Summary: Real happiness comes from investing in people and a God-directed passion

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff–

More is Not Better--Simplicity is freedom.

Have you seen the bumper sticker "He who dies with the most toys wins." I saw one that said, "He who dies with the most toys still dies." I believe that many of us have bought that idea that life consists in how much we have.

Yet we are blitzed with countless reminders that having more means being more important, being more attractive, being more valuable.

Every person is bombarded with an average of one hour of advertisements every day.

Advertising is on our streets and highways; in restaurants, shops, movies, and magazines; at concerts and sports event; in our schools and museums; and even in our homes and on our clothes.

In a recent survey, 93% of teenage girls named shopping as their favorite thing to do. (90% of boys like to go to the malls and watch the girls shop). By the time they’re three years old, most American children are making specific requests for brand-name products. Every day you are being told that unless you buy this product or eat at this restaurant, you’re not really happy. We’ve grown up in a culture that says having more means being happier.

Luke 12:15 "A person’s life does not consist of the abundance of possessions." That’s not where you’re really going to find fulfillment and happiness.

Money & Happiness

Ask most people today if money buys happiness and they’ll say no. But ask those same people if a little more money will make us a little more happy-- and most will agree. The Roper Organization asked Americans who make $15,000-$30,000 how much they needed to fulfill all their dreams. The largest group said they’d need $50,000-$60,000. Yet when that same question was put to people earning over $50,000, the largest group in that segment said they’d need at least $125,000 a year, if not more.

Over the past 15 years researchers have studied the relationship between money and happiness. They have concluded that money can buy pleasure, but not happiness. What’s the difference? Pleasure is temporary release. Ability to take a Florida vacation, buy a better car, a membership at the country club. We can buy temporary feel goods, and we can often do it for years at a time. But, Happiness comes from your experiences in which you enjoy investing your mental and emotional energies.

Happiness comes from Investing in Your Passion and Investing in People

Investing in Your Passion

No one knows this better than Richard Westerfield. At age 22, having studied piano, violin, and voice, he got his first chance to conduct and orchestra. "The moment I picked up the baton, I knew this was what I wanted to do." His parents however, urged him to be more practical. So he got a master’s degree in business and took a well-paid position in international investment banking.

But Richards passion for music never ebbed. After putting in 12 hour days on Wall Street, he’d stay up nights writing music scores. His vacations were spent guest conducting for orchestras around the country. One year he got his big break when a famous European conducter (Erich Leinsdorf) had to bow out of 5 guest appearances with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Westerfield, his understudy, took over to critical acclaim.

On the last night of the Philharmonic, Richard learned that his father had terminal cancer. "I realized then that life is too short not to do what’s really important to you." He quit his job and started fulfilling his passion– full time conducting. Today he earns half of his old salary, he’s had to simplify his life, but he has finally found the joy he never knew in business.

Reader’s Digest reported a study(Aug 94) that showed that people think they will be happier if they make more money, but actual results show that the happiest people are those who enjoy the challenges and fulfillment of their work. Many people retire early only to miss their work. Why does Michael Jordan continue to play basketball? It’s his passion– even more so than golf and baseball...he did enough of that in his short retirement.

If every job in the world paid the exact same– what would you do? Would you keep doing what you’re doing now?

Investing in People

ILLUS: Tom and Rachel Leihbacher... Their friends have always been important to them. For years they worked on church projects together and hosted summer barbecues at one another’s houses. But they didn’t really know the true value of their friends until one year when their son Tommy was born with severe birth defects. By the time Tommy was two, he’d had a dozen costly operations. Friends rallied to the families side. After the Leihbachers spent the entire summer in the hospital, close friends from the church snatched their house key (stealing), cleaned the place thoroughly, stocked the refrigerator for their return. Friends gave them gift certificates to a fancy restaurant and baby-sat Tommy when they came home from the hospital so they could go on dates. They started a fund to help pay for the families medical bills, and even started holding concerts, rummage and bake sales. They continued to pour money into a special fund for other children in the community who were in similar need. They could have lived with more possessions or personal luxury, but that’s not what will last forever.

Tom said, "Our friends are an invaluable part of our lives. Not so much for the things they did, but for their deep, abiding, moral support. They helped pull us through. That’s something you can’t put a price tag on."

Someone else here was helped in their need. Shelly Bialo testimony.

ILLUS: Gladys Holm. She never married, lived alone, and worked as a secretary her whole life for a medical-supplies company. 41 years as a secretary, never earning more than $15,000 a year, living in her 2 bedroom townhouse. She became known as the Teddy Bear Lady, because she sort of adopted the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago after they saved the life of a little girl named Adrian. Glady’s knew Adrians parents for years and was a friend of the family. When Adrian was born, she was blue faced. Born with a blocked aorta–enlarged heart with a hole in it. Most doctors thought she was too young for surgery but a physician at Children’s Memorial saved her life. So Gladys would send donations now and then, always adding "There will be more later." Gladys would bring teddy bears for kids who were sick, sometimes bringing dozens of Teddy Bears. Her house always had some teddy bears laying around. She died recently at age 86, and only about 30 attended the funeral. Yet she left money for them to eat at a fancy restaurant across the street with one stipulation, "Talk about good times." The most amazing thing was, however, when she died she left $18 million dollars to the hospital. Largest gift it ever received. How did this woman make so much money. She didn’t spend it all on herself. She threw a few luxurious parties and bought expensive jewelry, but she gave to help others. On $15,000 a year. Whenever her boss would buy some stock of the medical supplies company, she bought a few stocks for herself. Needless to say, the stock company went through the roof. She would often use the teddy bears as a way to get close to the families and when she would learn that the illness was putting a heavy strain on the families finances, she would quietly pay all their medical bills. Most of the time, the people didn’t know the source of the gift.

She lived on less so others could benefit. She didn’t ask that her name be put on the new hospital wing so everyone would see how generous she was. She show everyone how much money she had so that people would be impressed with her possessions. She gave out of her life to help others. How noble.

1TI 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. [7] For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

MT 6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. [20] But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. [21] For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Acts 2:43-45 "Everyone was amazed by the many miracles and wonders that the apostles worked. All the Lord’s followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it." Relationships were more important than possessions. They lived on less so they could enjoy more. Enjoy more what– possessions? No– better relationships.

Are we doing this here? I don’t know. How are we doing? We have several people here who attend Oasis. Many are college educated, bright, and earnestly looking for work. Some can barely afford the gas to get them to church. What do we do about it?

I have a friend pastoring at Walla Walla College. He told a story about a previous church where a person was baptized and growing in Christ. He used to play music at the nightclubs and really wanted to get out of that lifestyle, so he took odd jobs as a janitor. He made a lot more money at the nightclubs, but he knew that the environment wasn’t the best place to be. He drove a beat up car and was severly pressured financially. One day this pastor was going to talk to him about his situation, and the new Christian pointed over to the parking lot at a sharp looking van. It was given to him by another member of the church. Free. Runs great. He couldn’t believe that someone would just give him a van. That is Christianity.

I’d like to ask if there is any way that some of you here could live on less so others could be helped. How much is between you and God. Not me. You don’t even have to give through the church-- we don’t even take up an offering. I’ve known several millionaires who gave up certain luxuries so that others could benefit. I stayed overnight in several homes of people I met who I could tell were blessed financially, but I would have never guessed they were millionaires. They decided to store up treasures with God. One family donated about $100,000 to start a bible college in Russia ($1 mill). Some sponsor missionaries. Some give tuition so kids can go to Christian school. Some simplified their lifestyle so others could be improved. And some of you give out of your sacrifice and I thank you. Krista and I try to model that principle in our lives as well. Not equal in our giving, but equal in our simplicity. Can we really say that here. Equal in our sacrifice for the gospel.

ILLUS: I wouldn’t be here today if someone didn’t sacrifice some luxuries. Sponsored school tuition.

We have real people with real needs right here. Which is more important in heaven’s eyes– Simplifying our lives so others can benefit, or stockpiling our possessions. The time we invest in others, or the time we invest simply making more money. Which will last forever?

I’d like everyone of you tonight who is in financial pressure to write down your needs on the bulletin and turn it in. Tell us about your job situation, how you’re trying to improve your life, and what we can do to help. We’re going to see what needs there are and take it to our leaders and pray about how we can meet many of these needs.