Summary: There is a simple reason why most of us cannot find happiness.
THE PURSUIT OF REAL HAPPINESS
“What can’t I find Happiness?
When I was in high school I was invited to a Bible study that took place in (of all places) a local cotton gin. The county I grew up in was a huge producer of cotton and still is. The Bible study took place inside the building-it’s kind of dark-not really set up for a Bible study and we were meeting on private property. None of us realized is young people however what was about to happen. In the middle of our study, several police cars pulled up with sirens on, came in and told us that we were all under arrest. The police took us one by one and placed us in the backseat of their cars and hauled all of us to the local jail. They lined us up and marched us into the area where the cells were, opened them and told us we were being arrested for studying the Bible and that we were on private property without permission.
I still remember looking into that jail cell not knowing at all what I had gotten myself into. It was at that moment that are leaders in the police began to laugh and told us we were not actually under arrest. They just wanted us to experience a bit of what life was like for the apostle Paul.
The setting for the book of Philippians is a small prison cell. Paul probably became a bit comfortable in this type of setting-we know of at least four times that he was put into prison and then wrote letters for us to read. This particular time Paul was imprisoned in Rome-around A.D. 62. By this time, the apostle Paul had been a believer for about 25 years. He had been…
• Beaten with rods three times
• once he was stoned and survived
• three times he was shipwrecked
• often without food
• receive 39 lashes from the Jews on five different occasions
• and of course imprisoned many times
Yet in all of this there is one word that stands out more than any other and that is the word happiness. Joy. In this relatively brief letter Paul mentions the word choice 16 times. He also mentions Christ 50 times and that is for the simple reason. Paul’s happiness was always found in Christ.
Now in all four chapters Paul will have something to say about several words. The first word is the word Chara which actually means Joy. Or we might say happiness. 2nd, would be the Greek word Charis which describes grace. This is what produces happiness. It is what produces Joy in our lives. And the 3rd word is the word Nous which is the mind. Now these 3 elements work very closely together. They are intertwined here and they will help us understand how to find true happiness. Basically this is what Paul is saying. God gives us grace when we receive Christ. Grace is of course the unmerited, unearned favor of God. Nothing we can do to impress God to give it to us. He does it add his initiative. In other words, God is always thinking about us. If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If he had a wallet your photo would be in it. You and I need to face it, God is crazy about us. He proves that by giving us Charis. Then as a result of that Charis/grace, we have Char/joy. Where does this joy live? In our mind of course. We can have a joyful mind/nous. The source of real joy comes from grace and it lives in the mind. So it is a gift God gives to us; we cannot created, we cannot drum it up, we cannot buy it but once we have it can spread it to other people.
Now the question here is this. Do you have it? And if you do why are we not always continually happy? Well believe it or not, I have an answer that question which are not alike it. The reason you and I are not happy is that we really don’t know what it would take to make us happy. And because we don’t know what it would take to make us happy, we don’t know how or where to get it.
As Paul writes, he immediately tells us that he and Timothy are slaves of Jesus Christ. And he says it, it seems in a sort of matter of fact own like old by the way, I’m a slave. Remember he is in prison. Now if you have ever received a letter from someone in prison you know that they are not generally written in a happy state of mind. Most of the time, a prisoner will be counting the days, they are down perhaps, depressed and often losing hope. What they really want is quite simple. They want out of the situation they are in. Now here’s the thing. You and I are not that different. We find ourselves in difficult circumstances, surrounded by difficult people, worried about our future; things are tough. What do we want? We want out. But consider this. What if it is God’s plan for you to be right where you are and to be happy at the same time?