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Fight for Your Happiness

By Pastor Phillip Howle
web posted May 13, 2015

RELIGION – People like to be happy. I try to be a portly and jovial fellow (I have been trying a little hard at the portly part lately.) But it is hard sometimes to be happy. Yet that is all people really long for, happiness. One attempt at happiness was captured years back in the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy ” by Bobby McFerrin. It was a favorite song of mine years back. With its infectiously happy tune and positive, upbeat message I could hum it all day (you are probably humming the tune right now)!

A song we would all do well to listen and heed the advice. But the idea for the song came from an odd place. It came from an Indian mystic and spiritual guru Meher Baba (1894–1969). He often used the expression "Don't worry, be happy" when writing to his followers in America. This was not merely good advice, what Baba truly meant was captured in his fuller expression of the idea “Do your best. Then, don’t worry; be happy in My love. I will help you." He was seeking to incorporate responsibility with detachment, as well as ongoing master/disciple spiritual relationship with the person.

So happiness came from being connected to the guru.

In the same vein as above Bob Marley popularized "Don't worry about a thing,'Cause every little thing gonna be alright” in his song “Three Little Birds.” Now for Bob, if you smoked enough marijuana then all would be ok. Because you would be stoned out of your mind with no concerns. It is sad to see our nation moving more and more towards this as a source for joy.
But in both cases above, people are looking for happiness. I can’t blame them. I want over the next few weeks to share some insights and applications from a great book that I am working through “The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World” by David Murray. It is my hope that for Christians, our smiles and joy would be magnetic, drawing people to our supremely happy Savior Jesus who showed that faith in His Father could give joy even at His darkest hour. So let us be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

First off, proof of our inherent negativity is our view of the state of the world. My mom would always say “The world is going to hell in a hand basket.”   The origins of this curious phrase are believed to be that it derives from the use of handbaskets to catch the head after someone was guillotined. Now I don’t like the trajectory we appear to be on in our nation, but the reality is the standard of living, children’s health, education, and teen crime rates are getting better. But we don’t see it or feel it.

The reason is sadly that “Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. . . . Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.” (R. F. Baumeister et al., “Bad Is Stronger than Good,” Review of General Psychology 5 (2001): 323.)  In other words, the bad cuts deep within us and the good rolls off us like water on a duck’s back.  Largely because we chose to dwell on the hurts longer than celebrating the successes.  Solomon nailed this in Prov 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

Murray shows studies that show that:
• Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 33 percent.
• Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers.
• Student freshmen’s happiness levels predict their income nineteen years later.
• Judged by their journal entries, happy nuns live an average of ten years longer than unhappy nuns.
• Unhappy employees take fifteen more sick days a year.
• Positive emotions produce dopamine and serotonin, which increase concentration, analysis, creativity, problem solving, and memory.

He further notes that “analysis of happiness research that brought together the results of more than two hundred scientific studies on more than 275,000 people found that happiness is the greatest predictor of success in our work, our home, our hobbies, and our relationships” (E. Diener, “The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?” Psychological Bulletin 131 (2005): 803–55.)

So if you are grumpy get madder! Get mad at your negative outlook on the world that is ruining your life and being a horrible billboard for Jesus. Start to fight for your joy! We will learn more about how to do that in the coming weeks. For now, work on thoughts and try to memorize Proverbs 23:7 from above and 2 Corinthians 10:5 “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Through Jesus we will do much better than simply blunt our problems with substances or put Bobby McFerrin on repeat!

Prepared by God’s grace to fight for my happiness today! 

Pastor Phillip

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