Greg Laurie — Happiness: What It Is and How to Have It?
Hello Southern California. Good to see you. Twenty-six years. It is hard to believe. We are just so excited with all that God has done over all of these years. But I am so happy to see you here tonight. A quick poll. How many of you are happy people? Raise your hand up. That is a good thing. Yeah. I believe that deep down inside everybody wants to be happy. In fact I think God prewired us that way. This is not unique to the 21st or even the 20th century. This goes back for centuries.
Augustine in ad 397 said, "Every man whatsoever his condition desires to be happy". Nearly 13 centuries later French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote, "All men seek happiness. This is without exception". Fast forward to today. The lead singer of one of the biggest rock bands in the world said this, "You ask me if I am happy. Listen. I have bought myself a rolls Royce. I am part of the biggest band in the world, and I am about to live in a luxurious mansion. Am I happy with that"? He says, "No. I am not. I want more".
Sometimes we look at the rich and the famous and we think, "Man if I could live their life I know I would be happy". Would you? Comedian Jim Carrey said, "I hope everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of and then they would know that is not the answer". Comedian Chappelle started to make millions of dollars as his career skyrocketed. He made this statement about his unhappiness. "The higher up I go the less happy I am". I just watched a documentary called I am Chris Farley about the comedian from Saturday night live. Chris Farley was the funniest guy. He made so many people laugh. But he as a miserable guy on the inside. He had serious drug problems. He went rehab 17 times. Chris' hero was fellow SNL Alumni John Belushi who died of a drug overdose.
One of Chris' friends once asked him while he was still alive, "Do you want to die like Belushi"? Chris said in response, "Oh yeah. That would be really cool". His friend started crying and said, "I wept for him". Chris Farley said, "I thought if I had enough money in the bank, if I had enough fame, everything would be all right but I am a human being like everyone else. I am not exempt". Sadly both Belushi and Farley died from a lethal overdose of heroin and cocaine. They were both 33 when they died. Apparently they didn't find the happiness they were looking for.
Is happiness a lost cause? Marilyn Manson said, "Anyone who thinks they are happy should go see a doctor because there is no reason to be happy". Is that true? Milton Berle the comedian said, "A man doesn't know what true happiness is until he gets married, and then it is too late". George Burns said, "Happiness is having a large loving, caring, close knit family in another state". Only I would quote Marilyn Manson and George Burns in the same few sentences strung together.
Listen to this. This might surprise you. According to the Bible, and by the way, this is the user's manual of life you have been looking for the Bible. It tells you everything you need to know about life. It tells you everything you need to know about God. It tells you everything you need to know about being happy. Most importantly it tells you how you can get to heaven. The B-I-B-L-E. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Read it. But the Bible teaches that God wants us to be happy. But we need to go about it in the right way. I know what won't make you happy. Being beautiful or handsome will not bring personal happiness. I know this from experience. Talking to other people who are beautiful and handsome. 94% of girls age 18 and under wish they were more beautiful. 85% of women over 40 say they are not as attractive as the average woman. That is probably why last year alone Americans spent $11 billion on cosmetic surgery in a quest for perfection.
You always say, "I want to look like those models on the magazine covers". News flash. Even the models don't look like the models on the magazine covers. Those people don't even exist. It is called photoshop people. But now it is not just those folks. Everybody wants to get in on it. The 2014 annual academy of facial plastic surgery and reconstructive folks put a survey out. They said, "The rise in cosmetic surgery is because of the rise of the selfie. We are taking more pictures of ourselves than ever before. We want to look our best". Then there is botox. I think there is more botox in California than water right now. Seriously. How many of you have had botox done. I didn't think you would raise your hand.
It is really easy to spot a person with a lot of botox. They have one expression. Or some other version of it. Look. I am not putting that down. I am simply saying if you think changing your outward appearance is going to bring you personal happiness, you are going to be in for a disappointment because there is something called gravity that is going to kick in.
Here is something else. Having possessions won't bring personal happiness. Time magazine did a cover story called the real truth about money. They said, "Clinical depression is 3 to 10 times more common today than years ago. Money jingles in our wallets and purses like never before but we are no happier for more money leads to more depression". That is nothing new. The Bible says in proverbs 27:20, "Hell and destruction are never full, and so is the heart of man never satisfied". But if I had the perfect girlfriend or boyfriend or the perfect husband or wife then I would be happy. So you go out and you get married. Then you say, "Maybe if I found another perfect husband or wife then I would be happy". So you get divorced. Then you remarry again. You say, "If I just had kids I would be happy". You have kids. Then you say, "If I could just get rid of these kids I would be happy". On and on it goes. Always just beyond your reach.
Billy Joel has been very successful in his career. He sold 150 million albums. He has been inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame. He is in the midst of an unprecedented residency at Madison Square Garden in New York city. He makes $2 million per show. He said recently in an interview he feels like he is a failure. He says, "You just need one love in life. One out of millions to know and accept you and love you for being, well, just the way you are". Quoted his own song. Joel says, "I see old folks walking down the street. It looks like they have been together for 50 years. It is very touching. I say, 'why don't I have that?'" According to this article billy has had three tortured marriages. He says this. "You can have all of the money in the world. All of the mansions. All of the properties. All of the yachts and limousines. You can have motorcycles. But without love it doesn't mean a thing". Wow. Let me take it a step further for Billy. Without Jesus it doesn't mean a thing. You need Jesus. That is the answer. He is the answer.
I am happy to say that I have been married for 41 years. So it works. My wife Cathe is here tonight. She has never thought once of divorcing me in 41 years. Murdering me yes. Divorcing me no. That relationship in and of itself isn't going to do it. Pursuing pleasure will not bring you personal happiness. Let me say something that you might find surprising coming from a preacher. Are you ready for it? Sin can be fun. No. It can be. A quick poll. How many of you have ever sinned. Raise your hand? Wow this has to be the most sinful bunch of people I have ever seen. First you lie about botox but you admit to your sin.
Here is the thing. We know sin can be fun. Otherwise we wouldn't do it. Even the Bible says, "There is pleasure in sin for a moment". For a time. But then there are the repercussions man. There is payday that is coming. You have to face the consequences of what you have done. That thing that was so pleasurable at first comes back to haunt you. That is why the Bible says, "The person who lives for pleasure is dead while they are living". So all right Greg. You have told us where not to find happiness. Where do you find it? Well I heard a song a number of years ago. It says if you want to be happy for the rest of your life never make a pretty woman your wife. From my personal point of view get an ugly girl to marry you. I know that is not true. So where you can you find happiness? Maybe you have wondered about that. I am going to tell you that it is going to come from a relationship with God. That is where it comes from.
The Bible says, "Happy are the people whose God is the Lord". One of the world's foremost experts on happiness. I didn't even know there experts on happiness but apparently there are. This lady says, "I don't have a religious or spiritual bone in my body". But she acknowledges studies show people with faith in God are happier. Why do you think that is? Because we have hope. Hope brings happiness because I know there is more to life than what I experience in this world. I know there is an afterlife. I know there is a meaning to this life. I know life is not just random and whatever happens happens. I know that there is a God. I also know there is a devil who brings the evil in the world. But if I put my faith in Jesus Christ and follow him he can bring me that happiness that has eluded me for a lifetime.
Here is something that might surprise you. Check this out. God is happy. Did you know that? God is happy. Jesus said in John 15, "I have told you this to make you happy just like I am". No doubt about it Jesus was happy. No wonder the kids were drawn to him. Do you think kids would run up to want to be with someone who had a frown on his face? People were drawn to Jesus because they could see that happiness that he had. He is called in the Bible the happy God. We read over in Paul's writings where he says, "I want to tell you about the good news entrusted to me by our blessed God". The word blessed could be translated happy. They are interchangeable words. We don't see God that way. We think God is perpetually ticked off at us. God is mad at us we think. Or at the very least God is disinterested in us.
In his song "Positively 4th street" Bob Dylan sings, "I wish for just one time you could stand "Inside my shoes and you would know what a drag it is to see you". I love that line. We may feel that way about God. God looks at us. "Oh no. Here comes Greg. Greg is such a drag. Oh no. It is you. I don't want to see you". No. That is not true. When God looks at you he smiles. Because God loves you.
In numbers 6 the Bible tells the priests to pronounce a blessing on the people. He says, "Say to the people, 'may the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and peace.'" God looks at you and he smiles. God cares about you. God knows every detail of your life. Listen to this. God does not have A.D.D. God is not distracted. Aren't you glad? Aren't you glad when you are calling out on the Lord he is not like updating his Facebook page or something? Checking the newest Instagram post. Or tweeting out something. He is looking at you. He is thinking about you. He loves you. He has a plan for you.
Who wants to hear a Bible story? Raise your hand. OK. I have got one for you. Here is the story of a guy who should have been happy by this world's standards. He had everything a person should have to make them happy by this world's standards. But he was not happy at all. That caused him to go to Jesus. We sometimes refer to this guy as the rich young ruler. The story is in Matthew 19. Let me read it to you. "Someone came to Jesus with this question: 'teacher, what good deed must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus said, 'why do you ask me about what is good? Only God is good. But to answer your question, you can receive eternal life if you keep the commandments.' The young man asked, 'well which ones.' Jesus replied, 'don't murder. Don't commit adultery. Don't steal. Don't lie. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.' And the young young man said, 'I have kept all of these commandments since I have been a young man. What else should I do?' Jesus said, 'all right sell everything that you have and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' That man went away sadly, for he had many possessions".
He was the rich young ruler. What does this mean? To be a ruler in these days you had to be at least 30. He is in his early thirties. He has climbed his corporate ladder if you will. He is a powerful man. He could be a rock star. A hip hop star. He could be a pro athlete. He could be somebody else that you read about that has come into a lot of money early in life like a Mark Zuckerberg. Someone like that. Just imagine this. This young guy comes to Jesus. He has a tricked out chariot. It is lowered. Super cool wheels. He is holding a latte. "Hey Jesus what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life". Jesus says "Keep the commandments". Why did he say, "Keep the commandments"? Because no one can keep the commandments.
You say, "Well that doesn't make sense". This is th whole point. He wanted to show this young man how much he needed forgiveness because he had broken the commandments. There are people today that say, "I don't need Jesus Christ. The Ten Commandments are all of the religion I need". You ask them, "Can you quote any of the Ten Commandments"? "Yes I can. Uh I can't remember them right now". Yeah. So you live by them but you can't even remember them. A survey revealed that more people know the names of the four Beatles than a single commandment. I got that down. John, Paul, George, and Ringo. But I can't think of a single commandment. That is why Jesus brought this out. He is showing this young man you have broken these commandments.
I met a young girl not long ago. She had gotten very strung out on drugs. In fact she was addicted to heroin. Because of her excessive drug use she was paralyzed from the waist down. She came to our church. She had just committed her life to Christ. You could see the ravages that the drugs had taken on her beautiful face. She believed in Jesus. She made this statement to me, and I remembered it. She said, "I have broken every commandment except one". Probably murder. I assume she had not done that one. She had done all of the rest. God changed her. I saw her about two months later. She didn't even look like the same girl. She had a glow from the inside. Christ had changed her. He can change you tonight no matter what you have done even if you have broken all Ten Commandments.