Do you ever wonder what happened to our joy as a culture? Americans used to be pretty happy folks, and anymore I just don’t think that’s the case. But you can leave the U.S. and go to another country, like a third-world country, and you would be shocked because the people living there are happy. And they have nothing. But here in the U.S.? We have everything. We have more than everything. We have every toy imaginable, every tool you could ever need, and more food than we could ever eat–but we still try.
So why aren’t we happy? Why aren’t we content? And what has to happen for us to change?
Today’s verses are Philippians 1:9-11.
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
I’ve posted many times on the difference between joy and happiness, and I recently learned that in the actual language of scripture the words actually mean the same thing. What’s different is where the concepts put their roots. In other words, happiness derived from circumstances can change, so if you are happy because your circumstances are happy, it won’t last. But happiness derived from knowing Christ is solid and strong and unchanging, and even if your circumstances change, God doesn’t. And that’s why, as believers, we can be happy even if our situation isn’t.
But how do we get there?
According to the text, the Church at Philippi was in a pretty good place, but they still had growing they could do. Paul wanted them to keep growing. They had love, but he wanted them to have more love. He wanted them to keep studying so that they could learn more about God and know Him more. He wanted them to understand what really mattered.
So what really matters? Apparently the Church at Philippi needed to grow in love and knowledge and understanding of God before they could grasp it. And the result, once they did grasp it, would be a pure and blameless life. And I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me. A pure and blameless life full of love, understanding and knowledge sounds like something I could be happy about.
So here’s the deal. If we want that kind of life, we have to understand what matters. And once we understand what matters, I think it will make a huge difference in our level of happiness too. Because we’re all so caught up in things that don’t matter we’ve forgotten how to be happy.
Look at your schedule today. Identify something you plan to accomplish that will produce results beyond right now. I’m willing to bet that the majority of our schedules aren’t filled with events that will change eternity. I mean, look at my list: work, laundry, dishes, housecleaning. I know what I plan to do today. And none of it will produce something eternally significant.
Or will it?
I’m going to work today. I have a job, and that’s what I’m supposed to do. But at the end of the day, it’s just a job. It’s something God has given me that allows me to provide for myself and others financially. But in the grand scheme, the job itself doesn’t matter. What matters is the people there. What matters are the relationships I’ve built. So what if I don’t get a raise? So what if I don’t get the position I wanted? So what if I have to skip lunch once in a while in order to get my projects done? It’s just a job, but the way I react to it will allow me to have an impact for Christ on the people around me. And that does matter. Because when the day is over, the job will still be there; but the people around me might not be.
And if we take that perspective with everything in our lives, I think our attitudes might change a little. Whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or a vacation to one of the coasts, we all have stuff going on, but in those events you have to identify the aspects that matter. And how do we do that?
Well, the things in our lives that matter are the things that matter to God. The little unimportant things are necessary sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we have to dwell on them. And that doesn’t mean they have to take up more time than their level of importance deserves.
You want to be happy? I believe this is the first step. Understand what’s important to God and make that a priority in your life. Stop spending so much time and energy on the details that don’t matter. Stop fretting over pieces of your life that won’t make a difference in eternity. Identify what really matters and what really doesn’t. And let the other stuff go.