In week two of our series, “Happy,” we study Philippians 1:12-26. The message is titled “Four ways to be unhappy.” It’s a great video to share with your worst enemy.
Actually what we do is contrast four ways to be unhappy with what Paul does in his life.
Happiness is being studied and written about more than ever before, but we’re actually rooting this series in the letter to the Philippians written by the apostle Paul, because God is pro-joy.Read More
Alright, this is week 2 in our series, “Happy.”
We’re in this series because everyone wants to be happy.
Happy is being studied and written about more than ever before.
But we’re actually rooting this series in a letter to the Philippians written by the apostle Paul a couple thousand years ago… because God is pro-joy.
The writers of Scripture command us to be joyful.
It’s the Evil One who actually wants us to be unhappy.
What I want to do today is read through a passage in the book of Philippians, and then I want to contrast 4 ways to be unhappy with what Paul actually does in his life with God.
If you want to follow along, we’ll be in Philippians 1, starting with verse 12.
This is what Paul says:
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.
The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.
And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
This is the extraordinary life of this man, Paul.
Alright, let’s dig in — 4 ways to be unhappy in contrast with what Paul does.
If you want to be unhappy, believe happiness will come when your circumstances are the way you want them to be.
If this is what you believe, guess how long you’ll wait to be happy.
Notice a phrase Paul uses in verse 12.
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.
Pays says, “I want you to know that what has happened to me…”
This is so important. He uses the same phrase again in verse 19. You might want to mark it if you have your Bible open.
I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
In other words, Paul says, “My circumstances, my situation…” — what he calls “what has happened to me…” — he’s most likely referring to the fact that he’s in prison of all things.
If you were thrown into a Roman prison, it probably wouldn’t make you feel happy.
Paul says, “I want you to know how I feel about what has happened to me and how I view my circumstances. You might think I would be discouraged sitting in prison. To the contrary.”
It has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
Now in ancient times, prisoners were often physically chained to their guards.
Paul is chained to soldiers in what he calls the palace guard. That is Caesar’s guard. Kind of like the secret service. Caesar’s soldiers.
He can tell them about Jesus all day long, and they can’t get away because they’re chained to him.
Paul is saying, “I’ve been trying to figure out how to get the gospel to Rome, to the palace, to Caesar, (usually you have to bribe someone to do that), but now Caesar is chaining his guys to me. They can’t get away. I can say, ‘Do you want to hear about Jesus?’ and they can’t go anywhere.”
Paul doesn’t think he’s their prisoner; he thinks they’re his prisoner.
Paul says, “Because of what is happening to me, not only is the Gospel being spread to Caesar’s people, but also I’m facing this with courage and joy because Jesus is here and Jesus is at work as he always is… Because of that, other people are looking at what is going on, and it’s kind of getting them fired up.
“They’re saying, ‘Well, if Paul can live that way than I can live that way…’ because joy and courage are contagious.”
Paul says, “I want you to know how I view what’s happening to me.”
We looked last week at what we called the happiness paradox, that I can never be happy if my ultimate goal is for me to be happy.
If I choose meaning, I’ll often get happy thrown in.
If I choose happy, I will end up with neither meaning nor happy.
This week we come to what might be called the happiness illusion.
Happiness illusion — I believe I will be happy if I get whatever circumstance I desire.
The happiness illusion is I believe I will be happy if I get whatever the circumstance is I desire — if the things that happen to me are the things I want to have happen to me.
One of the most reliable findings in all of the happiness research is people are terrible at predicting the things they think will make them happy.
We all do this —
“If I just had this job, this salary, this house, this marriage, this car, this body, this lifestyle… then I would be happy forever.”
The problem with all of those things is not that they don’t make us happy; it’s they just don’t make us as happy as we want for as long as we want.
People get it, and then they’re not everlastingly happy, and they think, “I must have wanted the wrong thing,” or “I’m the only one who feels this way. There must be something wrong with me.”
The truth is you didn’t want the wrong thing, and you’re not the only person who feels that way…
But there is something wrong with you and with me.
And this leads to a very important question.
I want to talk for a couple minutes about the relationship between happy, which is what people talk about so much in our day, and joy, which is the word so often used by the writers of Scripture.
What’s their relationship with each other?
Happy is a feeling.
Feelings are kind of hard to define, but we all know them when we experience them.
A feeling is an emotion… and it has kind of a pull or a push.
It’s either something that is pleasant and I’m drawn to it.
Or it’s something that is unpleasant, and I don’t like it.
Pretty much all feelings can be put as either positive or negative.
Positive ones are happiness, pleasure, delight, curiosity, contentment, serenity.
Unpleasant ones are anger, fear, bitterness, sadness, depression, worry.
These feelings are so powerful they kind of seem to us to be our lives.
Often we’ll ask people when we greet them, “How are you feeling today?”
We virtually never ask, “How are you thinking today?”
Although how we think is very important.
The word happy actually comes from a really old word (an Icelandic word) happ, and it’s related to the words…
Happy is my feeling when something I like happens to me.
Therefore, happy is very, very fickle.
Two weeks before Christmas I got called in for jury duty. Over 100 people got called in to the Fremont courthouse for jury duty that day.
Our host asked all of us, “How many of you are happy to be here today?”
Do you know how many people raised their hand?
So there are 100+ unhappy campers in this stuffy room at the Fremont Courthouse… until our host went on to say:
“I want to thank you. I know you’re all busy people. You have busy lives. You have a lot of things to do, and this is kind of an interruption, but I just want to tell you on behalf of the judges and our legal system and the county of Fremont and, really, our nation, we’re grateful for your service.”
He reminded us that jury duty, which might be kind of low on the happy-producing scale, is actually quite high on the meaningful scale. It’s a very meaningful thing to do.
Then he told us this story.
He told us a story about a 95-year-old woman who got called for jury duty, and she couldn’t drive. She had to stop driving years ago, so she actually took several buses to get to the courthouse so she could serve, and she was so honored.
He asked her when she got there, “Did you call ahead like you’re supposed to to find out if you’re needed for jury duty?”
She said, “I couldn’t. I don’t have one of those push-button phones.” She has a rotary phone.
A lot of you have no idea what a rotary phone is.
95 years old, and she was grateful to be able to serve on a jury.
The host said to us, “This is no small thing. This is part of what it means to be a citizen. This is actually written about in our constitution.”
He said, “The reality is right now, today, while you and I are in this room, there are people around the world fighting, and in some cases dying, for the right to exercise the privilege you’re serving right now (trial by jury).”
We were inspired just sitting there. I was so fired up I couldn’t wait to get on a jury.
The judge asked me, “Would you be willing and able to say if the defendant was guilty?”
I said, “Are you kidding? I’m a pastor. I have to teach the Bible. The Bible says all have sinned. Everyone is guilty. Of course he’s guilty. I’m guilty. You’re guilty. The whole world is guilty!”
I didn’t get selected as a juror… but the point is 100+ unhappy people got turned around by one man who had a strong conviction of meaning.
We all got reminded.
Happy is so fickle. We live for happy…
But it just comes and it goes based on what happens.
Paul talks a lot about the fruit of the Spirit.
This is really important. I’ll do the best I can to unpack this.
Some of you know the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, and so on.
Dallas Willard says about the fruit of the Spirit — they’re not feelings. They’re what might be called conditions. They are the condition of an entire person.
That is, it’s someone’s character. It’s their basic life orientation, their condition, and therefore, it is stable across circumstances.
For instance, love is the fruit of the Spirit…
Love is the will to do good.
A person who is in the condition of being a loving person consistently wills the good of other people.
Here’s what’s really interesting.
If I idolize the feeling of being in love, if what I crave is always just the feeling of being loved or being in love, I will never do the hard work I need to do to enter into the condition of being filled with love — being someone constantly in touch with being loved by God and able to will the good for other people whatever the circumstances.
If I idolize the feeling, I will never enter into the condition.
Peace is a fruit of the Spirit.
Dallas says peace (I love this definition) is the rest of will that results from an assurance of how things will turn out.
Peace is when my will isn’t under this constant straining and striving, because I know in God how things will turn out.
If I idolize having a peaceful feeling, then when I don’t have that feeling I’ll medicate myself or I’ll do conflict avoidance.
I will not do the hard work required to enter into the condition of being a person who is at peace in God where the peace of Christ is reigning in my heart, as Paul says.
Joy is a condition. Joy is a pervasive sense of well-being, and the writers of Scripture have a word for this.
In the Old Testament the old Hebrew word is shalom. It’s an incredible word. Only God can bring this.
Joy is not a feeling.
Joy is not a choice.
It involves choices, but it is a condition into which I must grow, and we are joyful because of Jesus… because Jesus modeled shalom in his life.
He taught about it in his teachings.
He died to obtain it for us.
He resurrected to ensure its victory.
Paul, in chains in prison, had a pervasive sense of well-being no matter what his circumstances were.
It’s so interesting how our language is. Sometimes when we greet each other, we’ll ask, “How are you doing?”
And occasionally someone will say, “I’m doing okay under the circumstances.” Have you ever heard that one?
Well, Paul didn’t live under the circumstances.
His God is over the circumstances… so he lived over the circumstances.
Therefore, joy was just the condition in which he found himself.
I get so fickle.
One of the reasons we’re so bad at being able to predict what will make us happy is we underestimate the power that little interruptions, little problems have in our lives.
This last Monday I got up in the morning, and I went down to the kitchen, and there were ants everywhere in our kitchen.
I didn’t know what to do so I started spraying them with Vinegar water.
I hate the smell of vinegar. And I’m really bad at dealing with these kinds of things.
So I called Patriot Pest control who come out that day and sprayed our house.
We have two cats who had to be out of the house for a couple hours while the spray dried.
My three kids and I were running around the house trying to get our cats in the pet carrier. One of them tore up my hand in the process.
So by now I’m mad at my kids and my cats.
And then we unknowingly let the cats back in the house when the spray wasn’t dry. I noticed our cats sitting in the corner licking their paws.
So I had to catch them again so I could clean their paws with soap and water and then lock them in a room that was dry. I thought I might have killed our cats. By that time I wanted to kill our cats.
Needless to say, I didn’t have a peaceful feeling.
Then the thought occurred to me, “I have so much to be grateful for. These are just ants. This is not being in chains for Christ. This is not facing martyrdom at the hands of Caesar. These are ants, for crying out loud.”
It occurred to me I could just take care of this without complaining. It’s too late for that now… but I could have taken care of it without complaining… and been joyful and resolute and resourceful and cheerful… and God would have been present in what was happening to me.
If you want to make yourself miserable, wait for circumstances to make you happy.
If you want to live in joy, don’t ask, “God, why am I not in those circumstances?”
God, where are you in these circumstances? These circumstances right here?
Who could I help today in these circumstances?
Who could I serve today in these circumstances?
Who could I inspire today?
God, how are you with me in these circumstances?
Because if I’m going to be with God, it will have to be in these circumstances, because these circumstances are the only ones I’m living in right now.
Alright, number 2:
If you want to be unhappy, compare yourself to other people.
Notice what Paul says.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
Now notice these people who are jealous and envious and comparing themselves.
They’re not people outside the church.
They’re in the church.
Instead of focusing on their own lives and asking, “What’s God calling me to do and, God, how can I be helpful?”
They were thinking, “Hey, look at Paul. Paul is more successful than I am. His ministry is reaching more people than my ministry is. I will compare what I do to what Paul does, and if I can do better than Paul, I will feel better about myself. Actually, if it could just happen that Paul will do worse, I will feel better about myself.”
We all do this.
I compare my marriage to someone else’s. If it’s better, easier, or happier than mine, I’m unhappy.
I compare my salary, my house, my career, my kids, my body, my looks, my IQ, my education, my level of success… and when I envy someone, not only am I unhappy because of what I’m not getting, I’m unhappy because of what they are getting.
I would be more happy if they were less happy.
A woman dies. She goes to the gates of heaven and asks Saint Peter, “How do I get in?”
Peter says, “All you have to do is spell one word correctly.”
She asks, “What’s the word?”
He says, “Love.”
She gets it’s right and is able to go in.
A few years later, Saint Peter asks if she could watch the gate for him for a few hours, and she does.
Much to her surprise while she’s watching the gate, her husband shows up, and she asks him, “How have you been?”
He says, “Well, actually quite well. You remember that beautiful young nurse who took care of you while you were dying? I married her, and then I won the lottery and sold the little house where you and I lived and bought a great big beautiful house. My beautiful new wife and I were skiing in the Swiss Alps when I had the accident that brought me here. I’m glad I made it to heaven. How do I get in?”
She said, “You have to spell one word correctly.”
He said, “What’s the word?”
She said, “Czechoslovakia.”
Here’s the thing about comparison.
You will never see a happy jealous person.
Look at the image on the screen. That’s the look of comparison.
Why do we do that to ourselves?
He’s not happy. She’s not happy.
It’s so interesting. Paul talks about two groups of people.
Some people watched Paul’s ministry and said, “Thank God.”
Other people watched the same thing and said, “Why God? Why him and not me? Why can’t I be Paul instead of Paul being Paul? I don’t want to be me. I want to be him.”
It’s so interesting.
One researcher, actually at Stanford, did a study on comparison — people comparing themselves to other people.
Their hypothesis going in was — unhappy people compare up. That is, they look at people who have more money, more success, more possessions, and they’re unhappy.
Happy people must compare down. They look at people who have less money, less success, less education, and it makes them happy.
What they discovered was happy people don’t compare at all.
They don’t compare up.
They don’t compare down.
They actually use deeply held internal values as the yardstick for how they’re doing.
And they take pleasure in other people’s successes. If other people win, they cheer with them.
And they show concern for other people’s failures.
Here’s a great place to start if you want to grow in this area.
If there’s someone in your life who you envy — if you wrestle with comparison — pray for that person.
So for me being a pastor, that would mean me praying, “God, just pour out great blessings on Crosswinds and Cornerstone Fellowship. Thanks for the great facilities you’ve given them with visibility from the freeway. It’s so amazing God. Good for them. God continue to bless them and make them even greater churches in our community.”
Alright, the third way to be unhappy is:
If you want to be unhappy, do life alone.
Do it all by yourself.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the apostle Paul is — a lot of people think of Paul as this brilliant but kind of cranky, difficult guy.
If you ever read his letters closely, you see a very different picture painted.
Look at his language just in the first chapter of Philippians alone.
Paul says to the people he’s writing:
I thank my God every time I remember you.
He says to them:
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…
Look at the emotion.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart…
Imagine how they felt when they heard those words.
God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
He calls them his brothers and sisters, and he pours his life out for them, and it fills them up with joy.
There was another study on longevity that was done.
The hypothesis of the researchers was — the people who would live the longest would be the people who had someone to care for and watch over them.
They were slightly wrong.
What they actually found was it turns out those who had someone to care for lived the longest.
Jesus said a long time ago,
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. — Mathew 20:28
See, that’s just life in the kingdom. We’re made that way.
Paul says in verse 25, “I’d love to go be with God, but I think if I keep on living it will bring joy to your faith, so I’m going to do that.”
I’ll give you a magic number for application on this particular point.
Researchers pretty consistently find in any relationship, when there is a ratio of about five encouraging, hope-filled, positive, bonding comments for every one negative, difficult comment (about five to one) the relationship is likely to flourish.
That means I have some work to do. And maybe you do too.
There’s a leading marriage researcher in our day and his team that can actually predict whether or not a marriage will end in divorce with over a 90 percent accuracy level… based on listening and hearing a husband and wife talk to each other for less than five minutes — less than five minutes.
If the ratio is lower than five to one, the relationship is probably headed for trouble.
Interestingly enough, in workplaces when there’s a boss and an employee or a team and they’re having about five basically encouraging, hope-filled, positive comments for every one difficult comment (about five to one), they are in optimal performance mode.
And if it dips a certain level below this, there’s going to be trouble, and they don’t perform as effectively.
The same thing is true in families and in churches.
That’s why the writer of Hebrews says:
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today.” — Hebrews 3:13
Every day make this a habit.
How are the words in your relationships?
Maybe take time this week to observe patterns of communication.
Because we’ve all been around people or relationships (maybe it’s a marriage or a family or a friendship) where this has really slipped, and it just gets painful, and it becomes habitual.
Is there a relationship where you need to work together to get this right?
What’s kind of interesting is it actually can’t all be positive.
Actually, there does have to be for every five positive comments about one — the writers of Scripture us the word — admonition.
There’s going to be something that’s going to be a little painful, and that’s actually part of healthy relationships.
By the way, Kahlilah on our staff was telling me this week we have 25 people stepping up to say, “I’d be willing to lead a small group.”
If that’s you, way to go! That so important.
She said we have a lot of new people wanting to join a group, saying, “I want to get in a little community like that. I want to move from isolation to doing life together with other people at Blue Oaks.”
If that’s you, way to go! Don’t stop.
By the way, if you’re like a cranky person, ask to be put into a group that has five happy people in it.
Because we have some groups where they’re all happy and they don’t have a cranky person yet.
We’ll actually assign you to one of those groups, and you can balance things out.
Then everybody can grow, and that will be a really good thing.
Alright, the forth thing you can do to be unhappy is:
If you want to be unhappy, adopt pessimism as a life orientation.
Some people do that.
There is a lot being studied and written about optimism in our day.
One writer distinguishes between what he calls little optimism and big optimism.
Little optimism focuses on little hopes —
I hope I’ll find a convenient parking space when I go to church this Sunday.
I hope I’ll see someone at church who I like.
I hope the sermon is almost over. (It’s not, by the way.)
Big optimism focuses on the ultimate picture —
We are on the verge of something great.
This is a magnificent time to be a human being alive on this planet.
Optimism as a personality trait is mostly good.
It’s associated with health and the ability to persist and having lots of friends.
Interestingly, big optimism is considerably more powerful in a life than little optimism.
But sometimes optimism isn’t good.
Sometimes young people can be overly optimistic and say, “I can smoke without getting cancer,” and then optimism is not a good thing if it’s not based in reality.
You have to be based in reality.
Paul has such a powerful orientation in his life that the word optimistic won’t do. It doesn’t cut it.
In fact, in this passage he actually creates a word… because there is no word. It’s not existent in literature before Paul.
He creates a word to describe what it’s like for him when he gets up in the morning.
He takes these three little Greek words —
the word from
the word head
and the word stretch
And he jams them together in this big compound word.
It’s like a runner who is so excited to get to the finish line that he averts his eyes from anything that could distract him.
He stretches his head forward, and his whole body is leaning. Every fiber of his being, every cell just straining to get to where he’s going because he can’t wait to get there because he knows how good it is going to be.
Even that word is not powerful enough, so Paul adds the word hope.
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Sitting in prison not knowing if he’s going to live or die. This is a real person.
“I eagerly expect and hope.
“I wake up in the morning. I eagerly expect and hope.
“I look at my chains. I eagerly expect and hope.
“I wait for the word to come that could mean my life is going to end on this earth.”
What are you going to do with a guy like that?
How are you going to stop a guy like that?
What prison can hold a guy like that?
That is not little optimism. That is not groundless, mindless optimism.
That is Christ.
For Paul, life is summed up in Christ.
He is inspired by Christ
Guided by Christ
Loved by Christ
Held by Christ
Sustained by Christ
Intoxicated by Christ
He serves Christ.
He loves Christ.
He follows Christ.
He trusts Christ.
He lives for Christ.
Christ is his magnificent obsession and orientation to all of reality
And therefore… when he faces problems in chains in a prison, he has this great two-word question. It’s in verse 18.
But what does it matter?
“I have all these problems, but what does it matter?”
In Greek, it’s actually much punchier. It’s just two tiny little words — Tis gar?
I’ll give you a great question for this week.
Anytime anything goes wrong, and things will go wrong, and when they do this week,
For me to live is Christ and to die is gain — “So what?”
There are ants in the kitchen. “So what? We can get rid of them.”
The car breaks down. “So what? We can get arid of it.”
The pastor gives a bad message? “So what? We can get rid of… well…
“We can send him to pastor rehab school in Maui or someplace like that.”
The important thing is, in every way, this magnificent Christ has acted, was crucified, and resurrected, and therefore, the kingdom of God up there is coming down here, and I get to be a part of it.
Because of this, I rejoice.
Because of this, I can tell you today, no matter what happens to me tomorrow, I will continue to rejoice because joy is not a feeling of happiness based on what happens; it is a condition of my soul.
It is a pervasive sense of well-being.
It is the only rational response to the resurrection of the Redeemer.
It is the eager expectation and hope that makes prisoners filled with anticipation at what this great God and Father of Jesus Christ stands ready to do.
It is God’s great, “So what? Big deal. Who cares? Whatever.” flung in the face of darkness, despair, depression, and death.
That’s what joy is… so let’s go out there and spread it around.
Next week we’re going to talk about the shocking secret happy people learn.
I would tell you now, but then you would have no reason to come back.
Would you bow your heads? I’d love to pray for you.
Right now, maybe in your life everything is going great. All the charts are up and to the right. Your work, your relationships, your family…
Will you just take a moment to not take it all for granted like we so often do?
Take a moment right now just in deep humility and say, “God, thank you. You are so good. God, you have given so much. I’m just grateful. I don’t deserve this. I didn’t earn it. I didn’t merit it. God, thank you.”
Maybe right now you’re in a prison.
A prison called lonely
A prison called cancer
A prison called afraid
A prison called loss
This is what God would say to you right now and what God said to Paul in that prison 2,000 years ago — “For to you, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
God, thank you for the great, magnificent “So what?” of a blood-stained cross and an empty tomb.
May our joy overflow to the delight of our world and to the glory of you who loves and saves us.
We pray this together in the name of the great joy-bringer, in the name of the crucified and risen Savior. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.