All of us want to be happy in our lives, don’t we? That might be one reason a person would go to church; to find happiness. But have you ever really thought what happiness includes?
Happiness includes a feeling of peace within your heart. Happiness includes a feeling of calmness when all around you is disturbed. And, in my opinion, happiness should also include joy. You should feel an almost overwhelming joy that you are doing, thinking, saying, and acting, just like the Lord wants you to do, think, say, and act.
There was a number one song out quite a few years ago. Its title was, “Don’t Worry – Be Happy.” It was an upbeat song that had a very catchy tune to it. It was meant to make you feel that carefree feeling you may have felt one time as you walked along a beach on a sunny day, or when you sat among a field of clover, taking your time to find that one special clover which had four leaves.
That song’s message should be the very desire of each of your hearts today. To not worry; to be happy.
Have you ever seen a Christian who just seemed to walk in the glorious joy of God’s happiness? It seems that no matter what they are doing, or where they are going, they always seem upbeat, happy, and focused on others.
I have always thought that people are too quick to point out your faults, and too slow to point out your good points, and that includes Christians, too. I once heard that if you put three Christians together, you would get four different opinions and five different arguments. Certainly that is not true, but that is how the world sees us. Why? Because we do tend to bicker and dispute and murmur among ourselves.
We all say that we want to be happy. And, many of us actually search for ways to make us happy, but the problem is that we usually search in the world. Like the old man once said, “If you want to catch happiness, open your Bible and go fishing.”
I will tell you this from a pastor’s perspective. One of the saddest things that ever is laid upon a pastor’s heart is when he sees anyone in his congregation living in unhappiness.
Our main text today deals with this problem. 1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-18 reads,
’16) Always be joyful. 17) Keep on praying. 18) No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.’
What are the lessons in these verses? Let’s review them.
1. THE FIRST LESSON IS REJOICING ALWAYS
What does it mean when it says we should always be joyful? Being joyful means that you are so indescribably happy that you are bubbling over with untamed joy. There are no words to describe that feeling, but if you have ever felt it, you know what I am talking about, and if you have never felt it, well, you have no idea what I am talking about.
According to our text, we are to have that feeling of joy all the time. Okay, how do we get that feeling and how do we keep it? You can look in a lot of places, but there is only one place a person can find that kind of joy. That place is in Jesus Christ. And we are not talking about knowing who He is either. We are talking about having a heart that has pleaded for him to come in; having a heart that truly feels there is no future without Him; a heart that is fed up with living without Him.
It all comes down to knowing what you want. Do you really want Jesus in your life? I mean, do you want Him badly enough to give up the very control of your life and turn it over to Him? I once read an article that gave a statistic on this, and they said that an overwhelming number of Christians, although they said they would, actually would not give control of their life away to Jesus or anything else. The article went on to say that most shut Jesus out to the point of never being able to really feel Him in their hearts.
Does this describe you this morning? Have you kept such a tight control over every aspect of your life that you have ended up shutting Jesus out? Even if this describes you ‘just a little’, let me ask you one other question. Are you happy being this way?
You might ask why you should rejoice with so many trials in your life. Well, for starters, LUKE 10:20, says
‘… Rejoice because your names are registered as citizens of Heaven.’
We sing PSALM 118:24:
‘This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.’
Can you think of any situation in your life that God will not be there to go through with you? Neither can I. Can you think of any sin you might be able to commit that God cannot spare you from, other than blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? The answer is ‘No.’ These are two more reasons we should always be rejoicing.
2. THE SECOND LESSON IS NEVER STOP PRAYING
In MATTHEW 6:9-13, we find what we call ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. That is a perfect example of how we, as believers, are supposed to pray to our Heavenly Father. You will notice that the entire prayer is centered on Him, not us.
EPHESIANS 6:18 instructs us in prayer.
‘Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit.’
The bottom line, is if we think God is all-present; all-knowing; and all-powerful, why would we not want to call upon Him at every moment and in every occasion?
We must remember what JAMES 1:5-6 admonishes us to do.
‘If you need wisdom – if you want to know what God wants you to do – ask Him, and He will not resent your asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that you really expect Him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.’
If we are serious about keeping the Lord in our hearts and in our lives, we will not only stay in a mode of rejoicing for those blessings He has afforded us, but we will also keep in a mode of praying constantly.
In JAMES 4:8, we are told that ‘if we draw close to God, he will draw close to us.’ Notice who has to do something first. If we draw close to God. In other words, like I have said many times before, when God knows we are serious about Him, he will then get serious about us.
He took the first step by sacrificing His Son for us. It is now up to us to take the second step by pursuing Him. When we pursue Him, He will then come to us. And, we cannot pursue Him without constantly keeping a dialogue with Him; by praying without ceasing.
3. OUR THIRD LESSON IS TO BE THANKFUL FOR EVERYTHING
HEBREWS 13:15 says,
‘With Jesus’ help, let us continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by proclaiming the glory of His name.’
This verse tells us a couple of things. Fist of all, it tells us that we need the help of Jesus in order to give proper praise. Why do we need His help? One reason is that without going through Jesus, we cannot have God hear our prayers or praises.
Another reason would be that without Jesus, we would be unable to sacrifice anything for our God. Now, how do we sacrifice praise to God?
A sacrifice is something you would normally want, but are willing to give to someone else. When we stop praising ourselves and start acknowledging God as the giver of all good things it is called a sacrifice. And we are supposed to do this constantly by proclaiming Him to the world around us.
Let us be thankful to God for everything in our lives.
EPHESIANS 5:20 tells us to
‘Always give thanks for everything to god the Father in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.’
Has there ever been anything in our life that you could not be thankful to God for? How about suffering? How in the world can you be thankful to God for the suffering in your life?
There was once a young lady who had a very busy career. Even though she had a good job, she was miserable because her job demanded most of her time, and she had no time to be with friends. Because she did not have time to be with friends, she had never met a young man she could fall in love with, and so she was miserable in her heart.
One day, crossing a busy street, she was hit by a car and knocked out. When she came to, she found out that she was in a hospital, and had been unconscious for several days.
She also found out that during this time, she had one leg that had to be amputated. Her entire life came crashing down around her in one brief instant. She went into a period of deep depression, and even considered taking her own life. Her family, recognizing this, arranged for a young Christian counselor to speak with her.
Over the next year, not only was he able to lead her out of the deep depression, they fell in love with one another and were married. She later told her family that, even though she was sorry about losing her leg, she was thankful because that incident enabled her to meet the man of her dreams!
We can always find something to be thankful for in our lives. I have already told you that I was doing everything in my power to ignore God’s call to go into the ministry, so He allowed me to get very sick. And, I am forever thankful, because it was during this time of illness that I was told I might be dying, and it was after that I made the choice to quit running from God.
There is the story of a young man who was kayaking off the coast of New England, in some very treacherous waters. He capsized and was being swept out to ocean. He did not have the power to do fight the current, but he was able to pull his cell phone out of his pocket and call his father for help.
It didn’t dawn on him that his father was over 3,000 miles away. His father called the nearest Coast Guard facility, and within twelve minutes, a Coast Guard Cutter was rescuing him.
That young man would tell the story to others of how he was saved because he called his father. And, like that young man, when we get into serious trouble, most of us call our Father for help too, don’t we?
4. OUR FOURTH LESSON IS TRUSTING IN GOD’S WILL
PHILIPPIANS 2:13 says,
‘For god is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him.’
The only way we can always rejoice, pray without stopping, and give thanks for everything is because it is God’s will for us to do so. And in the verse I just read, we find that we are able to do that because it is God who not only gives us the desire to do so, but also gives us the power to do so.
In PSALM 37:5, we read
‘Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.’
It may not be easy to rejoice about everything in your life; to pray all the time; to give thanks in everything, but it can be done. How? By simply trusting in God for everything. The more we truly trust in Him, the more He helps us by giving us everything we need to rejoice, pray and give thanks.
I remember one time when Diana and I first got married. We didn’t have much extra money at all, and on the same day, our clothes dryer quit working and our iron burned out.
I began to worry about how we were going to repair or replace them when we didn’t have enough money for anything else. And, the more I worried the more worried I got.
Finally, Diana came to my rescue and told us to pray and trust God. Have you ever noticed how when you have a good worry going, you just kind of hate to give it up? Well, I started praying with her and wouldn’t you know – the next day at work they had a meeting to give out merit awards.
They called Diana up and handed her a check. That evening, the repairman showed up and fixed our dryer. We had the money to pay him and we had enough to go buy another iron. We even had one dollar left over!
Just like in PSALM 37:5, we trusted in God and He helped us. During the years, there has been several times that we needed money and God provided just enough to take care of the situation at hand.
I asked Diana once why God didn’t give us extra money when He did that. She said maybe because He wants us to stay in just enough need to keep coming back to Him for help. She could be very right, couldn’t she?
As Christians, God wants us to be happy, but He still gives us a choice in how we want to live our lives.
We can go around with a frown on our face, always looking at how bad things are and feeling sorry for ourselves, or we can go around with a smile in our heart, rejoicing for all the good things we have in life, including our kids and grandkids. We can go around in praying to God and giving thanks to Him, while we trust in His grace to make our lives even happier than ever before.
God does not want us to worry and fret. He does not want us to be unhappy, always looking at what we wish we had instead of what we do have. Too many of us spend our days wallowing in self-sorrow and dissatisfaction in our lives.
Remember the old story about how a man was sad because he had no shoes until he met a man who had no feet. All of a sudden, having no shoes doesn’t seem to be too big a worry, does it?
Think about what your biggest problem is right now. Do you think it is a problem to just you, or do you think it is a problem for God, too? I heard a pastor say to his congregation once that every problem we have can be traced back to one thing: The fact that we did not get our way about something.
I remember when I worked at the Post Office. A promotion came up and I was more than qualified for it. I put my paperwork in and did all the things necessary to get it. When the results of the promotion were listed, I never got it.
I got very upset and even told my supervisor how very upset I was about it. Now, I have to tell you that I wanted that promotion, not because of the job itself, but that it had weekends off, and I had never had a job with weekends off. And, I sure did want weekends off!
My supervisor told me to be thankful I didn’t get it, because that job function was going to be transferred from the city I worked in to downtown Phoenix. Had I got that job, I would have ended up commuting to and from in rush hour traffic to the total time of about 2 hours a day.
I went to God and apologize to him and thanked Him for keeping me from that drive. Two months later, another job was posted. It had weekends off, and I bid on it and got it. I held that job for the last 13 years I worked at the Post Office.
Rejoice in those things you have in your life. For us to be ungrateful and walk around in misery every day is to deny Christ His rightful place in our life. As the song said, “Don’t Worry – Be Happy.’