Summary: True joy is found in giving and receiving the unconditional love of Jesus. [Happiness is not found in our circumstances, but in the unchanging love of God.]

Happy People in an Unhappy World

Acts 24:1 - 27

Intro: What is the secret to true happiness? According to a USA Today article a few years back, psychologists now know what makes people happy. Marilyn Elias writes, “The happiest people surround themselves with family and friends, don’t care about keeping up with the Joneses next door, lose themselves in daily activities and, most important, forgive easily.” I would mostly agree with those things. We need family and friends who care about us and give us a sense of value and validation. And chasing after material things always leaves a person hollow and disappointed. Staying occupied with goals in mind each day is very helpful. And forgiving others – WOW! You can’t say enough about how important that is. I would just add that receiving forgiveness is every bit as important. See, there’s a reason Jesus told His followers, “You have received freely, now give freely.” We cannot give what we don’t have. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” The only way we can forgive easily is to be forgiven. The only way we can love unselfishly is to be loved unselfishly the way Jesus loves each of us.

-So, why talk about happiness today? Well, I see Paul cheerfully answering Felix, after false charges are brought against him. He says, “I gladly make my defense.” If you read the book of Philippians, you see that Paul was a happy guy. While in prison, he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say it, Rejoice!” So I think we can learn something about happiness as we look at our text today. Here is the main thought of the message:

Prop: True joy is found in giving and receiving the unconditional love of Jesus. [Happiness is not found in our circumstances, but in the unchanging love of God.]

Interrogative: So, what does the life of a happy person look like? Is everything always just peachy? Is happiness a state of perfection we somehow attain by getting everything to go our way?

TS: Let’s go ahead and look at a few realities of a happy person.

I. Happy People Experience Difficult Situations (Acts 24:1-9)

1 Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. 2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: "We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. 3 Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. 4 But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly. 5 "We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect 6 and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. 7-8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him." 9 The Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.

-This is not the first time Paul has stood before government officials and listened to false accusations against himself. It’s a song he has heard many times before. Yet, Paul’s happiness did not depend on his situation. Circumstances did not control Paul’s joy level. Paul was very likely familiar with the words of Jesus we find in Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

-The word “blessed” is often interpreted as “happy.” Now I know the etymology of the word happy may lean toward the idea that our joyful emotions are based on the events around us. But for our purposes, happy just means glad or joyful. The beatitudes are found in Matt. 5, and each one begins with “Blessed or happy are they….” “Happy are the poor in spirit -- ’Happy are those who mourn -- ’Happy are the meek -- ’Happy those hungering and thirsting for righteousness -- ’Happy are the kind -- ’Happy the clean in heart -- ’Happy the peacemakers -- ’Happy those persecuted for righteousness’ sake -- because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Some of these do not sound like they would make a person very happy, except for the promises and love of God who can make our hearts glad!

-So as Paul faced this difficult situation, he did not get angry or depressed or lash back with spite or hatred. Paul knew God was in control, so he was able to gladly and calmly give his defense without losing his joy over the unfairness of the situation.

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