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How to be happy and for it to last...
In 2006 a movie was released starring Will Smith as a struggling salesman who takes custody of his son at the same time as he is attempting to venture out on a new career path. The movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, captures the audience’s heart as we share in Will Smith’s character’s emotional journey to success.
The movie title is derived from the phrase “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” which is one of the most famous phrases quoted from the United States Declaration of Independence. It outlines three things that are the “unalienable rights” of man. The US founding fathers considered happiness to be a vitally important thing to pursue. It still is today.
Happiness is not something you can snatch off a grocery store shelf. It can’t be downloaded and installed like the latest software. It can’t even be caught from someone else – not true happiness anyway. Does that mean it is NOT attainable? No way. The path to true happiness is found in the Word of God. So please join me in a short journey as I share with you what I found to be the real “pursuit of happy-ness”.
1. Happy-ness comes from the inside out
“I’m happy from the inside out, and from the outside in, I’m firmly formed.” Psalm 16:9 The Message
Let’s face it, we all have moods. Some days you just wake up ready to fight the world whereas other days all is a bed of roses. It’s usually fairly easy to gauge a person’s mood by the look on their face. In fact, a grumpy person never seems to try to hide their mood but would rather take it out on the nearest victim with all guns blazing!
Most people’s moods are determined by the outward circumstances they are going through. We all know that in any given 24 hour period there are lots of opportunities for things we go through to affect our mood. Just take a moment to think of the last time you were really mad. What caused it? How long did the “reason” last? What about the last time you were sad? I recall being saddened by the news of my sister’s newborn girl only surviving in this world for 30 minutes before she went to be with Jesus. That was a situation that would obviously cause my mood to change and people around me were able to notice my being mellow and somber that day.
How about the last time you were really happy? What was the reason and how long did it last? People change moods more often than they change their clothes.
If you are a person that is not constantly happy, then you need to start looking elsewhere than the circumstances you are going through because happy-ness comes from the inside out. What do I mean by that? Well, if you have asked Jesus into your heart, then He lives inside of you. The joy and peace that He gives you can provide you with the ability to be content no matter what you are going through.
"My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into different kinds of temptations knowing that the trying of your faith works patience." James 1:2-3
James says for us to be joyful no matter what. Now that is really hard when we are in the middle of watching our teenager ripping apart the family because of their selfishness. Or when we have just been laid off work with bills to pay. No one said it was easy, but James said it was possible. It comes down to a choice. Every one of us knows we can change our mood at the drop of a hat if we choose to. For example, you are having a heated argument with your spouse when the doorbell rings and it’s your neighbor. Your mood can change faster than Clark Kent in a phone booth, as you want to put on your best face for the next-door neighbor. See, it’s a choice.
100% of the time we have a choice as to how we are going to react to what we are going through. Acting unhappy will get you some attention and will make you feel good in the flesh but it won’t cause you to grow. Instead, God is calling us all to tap into what is already inside of us. Try searching your heart and look for the positive in the situation you are going through. That will enable you to be happy no matter what. Remember, there is always someone who is worse off than you.
2. Happy-ness comes from helping others
"First, though, I’m going to Jerusalem to deliver a relief offering to the Christians there. The Greeks – all the way from the Macedonians in the north to the Achaians in the south – decided they wanted to take up a collection for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. They were happy to do this, but it was also their duty." Romans 15:25-27
When I was very young I used to love Christmas like any other child. I would look forward to Christmas morning when we would all gather round in front of the fireplace and pick our spot on the floor to open our gifts. I remember feeling like life couldn’t get any better as I unwrapped one gift after another that my parents had bought me. That went on until I was 13 years old. In my thirteenth year I got a part time job delivering newspapers door to door. That meant that I finally had some spending money of my own. I decided that I would buy Christmas gifts for my parents, my sister and my three brothers that year. On Christmas morning that year the excitement I normally felt opening my own gifts was far surpassed by the joy it gave me to give gifts to my family and watch their reaction to them. You see it’s a principle, in-built into our nature from God, to get pleasure from giving to others and from helping others. We are made in the image of God and that is His nature and character. He is a Giver and a Helper. Don’t tell me you cannot recall that warm, fuzzy feeling you felt when you did something nice for someone else?
Next time you are feeling unhappy due to something you are going though, take a moment to think of someone you know that has it worse than you and do something to help him or her. It might just be an encouraging email. It might be taking them out for a coffee and being a listening ear. Maybe it means sending some flowers to that co-worker who just lost a family member even though you have never really connected before. It could mean doing a good deed for a neighbor. The possibilities are limitless but in each case it takes you looking outside of yourself and your situation to help someone else. You will in tune get joy and happiness from doing so.
In the scripture I quoted from Romans 15, the Greeks were happy to take up an offering for the poor in Jerusalem. You have to understand, these were Greeks – non-Jews – who were taking up a collection for the poor Jews. They not only looked outside of themselves, but they also looked outside of their culture and comfort zone.
If you have ever been on a mission trip to another culture you will know just how happy it can make you to bless others. I have been on several mission trips with my youth groups to Mexico and no matter what circumstances and emotional struggles my youth were going through, the happiness was clearly evident on their faces when they got to bless poor, starving people with food and clothing. If you want to be happy, go out of your way to help someone else.
3. Happy-ness comes from wisdom
My goal in this message is to share what the Bible says about being happy. The third way the Bible says you can be happy is by getting wisdom. That’s right, you heard me – by getting wisdom.
"Happy are your men, happy are these who are your servants, who stand always before you, and who hear your wisdom." 1 Kings 10:8 MKJV
The Greek tragedian Sophocles said, “Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.”
Let me immediately say that wisdom is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom. Rather, wisdom is applied knowledge.
Martin Henry Fischer said, “Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.”
Why do we get wiser as we get older? Because wisdom is demonstrated by those who have had an opportunity in life to apply what they know. There a are lots of people with knowledge about life and about God, but applying that knowledge in the right circumstances develops wisdom. You see it is not until your knowledge is tested in the arena of experience that wisdom is created.
The verse in 1 Kings is spoken by the Queen of Sheba. Now she was a very powerful women but she had heard about how amazing Solomon was. She came to see Solomon and brought him some pretty cool gifts and then spent hours picking his brain about the things that she cared about. Solomon always had an answer for her. The queen recognized great wisdom in this and that’s when she said that Solomon’s men and servants were happy because they are surrounded by wisdom.
If you are anything like me, you don’t know it all. In my case I recognize my deficiencies on a regular basis. Oftentimes I just don’t have the whole picture of a situation and usually it’s because it is new territory to me. The Queen of Sheba was the same. In those times we need to swallow our pride and seek out the people around us who can impart wisdom to us. It’s so, so important to hang around people who have had experience and to respect them for that experience. Does that mean they are going to be exactly the same as you? No. But learning from their wisdom will make it easier for you to be a happy person as you go through things in your own life.
If you are finding it hard to be happy, seek out wisdom.
On a final note, if you are happy, notify your face! It makes you and others around you more relaxed if you look happy. Don’t forget to smile – it uses fewer muscles than frowning and smile lines look better on an older person than frown lines!