Summary: Go for the gusto. Seek happiness. Watch out for hungry bears.
Of Gusto and Hungry Bears
You only go around once in life, so you’ve got to grab for all the gusto you can." Some of you may remember that television commercial. But, what exactly is gusto? In the dictionary, it is defined as "hearty or keen enjoyment." And according to that commercial, you gain it by drinking a certain brand of beer. I don’t know about that, but the question that commercial raises is very important. As humans, we are looking for gusto. But where do we find this elusive gusto?
What road do we take to arrive at gusto? The psalmist begins by telling us that the road to avoid is ungodly counsel. I might say, "If you want to go to Westville from here, don’t turn right on Highway 6. That road will get you to Walkerton, not to Westville." In the same way, the Lord says, "If you want to find joy and gusto, don’t go this way." So, where then do we find true gusto? Well, the road to joy is God’s Word, the Bible.
Psalm 1 starts off, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” Blessed" means "happy". Blessed are the poor in spirit -- happy are the poor in spirit. Here the psalmist says, Happy is the person who doesn’t walk with the wicked, stand with the sinners, or sit with the mockers.
What is happiness? Happiness has more to do with what we are than who we are or what we have. We used to say, "a chicken in every pot" then it was a "car in every garage." Now we have two or three cars in every garage, boats sitting in the driveways. And we have more money than people have ever had and we still are not happy.
The strange thing is that if you seek happiness as an end in life you will never find it; it will always escape you. It’s like catching a soap bubble - you think you’ve got it, then it bursts and it’s gone and there’s nothing left.
One form of happiness and a tremendous blessing is having children, because one of the great things in having little ones around is to remind us of the growth process. Most of you can remember when your kids (or grandkids) were able to sit up. At first we watch their attempts to stay upright without slumping over. Then we get excited when they learn to crawl and pull themselves up to stand. Then they start walking by holding onto our hands or furniture but it isn’t long until they start walking on their own. That is how growth progresses. As we mature we learn to sit, then to stand and then to walk. It is a natural progression — sit, stand, walk.
But did you notice in this first verse how the person’s progression is backwards? His growth is reversed. The person begins by walking in the counsel of the wicked. Then they stand in the way of sinners. And, finally, they sit in the seat of mockers. For them it is: walk, stand, and sit. The momentum is going backwards — until he stops completely. He begins by being able to walk and ends up immobilized.
Do you see the progression there, from "walking" to "standing" to "sitting"? You see, a person, and especially a Christian, doesn’t usually jump right into the middle of sin. Usually it goes in stages. I like the way Eugene Peterson phrases it in The Message – Hanging out at Sin Saloon, slinking along Dead-End Road, and going to Smart-Mouth College.
And that’s the way it happens so often. Teen-agers (or adults for that matter) start to hang out with the wrong crowd. They don’t do anything wrong, they’re just hangin’ with them. But, pretty soon, they’re not walking any longer, they’re standing, and eventually they’re sitting and they’re doing the same ungodly things.
And Paul wrote the familiar warning, "Evil company corrupts good habits." (I Corinthians 15:33). You might have heard these phrases: You’re judged by the company you keep. Guilt by association.
Aesop has a fable called "A Donkey and His Purchaser". A man wanted to buy a donkey, and agreed with its owner that he should try out the animal before he bought him. So he took the donkey home and put him in the yard with his other donkeys. The new animal left all the others and joined up at once with the donkey that was most idle and the greatest eater of them all. When he saw this, the man put a halter on him, and led him immediately back to his owner. When he was asked how, in such a short time, he could have tried him out, he answered, "I don’t need to try him out; I know that he will be just like the one he chose for his companion." You’re judged by the company you keep.