Thesis: Happiness, though it does not come naturally, is attainable.
1. Illust. A Russian woman lived with her husband & two children in a very small hut. Her husband's parents lost their home & she had to take them in. Unbearable. In desperation, she went to the village wise man, whom she knew had solved many, many problems. "What should I do?" she begged. "Do you have a COW?" asked the wise man. "Yes," she replied. Then bring her into the hut too. And come back and see me in a week," said the wise man. A week later she was back. "This is utterly unbearable" she said. "Do you have any CHICKENS?" asked wise man. "Yes," she replied. "What about them?" Bring them into the hut too, and come back and see me in another week." "Now you're utterly out of your mind," she said. Nevertheless, still awed by his reputation, she did as he asked. A week later she returned. "This is absolutely impossible," she said. "Our home is a mess." "All right," said the wise man, "take out the chickens." The next week she reported that without the chickens it was definitely better, but still a miserable situation. "All right," said the wise man, "now take out the cow. That will settle your problem." And it did. Without the chickens & cow, the woman, her husband, the children, and his two parents got along quite peacefully. Everything is relative! Sometimes we don't know how well off we really are!
2. A famous researcher once asked 2,264 Americans this question: "What do you most want out of life?"
a. The response was nearly unanimous--everyone wanted to be "happy."
b. Are you a happy person this morning? If not, why not?
I. THE COMMAND TO BE HAPPY.
A. Even though the Constitution guarantees it, even though we spend lots of time and money pursuing it, few of us ever truly become happy.
1. Matter is complicated for us when we realize that happiness is not an option for the Christian ... It is a command!
a. Phil. 4:4 ..... in the imperative mood!
b. Just as imperative as "Repent & be baptized" (Acts 2:38).
2. Is this an impossible command? Can we be really be happy?
B. To answer that question we want to turn to the life of the man who wrote Phil. 4:4 ..... the Apostle Paul.
II. PAUL'S HAPPINESS.
A. Paul's lousy circumstances:
1. In prison (1:7, 12).
2. Being bad-mouthed (1:14-18).
3. Facing a possible death sentence (1:19-21).
B. Why is Paul happy?
1. Answer is found in 4:10-13.
2. Read ..... not verse 13! ... This is the HOW, not WHY!
3. Look at verse 11.
a. Contentment does not come naturally, it must be learned!
b. It does not depend on perfect circumstances!
c. If we ever hope to be happy in this life we must learn to look beyond our circumstances.
d. How do you do that? (Not easy, but it is do-able!)
III. FOUR STEPS TOWARD BECOMING A HAPPY PERSON.
A. Learn to Act Better than you Feel.
1. Wouldn't it be great if we always felt like doing everything we need to do?
a. "Oh honey, the trash needs taking out, the laundry needs done, the dishes need washing and the lawn needs mowing."
b. "Oh good, that's exactly what I wanted to do!"
c. If that were our attitude life would be much easier.
2. If we ever hope to be happy our mind, not our emotions, must guide our behavior.
a. "It is easier to act your way into a better way of feeling than to feel yourself into a better way of acting."
b. "If you go through the motion you will feel the emotion."
c. "Fake it till you make it!" (A motto of Alco. Anon.)
d. Paul Faulkner puts it this way: "The brains drag the guts."
3. Someone says, "Isn't that hypocrisy?"
a. There's a difference between hypocrisy & acting responsibly.
b. Illust. It's like a mother who's awakened in the middle of the night by her crying baby. Does she say, "I'm sorry, I can't get up right now and change your diaper, I don't feel like it. I don't want to be a hypocrite! No, she gets up and fakes it. Talks sweetly to the child, changes diaper, rocks it back to sleep.
B. Refuse to Compare Yourself with Others.
1. Illust. Paul Faulkner, in his book Making Things Right When Things Go Wrong, tells of a small university that was having trouble keeping CPAs on their staff. Seems CPAs could make twice as much in the business community than they could in teaching. School finally had to offer competitive salary. Other instructors became disgruntled. Rather than saying, "Isn't it great that our school can finally keep quality teachers in the business department," they started to grumble. Why? Comparing themselves with others!