Greg Laurie - Where To Find Happiness?
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever met someone who has said, "I really don't want to be happy. You know, happiness may be good", oh, thank you, "Happiness may be good for some people, but it's not really good for me". Now, you won't find many people like that. Most people deep down inside want to be happy. My goodness, it's even in our Declaration of Independence that we want to be happy in the United States of America, and to the point even those who say they don't want to be happy but rather they want to be unhappy find a certain happiness in their unhappiness.
A case in point, have you ever seen a Woody Allen movie? It's sort of like celebrating misery and making it funny, too. Well, that's because deep down inside we all want to be happy. It's been said, quote, "There are two things that are true of every person. We all want to be happy, and we're all going to die". By the way, you may be surprised to know that God wired you that way, and this goes back for centuries. Augustine in AD 397 said, quote, "Everyone, whatever his condition, desires to be happy". End quote. Nearly 13 centuries later, French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote, "All men seek happiness. This is without exception".
I read in the newspaper a while back the lead singer of one of the most well-known rock bands in the world, and he was quoted to say this: "You ask me if I'm happy. Listen, I bought myself a Rolls Royce, I'm part of the biggest band in the world, and I'm about to move into a luxurious mansion. Am I happy with that? No, I'm not. I want more".
See, some things never really change. When Comedian Dave Chappelle was making millions of dollars he found he was not happy, and he was quoted to say, "The higher up I go, the less happy I am". But listen, despite what all these people tell us, according to the Bible you can be happy, according to the Bible you should be happy; and you just need to look for it in the right place, and the problem is far too many people look in the wrong place and then they conclude if they don't find it there that happiness cannot be found. Before I tell you what happiness is and where to find it, let me tell you where you will not find happiness.
Number one, being beautiful or handsome will not bring personal happiness. I know this from experience. That wasn't a joke. That kind of hurt a little bit, honestly. I mean, to be laughed at in the face. No, I meant it as a joke. You know, because I think people think, you know, "If I was as beautiful as the girls I see in the magazines and the ads or if I was as handsome as the movie stars etc., I'd be happy". In fact, 94% of girls aged 18 and under wish they were more beautiful. Let me take a quick poll. How many of you girls wish you were more beautiful? Just be truthful. You wish you were more beautiful, raise your hand. Yeah, there you go. Okay. Wow, that's interesting. So, I mean say that.
How many of you think you're already beautiful? Raise your hand. Okay. I don't disagree, I'm just interested. But most people always will say, "Well, you know, I'm okay; but, well, look at her. I'm all right, but look at him". Eight-five percent of women over 40 say they're not as attractive as the average woman, and that's why last year Americans spent $11.4 billion on cosmetic surgeon fees, and that was Newport Beach alone. I've seen some and I'm thinking, "Really"?
You say, "Well, I want to look like the model in the magazine". Newsflash, the model doesn't even look like the model in the magazine. Haven't you ever heard of Photoshop, little airbrushing? The 2014 annual Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery survey blamed the rise of the selfie. They said, "We're taking so many photos of our self more than ever before. We use Photoshop, Instagram filters, and other enhancements to look our best". And they say plastic surgery is the next logical step. You're always going to find someone more beautiful than you. Beauty and handsomeness, physical attractiveness will not make you happy.
Number two, personal possessions will not bring personal happiness. They can improve your life, make your life more comfortable, but they will not bring the real happiness you're searching for. There was an article in Time magazine that had the title "The Real Truth about Money," and it said, quote, "Clinical depression is three to ten times as common today than two generations ago. Money jangles in our wallets and purses as never before, but we are no happier for it. In fact, for many more money leads to more depression". Maybe that's why Proverbs 27:20 says, "Hell and destruction are never full, and so is the heart of man never satisfied".
Having relationships will not make you happy. Now look, you're wired for relationship. You're wired to have someone that you will love and marry one day. That's not a bad thing. But if you say marriage is going to make you happy, you're going to be in for a big shock maybe even before the honeymoon is over, you know, because we're asking a person to do something a person simply cannot do, and we as a person can't meet all the needs of another person because people let us down. Parents let down children. Children let down parents. Husbands let down wives. Wives let down husbands. All cats always let down their owners. Dogs do better.
Number four, pursuing pleasure will never bring personal happiness. Pursuing pleasure. I didn't say you can't have happiness in pleasure. There are many fine pleasures in life that are good. You know, a nice meal, a beautiful sunset, time with people you love, those are good pleasures. But then there are perverse pleasures, pleasures that are sinful. And the Bible even says there can be a little fun in the pleasure for a time but then comes the repercussions of it, and, you know, you think, "Well, if I just, you know, try this drug or if I drank a little bit more or I had this experience". No, none of those things in and of themselves will make you happy because after the rush and excitement wear off the deadness kicks in.
That's why the Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:6, "She that lives for pleasure is dead while she's living". You want to be a real zombie, not like you see on TV but a walking dead person, be a person that lives for pleasure. It will never make you happy. In fact, living for pleasure is one of the most unpleasurable things you can do. It's been said the best cure for hedonism is an attempt to practice it. So, "All right, happiness doesn't come from those things. Where does it come from? Where do you find personal happiest"? Simple answer, the only place to find real lasting happiness is in a relationship with God.
C.S. Lewis, the great thinker and writer, put it this way. Quote, "God designed the human machine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself". End quote.
That is so true. The people that know God are the happiest people. One of the world's foremost experts on the topic of happiness made this statement: "I don't have a religious or spiritual bone in my body, yet I have to admit that the studies show that people with faith in God are happier". And why is that? Well, when you have faith you have hope because you know life is not just a spin on this earth, you know there's an afterlife; and if you put your faith in Christ, you have the hope of heaven. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ you will by nature be a forgiving person, you see. It's been said the first to apologize is the bravest, the first to forgive is the strongest, the first to forget is the happiest.
The fact of the matter is circumstantially the apostle Paul, the author of this book, had nothing to be happy about. He had nothing outwardly to rejoice about. He didn't write this from some ivory tower; he was writing this from a prison cell in Rome. And you know what? Paul knew a lot about personal hardship and discomfort. He suffered more than most people ever will. In 2 Corinthians 11:24, here's what he says. "I've worked harder. I've been put in jail more often. I've been weep times without number. I've faced death again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me 39 lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned," and left for dead I might add.
"Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and day adrift at sea. I've traveled many weary miles. I've faced danger from flooded rivers and waters. I've faced danger from my own people, the Jews as well as the Gentiles. I've faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. I've faced danger from those who claim to be Christians but are not. I've lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I've been hungry and thirsty and I've gone without food. Often I've shivered with cold without enough clothing to keep me warm, and beside all of this I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along". And if this wasn't bad enough, many of the believers were against him. They were spreading lies about the great apostle. So he was under the most miserable circumstances imaginable. And yet here he is rejoicing.
Now, having established this, a couple of questions come to mind. Number one, how could Paul be so positive, so happy, so jubilant in such adverse circumstances? And number two, is this something I can experience today, and if so how? Let me answer the second question first. Yes, you can experience this joy, but you must meet the criteria that is laid out in this book. And the secret to happiness is found in another word that is often repeated in the Book of Philippians, and it is the word mind. M-I-N-D, mind. Paul uses the word mind ten times. He uses the word think five times. Add the times he uses the word remember and that's 16 references to the mind. In other words, a secret of Christian happiness is found in the way a believer thinks.
Notice I did not say the secret of Christian happiness is found in the way a believer feels. No, the way you think. You learn to think right. You learn to think biblically. You fill your mind with the truth of God, it changes your outlook. Now, I'm not talking about, you know, positive thinking or possibility thinking, I'm talking about having a mind that is filled with God's truth. I'm talking about having the mind of Christ. And Paul writes, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus".
So it comes down to the way that you think. And Paul filled his mind with God's truth, and he shows us how to live happily and in harmony with other people. And, you know, we're a very divided people in America right now. You've probably noticed that. I mean, I don't know that we've ever been more divided, or if we have been I don't know that it was much worse than it is today. This is just incredible how many divisions there are, and Paul's telling us how to come together. Those barriers can be overcome in Jesus Christ as we love and pray and serve the Lord together. And the Book of Philippians shows us how, but first we must learn how to think biblically because, listen, you're always going to find someone or something to blame for your sour and bitter outlook on life.
"Well, the reason I'm the way that I am is because this person did this to me, that person did that, this boss did that, that pastor did that, this other person said that". You know, there has to come a point where you realize you just have to stop blaming people. It comes down to this. The troubles between man and man or man and woman is really the trouble within man himself. The person who is in conflict with themself generally is in conflict with everyone else. So I just need to get right with God, I need to forgive those that have wronged me, and I need to start thinking biblically and then I will discover true and lasting happiness. So it starts with getting right with the Lord, and we have to begin there.
So let's dig in. That was the introduction, by the way. Now let's have a Bible study. Grab your Bible, or your phone, or your tablet device, or if the person sitting in front of you has Philippians 1 tattooed on their head you can read that. Philippians 1, we're going to read verses 1 to 6. "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he was begun a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Jesus Christ".
We'll stop there. Let's start with verse 1. "To the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi". You know, it's very easy when we read epistles to sort of skip over the opening statements as though they have no relevance to us, but we don't want to do that because really Paul gives us the door to the life of happiness. You must be one of the saints. So if you want to be happy, be a saint. "Well, that leaves me out. I'm not Mother Teresa, you know. I'm a sinner". Yeah, I know that. We're all sinners, but you have to understand what the word saint means. It's an interchangeable word with the word believer.
How many of you are believers in Jesus Christ? Raise your hand up. I therefore saint all of you, see. But I didn't even need to do that. You're already saints. If you're a believer, you're a saint. If you're a saint, you're a believer. In fact, we read when the Lord told Ananias to go pray for the newly-converted Saul of Tarsus later to become the apostle Paul, Ananias responded, "Lord, I've heard how much harm this man did to your saints in Jerusalem".
Remember Paul would chase down Christians and arrest them and sometimes even murder them. He presided over the death of the first martyr of the church, Stephen. But the reference is to the saints. So if you're in Christ Jesus you are a saint, but notice it's a saint in Christ Jesus, in Christ Jesus. Believers are not saints because they're perfect; believers are saints because they're in Christ, and Jesus imputes his righteousness to them as a result. Listen to me. I am a righteous man. "Well, I don't know, Greg. I've seen you drive".
Yeah. Listen, I'm not righteous because of what I do; I'm righteous because of what he has done for me, and he's put his righteousness into my spiritual bank account, so to speak. That's called being justified. I'm positionally righteous. Now, living it out, that's another story. That's where the word sanctification comes in. You ever heard that word? Sanctification is living out justification. And those are sort of words that we may not understand, but justified is being made right with God. I'm in a right standing with God. But sanctification is living that out day to day in a practical way. But I am righteous and I am a saint.
Now, you don't have to call me Saint Gregory if you don't want to, but I might call you saint something. And why am I a saint? Because I'm in Christ. A Buddhist does not speak of himself as being in Buddha, nor does a Muslim speak of himself as being in Muhammad, nor does a Mormon speak of himself as being in Joseph Smith. They may try to follow the teachings of these people, but they're not in them. But a Christian is a saint because he's in Christ, in Christ. The Bible says if any man be in Christ he is an altogether different kind of person. Old things have passed away. Everything becomes fresh and new.
So I bring this up for this reason. The Book of Philippians, and to the point the rest of the New Testament, has nothing to say to the world that does not believe in Jesus Christ. Here's what God says to the world. Repent and believe in Jesus. That's our message to the world. Come to Jesus. So when people say, "Oh, I found the Bible is just the greatest self-help book ever written, and it tells you how to have a better marriage and how to have a happier life". No, that's actually not accurate 'cause the Bible is not given to non-believers to take the principles and try to live by them. No.
The Bible is given to God's people. It's come to show us we need God. The point of entry is your admission of your sin and your need for God, and then it results in you putting your faith in Christ. And 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us what the Bible's for. It's here to teach us what is true to make us realize what's wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. God never promised you a pain-free life. God never promised you a trauma-free life. In fact, he promised you this: "In this world you will have tribulation". But then he went on to say, "But be of good cheer. I've overcome the world".
Here's what I'm saying. Yeah. Here's what I'm saying 'cause you're saying, "I'm getting really depressed right now. I mean, like, you know, you're going to give a message on happiness. It says happiness on the screen behind you. The pulpit says happiness with little faces. It's yellow, which is a happy color. And you're, like, such a downer".
I'm just trying to be truthful. Yes, you can have this happiness, but let's see what it is and what it isn't. It's not just the emotional high of some pleasure experience. It's a deep-seated faith and trust in God, knowing that, "Yeah, it's all good because one day when I get to heaven and I look back on earth with an eternal perspective I'll realize that God was in control of everything that happened to me. Even the bad things that were allowed, he ultimately used for his good". Because after Romans 8:28, the oft-quoted verse, comes Romans 8:29. You all know Romans 8:28, right? Let's say it together. Ready? "All things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to his purpose".
Okay. And now verse 29 continues on. And by the way, in the original verses when they were given, there were no verse breaks. It just went on. "All things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to his purpose, for whom God did foreknow he also predestined to be conformed into the image of his own dear son". There is your big picture. It's all good, man, because ultimately God is going to make you more like Jesus, and there are things in life that are not easy at the time but they'll make you more like Jesus. He's going to complete what he started. So don't worry about it, just keep walking forward and start experiencing this joy and happiness that God offers.