Has anyone ever asked you, “Are you happy?” If so, it could be bait on a fishing line to see if perhaps you have found IT. Then, perhaps you would tell them where IT is. Then they could effortlessly scurry off to grab IT for themselves, minus all the hard-work and discovery.
What do we hear our parents, friends and spouses say?
“I just want you to be happy.”
As a child, I discovered that I could act sad and depressed if I thought doing so would get me my way and more things from others. Also, if my happiness depends on others acting like I want them to act, I will put the pressure on them. The more I place the responsibility of my happiness on others, the further I drift into disillusionment and anger against those who “let me down.” Then they don’t want to be near me and I am alone once again, feeling less happy.
And isn’t life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness what our country is all about; But we have discovered that the pursuit of happiness is a brutal taskmaster who has nothing good for us on a vain journey that is wrought with narcissistic endeavor. The more I focus on myself–my feelings—my happiness, and the “what-ifs” the further I drift from the true life-giver– JOY.
The more I insist on being exempt from life’s struggles and hurts, the more miserable I become. Contentment and happiness are taken hostage by,
“I would be happy if only ___________________________________________________.”
What does it take to become depressed? How about 1 hour of television–2 pages of a magazine where I compare myself to another who is more wealthy or attractive. One social media criticism, one person who rebels against my “plan”, or simply a flat tire or a crushed dream.
“Then we get a good lesson about what kills joy,
steals contentment and robs us of happiness.”
The world makes its money off us by telling us in effect, “You can’t be happy or content without____________ ________________________.” The old model we now possess is depressing. The new and improved is just waiting to bring us eternal bliss!
From childhood gadgets and toys–to adulthood relationships, jobs and fantasies–we fall for it way too often.
“But wait–there’s more!!!” Call Now! Operators are standing by!!” Call NOW!
Isn’t the church supposed to provide us with happiness and joy? Well, here is one version.
I find it very disturbing, yet unsurprising, that the airwaves remain filled with greedy “seed-faith, prosperity” preachers.
Humanism, hedonism and materialism, because of “positive-thinking your way into prosperity”, consistently come from the lips of sad, pseudo religious hucksters and the likes who boast of their millions. Their followers are those who play the “spiritual Jesus lottery” for some hopeful return on their investment. The message from the seed-faith pulpit is, “health, wealth and happiness are just waiting for those who will believe God for a ‘victory’—just plant that seed.”
Please don’t forget to read the fine print of your happiness contract: (send me your money–results may vary)
These retail Jesus con-artists are claiming; “I have found IT and you can have a slice of the pie too. Just “send your seed-faith offering to God”. (more accurately—send me your money) Never mind these self-serving clowns are bankrupt in character and riddled with guilt, shame and depression. All this is in stark contrast to the very Savior they claim to represent and in glib rebellion to the scriptures they ignore.
Babylon Bee defines this plague as well as can be done: https://babylonbee.com/news/bee-explains-prosperity-gospel/
But what if we listen to the real Jesus about achieving happiness, joy and contentment. Then we get a good lesson about what kills joy, steals contentment, and robs us of happiness.
“Then Jesus said to all the people:
If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will save it. What will you gain if you own the whole world but destroy yourself or waste your life? (Luke 9:23-25)
Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions”. (Luke 12:15)
Unlike happiness, joy comes from an intimate and contact-full walk with God that helps us put materialism in its place. (John 15)
Joy releases me from crushing expectations that I place on others or things to “make me happy”. I no longer insist that there is supposed to be someone out there who “completes me”.
Joy is in the form of “Life” that Jesus spoke of (John 10:10)–the kind of life that can stand tall and true no matter what may come; whether our circumstances are happy or sad–whether we have little or much–whether our old mate smells or gets a big raise.
For those of us who are bent towards being pleasure and happiness seekers, may Jesus’ words and example become our own.
If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love;
even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you,
and that your joy might be full. (John 15:10-11)
WHEN I WON’T ALLOW MYSELF TO HAVE JOY, I OFTEN HAVE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS OF GOD, OTHERS AND MYSELF. I NEED A BASELINE.
Poverty can be a good thing when it protects us from the love of money. What if “food and clothes” are become our baseline for contentment?
“These people think religion is supposed to make you rich (happy). And religion does make your life rich, by making you content with what you have. We didn’t bring anything into this world, and we won’t take anything with us when we leave. So we should be satisfied (CONTENT–Happy) just to have food and clothes. (this is a biblical baseline for personal contentment)
People who want to be rich fall into all sorts of temptations and traps. They are caught by foolish and harmful desires that drag them down and destroy them. The love of money causes all kinds of trouble. Some people want money so much that they have given up their faith and caused themselves a lot of pain.” (I Timothy 6:5-10)
LET’S LOOK FURTHER TO THE SCRIPTURES FOR THE MEANING OF JOY, CONTENTMENT AND HAPPINESS
Joy is not the absence of sadness.
Contentment is not a regulated formula derived from a 7-step success guru.
Happiness is not found in money and possessions.
Joy is an earned station in life, not a fleeting feeling of happiness.
It includes happiness, to be sure, but it also includes the endurance of suffering, persecution and pain.
It includes “taking up our own cross”.
It includes loving God more than things or even family.
A great challenge in our Christian walk by faith is that we so often question the will and sovereignty of God.
God allows so many things into our lives that can make us sad, bewildered and even angry. Contentment requires that I let go of those things, situations and people that I cannot alter to my need for logic and total control. The will and sovereignty of God meet my will and human circumstances face to face. It is here that I must consider the character of God—“Loving Father”. It is here that I place my faith in the Son of God who said, “Come unto me all you who labor and I will give you rest…”
MY CHARACTER IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN FLEETING HAPPINESS. FAITH AND WISDOM ARE NEEDED – THEN ACTIONS MUST BE TAKEN “Consider it all JOY, …
”My friends, be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. 3 You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. 4 But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything.
5 If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you. God is generous and won’t correct you for asking. 6 But when you ask for something, you must have faith and not doubt.
Anyone who doubts is like an ocean wave tossed around in a storm. 7-8 If you are that kind of person, you can’t make up your mind, and you surely can’t be trusted. So don’t expect the Lord to give you anything at all.
9 Any of God’s people who are poor should be glad that he thinks so highly of them. 10 But any who are rich should be glad when God makes them humble. Rich people will disappear like wild flowers 11 scorched by the burning heat of the sun. The flowers lose their blossoms, and their beauty is destroyed. That is how the rich will disappear, as they go about their business.” James 1:2-11
ACTIONS TO TAKE
–Preach and live the baseline— “satisfied (happy) just to have food and clothes.”
–Get off my butt. Man doesn’t work—he doesn’t eat.
–Jettison the fantasies of ease and prosperity defined by the world–get to work—demanding work—faithful at work.
Christians must and will be the most sought-after workers because of their joy, work-ethic and discipline. (fruits of the Spirit-Galatians 4) Think of the song: “Let Others See Jesus In You”
–Give of myself to others (use my talents and gifts to God’s glory) “Look out for the interests of others, not just your own.”
–Follow Jesus’ teaching, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, (and pleasing Him) then all these things (stuff) will be added to you.”
These words are a reminder that having things or being prosperous financially is not necessarily bad or evil when my priorities are straight. We so often want the stuff and we then forget where it came from. Sing chorus. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…”
–Rub shoulders with like-minded believers (Church) who also seek true joy over circumstantial happiness.
–Read God’s Word daily for wisdom and focus on what has true worth. Proverbs
–Daily worship will settle my values, confirm my identity and calm my soul. (Philippians 2)
FINALLY, FOCUS ON THE ETERNAL, NOT TEMPORAL
“You have been raised to life with Christ. Now set your heart on what is in heaven, where Christ rules at God’s right side.
Think about what is up there, not about what is here on earth. You died, which means that your life is hidden with Christ, who sits beside God.
Christ gives meaning to your life, and when he appears, you will also appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
Great Hymns to Sing:
I Am Satisfied
To the Work—Toiling On
Give Me Jesus
This is My Father’s World
Farther Along attributed to W. B. Stephens
- Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.
- Sometimes I wonder why I must suffer,
Go in the rain, the cold, and the snow,
When there are many living in comfort,
Giving no heed to all I can do.
- Tempted and tried, how often we question
Why we must suffer year after year,
Being accused by those of our loved ones,
E’en though we’ve walked in God’s holy fear.
- Often when death has taken our loved ones,
Leaving our home so lone and so drear,
Then do we wonder why others prosper,
Living so wicked year after year.
- “Faithful till death,” saith our loving Master;
Short is our time to labor and wait;
Then will our toiling seem to be nothing,
When we shall pass the heavenly gate.
- Soon we will see our dear, loving Savior,
Hear the last trumpet sound through the sky;
Then we will meet those gone on before us,
Then we shall know and understand why.