Summary: Both Jesus and Paul make it clear that it is more than a right to be happy, it is a duty. It is part of our commitment to Christ to overcome all that would make us unhappy.

Epictetus, the ancient philosopher said, "If a man is unhappy, this

must be his own fault, for God made all men to be happy." A

Christian writer, St. Bernard, said something similar. "Nothing can

work me damage except myself; the harm that I sustain I carry about

with me, and never am a real sufferer but by my own fault." These

two men represent the internal philosophy of happiness. External

mean nothing, and need have no effect upon the happiness of a

person, is their view.

External evil is recognized as a reality, but one does not need to

let it penetrate his inner being. Epictetus, for example, said, "I must

die, but must I die sorrowing? I must be put in chains. Must I then

also lament? I must go into exile. Can I be prevented from going with

cheerfulness and contentment? But I will put you in prison.

Man, what are you saying? You may put my body in prison, but my

mind not even Zeus himself can overpower." Here is a rare example

of how even a pagan slave can, by the power of positive thinking,

demonstrate the human capacity for internal happiness without the

externals usually associated with happiness.

The facts of life and history show that this is possible, but it is also

highly improbable that more than a few rare individuals can

completely ignore the externals of life. The vast majority of people

depend upon externals almost exclusively. They grasp at things as the

only source of satisfaction. People really believe that more money

can bring happiness in spite of the fact that the suicide rate is higher

among the haves than among the have nots. Abdalrahman the Khalif

had thousands of wives, and millions upon millions of wealth, but this

is what he wrote near the end of his life: "I have now reigned above

50 years in victory or peace. I have been beloved of my subjects,

dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and

honor, power and pleasure have waited on my call, nor does any

earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this

situation I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine

happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to fourteen."

No amount of externals can guarantee happiness, yet man's

natural tendency is to search for happiness in that direction. Men

have a hard time believing that there is any hope of happiness apart

from externals. Aristotle represented the Greek view when he said

that the blessed life was impossible to the diseased, the poor, and the

slave. Samuel Johnson had a close friend who said that his

sister-in-law was really a happy woman. This made Johnson mad,

and he replied like the brute he could be, "If your sister-in-law is

really the contented being she professes herself, sir, her life gives the

lie to every research to humanity; for she is happy, without health,

without beauty, without money, and without understanding." He went

away growling, "I tell you the woman is ugly, and sickly, and

foolish and poor, and would it not make a man hang himself to hear

such a creature say she was happy?" The very idea of being happy

without the values so treasured by his materialistic heart made him

angry. It does not seem fair to the secularist who has struggled for all

the externals of wealth, power, and fame to see people who are happy

who have not made the struggle.

Paul would have made him angry by his words in Phil. 4:11-12.

Paul said, "...For I have learned to be content whatever the

circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is

to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and

every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty

or in want." Paul's happiness was not dependent upon what

happened, or what he had. This means that Paul's happiness was

internal. Paul did not have control over the externals of his life, but

like everybody else does, he had control over how he would react to

life internally.

If it is only going to be a happy new year for us if we get more

stuff, and all goes well, then we are living on a different level than

Paul was on. This does not mean we should not get more stuff, and

that we should not strive to make all go well. Paul advised Christians

to live peaceably with all men, and to prevent all the negatives of life

that they can. But if this is your only level of happiness you are too

controlled by the externals, and changes can quickly rob you of your

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