Summary: How do we find happiness? Paul gives us some fantastically good advice! For the non-formulaic (that’s me!) this is as close to a formula as you get!

The secret of happiness. Phil 4:4-9 WBC 19.03.06am

Well- another fantastic passage this morning. Tonight is ’the secret of contentment"- which is slightly different

- and I don’t want to be a hypocrite, this morning. I’m not saying this is something I’ve got sussed. Sometimes I’m a good example of ’how to be anxious about everything’. But maybe you’ll take comfort from that (that we don’t need a 3rd loo!)…and that we can journey together on this

o and that the word has power to speak- even when (esp when?) it comes through a clay vessel with cracks

- mind you: getting there! And certainly feel like rejoicing, laughing and having peace since I got prayed for last Saturday! (more later)

The secret of happiness

Pam sent me this: Scientific Study

This just in....

A study in London showed that the kind of "male face" a woman finds

attractive can differ depending on where a woman is in her menstrual cycle.

For instance, if she is ovulating she is attracted to men with rugged,

masculine features, and if she is menstruating she is more prone to be

attracted to a man with a heavy pair of scissors shoved in his forehead.

The first secret, from here, is


Paul says it twice, so he must really mean it

- and he says it while he is in prison, they are in persecution and two (or more of them are rowing)

o in fact: maybe this is the remedy for Euodia & Syntyche

o "You’re falling out over little things! Well- rejoice in the big things: what God has done"

… that’s what ’rejoice in the Lord" means

- it means that humanly you might not be able to rejoice… have much to rejoice about- BUT YOU’VE GOT THE LORD!

o Jesus loves you! He’s saved you! He is with you! He will never leave you! You have family! Future! A faith!

It might be that you have forgotten to do that! Forgotten what He has saved you from!

- well then- no wonder you are reaping what you sow! You have forgotten one of the secrets of happiness. The Bible says

o rejoice! Rejoice!

o Ps 118:24 "this is the day that the Lord has made… we will rejoice and be glad in it"

So, rejoice...Things could be worse! ( I said, cheer up, something worse could happen.. so I cheered up and sure enough something worse did happen!) Even if it does- so what, I’ve got Jesus!

- in fact- this is the victory that overcomes the world!

Illustr: Kathy F re that programme on happiness in Slough. The happiest folks were the Christians! Neglected to say that was why they were happy!

We neglect to rejoice in our culture. In wartime, they didn’t. Biscuit sales went up. Christians of the past didn’t

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God hath done!

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Well- isn’t this just PMA, you say? Psychology. Yes- but it is also God’s psychology. Christian psychology- and more. A principle God has built into the world. It’s fabric. He has designed us to find the secret of happiness in Him, not our circumstances

You may ask- but what of the world? How can I rejoice with the world as it is? Wouldn’t that be denial?

- well. Disengagement with the world is the last thing I want!

- Illustr: issue in CS Lewis book I’ve read "how can we study beautiful poetry and art when WWII has just started?" Conclusion- we have to! Man has always lived on the edge of extinction/war! It’s just it’s on our doorstep at the mo… and some of the greatest poetry was written in WW1 trenches

- And Jesus said "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with d the anxieties of life". The poor you will always have with you- but that mustn’t stop you appreciating me! Now! Mt 26:11

We are called to be workers in the world, and do all we can- but we must not get a messiah complex. This idea that we can save the world or it all rests on us.

- if we do, we drown, ourselves, and then what use/example are we to others? Our ’gentleness is not evident to all’

- Jesus is the only saviour of the world

Secret one: Rejoice. Rejoice. Because of Jesus


But the truth is- get God’s presence and your gentleness will be evident to all. And you will feel different, too

You ought to know- I don’t base my life on feelings (though I am a man who feels things deeply). I have learned to walk by faith and not sight or feelings. Perhaps I am more of a disciple, now, than I ever was as I increasingly do things, now, because they are right- not because I feel ’led’ or inclined.

But there is no doubt about it. God’s presence makes a huge difference!

I’m not rationalising it all- but enjoying it. Last Sat Pam and I got prayed for by a couple of our friends. He had spent 3 weeks in Toronto. And BOY do I (we feel different)!God feels so near… easy to find.

- (I did ask Him last Sun pm "why now?" felt "you’ll need it this week?!" Maybe for the week or this sermon!)

It says here: "The Lord is near"

- that’s a reason you can rejoice in Him

- it’s also a fact. Whatever you are feeling, Christian, the Lord is near you. In presence. Proximity. Inside you.

It’s true. Whether you feel it or not. Live it! But, I say to you- practice His presence! Get it! Know it, Him!

- or how else are you going to cope with the pressures/demands of life?

o They aren’t going to go away! You’ve gotta find His presence IN them

But how do I get His presence? The EXPERIENCE thereof?

- Listen- this says "He IS near"… there. So it’s not an issue of fact- it’s one of feelings and perception… and these are human things

o Our humanity plays a large part in our spirituality.

o Do I mean there is nothing supernatural? No I don’t! I do mean that the supernatural often has a natural element

o And human things can BLOCK the experience of God or put you in the place where you CAN experience Him

" Your nature, or nurture or negativeness or nonchalant attitude… your hurts or health…. Your passiveness or priorities


So- a secret of happiness (blessing) is putting yourself where the blessing/presence of God can reach you

- and there are attitudes, places and people that can help that

- eg: On a Sunday where do you go? The market or to worship with God’s people? Of course, the Lord is at the market- but THIS is the place where God can reach you.

o There’s a history, here (like Winchester!)

o There are the people of God, here (& where ’two or three gather’)

- Expanding on spiritual geography: there are places you can go to help God find you: a walk, a pilgrimage, as special place

- There can be hurts that we need to get healed so we can then experience the Father. Eg problems with OUR fathers.

- And, of course, there are mainly ’the people’ that God uses so He can ’be known’ in a new way in you. The Bible is filled with examples of God ministering through others!

But, of course, if you are nonchalant about this…. and it really doesn’t matter to you- you’re neglecting one of the secrets of happiness. Don’t expect to find it! "Seek & you will find" (Lk 11:9) but "you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart" (jer 29:14)


Another secret to happiness is learning to pray in a way God wants and answers.

Here is says "by prayer and petition, with thankfulness". What does that mean

- well, just stating ’pray’ isn’t enough for Paul. He knows more is needed so he adds petition and thankfulness

- a petition is something you sign, bring and leave with the MP

o then you go away and let them act on it

- this is why he adds ’thankfulness’. He means: ’take your issue, burden, to the Lord and leave it there expecting it to be answered’

In fact- boldness… expecting it to be answered… is part of getting an answer (Mk 11:24)!

- But how often is our prayer not ’prayer’ but ’fretting’. Repeating, reinforcing the issue/worry- for us… and for God. He doesn’t need to be reminded about it again and again. He’s not slow, impotent or dumb!

- And how often do we take an issue to the cross, put it down… and then walk right back and pick it up!

That’s not the secret of prayer or happiness! Take it, say it once, twice, thrice…. get up and leave it with the Lord- and don’t keep reinforcing/fretting!


Or you will find God giving you peace and you don’t accept it. Again- it’s this messiah complex. "I need to carry this". "God needs my help". Or "I’m not worthy of having this answered"

Let God’s peace come to you and reign. Don’t start turning it away. Let it keep your heart and mind

But how can I do this? I’m in such a habit pattern! When the burden, thoughts, worries, world comes back to me in my mind I have to pick these thoughts up again.

No you don’t. That’s where the battle is. Learning to let God’s truth fill your mind… and what He thinks about you… and what you should think about. You have to be ’transformed by the renewing of your mind"


Whatever you think about counselling etc, there is one recent development in it that seems to me to be thoroughly Biblical and, I believe, more effective (if it is worked at)

- Cognitive behavioural therapy

- Based on what I think affects who I am and how I act. So, if I have wrong, bad, untrue thoughts- it’s going to hurt me and can only be corrected by the TRUTH sinking in and changing my behaviour. Sounds true to me!

o Jn 8- the devil is the father of lies. That’s how he destroys

o Jn 8:32 " you will know the truth & the truth will…"

o Phil 4:8 FINALLY- whatever is TRUE, excellent…!

What you fill your mind with really matters. Hence- rejoicing and praise really matters. Getting truth/lies, fact/fiction in your life sorted out matters- because it will define who you are for "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he"

Now- if you aren’t into formulae, like me, you can be prone to pooh-poohing this kind of stuff. But hold on! Paul presents it as much as a ’sure thing’ as anyone could….


… "whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me.. my pattern… put it into practice and the God of peace will be with you"

- it’ll work, he says

- and the psychologists agree, too!

o but God and Paul got there first with this secret of happiness!

o The junk you imbibe, feed on, affects how you feel (happiness) and who you are. The lies, rubbish and negatives you repeat programme your unconscious mind

" Block your soul and block God’s presence

So- the secrets of happiness

- fill your mind with the good things of God and good things you enjoy. Laugh. Praise. Rejoice. Practice it. Do what the word says!

- Peace- when God starts giving it- go with the flow

- Prayer- do it and leave it!

- Presence of God. Get it! How can you be indifferent to this?!

o Get someone to pray with you… get some healing… go where your soul gets opened up

- And rejoice in the Lord, always. Again: rejoice!


Come to find God’s presence! Don’t despise this- it is a "means of grace"- a means by which God’s presence can be felt and enter into your soul. Treat it with reverence and respect. Remember Jesus. He is present in the breaking of the bread

In a moment I want you to think about God’s presence. The Lord "being near". I want you to think about how He is HERE in this. I want you to think about how He has been with you. See His presence. Let Him show you how He has been with you this week… recently.. today.

So, let’s go silent… while I say some words to encourage you

Let nothing disturb thee,

nothing affright thee;

all things are passing,

God never changeth!

Patient endurance attaineth to all things;

who God possesseth

in nothing is wanting;

alone God sufficeth.


Open prayer re communion and God’s presence

Take Bread

Take wine while singing: your blood speaks a better word (nothing but the blood)

Possibly sing: you led me to the cross

Sing: what a friend we have in Jesus