Summary: Happiness is a choice. If you do not have it, it is no one else’s fault. It is because you have chosen otherwise. Arrange your priorities and choose the things that really matter.
“First things First”
Here we find the great apostle Paul in prison in Rome. There would be some similarities in prison in that day and today but certainly there are some differences as well. In Paul’s day, the prisoner was often shackled, in chains to a guard. This guard had complete responsibility for the prisoner. He or another guard would be with the prisoner 24/7. And if the prisoner were to somehow escape, the guard was responsible and could actually lose his life. So he would do everything possible to keep up with Paul because his life depended on it. I can imagine this was more than a nuisance to Paul, to be changed to this guard, every move he would make, this guy was with him and it was all a constant reminder that Paul’s life was in danger and that at any moment he could be executed.
Paul knew something that many of us still need to learn today. So listen up. Happiness is not based on circumstances. In fact, happiness is a choice.
But it’s not always easy to find it, is it? Charles Schulz in his famous Peanuts cartoon strip gives us some perspective on this. You remember Lucy and in this particular cartoon Lucy has the floor and is ranting about something, delivering one of her famous lectures to Charlie Brown. Listen Charlie Brown, life is a lot like a deck chair. Some place it on the boat so that they can see where they are going. Others place it where they can see where they have been. And some place it so they can see where they are right now. Charlie Brown says, hmm, I can’t even get mine unfolded.
Life is a whole lot about perspective. Spectacle. How you see something. Attitude. About making the right choices. In fact, I really like what Chuck Swindoll says, I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% is how I react to what happens.
• We are in charge of our choices
• we are in charge of our attitudes
• we are in charge of our happiness
Paul shows us here that there are several things we must realize if we are to move forward in this journey toward happiness.
(1) Verses 20-22. For me to live is Christ. We must focus on things that last. Paul was in a difficult/precarious situation. The Greek word is senochae and this is what it means. Hard-pressed, caught between a rock and a hard place. It is the picture of walking between two walls of rock and the walls are so close together there is not even room to turn around. Paul is equally drawn to two things here, both of which are important and he doesn’t want to turn down either one. He is kind of stuck. We get that way don’t we? Many times it is because we do not truly know what we want. And because we don’t know what we want we don’t know where to get it. The Apostle Paul has a choice to make.
Paul says that one possibility is to remain here and the other possibility is his death, his departure into heaven. And the language he uses here in the Greek comes right out of his vocation as a tent maker. That’s how Paul earned a living. If you’ve been camping before you know there is a time when you set up your tent and there is of course a time we take it down and move on. For Paul this was like picking up your tent and moving somewhere else. No big deal. Just leaving the campsite and moving to another one. The benefit of course to Paul was that he would be instantly with the Lord in heaven. Paul spells this out in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (HCSB)
6 So, we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 8 and we are confident and satisfied to be out of the body and at home with the Lord.
So to die for Paul would not be a tragedy-in fact it would be a blessing. He would be released from all the difficulties of this life and would immediately be in the presence of Christ. Now there is a truth here that I want to pause and make sure you get hold of and that is this…
Happiness is a choice. If you do not have it, it is no one else’s fault. It is because you have chosen otherwise.
Let that sink in. And if it is your immediate response to rise up and violently disagree with me, then really let it sink in. Because as your pastor I want each and every one of you to be truly happy and until we recognize that we cannot outsource our happiness to other people—we cannot keep saying that we’re not happy because of this person or that disaster or this circumstance; until we stop blaming others for our situation, we will not find happiness. There’s a second truth we must get hold of.