In chapter 3 of Philippians, Paul gives us five habits for happiness.
All five of these you can do on a daily basis.
If we’ll build these habits into our life the happiness in our life will exponentially grow.
And the unhappiness in our life will decline.
The first habit that Paul models here in the first few verses is this:
1. EVERYDAY: Relax in God’s grace.
That’s the first thing you need to do if you want to be a happy person.
Every day relax in God’s grace.
Don’t try to earn God’s approval, don’t try to earn His love, don’t try to earn His recognition.
We don’t earn it.
God is love and God loves us unconditionally.
Let me explain the difference between religion and a relationship.
‘Religion is what you do for God; relationship is what God has done for you.’
Jesus did not come to give us religion.
God isn’t interested in religion; God is interested in us having a relationship.
The Bible is all about what God has done for us and what Jesus did for us on the cross, not about what we do for God.
We will lose our happiness every time we forget this; every time we think I’ve got to earn God’s smile, I’ve got to earn God’s love, I’ve got to do something really cool to make God love me.
No, we don’t!
“We Christians glory in what Jesus has DONE for us and we realize that we are helpless to save ourselves.” (Philippians 3:3, LB)
We’re not trying to earn our way to heaven.
We’re not trying to work our way to heaven.
We’re not trying to prove we’re good enough to get to heaven because none of us are good enough to get to heaven.
It’s only God’s grace.
We need to relax in God’s grace.
I love the Message paraphrase of this verse.
“We couldn’t carry this off by our own effort, and we know it.”
I like that.
One of the things that will rob us of our happiness is what I call the first trap and I’m going to give you five traps out of this passage today.
THE TRAP: LEGALISM.
Legalism is the attitude that I have to prove my love to God.
Legalism is trusting in what I do for God instead of what Jesus did for me.
Trusting that I have to do rules and regulations and rituals and restrictions, and all these things, in order to prove myself worthy.
That’s called legalism.
In other words, if I just keep the Ten Commandments then God will let me into heaven.
Number one, we can’t even name them much less keep them.
So let us learn to relax in God’s grace.
Paul says in this passage, verses 3-6,
“Before I became a Christian I was a legalist. I was trying to earn heaven through rituals, through my race, through religion, through rules, through reputation. It wasn’t working. If anyone was a legalist I was.”
In verse 6 he says this:
“In legalistic righteousness, I was faultless.”
In other words for a guy who was a rule keeper, I did it.
I kept all the rules.
I was a good man.
By the way, how do you know when you are a legalist?
We become judgmental of other people.
We are harsh on other people.
We are critical of everyone else.
This is because many times in our subconscious we do not feel loved and accepted!
How do you know when you’re living by grace?
You’re gracious to others.
When somebody is living by grace they go, God’s forgiven me, I’m going to forgive you.
God’s cut me some slack, I’m going to cut you some slack.
The more legalistic we are the more critical and the more judgmental we are.
And the more you live by God’s grace the more gracious you are to other people.
Legalism will suck our life dry of happiness.
It sucks churches dry of happiness.
There’s no joy in a legalistic church.
But when you finally realize there’s nothing I can do to make God love me, He already does, that is a liberating fact.
This is the first key to happiness.
Every day remind yourself of the grace of God.
I relax in the grace of God.
“I no longer count on my own goodness and I no longer count on my own ability to obey God’s law. Instead I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself is through faith.” (Philippians 3:9, NLT)
In other words, the way you earn the smile of God is you don’t earn it.
It’s not your performance.
It’s His pardon.
It’s what He’s already done.
In the Bible, the word “joy” is the Greek word chara.
And in the Bible the word “grace” is the word charis.
Joy and grace go together.
The more grace you live by, the more joy you’re going to have in your life.
That’s the first habit.
Relax in God’s grace.
In the next verse, verse 7, we get the second daily habit of happiness.
2. EVERYDAY: Remember what matters most.
Every day I need to remember what matters most.
When I get up in the morning I need to remind myself what counts and what doesn’t count.
I should not be distracted by what’s petty, what’s trivial, what really doesn’t matter, what’s unimportant, in life!
Have you realized, have you noticed how easy it is to lose your joy over some small thing?
It’s usually the small irritations that cause you to lose your happiness.
Yet do those things really matter in life?
No, they do not.
So if you want to be a happy person, Paul says in Philippians 3, you need to remember what matters most.
“All the things that I once thought were so important to me, I now consider worth nothing, because of Christ.” (Philippians 3:7)
All those things that I thought were so important to me I now consider worth nothing now that I know Christ.
What was the most important thing to you before you met Jesus Christ?
Maybe it was getting a date.
Maybe it was being popular.
Maybe it was having security.
It could be being famous.
Paul says all those things?
They’re just not that important to me any more.
‘I’m not running the rat race because even if you win the rat race you’re still a rat!’
I don’t need to worry about keeping up with the Joneses…
He says all those things I used to think were so important – being cool, looking cool, having the goods, looking good, feeling good, that’s just not important anymore because it’s not going to matter in the long scheme of things.
He says the stuff doesn’t matter anymore.
How do you know if you’ve really been saved?
How do you know if you’ve been saved by Jesus Christ?
I’ll tell you how you know.
Your values change.
Now here is the trap that’s going to keep us from this habit is pop culture.
THE TRAP: POP CULTURE
The culture around us.
Because everyday there are thousands of advertising messages that say, you aren’t worth anything until you’ve got our product.
This should matter to you.
Even television news makes every item sound like it’s the most important thing of the day.
Nothing is as worthless as yesterday’s newspaper.
When the news is over it’s not worth anything today.
The world tells you because it’s immediate and it’s current, it’s important.
The urgent and the immediate and the relevant are not necessarily important.
So what you have to ask yourself are these question, on everything:
- How much will this matter in a hundred years?
- How much will this matter in five years?
- How much of what I’m worrying about right now is going to matter tomorrow?
We need to live everyday in light of eternity.
Everybody and everything around you is constantly telling you that the petty and the trivial is important.
Too many people are living for things that aren’t going to matter.
So to be counter culture – which means you’re going to be a whole lot happier than everybody else – you’ve got to focus not on what’s current but what’s eternal.
So the second habit is, every day remember what matters most.
Look at verse 8 and 9, Paul says:
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him.” (Philippians 3:8-9, NLT)
Jim Elliot the famous missionary said,
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot
3. EVERYDAY: Get to know Jesus better.
Everyday we should pray, Lord if nothing else today, I want to know you better!
We were made to live in relationship to God, and if I think I can be joyful without getting to know Him better, the thing I was made for, I’m just fooling myself.
Where is the joy found in our lives?
It’s found in the number one thing we were created for: Getting to know God a little bit better.
Paul discovered that, he says,
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death so that somehow I may be raised to life.” (Philippians 3:10-11)
Now we need to understand the difference between knowing about someone and knowing someone.
Paul says I want to know Christ.
e.g. I know about Michael Jordan, Barac Obama etc… but I don’t know those people.
I know my wife.
I know my kids because I spend time with them.
I have a relationship with them.
Paul says, I know Christ because I spend time with him.
I have this relationship with him.
I love this in the Amplified version. It says there,
“For my determined purpose is that I may know Christ – that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more strongly and more clearly…”
That phrase “determined purpose” the truth of the matter is you don’t get to know Christ by accident.
You don’t just wake up one morning and sort of accidentally fall into knowing Jesus Christ better.
It’s a determined purpose.
It’s something we have to do something about.
We have to invest our time in it.
Your money is not going to grow just sitting there.
You have to invest it somewhere in order for it to grow.
We all know that.
Your relationship with God is not going to grow unless you, like any other relationship, invest time in that relationship.
If you meet someone who has a strong relationship with God, strong relationship with Jesus, I will guarantee you they’ve spent a lot of time investing in talking to him and letting him talk to them.
You don’t grow a relationship without investing time in a relationship.
This is good marriage advice too.
But it’s also true in everything that we do.
What’s the trap?
THE TRAP: BUSYNESS
We just get too busy.
And busyness destroys relationships.
It destroys relationship with your husband, your wife, with your kids.
It destroys your relationship with God if you don’t spend any time with Him.
To get to know Jesus you’ve got to make time, and spend time with Him.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
The fourth habit that we need to develop is:
4. EVERYDAY: Review where I need to grow.
We need to everyday do a little personal review of your life.
Take a couple of minutes out of every day during our quiet time with God and we do a spiritual daily check up.
We take our spiritual pulse.
We can do it during our quiet time.
We say, Lord where do I need to grow?
What do I need to work on?
Where am I weak?
Where do you want me to be stronger?
“Search me O God and know my heart; Try me, test me, and know my thoughts. See if there is anything evil or wicked in my life. And lead me in the way that’s everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
“I don’t mean to say I’m perfect. I still haven’t learned all I should, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers, I’m still not all I should be…” (Philippians 3:12-13, LB)
To me that verse is one of the most amazing verses in the Bible.
Because it’s written by the guy who wrote most of the New Testament.
Paul is an older man.
He’s in prison in Rome.
He’s at the end of life.
He’s an incredibly mature person.
Yet he says I haven’t arrived.
If anybody had the right to say, I’ve arrived spiritually, I would think it’d be the guy who wrote most of the New Testament.
But Paul says, no, I haven’t arrived.
What’s the trap that will keep you from doing this?
THE TRAP: PRIDE
Pride will keep us from growing.
Because when I pretend that I’ve got it all together then I don’t have it all together.
And we already know we don’t have it all together.
Humility leads to happiness because it makes us teachable.
Happy people never stop growing.
Happy people never stop learning.
Happy people never stop discovering, never stop stretching.
We were made to grow.
We were made to learn.
We were made to be better next year than we are this year.
Every time we just coast along we’re heading downhill.
So if you want to be happy, happiness and humility go together because humility says I’m teachable.
Where do I need to learn?
How can I be a better husband this next year?
How can I be a better dad this next year?
How can I be a better boss this next year?
How can I be a better employer?
How can I be a better employee?
How can I be a better friend to my friends this next year?
And you’re doing this daily habit of reviewing, where do I need to grow.
The secret to growth is to be honest about yourself and to keep evaluating where you are.
This is what Paul says,
“Test yourselves to make sure you’re solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.” (2 Corinthians 13:5, MSG)
The fifth daily habit for happiness is…
5. EVERYDAY: Forget what can’t be changed and focus on the future.
Look to the future with amazing hope.
Let’s just be honest.
We have all been hurt in our past.
And as you pastor, I am sorry!
Many people hurt severely – emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse.
You’ve been hurt in many, many ways.
I’m sorry about that.
Happiness requires letting go of the hurt and learning to forget.
You see, you can hold on to your pain.
Nobody’s going to force you to let it go.
You can hold on to that memory.
Or you can be happy.
But you can’t be both.
Happiness involves learning to forget.
Here’s what Paul says,
“I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (Philippians 3:13-14, NLT)
Let us not waste our energies on our past.
Paul said, ‘I focus all my energy by forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.’
There are three traps we have to be aware of:
THE TRAP: REGRET
You’ve got to let go of regrets.
That’s stuff that I wish I had done differently.
But I can’t dwell on them.
THE TRAP: UNFORGIVENESS
That’s the stuff that people have done to you.
We’ve done bad things: That brings guilt, shame, regret.
But when people do bad things to us that brings: resentment, unforgiveness and bitterness.
What I’ve done wrong or what others have done wrong to me.
Either way you get stuck in the past.
There’s one other thing that’s going to keep you stuck in the past and cause you to be unhappy.
This one is going to surprise you but it’s a trap.
THE TRAP: TRADITION
It’s the famous seven last words:
We’ve always done it that way.
Have you noticed that things change?
Every day things change.
Have you noticed your body is changing?
The weather changes.
Everything is constantly changing.
And we cannot stop change.
So we have to decide I can either get mad, and resist and resent these changes that are happening, or I can choose to be happy.
At the end of the day: Happiness is a choice.
You’re as happy as you choose to be.
So even in the middle of changes I don’t like, I can choose to be happy.
If we do not change with the times we become irrelevant.
How we handle change in life reveals your spiritual maturity.
It reveals how connected to God we are.
Anything that’s in style today will be out of style tomorrow.
One minute you’re a hero, the next minute you’re a zero.
Things constantly change.
But if I’m geared and guided and anchored to eternity, that’s never changing.
If I’m tuned into God, change can take place all around me and I can choose to be happy.
There is no growth without change and there is no change without loss.
You’ve got to let go of the old to grab the new.
And there is no loss without pain.
A person who wants to grow without going through loss and pain is like a mom saying I want to have baby but not go through labor.
They don’t call it labor for nothing.
There’s pain in change.
No change is comfortable!
Even good changes.
God said to Isaiah,
“Forget the former things and do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
This sermon was preached by Pastor Elio Marrocco at New Life Christian Church on August 22, 2014.