The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Finding Happiness’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 9/13/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1NzNbW8
What does it mean to be content? What does it mean to be happy? Some people spend their entire lives looking for satisfaction, but never find it. Our natural tendency is to always hold out hope for the next big thing: a bigger house, a promotion at work, or a new opportunity. We push our happiness off until the next stage of our lives, and settle for the feeling that even though something is lacking, it will all be worth it when the payoff comes.
But what if happiness isn’t something we find? What if contentment is simply a decision? What if all God is asking is that we would make a choice to be content in Him: to find joy in His presence?
We should all plan for the future. You’ve probably heard it said that he who fails to plan, plans to fail. But even if you have vision for the future, it’s necessary to have passion for the present. Are you living every moment to the fullest? Are you finding joy in the simple things in life?
On the Other Side
All of us are praying for something major. Maybe it’s total healing from a crippling disease, or a release from financial difficulty. What’s the biggest prayer request you have right now? Ask yourself an important question: even if you get everything you’re praying for, will you be content? Will you stop to celebrate the victory, and take joy in God’s faithfulness? Or will you simply put your finger on the next thing you have to have to be happy, and move on with your life?
One of the most important decisions we can ever make is to find joy in our current situation. Paul said, “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil 4:11). Is your happiness conditional, or positional? Does it depend on where you are and what you have, or on Whom you’re with?
When you give your life to Jesus Christ, you are Heaven-bound. No man can ever harm you once God has saved you. No devil can ever touch you when you’re covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. God’s Holy Spirit lives in you! If we can’t take joy in that, how will we ever be content?
In Luke 10, Jesus commissioned seventy disciples to go out and perform His work, and expand His Kingdom. As they set out, they found themselves accomplishing every single thing they had set out to do. But instead of rejoicing with them, Jesus gives them a sobering lesson:
Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you… – Lk 10:17-20a
The disciples had their testimony in hand! They had done everything God asked them to do! Yet Jesus still told them not to rejoice. Their joy, He explained, should not be conditioned on what they saw happening in the world around them. Their joy should be fixed on the permanent change that had taken place in their hearts:
…but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” – Lk 10:20b
Jesus’ lesson on becoming Biblically content continues several verses later:
Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” – Lk 10:23-24
Jesus had to step back and remind His disciples that He is the Prize. Jesus is not a means to an end, He is the Beginning and the End. He is the reason we are alive, and He should be the only Source of our joy and happiness!
As New Testament Christians with God’s Holy Spirit living in us, we are capable of communion with God in a way that has never before been possible. Prophets and kings have desired for generations to see what you see, and hear what you hear! Peter stresses that even angels long to see God through the lens of salvation you and I get to look through every day (1 Pet 1:12)!
Scripture tells us repeatedly to always keep our eternal perspective. Everything we think, say, and do should be framed by the reality that eternity with God is the only permanent satisfaction we can ever enjoy. If we try to seek joy from any other source but God, we will end up dry as a bone; but when we step into the eternal life only He supplies, living water will flow out of us!
I had the chance to sit and catch up with several old co-workers last week. I come from a background in finance, and I stay in touch with a lot of the people with whom I used to work. Whenever we get together, the conversation is always focused around what’s next. We string ourselves along in careers and lifestyles that leave us unsatisfied, and placate ourselves by assuming we’ll be so much happier in our next job, our next apartment, or the next relationship we find.
But happiness is a decision! So what are you waiting for?
Never Good Enough
Before you can choose to be Biblically content, you have to understand what you’re up against. Satan – our accuser – seeks to convince you that everything you have in your life at this moment isn’t good enough. The enemy wants you to believe that unless you have more money, live in a bigger house, or go on a dream vacation, you’ll never be content.
He’s been using the same scheme since the beginning of human existence:
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ “Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Gen 3:1-5
Adam and Eve had it all. God carved out a custom habitation that was perfect. They could go wherever they wanted and enjoy fellowship with Him. They could do whatever they wanted to do, and eat whatever they wanted to eat! But they couldn’t eat one fruit.
Satan showed up and put his finger on the one thing Adam and Eve couldn’t have. Then he whispered a tired lie into Eve’s ear: you won’t be happy until you get the one thing you don’t already have. He convinced Eve that she could never be satisfied with what was in her hand. Happiness was only one bite away:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. – Gen 3:6-8
Eating the forbidden fruit wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Adam and Eve were now recipients of a knowledge they were never meant to possess. They were now capable of evil.
Sin entered into all mankind because Adam and Eve couldn’t make the decision to be happy with everything God had given them. They allowed Satan to define their happiness: to tell them that happiness was around the corner, instead of believing they could be content with everything they had in their hand!
From that day forward, man has been afraid of God, instead of enjoying intimate fellowship with Him. God designed us to speak to Him face to face; but from Adam up until Jesus, man stayed as far from God as he possibly could. We have an opportunity to change that mindset because of the Cross of Jesus Christ. We have the chance to make a decision to be content with everything God has given us, and never desire anything more than His presence!
Satan can never steal your joy. That coworker who just seems to have it out for you every day can’t steal your joy. Joy cannot be stolen, only handed over. The enemy cannot take your joy unless you let him. They way Satan enticed Adam and Eve to give up their joy was by convincing them they could never be satisfied unless they had more! And he will do the same to you, if you give him the chance.
Consumerism Rears Its Head
Society (the “world”) follows in Satan’s footsteps by pushing a consumer mindset. In our daily lives, joy is relative. Our level of contentment is dictated by what we don’t have, instead of what we do! Our neighbor always has a bigger house, a faster car, or nicer shoes; and we convince ourselves we simply can’t be happy until we have the same stuff!
God has blessed my family with a beautiful home. My wife and I moved to Brooklyn several years ago when we were making room for our first child. God took out all the stops. He allowed us to own a home in New York City with every single amenity we wanted. It was amazing!
But even still, I remember sitting on our balcony, several months after moving in, and starting to feel unsettled. I sat and looked around the neighborhood, and started dreaming about owning a house, instead of the apartment God had just blessed us with. I immediately lost sight of everything God had just done for us, and started lusting after more. I was losing my joy!
In Jesus Christ, our joy is not relative; it is absolute. When we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we abandon our consumer tendencies and give them up for covenant promises. Whereas a consumer constantly lusts after more, a covenant promises lasting happiness.
God promises that He will never be dissatisfied with you! There is no sin so big that it can overshadow the finished work of the Cross. There is no secret so big and dark that it can’t be covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. When God sees you, He sees His spotless Son Jesus Christ! And if the God of the universe has made a final decision to always be happy with you, isn’t it time to decide to always be happy with Him?
There is only One lasting Source of perfect peace: Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, you’ll spend your life wandering, looking for someone or something to fill the hole in your heart. You’ll try diets and workouts, and replace your wardrobe when you get bored. You might even go back to school and change careers. But any of those solutions to the hole in your heart are just band-aids on a gaping wound.
Jesus is the answer! He is the Secret to joy, and the Source of happiness. In Him is fullness of joy:
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Ps 16:9-11
Individual moments are important. At any given moment in time, all your life experience up to that point is culminating in what you’re thinking, saying and doing. Every moment is too impossibly unique to ignore. So don’t let it go to waste.
Savor every moment. Make the decision to be content. Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Decide to be happy in Jesus Christ today!
My wife encouraged me to take up a great habit some years ago. Whenever something good happens in our life together, we take time out to celebrate. It doesn’t matter how busy we are, or how many things we have on our schedule. We drop it all, and celebrate.
God has promised that no matter what you’ve done, you will be in His presence for all eternity! What more could any of us possibly need to be content?! What more reason could we ever need to celebrate?
Choose to be content in God’s presence. As God exalts you for His name’s sake, make time to savor the victory.
- by Pastor Mike White
© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.