This is one of the most critical decisions you will ever make …

At least once in your life — if not daily for most of us — you will have to choose between pursuing “happiness” or holiness.

It’s one of the most critical decisions you’ll ever make!

For many, it seems easy: pursue happiness, because life is short, and just trust all that holiness stuff to Jesus.

But for the authentic Christian, it doesn’t work that way.

Rebecca Tekautz wrote an interesting article titled, “When Happy Trumps Holy” that was published on in 2012. I was taken by this part of the article …

“I read a great blog recently that captured the essence of disparity between happiness and holiness:

“I remember the call and the subsequent conversations that forever changed my life vividly.

“‘It’s my time to be happy.’

“It was my father’s voice, giving me one of the reasons he was leaving my mother after nearly 30 years. My father was walking away from his job and marriage in the pursuit of happiness.

“I would love to say that my experiences at the hands of ‘happy’ are unique, but over the past year I have watched ‘happy’ break apart multiple marriages, damage churches and shatter families. My heart aches as I watch the fallout that occurs when happy trumps holy. I watch friends — and myself — make life-changing decisions based on what would make them more happy instead of more holy.”

For many, the pursuit of happiness actually creates and leaves a broad wake of pain and broken relationships. Former quarterback and ESPN commentator, Joe Theismann, allegedly explained to his second ex-wife why he had an affair like this: “God wants Joe Theismann to be happy.”

That’s the lie that many of us choose to rationalize in our minds — that God just wants us to be happy, regardless of how sinful that might look like, or who it might hurt along the way.

But it is just a lie!

Even though it is a lie, too many Christians apply that lie to their thinking. In the book, “UnChristian,” David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, discusses some disheartening research concerning the failure of Christians in our day to remain distinct …

“In virtually every study we conduct, representing thousands of interviews every year, born again Christians (talking about people who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that they say is important and that they believe they will go to heaven at death because they have confessed their sin and accepted Christ as Savior, much more than people who just claim to be Christians) fail to display much attitudinal or behavior evidence of transformed lives. For instance, based on a study released in 2007, we found that most of the lifestyle activities of born again Christians were statistically equivalent to those of non- born again people. When asked to identify their activities over the last 30 days, born again believers were just as likely to visit a pornographic website, to take something that did not belong to them, to consult a medium or psychic, to physically fight or abuse someone, to have consumed enough alcohol to be considered legally drunk, to have used an illegal non-prescription drug, to have said something to someone that was not true, to have gotten back at someone for something he or she did, and to have said mean things behind another person’s back.”

We prefer the lie and pursue “happiness.” But isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? After all, isn’t it enshrined in the United States Declaration of Independence that the “inalienable rights” of every person is “… life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?

The “American dream” may be the pursuit of happiness, but it isn’t the call of God on the lives of all those who follow Jesus Christ. His command to us is quite different and crystal clear …

“So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy’,” 1 Peter 1:14-16.

God commands us to pursue holiness; whether we obey, or instead choose to pursue happiness, is a choice we must make. And it is a choice, because you cannot do both. You can be happy (very happy!) in your pursuit of holiness, but you cannot choose just to “pursue happiness” and live a holy life.

Which will win in your life?

An old American Indian tale recounts the story of a chief telling a gathering of young braves about the struggle within.

“It is like two dogs fighting inside of us,” the chief told them. “There is one good dog who wants to do the right and the other dog always wants to do the wrong. Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight.”

“Who is going to win in the end?” a young brave asked.

“The chief answered, “The one you feed.”