Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus, our flesh is frail and it is easy to be sucked into temptation. It is easy to let this morally bankrupt world dictate to us not only what is important, but what constitutes true happiness. And when we accept the world’s definition, all we do is continue searching for more, more, and more. Lord, today remind us to come home to You. Remind us that happiness and contentment are found in You and in Your love and forgiveness. Yes, remind us that in You our search is over. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF ALL GOOD THINGS!
TEXT: Ephesians 4: 17-24
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Happiness. Everyone wants it. Everyone seeks it. Very few have it. How many people do you know who are truly happy and content? How many folks within your sphere of influence are content with their car and don’t desire a new one? How many turn down a raise because they say: “I’ve got enough to live on, why would I want more money?” How many go to the mall to shop only when something wears out and it needs replacement? How many never desire a bigger house, more jewelry, or a vacation? How many refuse a job advancement because they’re totally in love with their current position? How many are happy in their job and couldn’t dream of retiring because they’re already having more fun than they can imagine? How many are so in love with their spouse that they never, ever, look at another handsome man or attractive woman and think: “What if?” The sad truth is: such people are rare, if not impossible to find.
The fuel that drives human life is greed and discontent. It is the lust for more, more, and more. It is pride which always wants to believe “I’m better than that person over there, and now I have to prove it.” But such an approach to life only feeds on itself so that when one goal toward happiness is achieved, another rears its ugly head until we just want to scream: “Let me off this madcap merry-go-round!”
Well, if you’ve ever felt that way, today you’ve come to the right place. For today’s lesson clearly tells us that:
THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS ENDS WITH CHRIST!
Without Christ there is no meaning or real purpose to your life. Let me repeat that. Without Christ, there is no real meaning for purpose to your life. Without knowing that everything you do—taking the kids to school, slogging off to work each day, making food, paying bills, doing repairs around the house, forging friendships—without knowing that by engaging in those tasks you’re actually honoring God and reaping His blessings, life is meaningless.
Look at the average American. Kids are told to work hard in school in order to have a good job. And then after they study and apply themselves—going into debt to fund the college degree–they can look forward to about 40 years of giving up most of their time just to earn money and survive. We semi-affectionately call this the “rat race” because that’s what we feel like—rats in a maze. We yearn for those few weeks “off” during the year when vacation time rolls around. And then when on vacation we worry about how we’re going to survive until the next respite comes along. If you’re thinking: “Pastor, that is a very negative and fatalistic view of life”—you’re right! It is! But it is reality for most people.
I like to watch the late news to see what’s happened during the day. Because I don’t like going to bed at 11:30, I usually try to catch one of those 10 p.m. newscasts. Invariably I park myself in front of the TV about 9:45 and channel surf until one comes on. And what do I see?—Reality T.V. Sad to say, those silly shows are reality, too. The back-stabbing, the silly emotional games the contestants play with each other, the lewd, shameful behavior they exhibit are a microcosm of the average American’s life today. It’s sad. It’s sad to see how empty people actually are inside. Humbleness, love, forgiveness, compassion, happiness and contentment—you just don’t see those things on “reality T.V.”
St. Paul sums up this inner bankruptcy when he writes: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”
So, if you’re not happy with life and not content with your situation, what are you going to do about it? Adopting the thinking that to be happy “All I need is more money, or a new “toy” or more time to play” is just a continuation of the rat race that brought you such discontent in the first place. Seeking happiness by employing worldly principles will only prolong the agony you seek to escape from.—That’s Paul’s message
But, God really does have a better idea! His way to true happiness is to embrace Christ, Who has already embraced You with His life-changing forgiveness. “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Did you notice the many references to Christ in this little section? Paul continually uses the words: “Christ, of him, in him, in Jesus.” Jesus is God’s answer to our unhappy discontent. Jesus has a way out of the rat race for us. He triumphed over pride with humility. He destroyed hate with love. He died to and for sin—our former way of life—and in its place has given us the knowledge that our lives are all about honoring Him and appreciating blessings—from the greatest to the least.
Through faith Jesus has transformed us. He arose from the grave a new creation—for us! Thus, through faith we really are new creations, too! We’re holy. We’re righteous. We’re important to God Almighty! After all, He invested His life-blood in and for us! So, through faith you and I can look at life with new eyes. We can be sensitive to others. We can view whatever occurs in our lives as opportunities to honor Him instead of just hard work. And when we do so, happiness follows.
For the believer, life holds no surprises. We know we’re here to glorify God and we also know where we’re going when this life is ended. So, the search for happiness, your happiness, is ended in Christ! For He makes all things new and makes joy our reality. And if you don’t believe what I’ve just told you, or what St. Paul has written, listen anew to the Savior Himself when He says: “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out, but having food and clothing, let us be content with that.” Amen