Do you remember this?
It was invented in 1963 by Harvey Ball as an employee morale booster for an insurance company for $45. They neglected to trademark the Smiley and soon millions of buttons, T-shirts, mugs and other items were flooding the store shelves and mail order advertisements.
It seems like everyone had their own version. Some had “Have a Happy Day” and Have a Nice Day.
Probably billions of Smilies of various designs have been sold – most purchased by people who wanted to be happy.
Does anyone remember the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? Bobby McFerrin recorded it in 1988, it had a catchy tune with a reggae beat and received a lot of air play. The single record went platinum!
In fact, the album that contained Happy also went platinum. Soon dozens of artists from all over the world were recording it.
It seems that everyone in the world wanted to be happy!
In 2013 Pharrell Williams recorded the song Happy for the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack album. In December of 2013, Williams released the song on his own album and sold over 10 million copies throughout the world.
At the same time, Williams released a music video and that went viral.
It was nominated for an Academy award for Best Original Song and the video was nominated for both Best Male Video and Video of the Year at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards.
Happy has been #1 on the music charts in just about every country in the world. Even in Slovakia it was #16 in the top 100 electronic downloads!
The Happy YouTube video has been downloaded over 408 million times as of last Sunday.
Happiness sells. Everyone wants to be happy.
Did you ever see an advertisement for a new car where the person behind the wheel was miserable?
What about McDonald’s Happy Meal? As a parent, doesn’t it promise you happiness because your children will be happy while eating this scrumptious meal?
Carl’s Jr. uses beautiful women suggestively eating their burgers to boost sales of their latest huge, messy burger. I just can’t help picture myself eating one of those with sauce dripping from my face and half of the condiments spread over my cheeks. Imagine all the beautiful Hollywood stars who would flock around me!
Well, more on burgers later…
Billions of dollars are spent each year in the United States by people attempting to be happy.
People will go to extremes to be happy. And a lot of times they choose happiness that doesn’t last.
I remember my foolish college days. During the week, I would study hard and during the afternoons and evenings I would be practicing one of the many instruments I had to.
Come Saturday, we were out on the football field early practicing for the game. If there wasn’t a game we would still be out there marching in patterns and playing.
Saturday evening we would party playing cards and drinking until early Sunday morning. I was happy!
Well, I was happy until four or so Sunday morning when my customary prayer time would begin. Yes, I was an idolater, on my hands and knees praying to the porcelain god.
Isaiah warns everyone against this type of fleeting happiness.
Isaiah 5:11 (NIV)
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine.
Yes, I definitely proved out the truthfulness of what Isaiah was saying. Along with the alcohol, we would have Philly Cheesesteaks and plenty of burgers.
Habakkuk warned about those burgers and gluttony:
Habakkuk 1:16 (NIV)
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food.
Isaiah also chimes in on both excessive eating and drinking:
Isaiah 56:11-12 (NIV)
11 They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain.
12 “Come,” each one cries, “let me get wine! Let us drink our fill of beer! And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better.”
That’s what I believed – tomorrow would be better. It always turned out that the better “tomorrow” never came. In fact, it was always worse, which led to more eating and drinking and even worse tomorrows.
The quest to be happy seems like a never-ending struggle with only a temporary glimpse of that happiness. Job knew this when he wrote
Job 20:5 (NIV)
5 that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.
Sometimes happiness is achieved by beating down others. After all, if everyone around you is less happy than you are, won’t you feel good? James noted this when he said:
James 5:6 (NIV)
6 You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.
I was a workaholic for a while, working 80 to 100 hours a week. Obtaining wealth was surely a way to be happy. After all, I could buy anything I wanted.
Now, since I was working so many hours, I needed something to relax me. I read that having a fish tank would not only relax you, but would add years to your life. I could sit in by relaxing chair and watch the fish lazily swim by, occasionally nipping at each other and providing a serene feeling.
This was exactly what I needed since I was working so much!
I went to the fish store and went to by a 25 gallon tank. A big check later, I came home with a 150-gallon tank, a few dozen fish and numerous fish toys, pumps, filters, valves and other accoutrements. It took two days to get everyone acclimated to their new surroundings and I sat down in the evening and relaxed, seeing the fish swim by.
See, you CAN buy happiness; or so I thought.
The tank finally reached out and took those short sweet moments of happiness away when the glass became green and the three plecostomus only worked on a section of the back of the tank. Pretty soon, the tank was taking another 8 hours a week to maintain.
I learned money could not buy permanent happiness. In fact I paid a kingly sum to work an additional 8 hours a week!
Job commented that evil people were successful when he said:
Job 21:13 (NIV)
13 They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace.
Job was looking at the external success, not what was in the heart. I was on my way to an early grave with that fish tank, not the success I thought I would gain.
So what was I doing wrong? What are a LOT of people doing wrong?
This happy hole inside us seems impossible to completely fill. It is sort of like what some people define as a yacht – a hole in the water where you continually throw lots of money.
So what is happiness? Since Andy touched on some of this idolatry a couple of weeks ago, I’ll turn to Wikipedia to help us.
Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
I have an idea of what intense joy can feel like. Just imaging the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl, The Phillies winning the World Series, the 76ers winning the NBA Finals and the Flyers winning the Stanley Cup – all in the same year!
Since I am not going to see that happen in my lifetime, I’ll settle on “contentment” as the definition.
I think of the many Thanksgiving dinners I have had. I have been fortunate to have many where I was totally satisfied and content. In fact I remember many meals where I have been totally content.
Still, this satisfaction only lasts for a few hours; maybe even half a day. What am I missing?
Paul has something to say about true happiness. Let us read his words together.
Please turn to Philippians 4:12.
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Paul has learned to be content in any situation. He didn’t need a huge Thanksgiving supper to be satisfied. In fact, he was content being hungry and poor.
Here is a man who was used to having the finer things in life and being well fed before he met Jesus when he was called Saul. Now he was content no matter what his situation!
I had no problem with the finer things in life. I could even accept and be satisfied with real luxury, like the Skybooth when a telephone company took me to a Niner’s game.
I was treated like a king with a fully catered dinner at halftime and a half-gallon of guacamole to accompany the big bowl of chips placed in front of everyone. And any adult libation you could think of.
I was living large!
They played the Eagles and my Philly team won.
I even had free valet parking! After the game we had more to eat and after the crowds thinned out, our cars were waiting for us right outside.
I had an impossible time being satisfied when I became homeless and hungry. What was I missing?
Paul didn’t have that difficulty. Evidently, he put aside all earthly things and concentrated on the spiritual things. On top of that, Paul took the spiritual and applied it to his life. Paul acted rather than sitting around singing Kumbaya.
Paul concentrated on doing what Jesus wanted him to do. Paul ignored possessions to concentrate on spreading the word of Jesus and strengthening the churches. Paul didn’t have a 150 gallon fish tank weighing him down.
I’m sure at one time Paul had that empty hole inside that yearned for happiness. All of us want to be happy. He just filled it by having a different perspective on life.
Paul wasn’t preaching a Prosperity Gospel to people. He was telling everyone the Good News of Jesus.
Paul wasn’t telling the churches “everything is gonna be all right.”
Paul knew about the good times and bad times. He also figured out that the goodness or hardships of the times did not matter when it came to the everlasting life that Jesus made possible.
Earlier in the sermon, I mentioned we would be talking about burgers again.
I want you to take a look at your Communication Card. Hold it up if you see a Smilie Face on the lower right-hand corner.
You are going to be able to enjoy some fleeting happiness with a gift card from In ‘N Out Burgers. Yes, you will be satisfied momentarily.
On top of that, you will be able to look up the various Bible verses that are printed on every wrapper, fries dish, drink cup and paper bag. Those Bible verses will bring you some lasting happiness.
So now we get back to Paul and how he accomplished being happy in all circumstances.
Let’s continue with Philippians 4:13:
13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
“Everything” is an interesting word. According to Wikipedia, everything is defined as the totality of things relevant to some subject matter. Without expressed or implied limits, it may refer to anything.
So, could Paul be like Superman and run faster than a speeding bullet? Could he leap tall buildings in a single bound? No, he couldn’t.
So everything does not really mean “everything”. Let’s look at it in context: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Paul is referring to Jesus. The King James translation says “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
When we read it this way, it really does look like Paul can do anything. Since he does it through the embedded power of Jesus the Messiah (which is the Holy Spirit), Paul can do everything that God desires.
The only thing that limited Paul was the desire of God. I am sure that if God wanted Paul to run faster than a speeding bullet, he never would have been put in prison; but we can see that was not what God wanted.
And Paul spent a lot of time in prison for spreading the Gospel of Jesus.
So, since Paul spent a lot of time doing what God desired, he could be satisfied in all circumstances, and here “all” really means ALL!
Here is a great example of Paul being happy in all circumstances:
Turn to Acts 16:22-24 (NIV)
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten.
23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.
24 Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Now here is the situation: Paul and Silas had been severely flogged. Their backs were bruised, cut and bleeding. Their legs were put in stocks so they couldn’t escape. The stocks raised their legs up which made sitting up very difficult and eventually they had to put their backs against the floor of the prison, which must have hurt a lot.
They had to be in pain. Do you think they were happy? Do you think they were satisfied in their situation?
Let’s continue reading Acts 16:25
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
They WERE HAPPY! They were satisfied even though they were in pain and in a difficult situation. They were singing praises to God AND the other prisoners were listening to them! They might not have been singing Kumbaya, but they were doing what God wanted.
Paul and Silas were letting their Christian light shine through by doing exactly what God wanted them to do.
Subsequently, God caused an earthquake that caused the cell doors to spring open and even the stocks that held their feet was opened.
The jailer started to take his sword to kill himself because that would have been a lot less painful death than what he would have received if the prisoners escaped. However, Paul and Silas did not leave the prison.
The jailer took them to his home, cleaned their wounds and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. AND his whole house was baptized!
Paul and Silas were doing what God desired and God made the seemingly impossible, possible.
This was what I was missing.
That Happiness hole on which I spent a small fortune to unsuccessfully fill is now easily filled. I am satisfied.
Last Sunday, Sam asked me if I had any worries about taking over the homeless work before I accepted the job as Office manager. My answer was no, not at all.
In fact, serving the homeless is very rewarding. Doing what God wishes fills the Happiness hole.
I am satisfied in what God is providing for me. I am happy!
Not only that, but I have the strength to continue to do whatever God desires.
All those years ago, spreading the Gospel of Jesus was not even a dream. And back them, I would not have had the strength to do what I am doing now.
Alone, I could not do hardly anything, but now that I have Jesus, I can do everything that God wishes me to do.
And if I can do this, surely everyone here can also have the strength to do what God wishes and be satisfied in all circumstances. Everyone here can be happy!
Everyone who has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and does what God wishes them to do can be Happy.
Remember: We can be satisfied in all circumstances through the power of Jesus.
Let us pray…