Posts Tagged With: happiness

2 Corinthians 7: Godly Sadness

If I did make you sad by my letter, I don’t regret it; and, if I did regret it, it was because I saw that I made you sad for a while by what I had written.  Anyway, I’m celebrating now, not because you were saddened, but because your sadness brought you to repentance.  It was sadness from God, you see, and it did you no harm at all on our account; because God’s way of sadness is designed to produce a repentance which leads to salvation, and there is nothing to regret there!  But the world’s way of sadness produces death. (7:8-10)

We don’t like sadness in our culture.  Life is supposed to be happy all of the time.  Nothing but butterflies and rainbows.

Of course, you can’t have rainbows without rain clouds and butterflies emerge from a strenuous battle with a cocoon.

I am afraid that this “happy-all-the-time” mentality has seeped into American Christianity too.  We expect God to smooth every road before us.  Life with Jesus is supposed to be a charmed life.  Surely, hard times are punishment.  And those who bring hard words of correction are not welcomed people at all.

At some point prior to 2 Corinthians, Paul has written a “sad letter” to this church.  This description doesn’t really fit the tone of 1 Corinthians, so many scholars think Paul is referring to another, lost letter to the Corinthians.  Clearly, Paul had hard things to say.  Things the church did not want to hear.  Things that made them ashamed of themselves.  Those are uncomfortable letters to write and conversations to have, and Paul confesses he regretted having to write such a letter.  Yet, the sadness the letter produced was exactly what the Corinthians needed.  It woke them up and they acknowledged in repentance that Paul was right.  A momentary spate of sadness created a wholesale change of direction.  Truly, “there is nothing to regret there!”

This sort of godly sadness is absolutely necessary, and it reminds us that not all we greet as bad is necessarily so.  Godly sadness created changes and results in salvation and redemption of that which is lost, broken and dying in our lives.  Godly sadness is what makes rainbows and butterflies possible.  There is always hope underlying the sadness.

There is a worldly sadness that is rightly undesirable.  Worldly sadness is nothing but rain and there are no silver linings.  Worldly sadness sweeps the cocoon away in a torrent and butterflies never emerge.  Worldly sadness offers nothing but death.  Hope is nowhere to be found.

When was a rebuke the most appropriate word you have ever received?  

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Philippians 4: Pray In All Situations

Contentment does not mean we do not have needs.  Of course, we will still be in need.  Later in chapter 4 Paul talks about being in need and how the Philippians provided for him at that time.  Contentment can remain even when we are not comfortable with what we have and the situation we are in.

Paul gives us one more secret for how that is possible:

Don’t worry about anything.  Rather, in every area of life let God know what you want, as you pray and make requests, and give thanks as well.  And God’s peace, which is greater than we can ever understand, will keep guard over our hearts and minds in King Jesus. (4:6-7)

Secret to Contentment #4:  Pray!  Pray fervently!  Pray all the time, in any situation!  Say what is on your mind.  Ask for what you need.  Thank Him for what He has already done.  Surrender to God’s will.  Express your willingness to trust Him.  As we remember what God has done for us in the past, prayer helps contentment to become real and solidifying our hearts.

What have we learned about contentment from Philippians?

There is a way past anxiety and on to contentment and joy in all situations.  It is not by eliminating need as if that were possible.  It is not by attaining all we want and fulfilling all we desire; when do we ever reach that point?  As we fix our focus past this present world and on to the rewards and reality of the world to come, as we face realistically our needs and give those to God in prayer, as we become oriented more towards serving others than ourselves, we can be rest assured that God is in control of all things and our futures will be okay.  Paul never promises a life without struggle or a life filled only with blessings — remember where he was when he was writing this letter — but Paul is sure of this:

I have strength for everything in the one who gives me power. (4:13)

What have YOU learned?

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Philippians 3: Looking to Heaven

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. — C. S. Lewis

Which is the real world, this one or the one to come?  Well, both really.  It is not realistic nor compassionate to expect people to ignore this world as a place of no consequence.  We have families here.  We fall in love here.  We experience and inflict real hurt here.  We work at jobs here that are intended and do have real consequences.

Maybe the better question is which world has enduring value and therefore is worth orienting our life towards?

Several times Paul tells the Philippians Christians (and us) that they will find contentment by attaching to the hereafter rather than the here and now.

Paul pulls out his resume, which by Jewish standards was quite impressive (3:4-6).  Then he declared,

Does that sound as tough my account was well in credit?  Well, maybe; but whatever I had written in on the profit side, I calculated it instead as a loss — because of the Messiah.  Yes, I know that’s weird, but there’s more: I calculate everything as a loss, because knowing King Jesus as my Lord is worth far more than everything else put together! (3:7-8a)

Paul is eager “to forget everything that’s behind, and to strain every nerve to go after what’s ahead” (3:13).  After all, “we are citizens of heaven” (3:20), not Philippi, Rome, Memphis, America or anywhere else.  “Our present body is a shabby old thing” but the “glorious body” is coming (3:21).  Paul’s eyes are firmly fixed on what is to come, not the present roller coaster ride he is presently on.

Secret to Contentment #3:  Attach your heart to the New Creation where long-lasting treasure is found, and there will always be a better day coming.

What struck you in this chapter?

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Philippians 2: Look Out for Others, Not Yourself

All day long we are feed the message that if we want to be happy and content we will have to have what we want.  In marketing it is called the “you sale.”  Buy this product and you will be happy.  Wear this product and you will be more attractive and self-assured.  Go into debt to get a bigger or better one of these and you will find peace.  You want it.  Or maybe you even deserve it.  You’ll be happy when you get it your way.

Be sure to read the fine print! WOW!

Then Paul comes along, claiming as he has that he had discover how to be content, and he says this:

Bring your thinking into line with one another.  Here’s how to do it.  Hold on to the same love; bring your innermost lives into harmony; fix your minds on the same object.  Never act out of selfish ambition or vanity; instead, regard everybody else as your superior.  Look after each other’s best interests, not your own. (2:2b-4)

Secret to Contentment #2:  Stop trying to find contentment in self-fulfillment.  You will be happiest when you serve others and pursue their best interests.

What did you see in this chapter about contentment?

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Philippians 1: God Is in Control

Many of us live lives full of anxiety and insecurity.  This only leads to a loss of joy and contentment.  In 4:11 Paul claims to have learned how to be content no matter the circumstances.

There is much to consider in Philippians and any of it would be interesting and worthwhile.  However, as we read through each chapter, I have chosen each day to concentrate on Paul’s secrets to a life of contentment and joy.

 

Paul begins his book with great confidence in the future of the Philippians:

Of this I’m convinced: the one who began a good work in you will thoroughly complete it by the day of King Jesus. (1:6)

He has also been able to see how God has used his imprisonment to “help the gospel on it’s way” and to bring “new confidence to most of the Lord’s family” (1:12-14).

Though Paul desired for his own sake to go to be with God, he was able to be content with however long he lived because it meant he still had chances to benefit others in the Lord (1:21-27).

In the point that may be most astounding to me in this chapter, Paul is able to rejoice even in the preaching of false teachers seeking only power and money because at least the good news about Jesus is being spread (1:18).  That’s a new way to view the Jim Bakkers and Ted Haggards that make Christianity seem so corrupt.

Secret To Contentment #1:  Anchor your confidence in God’s ability to orchestrate the future in the way He knows is best rather than your own ability and foresight, and joy and peace can be much more constant.  God is in control and it’s going to be okay.

What did you learn today?

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James 1: Learning to Rejoice in Suffering

Scholars who study the book of James say this letter defies any attempt to structure and organize James’ thoughts.  Again like Proverbs, James jumps from topic to topic.  This is the kind of book where one verse or small passage in a chapter will catch the eye and speak to the heart.  Because of that, I imagine each of us will have different reactions to each chapter.

In chapter one I was drawn to the way Wright worded verse 2:

My dear family, when you find yourselves tumbling into various trials and tribulations, learn to look at it with complete joy.

I remember reading this verse for the first time, in the New International Version:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

I remember thinking, “What? Are you kidding?  Be glad about hard times?  No way!  Surely not!”

But I had missed the first two words, “consider it.”  In other words, choose to think of it as a blessing.  This is not a reaction that comes naturally.  That is why I like Wright’s way of saying it, “Learn to look at it with complete joy.”  This is a frame of mind that comes with time and training.

May we learn little by little that the fires of life aren’t meant to burn us up, rather they refine us and make us pure!

When did a hardship turn out to be a great blessing?

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