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Filling the Holes in Your Souls

Looking for Happiness

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(1/3) The expected and appropriate greeting this time of year is, "Happy New Year!" WE declare it as a wish for others and a longing that we have for ourselves.

240 years ago Thomas Jefferson wrote these words in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain, unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happinessÖ, to secure these rights governments are instituted among menÖ"

Believing that they had been denied these rights, the early Americans fought a war to secure them. It is to be noted that Happiness is not said to be a right, but that we should have the opportunity to pursue happiness - is, and it was a right worth fighting for.

I believe that there is a hole in our soul that longs to be filled with happiness. Over my life time, I have heard numerous people say things like, "I just want to be happy," or "Donít I have a right to be happy," or "Whatever makes you happy," or "I just want you to be happy."

Some of you might be looking for happiness in this New Year. You want to re-create the awesome joy you felt as a child, or create what you read about in stories or see in a Hallmark movie. Yet, the hustle of life, as it is, seems to cause happiness to elude you.

So, what is happiness? Charles Shultz the author of Peanuts and Charlie Brown said things like "Happiness isÖ. A Warm puppy, a dry diaper, a day at the beach," etc.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself."

Random House College Dictionary says, "Happiness implies an active or passive state of pleasurable satisfaction of what one considers good."

The R.H.C.D. also uses words like, "Bliss, Delight, and Contentment," as synonyms of happiness.

And I was reminded recently, that Happiness isnít always expressed with smiles and laughter, sometimes it is expressed with tears, and felt in the inner chambers of your hearts or souls.

So, how do we Pursue Happiness with Bliss, Delight, and Contentment?

There are at least 9 areas in which we tend to pursue happiness and often come up empty.

1.) We look for happiness in a Person as we look for love. Giving and receiving love feels good and makes us happy. For many, finding the person we want to love, being engaged and the first years of marriage are often some of the happiest days of our lives. Or, we look for happiness in our close friends.

2.) We look for happiness in the Accumulation of things. Large flat screen TVs, computers, I things, jewelry, cars, boats, houses, furniture, antiques, phones, real estate, the best gear for our hobbies, our collectibles, etc. Obtaining these things provide a temporary sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Christmas just passed. Did you get that one thing that you were sure would make you happy? Ralphie was okay with Christmas but he was not happy. He received those awful bunny pajamas, and no Red Ryder BB gun. He was okay, but he was not happy; that is, until his dad told him to look behind the desk. Then his whole world changed. There was the BB gun. What was your Red Ryder BB gun? Did you get it? Are you happy or okay with Christmas?

3.) We seek happiness in Money. We want to make money, invest money, pursue money, and spend money on what we want. Having money can give a sense of relief as it can enable people to live above debt, or get that stuff that will make us happy! Some of you are thinking that if someone would give you a winning Powerball ticket, you could be happy. We know money cannot buy happiness but it could sure take the pressure off, One athlete was reported to say, it soothed his nerves.

4.) We seek happiness in pleasure. This is Epicureanism. Believing that death is the end of existence and that the body is meant for pleasure, we eat, drink and make merry for tomorrow we die. This often includes the consumption of alcohol, drugs, and sex other than in marriage between a man and a woman.

5.) We seek happiness in our Work or Education. Some genuinely love their work. It gives them a sense of satisfaction and pleasure as they accomplish goals, or see the finished product or provide services to others, just as learning as much as one can and obtaining the desired degree results in a pleasurable sense of accomplishment. My dad genuinely loved his work. The farm was not just his income, it was it his pleasure. He loved watching and helping things grow and learning how to do it better. Is your work your pleasure?

6.) We seek happiness in our Hobbies or sports. Some look forward to their time when they can fish, golf, crochet, knit, do needlepoint, garden, paint, or sketch, hunt, photograph, play ball, go bowling, or just read a book, etc. The distraction from the realities and stresses of day to day living can be peaceful and pleasurable.

7.) Some have sought happiness by Dropping out of life. They have quit work, sold everything to live in some sort of isolation like a monastery, or in the mountains, or in tiny shed like house, tents, or in campers. When my sons were small, there was a trio of movies called the Wilderness Family. A guy has had enough of the business world in Los Angeles or some big city and decides to move his family to the mountains and live off the land. This is what many people did during the late sixties and seventies.

8.) Some have sought happiness by getting Involved with a Cause. This could be save the rain forest, or the whales, or the spotted owls, or to advance a political party, getting a law passed or overturned; the pro-life movement, or some humanitarian work like the Red Cross, Samaritanís Purse, World Vision or others. Making a difference in the world gives a sense of accomplishment and pleasure.

9.) Some pursue happiness in Physical fitness and appearance. Dieting, exercise, eating right, looking good, even to the point of surgery to achieve the right look or to be healthy. Feeling better about ourselves gives us a sense of pleasure.

Can you relate to any of these? Nearly 30 years ago, Dennis Whaley, author of, Are You Happy, reported that only 20% of Americans, that is 1in 5, are happy. If he is correct, then 4 out 5 of you are not happy this morning.

Suppose we define happiness this way? Happiness is an abiding mood of joyful contentment; a deep-down state of peace and hope (repeat). Now, could you say that you are happy?

There is a problem when we look for happiness in the 9 areas that we mentioned a moment ago. They all require some external achievement, or acquisition to produce the desired pleasure or joy that we want. Our happiness is only maintained as long as I have this achievement. When I do not acquire or achieve my goal or do not maintain what I have, I lose my happiness. I become an unhappy camper. Think, for an example, of a new automobile that is fresh off the assembly line or showroom floor. We love that car or truck. We look at it with pleasure, driving it is a joy. We wash it, polish it, and tell our children there will be no eating in this vehicle. Then one day, 101,000 miles later, the warranty is over and the repairs begin, such as a new fuel pump, head gasket, transmission etc. Our happiness is gone and we begin to think that if only I had a new car, I would be happy. Or, if I just had the latest computer gadget, etc. I would be happy.

20, or more years ago, John Stossel of 20/20 did a special on this subject of happiness and contacted a bunch of lottery winners to see if their newfound wealth had made them happy. To a person they said, "NO!" Many were friendless, divorced, and alone.

Listen to how one wealthy man described his pursuit of Happiness "I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself." But behold, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter, "It is mad," and of pleasure, "What use is it?" 3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wineómy heart still guiding me with wisdomóand how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. 4 I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5 I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. 9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (Eccl. 2:1-11)

So, is real happiness possible and if so how can I find it? The answer is, yes, it is possible. Years ago, two Christian Counselors, Frank Minerith and Paul Meier, wrote a book about overcoming depression and they titled the book, Happiness is a Choice.

The Bible uses two words for happy. One is the Hebrew word, "asher," and the other is the Greek word, "makarios." Both are translated as either happy or blessed with the favor of God. There is another word "chara," which is translated as Joy. Using the idea of happiness, I searched what Godís word says about happy people. While there are over 60 references, I believe that we can break them down into 8 categories. Are you ready?

1.) A Happy Person is one who has a personal faith in God through Jesus Christ. Psalm 144:15 says, "Happy is that People whose God is the Lord." Jeremiah 17:7 also says, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose trust is the Lord." When our Lord appeared in the upper room and Thomas was there and he saw and touched the risen Lord, he believed and said, "My Lord and my God." Our Lord responded by saying, "because you saw, you believed, but blessed (or happy) are they who have not seen, yet believe (John 20:28-29). I know that it is well with my soul. I know that I have a Father and that the Lord loves me. I know I can trust Him no matter what. I know that heaven is my home as it is for all you have trusted in Jesus Christ. I know that all of this is not based on my performance but on the nature of my God. Is God your Father? Is He your Lord? Happiness is stepping down and letting Him have the throne of your life.

2.) A Happy person is one who knows the wonderful refreshment of forgiveness. Look at Psalm 32:1-2. "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." Sin and guilt rob us of peace and joy and make us feel ashamed, dirty, depressed, discouraged, anxious, etc. We can ignore it, justify it, rationalize it, suppress it, blame others, or we can repent, confess it, and ask God for forgiveness, knowing that He forgives us and He does so based on what Jesus did on the cross. His blood keeps on providing forgiveness. Then, He willfully chooses to never bring them up against us again. David describes the happy or blessed condition of being clean and forgiven. Are you forgiven? Is there something you are carrying inside that has robbed you of this grace filled pleasure; like Scrooge after his hauntings?

3.) A Happy Person is one who Pursues Holiness instead of worldliness. Honoring God is more important than being popular. Having Godís approval is more important than acquiring things. Notice with me:

  • Psalm 1:1-2, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night."
  • Psalm 119:1-2, "Blessed are those whose way is blameless who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
  • who seek him with their whole heart,"
  • Psalm 128:1-2, "Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! 2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you."
  • Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

Our Lord said, "Be holy, for I the Lord your God am Holy." Holiness is an inner quality that is reflected in outer actions as well as in our thoughts and attitudes. Worldliness and things will always be temporary and cannot provide the happiness that a holy character can. Let me give you an observation. You cannot be happy if you are trying to straddle a fence and have one foot with God and the other with stuff and the worldís approval. A double minded person will be tossed like a wave, as James reminds us. Where are you? Which side of the fence are you on or are you trying to straddle the fence?

4.) A Happy Person is one who Walks by Faith and Not by Sight; that is, he or she totally trusts God.

Psalm 2:12, Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,

for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 34:8, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 146:5, "Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the Lord his God," and

Jeremiah 17:7, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose trust is the Lord." Even when I donít understand, the things that are happening in my life, I know God is in control and that He has good plans. He is at work in my circumstances. I trust God in the everyday things He wants me to do as well as the big things He wants me to do. Do you trust God completely or just when things are going your way?

5.) A Happy person is one who obeys God whether he or she understands the command or not. James 1:25 says, "But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." A lot of people, perhaps you, hear Godís word regularly, read devotionals, read the Bible, but pick and choose what they want to believe and what they want to obey and the result is that they are not happy, especially when the preacher speaks on that area that they donít like. But when you have done the will of your God and Father, that gives you pleasure.

6.) A Happy person is one who is more concerned with ministering to or serving others, than being served. In John 13:17 our Lord reminds the 12 that they are to wash each otherís feet following His example. "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." Compare Acts 20:35, where Paul reminds us that Jesus taught that, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." John Stossel found that some of the happiest people were those who volunteered to serve others. Some teach literacy. One was an accident victim in a wheelchair that was teaching people to read. Ask anyone who has returned from mission trip. There is happiness knowing that we have made a difference in someoneís life. Do you care more about people noticing you and catering to you or do you care and want to volunteer to serve others? Real happiness comes from giving not getting, serving and not being served.

7.) A Happy Person is one who models His character after the Lord Jesus (cp. The Beatitudes in Matthew 5). These and these only, Jesus said, are the people who have Godís favor on their lives.

8.) There is one more that I believe is worth mentioning. Psalm 127:4-5 tells us that a Happy man is one who has children to invest His life in. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.

5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate." No one understands better than I that the greatest heartaches in life can come from children, but on the same hand, some of the greatest joys come from children. Listen, whether you give birth, adopt, do social programs, volunteer to coach, teach Sunday School, VBS, childrenís church, mentor as a big Brother, sister, or Grandparent, happiness is investing in the lives of children. It is the same for God. He invested Himself so that He could have many children. (Heb. 2:10ff). Many of you are missing the greatest joys because you think children are too draining or too demanding or will get dirt on your floor.

When we adopted our daughter, a man in our church said, "My next baby is going to be a Harley."

When I would talk about my grandchildren and some who were on the way, a close family member would say, "Better you than me." And I was saddened, thinking you donít know what you are missing. My grandchildren are the absolute joy of my life, they make my heart smile. Do I enjoy the fingerprints everywhere, or finding M&Mís under the cushions, or stepping on Cherrios or Legos? No, but they remind me how blessed I am. They want to be with us. They want me to read to them, and play blocks with them, and take them for rides in the wagon behind the lawn tractor and push them on the swing, or just sitting on my lap. As we were sweeping cookie crumbs and wiping up spilled drinks, I heard that voice say, "Better you than me," As tired as I was with all the cleaning that had to be done, I said out loud, "Its still better me." Is there a risk that red punch might be spilled on your couch or carpet? Will there be finger prints on your doors, windows and furniture? Yes! And forever those stains will remind you of what is really important to you; stuff or the souls of children who think you are a super-hero.

Are you happy? Want to fill that Hole in your soul? Maybe its time to try it Godís way:

  • To trust Him as your savior and Follow Him as your Lord
  • To seek His forgiveness
  • To pursue Holiness
  • To live by faith-trusting in Him
  • To obey what He says even if you donít understand
  • To begin serving others instead of yourself
  • To model your character after Jesus
  • To invest yourself in children

And see if what you have been looking for has been right in front of you all along. Happiness is choice that we make when we decide to follow God and do life His way.

Letís Pray

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman