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Summary: Sooner or later, we must revise our expectations downward and realize that it is not God’s will for us to always feel happy. Instead, we must embrace all of life with a view toward loving God and loving others.

Embracing Life and Living Life Among Others

(topical)

1. Does your life ever feel like this?

2. I was reading recently about a man who awoke one morning to find a puddle of water in the middle of his king-size water bed. In order to fix the puncture, he rolled the heavy mattress outdoors and filled it with more water so he could locate the leak more easily. The enormous bag of water was impossible to control and began rolling on the hilly terrain. He tried to hold it back, but it headed downhill and landed in a clump of bushes which poked it full of holes.

Disgusted, he threw out the water bed frame and moved a standard bed into his room. The next morning, he woke to find a puddle of water in the middle of the new bed. The upstairs bathroom had a leaky drain. [Arthur Ferry]

3. We want to escape the negatives of life or at least always feel happy.

4. Christian mystics of various types — some of them excellent theologians — tell us that we can be happy all the time.

Main Idea: Sooner or later, we must revise our expectations downward and realize that it is not God’s will for us to always feel happy. Instead, we must embrace all of life with a view toward loving God and loving others.

I. The Quest for Happiness Will Not Deliver: Choose A Full LIFE Instead (Ecclesiastes 3:1-13).

It is very American and perhaps very human to think that we can get to a point in life when we are always or almost always happy. We have a lot to unlearn.

A. Life is not meant to be lived in CONSTANT happiness.

1. Note Solomon’s contrasting experiences and feelings.

2. We can find “joy breaks” in the LORD, islands of joy, but we are meant to experience the full spectrum of feelings, although tempered by our faith (“as they who have no hope”). [rejoice, pray, give thanks..couldn’t pray for a need]

3. The distinction made between joy and happiness only works in English because we have so many words…

B. Many times, other emotions SHOULD displace happiness.

This is so obvious, yet there is so much false teaching to the contrary, I need to make these points. Even top notch teachers tell us we can always feel joy/happiness.

1. Anger trumps happiness when we must confront a wrong (e.g., Jesus turning over the tables in the Temple).

2. Anxiety trumps happiness when danger looms (Phil. 2:28); Nehemiah had his workers armed while doing masonry work…

3. Sadness trumps happiness during times of grief (Jesus wept)

4. If we can be happy all the time, then trials are no longer trials — but they are.

5. We rejoice in how God can use the trials to develop us, and how He provides grace during them, but we do not enjoy them.

C. Those who make an IDOL of happiness end up addicted, in denial, or severely disappointed.

1. They often live life vicariously.

2. Many sins are distractions are escapes from unhappiness.

3. John Piper developed “Christian Hedonism.” To me, that’s denial.

4. What you want is not even necessarily what you like/disappointed.

Sooner or later, we must revise our expectations downward and realize that it is not God’s will for us to always feel happy. Instead, we must embrace all of life with a view toward loving God and loving others.

II. Relating to God Requires FEW (if any) Social Skills, but Relating to God’s People and People in General Does! [today’s focus is relationships, so loving others]

A. We need COURTESIES and manners.

1. Titus 3:2b, “…to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

2. This is the opposite of “I don’t care what people think of me.”

3. Most of us learn these from our parents.

4. Please, thank you, excuse me, don’t stare…

B. Some social skills are CULTURAL and not the same everywhere.

I Corinthians 9:20-22, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”

C. How to Meet People in the US: “S-O-F-T-E-N” (borrowed from Don Gabor)

1. SMILE

2. OPEN ARMS

3. FORWARD LEAN

4. TOUCH

5. EYE CONTACT

6. NOD

D. When you play the victim, people avoid you because you are perceived as UNFRIENDLY.

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