So, where does happiness come from? We learned that happiness is a choice. It really has absolutely nothing to do with your circumstances, and that it is a skill that you can learn to be happy.
The apostle Paul would say, “I have learned to be content, to be happy, to be at peace with little or with much.”
Now we are going to talk about the happy path. And what I want you to know is that there are two very specific options: One consume, get, bigger, better, more. The only problem is, if you get bigger, better, more, you need bigger, better, more after that.
It’s about immediate gratification. It’s having what you want, now. And if you can get all that you want now, and whether it’s a person, a place, a vacation, a car, a house, a job, you name it – then the promise is that you will get money and power and prestige and that is the pathway to happiness. That’s what you are told in every advertisement, it’s what the culture tells us.
That’s path number one. That’s the option we are faced with every day, and, by the way, it’s not new. Things maybe change about how to get there, but it’s a very, very clear path.
The other option is path number two. This is the way of compassion. “Give.” Write,
One, it’s consume. Get, get, get. It’s all about me. The other, literally, is so counter-intuitive. It’s give! Give more, give better, give more, give of yourself. It’s a radically different proposition.
And it has an eternal perspective. It’s actually putting on a set of glasses that say that other people and God’s will and God’s kingdom, and I want to live in this little thing called “time” in view of forever and ever and ever and ever. And what I do in this little window called “life” really matters forever.
And God says that as I am filled with compassion and I cultivate a generous spirit, and I have this eternal perspective, what happens in me is I have faith and hope and love. Does that sound familiar? I begin to trust, I have hope today and tomorrow and forever.
And my love for God, and my love for people, it grows something from the inside out. And God’s promise is, what that does, that brings happiness, regardless of your circumstances. There is no moving horizon.
Now, the wisest man in the world, Solomon, when he looked at different paths of life, there is a way or there is a path, and in Proverbs 14:12, he said this, “There is a way that seems right to a man,” or to a person. There’s a way, there’s a path, there’s a way of living. And it sure seems right and everyone is doing it and it makes sense. But notice the last portion of that verse. It says, “But it ends in the way of death.” Death.
Path number one will destroy your relationships with other people. You will eventually use and abuse other people. Path number one will leave you deeply discouraged that you never get what you want, or you will get it and realize it doesn’t deliver.
And so I have a prayer for you to ponder, I have a question for you to answer, and a problem for you to resolve before we get started. The prayer to ponder is by a young man named Giovanni whose father was very, very wealthy. And he lived a life from about eighteen to twenty-two, even went to war. Did all kinds of different things.
He experienced power, prestige. The year was about 1200. And he realized it was completely empty and he had a major encounter with God, and realized that a way of compassion, especially with the poor, was what life would really be about to bring genuine happiness.
In fact, let me read the prayer that has become quite famous. He says, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” Listen for the compassion, “Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, let me sow pardon; where there is doubt, let me sow faith; where there is despair, let me sow hope; and where there is darkness, let me sow light; and where there is sadness, let me sow joy.”
Do you see the compassion? Do you see the lens that he is living with? And then he, at the end of his prayer says, “O Divine Master, grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled,” receive, “but to console,” give. “Not so much to be understood as to understand; not so much to be loved, but as to love.”
That’s giving. That’s God’s plan. That’s path number two. And then he gives the reason. This is the divine axiom. There is a kingdom of this world and there is a kingdom of God. And there are two different paths and two different ways to be happy, to be full, to make a difference.
And then he gives us the answer, he says, “For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Now, does anybody know Giovanni’s name once he started the order of the Franciscans? Saint Francis of Assisi.
He was twenty-two years old when the transition happened. By twenty-eight, he had started the order of the Franciscans. Three years in, there was a noblewoman who was very, very wealthy and had all the world at her disposal. And as she listened to Francis and watched what happened, she left all of that and joined, and then they created a women’s order.
Eight hundred plus years, the poor have been loved and fed and cared for because one man declared war on greed, declared war on the world system, and said, in probably the most radical ways, if you know the story. And he said, “I am going to communicate, through my life, God’s compassion for the hurting and for the poor. And for eight hundred years that order, and to this day, it continues.
And so the question I really want you to ponder is this: Do you agree with God’s way, path number two, or do you believe it? Do you agree with it? I don’t think I’m going to get a lot of people going, “Okay! Let’s take a vote! Path number one is the best plan! Path number two…” I’m not thinking we’ve got a lot of people going, “Oh, I’m a path number one person.” Right?
Right? Oh, yeah, I agree with this. But do you believe it? Do you believe it to the point that your life and your time and your energy and your priorities and your money and your commitment and how you treat people is going to follow God’s path? The path to life. The happy path.
Or is it unconsciously or by “not making a decision,” your behavior says you follow the world’s path? And it ends in death.
And so here is the problem to resolve: I know in my heart and your heart, we all want to follow God’s path, right? It’s not like, Yes, I do! And then there is the “but,” right? I really, really do BUT, well, what about me? What about my kids? What about retirement? What about education? What about security? What about…? I get it, I’m not Saint Francis. I’m not going to take off all my clothes and give everything I have away and walk naked through the streets, which he actually did when he abandoned everything.
I don’t suggest that is the M.O. that God is looking for, by the way. But I think the heart and what he did is exactly what God is looking for.
Notice it’s not a problem to solve, it’s a problem to resolve. You know the difference? Solving something is you bring it to completion. To resolve is a determined decision of action for future impact.
And here’s what I want to tell you. The Philippian church, we have studying Philippians 4:10 through 19, the Philippian church did not agree with God’s path. They believed it to the point of acting. They were a poor church. And they cultivated this heart of compassion for people who didn’t know.
And then they gave money that they didn’t have to the apostle Paul so that he could preach and teach and not have to make so many tents. That was his part-time job.
And then Paul is going to give a promise to them, and to us, that God says, If you will follow My path, I will take care of all your needs.
And let’s dig in a little bit. Philippians 4:19 says, through the apostle Paul, to them and to us, that, “My God will meet all your,” circle the word needs, because it’s not wants, it’s not wishes, and it’s not a predetermined, unconscious lifestyle. But, “My God will meet all your needs.” You will always have food, you will always have a covering, He will always take care of you, and He will give you on the inside what nothing that you could ever achieve or buy or have or possess could ever deliver.
And He will do it by an unlimited resource, “…according to the glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” So here is God’s promise to you. If you would say to God today, and by the way, warning: I am going to give you a chance to go from agreeing with God’s path to a big step to believing it. And you will see a radical difference.
For many of you, this will be a day that you will go back six months, or a year, or five years and you will go, I made a decision and I resolved some things that literally changed my entire relationship with God. But you will have to believe Philippians 4:19.
And so here is God’s promise: It’s for provision. He promises. He wants you to know, I will provide for you. God’s provision.
But notice in your notes, right under God’s provision, there’s a premise. And there are three conditions. God promises to take care of you, but this has three very specific conditions. This promise isn’t for everyone.
First, this promise is only for those who are in Christ. This is for God’s children. He treats them differently than other people. He doesn’t promise to provide for everyone.
Second, it’s only for those who practice generosity. This isn’t even for all Christians. You may have Christ living inside of you; this isn’t for every Christian. This is written to a group of people who are sacrificially being generous. And they are wondering, What about us?
And, finally, this is only for those who are living by faith. This is people who say, I am going to step out and I am not sure how it’s all going to work out, but I want to cultivate a heart of compassion and a generous spirit, an eternal perspective, and I am going to move against the flow of life, even within the church, and I want the path that God says. So I am going to be radically generous with my time. I am going to rearrange my priorities in such a way to really love people.
And God says, I want you to know, when you take those kinds of steps, one hundred percent of the time, I will meet your needs. And you might be asking, Well, how does all this work? Behind this promise that God will meet your needs, my needs – and He does it all over the world with believers who live like this – there is a principle.
It is flowing from the very character and the nature of God Himself, it’s taught in the Old Testament, it’s taught in the New Testament, it’s taught in the Wisdom Literature, it’s taught in the gospels, it’s taught in the epistles. You can go all through the gospel from Genesis to Revelation and this principle is at the core of God’s kingdom. It’s how it works. It’s God’s economy, it’s God’s mindset. Are you ready for it?
It’s called, “The law of the harvest.” It’s the law of the harvest. Some people have called it the law of reciprocity, or the law of sowing and reaping. And the law is identified or explained in Luke 6:38, from the very mouth of Jesus. And, by the way, the passage is not a financial passage.
When He is teaching here in Luke 6, He says, “Give and it will be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap.” Do you see where Saint Francis got his prayer? Give, not get. Give, and it will be given unto you.
The picture is if you have ever had something and you want to get more room in it. If you shake it, right? Then it settles so you can make more room. “For whatever measure you give, in the same measure, it will be returned back to you.” And the word measure here is like if you would give a teaspoon, you get a teaspoon back. If you get a cup, you get a cup back. If you get a barrel, you get a barrel back.
He says, “For whatever measure, as you are compassionate and giving, it will be given back to you.” All of life works that way. Now, in our human nature, we think just the opposite. Get, protect, guard, store, acquire, hoard. That’s one option. Give, share, love, care, extend. That’s God’s option.
In fact, it’s so axiomatic that He puts it in nature so we can see it. John 12:24, Jesus is talking about discipleship. And He is talking about following Him. And He is bringing people to this pointed decision, and then He is very honest with them, He says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls unto the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears forth much fruit.”
And so God declares His glory in the stars, but He declares His glory of what He is like, even in nature. If you take a single corn seed or wheat seed and you put it in the ground, and it’s in good soil and it’s watered and it gets sunlight, what happens? Something comes out of the ground.
And one little seed of wheat, or one acorn, what happens? It comes out of the ground and then hundreds and hundreds of grains from one seed. Or the corn comes up and there are all these ears and all those seeds on each ear, hundreds and hundreds.
But you can’t get a stalk of corn and you can’t get fields of wheat with hundreds of seeds on them unless it dies and goes in the ground, right? Did you notice in almost everything in nature, if there’s a seed, you get an orange. What is inside the orange? Seeds. Each one of those seeds can do what? An orange tree!
See, God has created in nature itself that His design is giving, giving, giving, giving. And He didn’t just teach it. He more than lived it.
In Philippians 2, we have a behind-the-scenes look at what actually happened when Jesus, exalted in glory, and the Godhead – the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. And the Scripture says in Philippians 2 that, “Although He was God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!”
Jesus didn’t give His time for you, Jesus didn’t give His money for you, Jesus gave His life. And then notice how this always happens – so what did the Father do? “Therefore God highly exalted Him, and bestowed upon Him the name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God.”
Do you get the pattern? God’s pattern: giving. As you give, you receive. It’s in nature, Christ gave His life – why? You are His treasure. If you would ever grasp or understand how precious and loved and valuable you are, Jesus said, “This is what your life is worth.” And not just your physical life today, but to have an intimate relationship with Him forever and ever and ever, “Who for the joy set before Him,” that was His motivation.
As He stared at the cross, “Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.” Was there a price tag? “Despising the shame,” of course. And so He actually, literally, went into the earth, didn’t He? And then He rose again that you would have life, and that I could have life. And then God has exalted Him.
And, in fact, what He said is that this pathway, God’s path, He calls all of us to. Luke 19, He says, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for My sake, and for the gospel, will save it.”
Right before this, He said, “If anyone wants to follow Me, let Him take up his cross, deny himself, and follow Me.” Okay, we have been talking and we have been trying to ask the question: Enough. What is enough of everything? What’s the secret to a happy life?
Here’s what I want you to get: There are two paths and you’re at the crossroads of happiness. And you, either by willful decision or by default or by indecision, you will either choose God’s path and get on a journey toward a compassionate heart and generous spirit and eternal perspective, or you will kind of nod and you will agree, I agree that’s what it teaches. I agree that Jesus modeled it. I agree it’s in nature. I agree it’s true. I think Solomon is probably right, but I am going to live my way.
And what He wants you to know is that when you enter in as a new lifestyle, this path, that’s the secret to being happy, but here’s the promise: I will take care of you. But there is a caution, okay?. You never reap in the same season that you sow.
What does a farmer know? You plant, you water – a lot of it you can’t see under the ground, then it comes up. And then after it comes up then you’ve got to get rid of the weeds. You cultivate. Then you fertilize. And then it grows! And it’s growing, but there’s no fruit on it yet.
And then pretty soon, the little ears of corn. And then they are all the way out. And then you harvest. A farmer knows that you plant, cultivate, grow, harvest.
And nature, again, tells us: This is how it works with God. When you get on His path, you don’t become compassionate for a week or two or learn to be generous for two months and go, Wow, how come everything hasn’t completely turned around? Because you are sowing.
And what you will see is, as you sow and as you sow, as you sow, you’ll see seasons of harvest.