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Greg Laurie - How To Have A Happy Holiday Season

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    Greg Laurie - How To Have A Happy Holiday Season
TOPICS: Christmas

I was standing in line outside of a restaurant the other day and it's actually two weeks ago, some guy drives by with his stereo blasting a Christmas song. I actually yelled out, "No, it's too soon". Well, you can't escape it now, it's everywhere. The holidays can be a joyful time, a wonderful time. They can also be a difficult and sad time for some people. Holidays are filled with sadness and loneliness and anxiety for some people and according to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is a time of year where more people experience a high incidence of depression. In fact, one North American survey revealed that 45% of the American public dread Christmas because of all of the problems it can bring.

So I wanna talk to you about how to have a happy holiday season, how to get a jump on the whole thing, how you can enjoy this time of the year with happiness and joy. And by the way, God wants you to be happy. There's nothing wrong with wanting personal happiness, that's something the Lord wants for you as well. Here's something that might surprise someone. There are 2,700 passages in the Bible containing words such as joy, happiness, pleasure, laughter, gladness, feasting, and celebration. And check this out, God is a happy God. Did you know that? And understand this, Jesus himself was a happy person. How do I know that? Because Jesus said in John 15, "I've told you this to make you completely happy as I am happy".

Now, I find that fascinating because when I look at religious art and depictions of Jesus, he doesn't look very happy. He looks depressed half the time, and he also looks like he needs a sandwich. A bit on the emaciated side. This is sort of the image we have of Christ, very solemn, very unhappy. And actually, maybe that's based in part on the statement of scripture where it says that the Messiah when he would come, would be someone who would bear our sorrows. And that's true, but I don't think Jesus walked around all the time in that way. Certainly as he approached the cross of Calvary, there was that attitude that he would've a man of sorrows carrying our pain.

But I think the rest of the time, he's a pretty cheerful guy. I think he had a smile on his face. I think he had a twinkle in his eye. Otherwise, why would children be drawn to him, right? Kids are a pretty good judge of character and they're drawn to people when they see that warmth and the children were drawn to Jesus. And God wants us to have happiness in our life. In fact, Paul writes of the glorious good news entrusted to him by the happy God. But people sometimes think God is disinterested or God is perpetually angry, but that's not true. In fact, when you walk into the room, in effect the face of God lights up.

You know, like when you see your children come in, maybe your face lights up depending on what your relationship with your child is, maybe it lights up when they walk out, I don't know, that's a whole 'nother subject. But I can say this, if you have grandchildren, for sure your face lights up, right? How many of you are grandparents? Raise your hand. Yeah, so you know, grand parenting, that's the reward for all that our children put us through. And it's their punishment. Now they've got to face it themselves but we can enjoy the presence of these little ones and our face lights up. That's how God feels when he sees you. In Numbers chapter 6 the priests were told to bring a blessing on the people and they were to say, "May the Lord bless you and protect you. May he smile upon you and be gracious unto you".

So, how can you have a happy holiday season? If you're taking notes, here's point number one, "Remember the reason for the season". Christmas is a celebration of the happiest message of all time. The Son of God left the glory of heaven and he came to our planet on a rescue mission to be born in a little manger in Bethlehem, surrounded by animals. And to live our life and to breathe our air and then to die our death and then to rise again from the dead. It's a happy message, that's why the angels said to the shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night, "Glory to God in the highest, and I have good news for you that will bring joy to all people".

So it's a happy message. Now, for some people it isn't happy and maybe it's because they expect Christmas to make them happy. Christmas cannot make you happy, only Christ can. What you're really looking for is not presents under a tree, but his presence in your life. I love this statement by C.S. Lewis who said, and I quote, "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself because it is not there. There is no such thing," end quote. But we get so hung up on all the activities of Christmas. It's very easy for God's only begotten Son to become God's only forgotten Son. I mean, even Mary and Joseph lost Jesus on one occasion. Can you imagine losing Jesus? Didn't he like glow in the dark or something? No, he didn't. But they went to Jerusalem, remember, for Passover, and they got back home.

Mary thought Jesus was with Joseph, Joseph thought Jesus was with Mary, and they get home there's no Jesus. So they go back searching for him. But we can lose Jesus in the Christmas season. So let's keep our focus, as it said, keep Christ in Christmas, keep him at the forefront of your life in this season. And remember, it's a great time to share his love with other people who are sad, who are lonely. And it's also a great time to invite people to church. Say, "Why don't you come to church with me? You're gonna love it".

Number two, "If you want a happy holiday season, spend time with loved ones". Spend time with loved ones. Don't isolate, don't try to do life alone. USA Today did an interesting article on what happiness is and how to get it. They determined other things can bring happiness, and among those things they said, quote, "Marriage makes people happier. A close family inoculates many kids against despair according to long-term research". Their conclusion is "Families and friends provide the best antidote to unhappiness".

You say, "Well, Greg, I don't really have a family to gather with". Well, that's where your spiritual family comes in. That's what the church is. The church is a spiritual family. The fact of the matter is you can be closer to fellow brothers and sisters in the faith than you can even be to blood relatives at time. You know what I'm talking about? In fact, are we not blood relatives? We are, we're bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, made a part of the family of God. So we're connected as blood relatives in that broad sense. So being with fellow believers is so important.

Number three, "If you want to have a happy holiday, be grateful for what you have". Have you just taken stock lately of all of the blessings that God has given to you? Psychologists say that gratitude has a lot to do with life satisfaction. Talking and writing about what they're grateful for amplifies adult happiness. There's always something to be unhappy about, there's always something to be troubled about, there's always something to be bugged by. Okay, that's life, right? But there's so many things to thank God for. So many blessings in your life. As you sit here right now, maybe with members of your family, with a roof over your head waiting for you when you get home with a meal that you have this afternoon with other things that you're planning on doing. You've got your health perhaps, hopefully. These are blessings from God that we should not take for granted.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "In everything, give thanks for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ concerning you". It doesn't say in some things give thanks, it says "In everything, give thanks, for this is the will of God". Sometimes we wonder, what's God's will for my life? Hey, let's start with a no brainer, something that's plainly declared in scripture. "In everything, give thanks for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ concerning you". Now, that's easier said than done, isn't it? Sometimes it's easy to give thanks maybe at the birth of a baby. Other times it's very hard to give thanks when there's the death of a loved one. But we should give thanks because the Lord is good.

This is what the Bible says, Psalm 106 verse 1, "Give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good and his mercy endures forever". It doesn't say give thanks to the Lord when you feel good. "I feel good"! Not that, no, you don't always feel good. There's days you feel bad but I can still give thanks. Now listen, if God ceases to be good, you don't have to give thanks anymore. But since God is always going to be good, I should give thanks unto the Lord. That's what the scripture says. Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice". Think about poor Job. Oh man, you talk about things going wrong on one day and Job didn't know what was happening in heaven and conversations between God and Satan. He was a godly guy. He was doing everything he should have been doing for the most part.

But on one day, calamity layered on calamity befell God's servant. And the problem with Job is he had never read the Book of Job. If he had read it, he would know that God would bless him in the end but he didn't know it was happening in real time to him. But when he lost everything, including his livelihood, including his health, and worst of all his own children, we read in Job chapter 1, verse 21, he said to God, "Naked came I from my mother's womb, naked shall I return there. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord". Yes, I should give thanks. I need a theology of thanksgiving. I need an attitude of gratitude. I make a choice to rejoice. I choose to rejoice. I choose to give thanks to God. And sometimes it's a sacrifice to praise God, isn't it?

You know, when we come to church sometimes, maybe on Sunday morning, we're not in the mood to worship. We had a little disagreement with the spouse on the way in, and now I don't wanna worship. I have a cold, whatever it is, something's bothering you. But what does the Bible say? Hebrews 13:15, "Let's offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually. That is the fruit of our lips giving thanks". God wants you to verbalize your praise. We can apply this to marriage. It's important to tell your spouse you love them. "Well, don't they know"? Well, hopefully. But it doesn't hurt when you tell them, now does it? Well, the guy says, "I work and put a roof over her head". Yeah, that's nice, but it'd be amazing if you just said I love you, or that was a great meal, or you look beautiful.

Or you know, you might be thinking, well, my husband knows I love him. When is the last time you told him? "Honey, I appreciate you and all that you do for this family". We have to verbalize these things, it matters. And God actually says, "I want you to verbalize your praise to me. I want to hear the fruit of your lips". So when we worship together, sing out. You say, "Well, Greg, I don't have a good voice". Well, that's okay. The Bible says, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord". So make your noise, your praise, you bring it to God. Because what we're doing is we're doing what we were designed to do, what we were built to do.

The Bible says in Psalm 29, "Give to the Lord the glory due his name, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness". Listen to this, "The two most important moments in a person's life is when they are born and when they discover what they're born for". Let me say that again, it's there in the screen. "The two most important moments in a person's life: when they're born and realize what they're born for". What are you born for? You say, "I'm born to be wild. Get you motor run". No, no, no, you're born to glorify God. That's what you're here for. I understood that at the age of 17. It suddenly occurred to me I was put here on this earth to bring glory to God. And we're told in Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him".

Number four, if you wanna have a happy holiday, this is a big one. "Focus on giving instead of receiving this Christmas". "Focus on giving instead of receiving," because Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than it is to receive". Let me re-translate that for you because as I've told you so many times, the word blessed can be translated happy. So here's a new way to look at it. It's more happy making or you will be happier by giving than you will be by receiving. Now that's counterintuitive, but the truth is serving and giving brings personal happiness. Proverbs 11:25 says, "The generous will prosper and those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed". It's true. I'm telling you it's true.

Think no, no, just make it all about me, the world revolves around me. What are you gonna give me? How are you gonna meet my needs? That will never bring happiness because you're living a selfish life. You want happiness, live a selfless life. Think about how can I serve them? How can I give to another? And the fringe benefit is you will receive the happiness you've wanted all along not from seeking it but by having your priorities right. So clear, it's scripture, but tragically we miss it. We can all bring something to God. I love the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 116:12. "What shall I give unto the Lord for all he has given unto me"? How could I ever repay God for his faithfulness to me? Answer, you can't. But yet the Psalmist asks, "What can I give to the Lord"?

Listen, there are three things you can give to God, treasure, talent, and time. We all have that. No matter how old you are or young you are, if you're a man or a woman, doesn't matter, we all have these three things we can give to God. Treasure, talent, and time. First, we bring our treasure to the Lord. Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also". And when we give of our finances to God, there is a great blessing attached to that. And some believers don't do this and they really miss out on the blessing of giving. And this is such an important thing for all of us. As 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, "Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver".

And the word here for cheerful could be translated a hilarious giver. The Bible speaks of the believers in Macedonia in 2 Corinthians 8. They heard about the needs of the believers in Jerusalem. So they received an offering. And Paul writes of these believers, "They begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing in the gift for the Christians in Jerusalem". I love that. They begged, "Oh, can we do another offering? Let's do that". Begging to give, well, that's not commonplace today, but they had discovered the joy and the happiness of giving. So we give God our treasure, we give God our talent as well. God has given to each of us certain talents. Jesus told a parable in Matthew 25 of a man who went on a journey and he gave five talents to one; to another he gave two; to another, each one according to his own ability.

So we all have these talents. So we have to figure out how can I use what I do for God's glory, you see? Some are gifted speaking, some are gifted working behind the scenes, some are gifted with music, others are gifted with other areas. And we all have something to bring to the table, and we need to bring our talent to God and say, "Use me for your glory". And finally, we bring our time to God. So it's treasure, talent, and time. Every morning God deposits into your bank of time, 1,440 minutes, that equals 24 hours. Now you have to deduct some for sleeping, right? But the rest of that time, that is yours to use and it's also yours to waste. Nothing is carried over to the next day. You use it or you lose it. So you wanna spend that time but we waste time. How many of us will admit we waste time? I know I waste time. If you have a cell phone, you waste time, right? Just scrolling, for starters.

I read that the average American spends more than 1,300 hours a year on social media. And then people binge watch all these things and it just so much time can be wasted in that. And then there's a time we spend just waiting at stoplights. We can't control that but I read that the average American in their lifetime will spend four months of their life waiting at stoplights. We waste a lot of time but we have a choice as to what to do with this precious commodity God has given us called time. In Romans 13, I had you turn there in the beginning, says this, "This is all the more urgent. You know how late it is, time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost over, the day of salvation will soon be here, so remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes and put on the shining armor of right living".

I love that. Time is short. One translation of this verse is redeem the time because the days are evil or, literally, make sacred and wise use of every opportunity because at the end you don't get more time and all the money in the world will not buy you more time. John Rockefeller in his day was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived. After he died someone asked his accountant, "How much did he leave"? His accountant replied, "All of it". That's how much you leave. You leave everything.

As I've said before, you've never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer. You just see Californians pulling U-Haul trailers as they leave our state, but you leave it all. So you can't take it with you, listen to this, you can't take it with you but you can send it on ahead. Say, how's that? When you lay up for yourself treasure in heaven. Job said, again, "Naked came I into this world, naked will I leave". All the stuff we worked so hard for will be left but if we lay up treasure in heaven, we'll have a lot of stuff waiting for us on the other side. So every dollar you invest in spiritual things, every prayer you pray, everything you do in service for God is duly noted by the Lord. So let's conclude this message, but I want to recap what I've already told you in case you missed it.

If you want a happy holiday season, number one, "Remember the reason for the season". It's about the birth of Christ. Remind yourself of that and tell others about that. Number two, "If you want a happy holiday, spend time with loved ones". Don't isolate yourself. Remember, the church is here for you. And this is why small groups are so good because you can develop a community, a group of new friends that you did not previously have. 'Cause it's very easy to come in here and worship and hear a message and then just leave. But when you're in a small group, you have community, you have a spiritual family, so spend time with other believers. If you want a happy holiday, be grateful for what you have. Remember to give thanks to God for even the smallest of things. Have an attitude of gratitude. Make the choice to rejoice. And fourth and lastly, focus on giving more than receiving this Christmas. Again, as Jesus said, "It's more blessed to give than it is to receive".
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