Summary: Happiness is a choice.
Series: Be Happy
Title: Happiness is a Choice
Text: Philippians 4:1-9
Truth: Happiness is a choice.
Life Question: How do we choose happiness?
Many years ago an elderly man immigrated to the United States from one of the Communist bloc countries of Eastern Europe. After his papers were processed he found his way to a New York cafeteria where he sat down and waited for someone to bring him a menu and take his order. No one came. Eventually a woman with a full tray of food approached, realized the old man’s dilemma, and explained how American cafeterias work.
“Start at the beginning,” she said kindly. “Look at all the choices that are available, decide what you want, and just reach out and take it. When you get to the end, you’ll be told how much you must pay for the things that you’ve chosen.”
The old man was a bit of an old-world philosopher, and it wasn’t long after he had settled in his new home that he made this observation: “Life in America is a lot like that New York cafeteria. The options are endless, but you’ll never get what you want if you sit around and wait for someone to deliver it. Anything is possible (a job, education, a home, a car) but you have to be willing to get up and go after it. And in the end, you have to pay the price of your choices.”
I agree with this assessment; don’t you? Choices and outcomes, however, are not limited to material things like homes and cars; they include our emotions and attitudes. All of us want to be happy, but are we willing to pay the price of right choices?
In the last sermon I made the point that God is a happy God, and we are to be godlike. Since God is happy, His followers are to be happy. Today I am saying that happiness is a choice. Happiness is the consequence of our perspective, thoughts, and actions.
I am not making a distinction between happiness and joy. Randy Alcorn in his book Happiness makes a convincing case that Biblical translations of the past and the historical writings of Christians did not make a distinction between happiness and joy. The contrast between happiness and joy is a decision of modern times. He contends this has weakened the attractiveness of the Christian life to unbelievers and misrepresented the Good News gospel.
Though I borrow from his helpful book, my text is one that he mentions in passing. Paul wrote the New Testament letter of Philippians while being under house arrest in Rome. This human dynamo of evangelistic zeal was confined to a hut in the very city he had for years desired to evangelize. On top of that, he received a leader from the church at Philippi with a financial gift for his needs and the news that the church was becoming divisive. He composed this letter to address the conflict in the church which centered around two women. His basic answer to the church was that the most important thing to the church is the Gospel, the message about Jesus Christ. Everyone is to submit their preferences to the priority of spreading the gospel through verbal witness and visual lifestyle. To do this effectively requires unity in the church.
Two women, Euodia and Syntyche, whose names mean Success and Lucky, were fussing with one another; we do not know why. One commentator speculated it was not over the gospel but the way to witness or live the gospel. They were asserting their rights in a harsh and overbearing way, which diverted the church from being united in spreading the gospel. Very gently Paul told the church to help these two sisters in Christ to resolve their problem. How different that is to the way the church so often responds to conflict in the church today. It seems to me that we most often pick sides and divide up into camps. Paul did not pick sides. He wanted them to be on the same side and together fix the problem.
In chapter 4 Paul wraped up his discussion about how this problem was to be solved. The members of the church could choose happiness, peace, love, and forgiveness. These choices are the consequences of perspective, thought, and actions.
In chapter 4:1-3 I want you to see Paul’s perspective:
So then, in this way, my dearly loved brothers, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. (2) I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. (3) Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers whose names are in the book of life.