Luke 9: 23-24; John 10:10 - “Happy # 4- A Way of Being” - 1/26/2020 Rev. Jerry W. Krueger - Boardman United Methodist Church

This is the final of the four lessons on “Happy, What It is and How to Find it.” The first week, we spoke of the importance of good relationships with God, yourself, and others. The second week we spoke of the Art of Forgiveness. How important it is to at least attempt to forgive ourselves and others. Last week, we addressed Beyond Circumstance. Not living frozen in time wishing for the way things used to be or attempting to guess our unknown future. Rather, we choose to live in the present.

We conclude with Happiness as a Way of Being.

Much of what we THINK will make us happy, does not. Money, bigger house, skinnier waist, etc. Often, when we focus so much on being happy, we seem to frustrate our efforts. The very thing we strive for, when we think we have achieved it, seems to inch juuuust out of reach.

But it’s when we back up a bit, take off some pressure, and focus on another person or something else, happiness can occur.

In chapter 9 of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus begins to change the narrative. Jesus has been busy teaching, preaching, exorcising demons, performing miracles. People flock to see and to hear him. Our first clue of change is Luke 9: 1-2, “Jesus called the 12 together and he gave them power and authority over all demons and to heal sicknesses. He sent them out to proclaim God’s kingdom and to heal the sick.” Jesus says to the disciples, “You‘ve seen me do it, you’ve been a part of this, now you do it.”

I can imagine they had abdicated any authority over evil and performing miracles, solely to Jesus. Can you imagine their faces? “Philip, what did he say?” “I don’t know Matthew.”

What Jesus has done is shift the conversation to others. He challenges the disciples and us to be bearers of his ministry, not just receivers of it. And then he drops this bomb found in Luke 9: 23-24. Jesus said to everyone, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them.”

Whuuuut? Take up a cross? Lose my life, to save it? But recall, Scripture informs us that happiness is not an emotion, it is significantly deeper. It is the Abiding presence. The deep inner joy. Happiness is wholeness, peace, and contentment.

Jesus speaks about his purpose on earth is to give people abundant life. Hear the words from John 10:10. “The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life- indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.”

Finding happiness is not about focusing on self, it is about saying yes to others, more than saying yes to ourselves. Jesus offers us the counterintuitive path that is not about YOU, it’s about God and your role in God’s work.

This outward focus is not just what Jesus says; therapists, neurosurgeons, sociologists, and financial advisors all agree that outward focus is very healthy. In this way, you find your life by losing it. Like the billionaires who have committed to giving the majority of their wealth away while still alive.

Lottery winners are proof that financial windfalls do not make for long term happiness. It produces a short-term sense of joy, which wanes rapidly. So where really should our focus lie? Outside of self. Jesus doesn’t mean we’re unimportant, or that we should neglect ourselves. But our primary sense of happiness comes when we look after others. Like donating blood. Like serving at 2nd Harvest, or the East Brook Mission Barn, or serving in the church, or driving someone in need of a ride. It is NOT all about us.

A married couple in Lubbock bought a fixer upper house, which became the 8 month project from hell. They were so focused on the project, they lost sight of self and others. Until one day, in line at the hardware store, they paid for the guy’s purchase who was in front of them. He was surprised, and they took great joy in the sudden outward focus. Sometimes it’s best to step outside of self at times.

Hear me church, following Jesus is not about becoming a martyr and failing to care for yourself, or do kind things for yourself.

It is about readjusting our thinking. Three things happen when we readjust our thinking with a focus on what Jesus calls us to do.

1.We gain a new perspective- (Read) Isaiah 55: 8-9. “My plans are not your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher that the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans. “God sees what we cannot. Being too self-focused can cause us to miss the big picture. It is not that difficult.

Gaining new perspective requires that we seek God’s input and breathing words of truth into our lives as we seek HIS will, which give us a new perspective on life. Not just focusing on one thing.

My buddy, Andy Reed’s, aptitude assessment tests made it clear he was suited to be a CPA. He got a degree in Accounting from Texas Tech, passed the CPA exam, and for 25 years was a successful “bean counting” CPA, with a lovely family, nice home, money in the bank, plenty of investments, and was miserable. So, he prayed for God’s guidance. A year later, he was running his family construction business. Something he thought he’d never do. But he thrived. Loved being out and about, not just in an office and he never looked back. He did admit that it was not until he sought God’s guidance, and was open to something “non-Andy Reed directed”, and being open to Christ allowed him to have a life he wouldn’t have found on his own.

2.We are Used and Useful. People at times will say they’re struggling to find a purpose in life. “I want to be a part of something bigger than just myself.”

Al- Anon and AA groups meet here. Their stories told, resonate with hurts and brokenness, and a sense for many of failure. But sobriety changes that with God’s help. The key in the 12 step recovery groups is admitting the addictions, claiming a higher power, then telling others their own story of addiction. Allowing themselves to be vulnerable.

In brokenness and darkness, some of the greatest light shines against the darkness. There is great usefulness in sharing your story with another. Particularly, if it is about your faith and how your life is changed, and you’ve been changed as well.

The more we share with others, the greater our sense of peace and joy, because we allow God to use us and to not self-focus.

3. We are directed to the things that matter most.

In the Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus talks about how we tend to be consumed with the basics of life. Sure, we need food, shelter, and clothing. But in Matthew 6:33 we hear this,” Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and god’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

When we follow the Christ, somehow the granite countertops and huge square footage of the home seem less important. Following Christ sets us on a path different than the claims of the world. We focus on His life and listen to his words and experience joy and peace.

So, what is happiness? It is an abiding sense of peace that we can experience and live in, no matter our present circumstances.

Happiness depends, not on stuff, but on relationship with God, ourselves, and others. We know relationships are messy at times, and all of us have experienced relationships that have fractured, or just plain old failed. Jesus comes to the world to share his desire expressed in John 10:10, “to have life and live it abundantly.” On the cross, Jesus reconciles us to God and healed our broken connections with the Creator.

He offers us the way to move to forgiveness of self and others, and Jesus restores us so we can be joy filled and at peace with ourselves.

Jesus leads us to true happiness.

I hear Jesus call to me to give my life away for others, to offer it to those around us in joy.

This radical departure from the world‘s straightjacket of expectations can unleash the power of purposes in our lives and in the community and family in which we live.

So, we end where we begin, that peace and joy cannot be found by focusing on self.

Happiness is a gift. It is given to us when we trust and follow Christ. If we seek after him, and follow Him, commit ourselves to him, he leads us to people, practices, and purposes far beyond anything we could ask for or imagine. And in the process, we are saved.

Bow your head for a moment, “Eternal God, forgive us the times we live only for ourselves. Help us learn to give our lives away in meaningful and important ways. Guide us in that effort, so that as we are lost in You, we may find ourselves through you. In the name of the Christ, who gave himself for us. In Christ our Lord. Amen.”

  August 2020  
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