“WISDOM OF LIVING (57): BE HAPPY”             By Pastor YAU

Text: Philippians 4:4-13                                            February 17, 2008.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)      A hot topic: Be happy is a hot topic. On the cover page of the February 2008 issue of Reader’s Digest, which arrived early in mid-January, is the eye-catching title: “Get Happy! 10 Ideas That Really Work.” Page 98. About 20 years ago, on the way back from sending Franklin to college in 1988, the most popular song on the radio at that time was: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” it was a good time to listen to that song because it was the first time our son leaves his nest to be on his own. Whatever the circumstance be happy is the search of many people.

2)      A rare commodity: From the evening news, the papers or just the daily grinds of people, be happy is a dream, a hope, not a reality. We live in a world which offers so much for us to worry and feeling bad. From the failing economy to the war in Iraq, from the ever falling stock market and shrinking retirement accounts to the sky-rocketing gas and grocery prices, there is hardly anything that may make us feeling happy. It is in this and other situations, many people rush to offer magic formulas of “Happiness.”

 

WHY IS HAPPINESS HARD TO FIND? Because . . . . .

1)   This is not a happy world: When Jesus told his disciples that he will go to Jerusalem to suffer loss of his life and the disciples grieved over this bad news, He told them, “In this world, you will have trouble (serious suffering)” (John 16:33) Troubles of all kinds didn’t start with the death of Jesus or the persecution on Christians that followed. Trouble in life is part of human experiences. That’s why we Chinese have an idiom as part of wisdom of life that says, “If you don’t have troubles today, you certainly will have them tomorrow.” No one has ever lived a trouble-free life even with those who have tons of money, lots of power and were very successful in what they do. Trouble is part of real life no matter how hard you may try to avoid them.

2)   There is no proper heart: Happiness is in the hearts of men and it needs a proper condition to grow. But very early in the Bible, God saw human hearts were far from being proper place happiness may grow. Not long after Cain murdered his brother Abel because of jealousy and hatred, (Genesis 4) “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5) We all know that good trees can only grow in good soil. (Matt. 13:8) “A good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. (Matt. 7:17)With the sinful nature and all the evil in man’s heart, happiness cannot grow there.

3)   There is no proper seed: To have fruits of lasting happiness in your heart, you need to have the proper seeds. Most people can’t have lasting happiness because they planted the wrong seeds in their hearts: seeds like more money, higher-pay jobs, bigger houses, newer cars, more success in career and better looking. While all these are good things to enjoy for a while, none of them may bring lasting happiness. No one can push things on the outside into his heart to make him happy on the inside. True happiness is the inner ability that responds to things on the outside. That inner ability comes from a proper relationship with God, the only true source of happiness.

4)   There is no proper priority: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33) When Christians seek the wrong priority in their lives, they will fall into the trap of anxiety and lose the joy in their life. Whatever we need, the Lord already knows. (6:32)If Christians continue to seek their own interests, care only they needs and life, spend all the time and energy on their own business, God can not pour His blessings on them because they are too independent from God. When man toils on his own it is hard to be happy.

 

 HAPPINESS IN THE BIBLE: It is possible if you know how.

1)   Be happy in the Lord: When Mary, mother of Jesus, learned of her special assignment to bear baby Jesus she responded by expressing her joy. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46)For an unmarried woman to bear a child was never a thing of joy to ordinary people. But Mary rejoiced and was willing to accept the impossible because she focused her joy in the Lord God. The purpose of God in her life superseded her personal desire or advantage. This is the kind of attitude we need to have if we want to have true happiness.

2)   Be happy in trials: Trails or suffering and joy or happiness seems contradicting each other but they are the both sides of the same coin. Trial and suffering are training process which will bring good results to our character. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” When we consider pain and trials as a processes of achieving something higher and more important, such as vigorous training of athletes, they will bring us joy and happiness because they help build up our maturity and productivity.

3)   Be happy in simple life: “But godliness with contentment is great gain (joy). For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)Live a simple life is a great way to happiness: ask no more, want no more, demand no more and spend no more, you will feel happier than those who always ask for more, want more, demand more and spend more. Simple life eliminates our desires and strives. Contentment cuts out or cut down worry, anxiety, spirit of competition and pride. No wonder some call simple life “humble life.” Humility is the other side of happiness.

4)   Be happy in cheerful heart: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)Happiness has much to do with good health. People with cheerful hearts and bright outlook of life usually have good appetite, better sleep and less stress which contribute to good health. And good health also contributes to happy life. It is difficult to be happy when you have heavy heart or poor health. This is a cycle we need to choose: to begin with a cheerful heart which brings good health or to have a crushed spirit which brings poor health and sadness. If you desire good health, you need to choose cheerful heart.

 

TEN STEPS TO HAPPINESS: (Phil. 4:4-13)

1)   You need to be in the Lord: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice!” (4:4)The key in true happiness is to live your life “in the Lord”, to depend “on the Lord”, and to see life and things from the perspective “of the Lord.” Christian happiness is vastly different from worldly happiness. If you are in the Lord, you have a different set of criterion to rejoice when the world can never understand nor agree.

2)   You need to be moderate: “Let your moderation be known to all men.” (4:5, KJV)Moderation is a way of life advocated by the Bible and many cultures as the better way of life. It means to live with less, less expensive, less consuming and less extravaganza. When you ask for less and enjoy life on less, chances are you feel happier.

3)   You need to rid of anxiety: “Do not be anxious about anything.” (4:6a)Being anxious is the same as worry. No one can be happy when he worries about things. Anxiety is a sign of lack of faith.

4)   You need to be thankful: “But in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving.” (4:6b)If we are thankful for what we have and not grudging on what we don’t have, happiness is getting closer.

5)   You need to guard your heart: “And the peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (4:7)Human hearts, or thoughts, may go wild if we are not careful in guarding it. Guarding means being careful, protective and alert to outside invasion. Happiness is about our hearts and they deserve our best attention and protection.

6)   You need to crave good: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable---if anything is excellent or praise worthy, fill you mind with these things.” (4:8)When your heart and mind are filled with all these noble virtues, happiness is a natural by-product.

7)   You need to learn from the best: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me, put it into practice.” (4:9)There are plenty of unhappy people around. Don’t be trapped by their pitiful samples. Learn from the upbeat, the positive, the strong in faith, the good examples and you will live happier.

8)   You need to acknowledge: “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me.” (4:10)The Philippians church has been very supportive to Paul and his ministry in many ways for many years. Paul was aware of their love and support and acknowledged their good love and concern. When you are grateful to those who love and support, you naturally feel happy.

9)   You need to be content: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (4:11)Contentment is a BIG key to happiness. Be happy with what you have. Do not be unhappy for what you do not have.

10)      You need to be strengthened: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” (4:13)This is one of the most popular verses in the Bible: gain strength from the Lord in all kinds of circumstances so you are able to do all things. This is the perfect conclusion on the issue of being happy: through him everything is possible.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)      Are you happy? With the 2 contrasting views in Christianity on happiness: “Rejoice in the Lord” and “Sacrifice for the Lord”, how is your life? Do you enjoy your Christian life and are thankful to the Lord or it is a burden in your everyday life?

2)      Do you know how? Since rejoice in the Lord is a promise, do you know how to get there? If not, what is stopping you from living a joyful Christian life? Have you followed the right steps?

3)      Can you be happy? Yes, you can, if you follow steps God has set in His word. Be humble and submit to the love and guidance of God. Confess your sins and ask Him to forgive you. Without the burden of sin, happiness is just one step away.