes as the ultimate and eternal climax.
"What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.
"God alone is man's true good, and since man abandoned him it is a strange fact that nothing in nature has been found to take his place.5
Solon \so'‑lan\, one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece, once told Croesus \krē'‑sus\, king of Lydia, that he would not call him happy “until I hear that you have closed your life happily … for oftentimes God gives men a gleam of happiness and then plunges them into ruin. For this reason, in judging of happiness … it behooves us to mark well the end.” (This philosophy makes happiness a slave to circumstances, but in prosperity or ruin, true happiness is unaffected.)
Spinoza \spa‑nō'‑za\, a Dutch philosopher of the seventeenth century, places happiness in intellectual activity of so high an order that the happy man is almost godlike. The way to happiness must indeed be difficult since it is so seldom discovered. (This is the attitude possessed by the anointed who view themselves as the elite whose intelligence qualifies them to run the lives of the benighted.)
Michel Montaigne \mē‑shel män‑tān'\ a humanist writer of sixteenth-century France, stated that “learning how to face death well seems indispensable to living well.” (Correct, but no mention of how.)
This is in agreement with Lucretius who once observed that “what happiness men can have depends on their being rid of the fear of death.”
There is one consistent thread which links all these philosophers together in their analyses of happiness: pleasure versus pain.
Pleasure is the feeling of satisfaction which accompanies the possession of objects desired. Pain is the frustration which comes from the denial of these pleasures.
John Locke commented that “happiness becomes an existence exempt as far as possible from pain and as rich as possible in pleasures.” Thus the philosophers succeed in beating around the bush. Some have better ideas than others but none of them is able to define happiness. Unfortunately the devil’s world has come to accept the general definition of happiness as being the status in which pleasures are maximized while pain is minimized.
In a humanistic environment in which absolutes are rejected out of hand, then one man’s pleasure amounts to another man’s pain. American satirist, Ambrose Bierce \biers\ sarcastically defines happiness in his The Devil’s Dictionary as “an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.”
When the public mind–set becomes committed to the concept of equality in its pursuit of happiness, then no matter what their desires happen to be they must be provided. This effort has led to the rise of privacy rights.
The rhetorical veil of the socialist system of government is to promise maximum pleasure to every group in order to minimize its pains. Chaos always results, but this does not dissuade Progressives from promoting the elusive Utopian state. The result is the legalized plunder of the haves to assuage the have-nots: panem et circenses, bread and circuses: provision of the means of life and recreation by government to appease discontent.
The rationale for this is the myth that all must be guaranteed the attainment of happiness. What the law should provide is the environment of freedom where one might be left free to pursue happiness.
When a client nation drifts away from the basic principles of biblical Christianity, then the universal desire for happiness ceases to be a personal objective but rather becomes a one-against-all competition.
German author Helmut Schoeck calls this envy and defines it as follows:
Envy expresses that vindictive and inwardly tormenting frame of mind, the displeasure with which one perceives the prosperity and the advantages of others, begrudges them these things and in addition wishes one were able to destroy them.6
Schoeck also writes that envy is a basic part of human existence and is a profoundly destructive force that eats away at happiness, success, progress, and civilization.
Thus when the majority of the people begin to seek happiness—a happiness defined as the maximizing of pleasures while at the same time minimizing pains—then the means they will use to reach that end is envy.
Socialism will take from one who has in order to alleviate the pain of another. Frederic Bastiat \bäs‑tya\ called it “plunder.” His comments on the subject of acquiring happiness through legal mandates are very instructive:
Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.
But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.
Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain—and since labor is pain in itself—it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.
When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.
It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder. (p. 10)
But … the fatal tendency that exists in the heart of man is to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort. (pp. 10–11)
It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: The conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder. What are the consequences of such a perversion?
In the first place, it erases from everyone’s conscience the distinction between justice and injustice. (p. 12)
When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them. (pp. 12–13)
The nature of the law is to maintain justice. This is so much the case that, in the minds of the people, law and justice are one and the same thing. There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that things are “just” because law makes them so. Thus, in order to make plunder appear just and sacred to many consciences, it is only necessary for the law to decree and sanction it. Slavery, restriction, and monopoly find defenders not only among those who profit from them but also among those who suffer from them. (p. 13)
… imagine that this fatal principle has been introduced: Under the pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law takes property from one person and gives it to another; the law takes the wealth of all and gives it to a few—whether farmers, manufacturers, ship owners, artists, or comedians. Under these circumstances, then certainly every class will aspire to grasp the law, and logically so.
The excluded classes will furiously demand their right to vote—and will overthrow society rather than not to obtain it. Evan beggars and vagabonds will then prove to you that they also have an incontestable title to vote. They will say to you:
“We cannot buy wine, tobacco, or salt without paying the tax. And a part of the tax that we pay is given by law—in privileges and subsidies—to men who are richer than we are. Others will use the law to raise the prices of bread, meat, iron, or cloth. Thus, since everyone else uses the law for his own profit, we also would like to use the law for our own profit. We demand from the law the right to relief, which is the poor man’s plunder. (p. 17)
To obtain this right, we also should be voters and legislators in order that we may organize Beggary on a grand scale for our own class, as you have organized Protection on a grand scale for your class.” (pp. 17–18)
But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.7(p. 21)
Such is the result of applying the philosophers’ definitions of happiness. The desire to maximize one’s pleasures while minimizing one’s pain results in an evil system of plunder—all in the name of “pursuing happiness.”
Our entire society is pursuing happiness in all the wrong places. In order to acquire this false happiness, free people are willing to sell their very souls.
John Locke wrote, “He that has his chains knocked off and the prison doors set open to him, is perfectly at liberty, because he may either go or stay as he best likes; though his preference be determined to stay, by the darkness of the night, or illness of the weather, or want of other lodging. He ceases not to be free; though the desire of some convenience to be had there absolutely determines his preference and makes him stay in his prison.”
This is an excellent way to describe the doctrine of redemption: The saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross whereby every human being is purchased from the slave market of sin with a view toward setting him free. Redemption is realized when a person is born again by faith alone in Christ alone.
The undeniable point is that mankind has historically rejected freedom and the reason is because freedom demands from the individual a responsibility for his decisions and accountability for his actions.
Further, freedom requires of the individual that whatever property he owns must be the product of his own labors.
Hard work, responsibility, accountability, virtue, integrity, rectitude, and probity—all these are the requirements of freedom. These are the things of which true happiness is made.
Consequently, freedom is the environment necessary to acquire true happiness. To reject freedom is to reject any possibility for true happiness. And the freedom to which I refer is not political freedom but soul freedom.
Men who cast the responsibility of their livelihood onto society are men who are already into soul slavery. Political slavery is merely the logical result.
Aristotle introduced the principle of virtue into the discussion of the philosophers: “The virtuous man is one who finds pleasure in the things that are by nature pleasant. The virtuous man takes pleasure only in the right things and is willing to suffer pain for the right end. Virtue is the principle means to happiness because it regulates the choices which must be rightly made in order to obtain all good things.”
Such is the mental attitude of the unbeliever who can achieve a measure of happiness through positive volition toward the laws of divine establishment. However, none of these definitions by any of the great philosophers comes close to recognizing the true happiness available to the Church Age believer.
In our study we will analyze the principle of perfect happiness in order to demonstrate the fallacy of the philosophers.
III. Principles for Developing True Happiness in the Soul: Happiness is the result of right thinking. A right things done in a right way is right. This principle of protocol applies to thought, decision, and action.
Error occurs when man assumes that happiness can be pursued in and of itself.
But happiness cannot be found by pursuing it.
Happiness is a mental attitude—an inner resource—that develops when one pursues truth.
In order to pursue truth, one must first establish the source of truth.
If one is successful in locating the source of truth, then certain results follow. First of all, the source of truth becomes the source of absolute norms and standards.
For truth to be truth it must be absolute. It must be as true tomorrow as it is today.
The discovery of absolutes reveals principles of right and wrong by which we may direct our lives.
When we subscribe to these standards we associate our thoughts, decisions, and actions with these standards.
If we make a habit of making right decisions, then we associate ourselves with right action.
Over time, this association with right action builds spiritual self-esteem and camaraderie with the Source of truth, God the Father.
From this advance we learn there are absolutes which define human choices (sinful) and absolutes which define divine choices (righteous).
We are able to conclude that God made choices based on absolutes and has set up standards that even He is unable to violate.
For example, because of physical birth and the imputation of human life, we become objects of divine selection.
At gospel hearing, man is left free to make a choice between heaven and the lake of fire by either accepting or rejecting the gospel as an absolute truth.
Those who accept through faith that the gospel is absolute truth are the only ones God is free to elect. We can see attention to this absolute standard expressed by John the Baptist in: