We all dream of a trouble-free life made possible by something. In this episode, Andy explores what really makes people happy.
- How would you define the word happiness? How do you think your definition has influenced the ways you’ve chosen to pursue happiness?
- Are you at peace with yourself, others, and God? If not, what stands in the way?
- In what are you currently seeking happiness? What is one thing you can do this week to try Jesus as your source of happiness? What can this group do to support you?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
So we’re beginning a brand new series and I thought we should begin this brand new series with the title of the series with the question mark at the end and so here’s the question as we begin, what makes you happy? What makes you happy? The title of this series can be a question but could also be a statement, in fact it could actually be a promise as in, for the next few weeks I’m going to tell you, and this is offensive, especially if this is your first time joining us, for the next few weeks I’m going to tell you what makes you happy. And the reason I’m going to tell you what makes you happy is because some of you, not many of you but some of you, and again this just seems offensive, some of you really don’t know what makes you happy. And the reason, and the way to tell if whether or not you know what makes you happy, is if you keep trying to be happy, and you’re not happy, it may be you don’t know how to be happy. Imagine that. Now if you think it’s kind of strange for someone who doesn’t know you to make a promise like that, just remember every time you open up a magazine, every time you listen to the radio, every time you go onto the internet, every time you watch television, there are people that you have never met and places you have never visited, creating commercials and ads and all kinds of things that promise you how to be happy. And we spend a lot of time and a lot of money, wasted a lot of time, wasted a lot of money, and if you’re still not happy maybe, and I know it’s offensive, maybe you don’t know the answer to the question what makes you happy. For most of us, I think that’s a small percentage of us, for most of us the reason this is important is because we have forgotten what makes us happy.
So we’re just gonna jump right in with one of the most important things we’re going to say during this entire series. And this is one of those things that you know, but every once in a while we all need to be reminded of, and that’s simply this: That happiness is more about who than what. Happiness is more about who than what. This is one of the earliest lessons we learn in life, we learned it in the backyard because you were in the backyard playing with a bunch of whos, and it didn’t really matter what you had. Then you went to elementary school, and if you found your group of who, it didn’t really matter what you had. And then you went to middle school and high school and it didn’t really matter what you had, as long as you had the right bunch of whos, and as long as you’re included in the right group of whos. Isn’t that true. Because happiness really is more about a who than a what. So let me say it in a little different way. Happiness is always associated with a who or two. It’s true. Happiness is always associated with a who or two. If you had to think about it. If happiness was about a what, we could just all go out and get our happy what and we’d just be happy all the time. And it wouldn’t matter how you’d treated me, I could just go home and get my happy what because this is what makes me happy. And then everybody would be happy. But do you know what? And we know this, this is all a reminder, happy what, we know this, happy what always lead to happy what else. Happy what always leads to happy what’s next. It’s caffeine happiness, right? It just wears off over time. You were as excited about your old phone when you got your old phone as when you got your new phone but your new phone isn’t new anymore and then it got old and so you needed a new phone and you were just as elated when you got the new one but you were that elated when you got the old one. Same with your car. Same with your job. Maybe same with some other things, you know? Because here’s, here’s the thing, this is important, OK? Don’t let your mind wander, here’s, this is important.
If an aging what, this is, if an aging what deflates your happiness, you weren’t happy to begin with. Some more evidence simply this, parents, and if you’re younger and you live with your parents or in and out of the house with your parents you should know this and you can leverage this just don’t tell them where you heard this, but parents are never any happier than their most unhappy child. Parents, its very difficult for a parent to get their happiness to eclipse the happiness of their most unhappy child. We just go there, the same is true for marriage. If you love your wife, it’s hard to get happier than your wife, it’s hard to get happier than your most unhappy child. Why is that? Because happiness, your happiness, my happiness, really is at the end of the day, it is tied to a who not a what. Now here’s a more, you know, sensitive topic, but I think, this above all things just drives us to how powerful this is. If you have ever, as a couple, if you’ve ever struggled with infertility, or if you’re a couple right now and you are struggling with infertility you understand that no matter what you own, what you drive, where you live, what you wear, you know, vacation, it doesn’t matter, if you’re in the process of trying to bring another who into your family, it is hard, hard, hard, to maintain any level of happiness while you’re struggling with infertility.
And then, you know, the last piece of evidence then we’ll move on is simply this: in the end, you’ll have relational, not possessional regrets. At the end of your life, if you have regrets, they will be relational regrets, they will not be possessional regrets. In the end, nobody makes things right with a what, right? You’re gonna make peace with some whos because happiness is relational in nature. Now, when you hear that, there’s a group of you, primarily men, I’ll just be honest, and here’s what we think when we hear that. Yeah, yeah, but I gotta tell you, I don’t need anyone. I don’t need anyone in order to be happy. I don’t need anybody in my life, I don’t need anyone in order to be happy, I can be happy without anyone. So let me just say something to you real quick, then we’re gonna shift gears for just a second, OK? There’s two kinds of people that say I don’t need anyone in order to be happy. Group number one, you have so many people in your life, you have never experienced life without people who are your friends, your family, or someone who loves you. So you have been so inundated with love and acceptance, you don’t know what it’s like to be isolated. So it’s easy for you, it’s like someone with lots and lots of food saying I don’t need food, well of course you’ve never needed food, you’ve always had food. So people with lots of relational options it’s easy to say: Oh I don’t need anybody to happy. That’s group number one.
The second group is the group that can’t fix their isolation so they tell themselves they’re fine. They can’t in other words they’re relationally isolated and they can’t fix it and since they don’t think they can fix it they just tell themselves: I’m fine, I’m fine, I don’t need anybody, I am a rock, I am an island. And this is so dangerous in fact if you’re in that second group you really need to be a part of this series because you were not designed to do life in isolation. It is not healthy and ultimately you are robbing someone of your relationship, your companionship, your friendship, and your support. Let me just say it this way when we can’t get what we want we tell ourselves we don’t really want it. This is just a defense mechanism and all of us probably at some, at some point in our lives or in some season of our lives have lied to ourselves or bought into this lie, when we can’t get what we want we just tell ourselves, you know what? I don’t really want one of those, I didn’t really want that, I didn’t want that anyway, and in some cases it doesn’t matter but when it comes to relationships this is a deadly and unhealthy way to think, because you were designed with relationship in mind.
Any questions so far? On the same page so let’s review what we’ve said so far here it is. What, here’s the question, what makes you happy? No thing, nothing, no thing. So what makes you happy? No thing makes you happy. No thing.
Now we’re going to talk about the role of things and happiness and why we use things. We’re going to get to that later but at the end of the day no thing can make you happy. Now there is one thing that’s not really a thing that every happy person has. And when I say thing, this is something you can’t hold in your hand. It’s intangible, it’s a little squishy, it’s a little ooey gooey, but there is one thing that every happy person has. Here’s what they have, and maybe you’ve never thought of it in these terms, but here’s what they have: they have peace. Peace. On the inside they’re fine. They have peace. Happy people have peace. Specifically, specifically happy people are at peace, and happy people are at peace with themselves. Happy people are at peace with themselves. You know what I mean by that? I mean when you’re with them, they may be rich or poor, they may be extroverts or introverts, they may have a lot, they have a little, they may be married, single, divorced, I mean they may have kids, no kids, but when you’re around these people, they’re just they’re comfortable in their own skin. They’re not warring with themselves. They’re not trying to be something they’re not. They’re not trying to pretend to be something they’re not. They’re just, they’re just at peace with themselves. Wouldn’t that be fantastic. The other thing that you’ll notice or discover about happy people is that happy people are at peace with other people. They’re not angry with somebody, even if they’ve been mistreated. They’re not bitter, and you hear their story and you think how could you not be bitter and they say, well I, I just kind of moved on, I forgave. Happy people aren’t churning on the inside trying to live out some story and get back at somebody and get revenge and get paid back and get everything back to even, trying to reclaim something or force somebody to do something for them. Happy people, and happy people who’ve had great lives, happy people who have had miserable lives, by you know, any standard, you find people in both categories and they’re just at peace with themselves and again, you hear their story and you’re tempted to take up their offense at their mama or their daddy or their uncle or that neighbor or that boss or that partner, you’re tempted to take up their offense and they’re like, no it’s OK. And you’re thinking it is not OK, and they are saying no, it’s OK, and you think what is that? That’s peace. And then the other thing that you’ll discover with some happy people, a lot of happy people, but I’m not going to argue all happy people, that oftentimes when you meet somebody who is truly happy, they are at peace with God. That even if it’s not the view of God that you share there’s something about, they believe there’s more to this life, than this life. And they believe there’s some sort of divine sense of purpose. They believe that in the end, somehow there’s going to be justice. Things are going to work out. And they just have a confidence in God that allows them to walk through stuff that would otherwise steal somebody’s peace, joy, or happiness.
Now if all of this is true, all of this is true, and we’re going to switch gears again, if all of what I’ve said is true, then this is this is worth paying attention for, if I’ve lost your attention. Look up here for a second. Anything, this is so important, anything that undermines your peace ultimately undermines your happiness. And every single one of us, if you give us a minute to think about it, can think about a situation in life, a circumstance in life, or relationship in life, a season of our life, where we made a decision that undermined our relationship with God, our relationship with our self, our relationship with someone else, and it is a regret. And if we could go back to that weekend, that weekend or season of life we would like to redo it because we are carrying around a regret and it is begun to chip away at our current happiness. Anything that undermines your peace. In other words when you’re about to make a decision and there’s something in you that’s like, I don’t know, you are on the verge, look up here, you are on the verge potentially of undermining your own happiness because happy people are at peace with themselves, others and often times God.
Here is something that Christians have discovered. Now if you don’t like the word Christian that’s OK. Did you know the term Christian only shows up about two or three times in the whole Bible? That really a more accurate description of what we’re about is Jesus followers, because throughout his ministry Jesus didn’t say become a Christian, become a Christian, become a Christian. He never said that. He said follow me, follow me, follow me. So one thing that Jesus followers or Christians have discovered is this: Peace with God, peace with God, paves the way to peace with ourselves, we’re going to talk about that, and equips us to make peace with others. That peace with God, paves the way to peace with ourselves and equips us to make peace with others. In fact, most of the New Testament, most of the New Testament is about how to be at peace with other people. In fact when Jesus was asked, one of the most profound questions, he was asked, he was asked a lot of silly questions because they’re always trying to trick him, and trap him, but Jesus when he was asked a very, very important question by a lawyer, essentially says what I just said. So one day a lawyer walks up the Jesus and says: Jesus you know us Jewish folk, we have a lot of laws, there’s over six hundred laws, which, which one do you think is God’s favorite? Which one do you think is the greatest, the most important commandment? Now the guy asking the question, he had an answer in mind, and traditionally Jewish people had an answer to this question but he wanted to know what Jesus thought, so they give the significance of this question. Jesus, who claims to be from God, Jesus of all the laws which law do you think is most important? So here’s how this conversation goes. Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Which one is most important? Now before I go further we don’t generally think of laws and commandments of having anything to do with happiness. In fact we think of laws and commandments as getting in the way of our happiness. So I want you to listen to Jesus’s question through the filter of what we have said so far. This is so profound because when you ask someone what your favorite command, or what’s the greatest command, what’s the greatest law? You think you’d be something like, well don’t ever, are you better, or you better start, it should have something to do with maybe money or sex or greed or power or generosity or compassion, or you know don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal. I mean there’s so many he could have chosen from. So Jesus, what do you think the greatest commandment is and since you speak for God what do you think God thinks the most important commandment is? And listen to this answer, through the grid of what we’ve said about happiness so far. Jesus answered. Jesus replied love. No, no maybe you misunderstood. I’m asking the greatest command, give me a thou shall not or thou shall. I mean give me like a real command. Love. OK, maybe you didn’t understand the question. Commands like do’s and don’ts. I’m answering your question, love. OK but see love isn’t like a command word, love is like a relationship word. I understood the question. Love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Which doesn’t sound very commanding, does it? It sounds extraordinarily relational, in fact we’re going to see this going on in the series. It’s like Jesus said, let me tell you what’s most important. The most important commandment is about peace with God.
Wow. But then as you probably know Jesus doesn’t stop there. Listen to how he brings the other two components of our happiness equation into the discussion. This is a first and the greatest command and the second is like it. Which means the second is equal to it. It means you can’t do one without the other. This is a package deal. And the second is like it, and here’s are two other categories: and love your neighbor. Others as yourself. Now if you’re not a Jesus follower, or you’re new, or you’ve been out of church for a while, or maybe you don’t normally read the Bible, I cannot overestimate how profound Jesus’s answer to this question is, because here’s essentially what Jesus is saying: what’s most important to me is peace with God, others, and yourself. Jesus what’s most important? Peace with God, peace with others, and peace with yourself. Jesus tell us what’s most important you said so many things we don’t understand half of them, I mean the whole parable thing I mean whatever, but just clear it up for us OK? Jesus, what is the most important thing? Love God, that is make peace with God, love your neighbor, make peace with your neighbor, as you love yourself, which means you have to be at peace with yourself. Well Jesus that kind of sounds like you think we should be happy. I do. It is core to who we are, and Jesus says, it’s not just a secondary thing, it is at the core of what I think and your heavenly Father thinks is most important. Now, when I was young I was, I thought a lot like many of you think, and I think this is just part of being young, but when I was young, I thought that God was in the way of my happiness. That God was in the way of happiness. And since Jesus spoke for God, I just thought Jesus was in the way of happiness. Be a good Christian or be happy. Be a good whatever religion you are a part of or be happy. There was such a conflict, and here’s what I know about you and what I know about me. We will not stay in unhappy circumstances for very long unless we have a very, very, very good reason, because you are on to some extent a happiness quest. And as we’re going to discover next week, don’t miss next week, that is OK. But the truth is, your heavenly Father, who has revealed through Jesus what is most important to him that actually ties in to what is most important to you, even though you may not have thought about it in those terms, is actually not in the way of your happiness. God actually provides the way to happiness. Which means to resist God, think of this, to resist God is actually to resist happiness. To resist your heavenly Father, at the end of the day is ultimately to resist happiness. In fact I would guess, and I don’t know you, but I would guess if you were to stand up here today and share with us your greatest regret, the things that you wish you could go back and undo, I would bet ninety nine percent of us, in fact maybe one hundred percent of us, when you got finished explaining your greatest regret, part of what created your greatest regret was that you broke your peace. You abandoned your peace with yourself, with others, or with God. And by messing with your peace it made you unhappy. And Jesus invites you to make peace with God, to make peace with yourself, and to make peace with others. Because at the end of the day, happiness is more about a who than a what.
Now, switching gears one more time, we’ve got to talk about one other idea than as we launch into this series we’re going to bring all these things back around and kind of mix them up and talk about him in a lot of different ways, but I’ve got to introduce one other idea before we wrap this up and this is kind of a downer, OK, we’ve got to talk about this word right here. Sin. So let’s just all say it together. Sin. Yes sin. Then OK. Sin. Now for the next five minutes just for the next five minutes I want you, here’s how I want you to define sin. If you’re a Christian like me then you should define sin the way the New Testament defines sin, OK. If you’re Jewish you should define sin the way that the Jewish scriptures define sin and maybe if you’re Christian you can do both. You can grab some of those Old Testament, thall shalt, shall nots in the Ten Commandments and the New Testament. OK if you’re of a different religion than you just use your definition of sin, it doesn’t matter. If you’re not religious at all, in fact if you just think this is the most ridiculous word and this is the cause of all human heartbreak and suffering in the world because religion is at the, is the root of all evil. I get that, you have plenty of evidence to make your case, OK. So if you’re in that camp I just want you to define sin just for the next five minutes, as whatever you think other people shouldn’t do or whatever you think you shouldn’t do that sometimes you do anyway. That sin. we all, in other words, we all fall, this is important, we all fall short of our own standards, right? So let’s just define sin in the broadest way. Sin is falling short of whatever you think your standards are. As a Christian I’d go with the New Testament. If you’re Jewish, then Old Testament. If you’re a different religion, your own literature. So sin. Now here’s what is true of all sin no matter how broadly you define it. Following me? Sin separates. It separates you from others. In fact when you think about your last relational conflict, somebody sinned. In fact both people thought the other person sinned. It’s your fault. No it’s your fault. No it you’re, well it can’t be both of our fault, well it could be both of our fault, but it can’t be none of our fault. Right?
The lie. When you’re, you know you think about your previous marriage, something at work, that boss, that employee, they lied, they cheated, you know I’ll never talk to him again, I hope I never see them again, I hope I don’t run into him in Kroger, you know whatever your deal is. When you think about your last relational conflict, somebody did something you don’t think they ought to do, and it may have been you, or maybe they did this much and you showed them you did this much, and then they did this much, and by the time the whole thing was over, you don’t know how it started, but you’re, I mean that relationship is over. It’s over because of sin. Sin always separates. When you bring sin into a relationship, you have begun to erode that relationship. When you bring sin, you define it anyway you want. When you bring sin into a relationship, you begin to erode the peace between you and that other person. When you interject or when sin creeps into a relationship, it begins to erode your happiness. But sin also separates us from God. Now this is one of the most misunderstood things in all of the New Testament, and in all of the Bible, and in all of Christianity. So let me try to explain it real quick. You see the reason, the primary reason actually, not the only reason, but the primary reason that sin separates you from God is this: when you sin against another person you sin against someone that God loves. You cannot be OK with God and not be OK with someone God loves. You can’t possibly mistreat my children and then when you see me say we’re cool right? I mean it’s just your son. But, but we’re good right? No we’re not good. You mistreat my son, you’ve mistreated me. You can’t be OK with me if you mistreat the people I love. The reason that there’s all those things we should and shouldn’t do in the New Testament isn’t because God just ran out of things to do and he’s just kept coming up with more rules. God loves the person that you’re in conflict with. So when sin creeps into a relationship with someone else, that sin has crept into your relationship with God. Because when you have offended someone else, you’ve offended the God who loves him and vice versa. Sin separates us from other people. Sin separates us from God. And then here’s the biggest one of all I think. This is one we’ll spend a whole week talking about. Sin separates you from yourself. In fact everybody listening and everybody watching could fill in this blank. If I ever, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. Think about that phrase. I can’t live with myself. I can’t live with myself. I can’t face myself in the mirror. I don’t want to think about what I’ve done. I can’t be alone because my mind just goes back to that silly stupid destructive decision I made. Here’s what we all know. You can have a bad relationship with yourself.
And we all already knew that. There’s a thing about sin. Sin separates by substituting. We’re going to spend a whole week on this topic too, because this is huge. Sin separates us from others, from God, and from ourselves by substituting. Sin substitutes, like pleasure for fulfillment, things for people, images for intimacy. Sin substitutes experience for exclusivity. And sometimes sin, oftentimes sin substitutes the immediate for the ultimate. So in that way, sin makes a promise that sin can’t keep. Sin makes a happy promise that sin can’t keep. Sin is not your friend. Because at the end of the day, it undermines your happiness. It kills. And ultimately it kills relationships. Now I want to show you one verse real quick, then we’re going to wrap this up. This is from the Book of James. James was the brother of Jesus, which is like the coolest thing ever. The brother of Jesus. I just, when you think about that, it’s like hey James when you run out to the well and get some, nevermind Jesus, would you run out to the well and bring in water, you know? Gotta get that. Just think about it. OK how about this one. Hey James, no need to cook tonight Jesus cooked last night and there are plenty of leftovers. Still didn’t get it. OK just think for a few minutes about what it would be like to grow up with your little brother, you know, and your big brother’s Jesus, your Jesus’s little brother. OK. So James, who becomes a Jesus follower, which is extraordinary. He writes one of the most profound things in all the New Testament when it comes to this topic of sin. You should read the Bible, even if you’re not sure it’s inspired, that’s OK. Listen to what he says, this is so powerful, he says then, and we’re jumping into the middle of a conversation or a dial, or something he wrote, so not giving you the context, then after desire, we all know what that is, after desire has conceived that is it’s you know, it’s just the beginnings, it gives birth to sin. And sin, I love this, when it is full grown, and think of the imagery, he says sin is born, it’s like, that’s a baby sin, And you know, it’s not going to hurt anybody. When sin is full-grown. When sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. Every one of us have experienced this. We allow a little baby sin into a relationship, then it became full grown sin, and now you don’t know where she is. And you know where he is, and he won’t call, he won’t come home, and you don’t want to see her again, and she says she never wants to see you again, and you lost that job and it just started with a little baby cute little sin. James says, I’m warning you, when sin becomes a part of a relationship it ultimately destroys the relationship, and when you are not at peace with others, and aren’t at peace with God, and if you are not at peace with yourself because a little baby sin became a full grown sin, you’re not happy. It breaks my heart to watch people unintentionally undermine their own happiness, and then spend a season of their life trying to be happy in ways that will not ever make them happy. As we’re going to discover next week, Jesus talks all about it, you were born with the capacity for happiness, and it is more under your control than you may have ever imagined.
So let’s tie the whole thing together, OK. To summarize, ready, here we go, to summarize, since happy, as we said at the beginning, since happy is about who not what, right, and since happy people, as we’ve said several times, since happy people are at peace with themselves, others, and possibly, you know I would, I realize it could be two out of three, and possibly God.