Summary: Paul encourges Timothy to understand what really makes for happiness in life. He calls it "godliness combined with contentment."
The Secret to a Happy Life
September 30, 2007
What is most important to you? Have you ever thought about it? For what would you sacrifice? What in the world would you go out of the way in order to attain? I wonder… and I don’t know the answer to this…but I wonder what you would say today if I walked down among you and asked you what was most important in your life?
Being the good people that you are, and probably wanting to please your pastor, you would no doubt say things that you think I would want to hear. But then I would ask you if there is a difference between what you say and your behavior. You see, sometimes we say one thing, but live in a completely different manner.
For example, I would guess that most of us, if asked about the most important things in our lives, would say that being faithful to God is pretty high on the list. Our behavior however, might say something completely different.
We might take a look at our checkbooks and discover that we spend a much greater percentage of our income on stuff to fill our houses, to put on our bodies, or to cram into our mouths than we give to the church. We might find that it is easier to spend money for a car to drive down the road in style than it is to give to special projects that fed the hungry or house the homeless.
We might look at our calendars and discover that we spend much more time in leisure activities than we do on service and volunteer opportunities that witness to our faith. We might stand on the bathroom scales and discover that we only pay lip service to the idea that our bodies are a Temple of the Holy Spirit.
What are the most important things in life? What is most important to you? I’m a little ashamed to admit this. Matt was home for a couple of days this week. We were watching television together one evening. I don’t remember how the conversation got started – it was something that was said on TV. But Matt asked: “What is it that every man dreams of?” I said, “I can tell you what I dream of. Just this morning, I pulled up at a stop light behind a young babe in a brand new Mustang convertible. The top was down. Her hair was windblown and wild. I couldn’t stop staring…not at the young babe, but at the car.”
What’s most important in life? Many of us, perhaps, would say “to be happy.” In fact, I read of a recent survey of USA Americans that said that a majority of us describe ourselves as “pretty happy” or “very happy.” The demographics of the study suggest that happy people are: married, Republican, evangelical Protestant, upper middle class, Caucasian, and senior citizens.
What’s most important in life? Many of us, perhaps, would say “to be healthy.” We can understand that. Pay attention to our billboards, the covers of magazines, and the infomercials for weight loss products, home exercise equipment, herbal concoctions to give us energy, and potions to help us re-grow our hair.
What’s most important in life? Some would say “to be wealthy.” We dream of riches. We carefully study our 401(k)’s, our stock portfolios, our investment income, our life insurance needs, and our retirement plans. Toni has a subscription to Money Magazine which came free with something else she bought. In the last issue, there was a story of three different couples who were all high income professionals, but were having trouble making ends meet.
They lived in half-million dollar houses, sent their kids to private schools, dressed them in designer clothes, joined the country club, and in the process of trying to keep up with their neighbors, added tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt.
On this past Wednesday morning, the newspaper listed the most frequently checked out books at the library. Number 5 was “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. She has been seen on Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, The Today Show, and Larry King Live as she hawks her repackaged philosophy that you can achieve anything that you dream. She says that your desires determine your reality. In other words, you can be or do or achieve anything you want badly enough. Sort of like “Field of Dreams.” If you build it they will come.
But I wonder: in all of our talk about what is important to us, do we ever stop to consider what is important to God?
Paul wrote a couple of pastoral letters to Timothy to assist him as he led young congregations. In them, he spoke of the meaning of life; what is important and what is not. In the lesson for this morning, he said, “There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment.” Substitute the word happiness for contentment. If you read this section of the letter to Timothy carefully, you will discover that Paul has a different idea of what it means to be content; to be happy.