How To Pursue Happiness - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Today we talk about pursuing happiness. According to our founding fathers we have the unalienable right to pursue happiness! That this right is endowed by our Creator! When Thomas Jefferson first drafted this, he wrote that this was a truth that was sacred and undeniable! Having the right, though, does not make us happy. The Declaration of Independence did not come with a “How To Be Happy” instruction manual. For that we must turn to the Bible!
Real Happiness is ______________________ .
This is the happiness formula. Follow this and you will discover happy!
”Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
No where do you find “happy” in this verse. The closest we get to “happy” in the Bible is Jesus’ beatitudes. “Be happy attitudes.” I have discovered that happiness has a tendency to slip away. It’s emotional. Sometimes hard to even define. Often “happy” is determined by circumstances. Christians - those with God in their lives - should be able to find happiness every day in every way in every moment in every situation. How? By finding “joy” with God! So important that the Bible puts it as a command!
Re- ____________ all the time everyday in every way.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 NIV
For the skeptic who wants to distinguish happiness from joy, you may point out that no where does the Bible command us to be happy. Of course not. Because happy is mostly emotion. And our emotions betray us. However, God gave us minds so that we may be rational as well as emotional. You and I have the ability to rationally be joyful despite how we feel - even when we feel sadness or grief. We can always RE-JOY!
Have you notices that the verb form of “joy” is RE-Joice? As in “let’s joy again!” As Christians we have this ability to RE-JOY because the source of our joy does not come from ourselves or from our circumstances. Real joy comes from the God of Hope!
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NIV
Notice how this filling of joy comes to us from God. God the Father fills us. But it is by the power of God the Spirit, living within us. Also notice the connection with hope - repeated twice. Why? Because hope is exactly what we need when times are tough. And not just a little. God OVERFLOWS us with hope. Then we can’t help but RE-JOY!
So how do we maintain our connection with God the Holy Spirit?
Re- ___________ all the time everyday in every moment.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12 NIV
Our enemy knows that there is nothing he can do about this overflow of hope that leads to our continuous RE-JOY. God is filled with hope. God has all the power. If our enemy can’t do anything about the source, then he tries to dam (or damn) us up by cutting our connection. Really he doesn’t have control over that either. But he does try.
His #1 weapon is distraction. That’s why the Bible talks about being FAITHFUL in prayer. Leads to PATIENCE in affliction. Leads to JOYFUL in HOPE! Do you connect the dots?
Does “continually” seem impossible? Thats why…
“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. / We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Ephesians 6:18 / Romans 8:26 NIV
Love this mash-up of two different verses - both by same author and about the same topic. Both reiterate 2 things:
(1) Continual prayer is not possible in our human selves, but it is possible in our Christian selves. The combination that happens to every Christ-follower - they are still themselves but now with the Holy Spirit on board. He can do what we cannot. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will Himself intercede for us.
(2) prayers are not just of one kind.“All kinds of prayers and requests.” This includes “wordless groans.” Let’s put this together. There are times when circumstances lead you to an unhappy, seemingly unjoyful place. In these situations prayer seems impossible. But then you remember that you are more than you. You have God not only on your side, but literally within you and part of you. You also remember that prayer is more than just formal spoken words. It’s at times like these that you say, “God -take over. Drive the prayer train right now. Intercede.” In my life that all happens with one word/thought: HELP!
Happiness formula not just RE-JOY and RE-PRAY, but also…
Re- ___________ all the time everyday in every situation.
“Give thanks in all circumstances.”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 NIV
Natural question - HOW can I give thanks in all circumstances? Philippians 4:6 is the “how-to” (see the “every situation?”) (1) By prayer and petition. (2) with thanksgiving. How do we do that?
By remembering. By deliberately thinking back to how God has blessed us before. By NOT FORGETTING the goodness of God to us in our past. That’s why we also see “by petition.” Writing it down. Formally remembering.
It’s also why regular, scheduled, corporate worship is so important!
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 100:4 NIV
This is why we come to church every week regardless of how we feel. We allow entering His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise to DETERMINE our feelings and mood, rather than the other way around.
Bring it all together. All 3 work in a triangular, circular way toward happy.
Re- ___________ all three all the time everyday.
“This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
The Bible could not be clearer or more emphatic about the importance of “Rejoicing always, Praying continually, Giving thanks in all situations” than with the exclamation mark of “This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
This is what God wants. This is how God created you. AND this is what it means to be IN CHRIST JESUS!!! Will I always FEEL happy? No, of course not. But neither does my happiness need to rely on my fleeting circumstances or my undependable emotions.
It’s not like this is the secret sauce. God wants you to know this!
“You make the path of life known to me. Complete joy is in Your presence. Pleasures are by Your side forever.” Psalm 16:11 GWT
Where do we find COMPLETE joy? Only in God’s presence. But also even more emphatically always in God’s presence. Not fleeting pleasures like our human wanting wanting wanting of pride, pleasures and prestige. But by God’s side - FOREVER!
RE-JOY! RE-PRAY! RE-THANK. Every day in every way connects us with God. What could be happier?