Is there one thing in your life about which you think, “If God could give me this, then I’d be happy”? For some of us, it’s a mate, a job,or good health. For others, it’s money, a house or a restored relationship. But deep down, we all believe that if we could just get this one thing, thenour life would be so much better and we’d finally be happy! Sound familiar?
The problem is that no matter what that thing is, once you attain it, something else will take its place. A mentor of mine once described it this way: “Inthe pursuit of happiness, the horizon is always moving.” It’s like when you’re in a sailboat sailing toward the horizon, and the horizon seems to just keepmoving right along with you.
If our focus is on trying to find our happiness by acquiring something in the future, then we we’ll never experience true happiness – a deep satisfactionand contentment – right here and now.
So how can we be truly happy and content – today? How can we say, “I have enough for today”?
The truth is that happiness is not a thing to be achieved, but a secret to be discovered.
There’s an actual secret from Scripture that tells us the way to be happy – and it doesn’t depend on our circumstances. It’s not based on an “if…then”scenario.
In his letter to the church in Philippi, the Apostle Paul shares the secret to happiness. It’s important to note that Paul writes this thank you letterwhile he’s still in prison and chained between two guards. At this point in his life he’s had significant emotional, spiritual and physical pain. He’s beenbeaten several times, his friends have deserted him, and he’s not sure if he’s going to be executed. Yet he’s content!
He writes: I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. Iam not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need,and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whetherliving in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:10-13)
There are four principles we can learn from this passage and begin to practice:
1. Genuine happiness is not dependent on our circumstances.
We can be happy and content whatever our circumstances. How? It starts with thanking God for what we do have in our lives. This doesn’t mean wethank God for our difficult circumstances. It means we acknowledge that God is good, trusting that He wants to use our difficult circumstances tostrengthen our character and build our faith in Him.
2. Genuine happiness is an attitude we learn, not something we achieve.
True happiness isn’t something we achieve in the future. We can all learn to be content in our present circumstances by developing a teachableattitude. Instead of asking God to change or take away this or that in our lives, we can ask Him, “What do you want to teach me through thisdifficulty, God?”
3. Prosperity does not have the power to make us happy, nor does poverty the power to take it away.
Despite what we’ve been taught to believe in our society, productivity and success doesn’t produce happiness. The great job, house, right schools, etc.,don’t have the power to make us happy. Poverty cannot rob us of genuine happiness and contentment either. I know because I’ve visited many third worldcountries around the world, and I’ve met people who were happy even though they were the poorest of the poor, living in the slums.
We’re all going to have ups and downs in our life – emotionally, financially and relationally – and it doesn’t matter whether we’re rich or poor.We need to be wise when it comes to our life’s priorities. Money should never be our top priority because it doesn’t equal happiness.
4. Only Christ has the power to give us a happiness that transcends all of life’s variables.
Paul said, “I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.” Like Paul, we can find our happiness regardless of ourcircumstances. But to do this we need to depend on God. This means making God our top priority, giving Him the first portion of our day and thefirst portion of our income. He promises that if we draw near to Him, he will draw near to us.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip