Slap Happy: You Can Do It

This is the last sermon in this series; it’s called Slap Happy. It’s all about how to be happy. Hopefully, if you’ve been watching on-line or you’ve been here you know the answer to this first question today. There are two answers.  So if I ask this question, “What makes you happy?” what do you say?  (Congregation) Absolutely No Thing! There is nothing, no “thing” that will make you happy. What we found out is that there is a “who” or two, if I can use Dr. Seuss.  It is the people around us that make us happy.  From the earliest age we realized we’d rather have people around us to play with, to work with, and to fall in love with, and things like that.  So, we have found it is not really a thing that makes us happy, it is a “who”, it is the people we have in our lives.  That’s the first thing.

The second thing is a little bit different.  It was a couple weeks on down the road, but it is up there for you.  What is it? “Sowing”.  You can reap what you sow.  If you sow happiness it is not instantaneous; it is something that we have to work for.  So, if we are not working for happiness, then we have some ground to make up.  I’d like to say you have to “sow for it” instead of go for it, you have to sow for it.  You have to work for it.

Here’s today’s concept, now let me take a deep breath because I am going to fly today.  Even though I know God gave me a tongue bigger than my head, I’m going to get through this, because really today’s message is counter-intuitive.  It is not with the grain of the way we think today.  It’s so counter-intuitive it may be unbelievable to some. Now to those who practice this, and understand it, they are going to get this and say, “That’s right.  That’s why I’m happy.”  But for those of us who maybe don’t practice this way, or do these things, it may be something that you don’t believe.  It may be something you haven’t experienced.  For those who understand it, it is probably the key to their happiness.  So here is the bottom line to the message today, as long as you are all about “you”, you won’t be happy.  As long as it is all about you, you won’t be happy!

Isn’t that what we say?  It is not about me? It’s about God.  Oh, we say that later.  That’s right.  But as long as it is all about me, I won’t be happy. So when we look at this, the truth is, “you” can’t fulfill you.  You can’t fulfill you; you need more than “you” have to offer.  I’m not here to shatter anyone’s confidence today or anything like that, but to make you happy “you” can’t offer it to yourself.  You see if you were able to give yourself happiness the way you want it to be, you would. The reason we go to the gym is because we want to be the right size.  The reason we diet is because we want to look like this.  Well, the reason some of you go to the hair salon, you look through a magazine, you like a hair style, you go there and you think they’ll give it to you.  The reason we do these things, the reason we buy that house, or drive this car or do it this way is because you think if you are able to get yourself the way you want you’ll be happy. But I‘m going to say you still wouldn’t get there, or have enough to make you happy.  This is why it is so counter-intuitive, because naturally we think that if we could just get a certain way, if we could just do this or that, if I got this raise, or if I got this bonus, or if I got this new job, I’d be happy.  That thing over there, if I could just obtain that, whew, life would be easier and I would be happy. If think if we could live a certain way, have certain things, we could be happy, but we kind of know this, you can’t acquire, consume or exercise your way to happiness. You cannot acquire, consume or exercise your way to happiness.

This is tricky; it is deceitful.  Think about it this way; we look at what others have acquired, we look at the stuff others have, and we look at the way others look, to determine happiness.  We look at others and yes, we say, “If I just had his job; if I just had her husband”.  No. (laughter) “If I just had…”, and we think to ourselves just that one thing.  We compare ourselves to others.  We look around at people who may not be any happier that we are, true?

We look around at people who may not be any happier than we are and this is what we create.  This is what we want to create; we want to create a “Composite Person”.   Oh, if I just had her hair (plops pretend hair on head.) You know you can do that now in Photoshop.  If I just had his job, if I had her legs, if I had her wardrobe closet, we could match all these things together.  What we are looking for is “this”; this is how a “Composite Person” works.  You just piece these things together, and if I had all these pieces, I’d be the perfect “Composite Person”.  Then we get focused on something we are not; something we weren’t created to be. Do you know what you call a “Composite Person”?  Think about it.  Who was the first “Composite Person”? Frankenstein; a monster. (laughter)  If you really became a “Composite Person” and wanted all these parts and these things together, it would make us a monster.  It is not the way we were created, so you cannot acquire, you cannot consume and you cannot exercise your way to happiness.

But here is a truth, when we compare ourselves to others and say, “I wish”, you know I tell kids all the time, you know you go to the elementary schools or the middle schools and these kids have hair.  Just tight, curly, little girl’s hair, and I say, “Man, I wish I had your hair.”  They just laugh.  They don’t know I’m serious.  I want the 1970’s hair, you know?  Cool, man.  So, we say we want these things, but I don’t think we ever look at the other side.  I am sure there are people that look at you, now don’t disagree with me, that wish they had what you have. We never think of it that way.  There are probably people in our lives that look at your life and say, “Man, I wish I had that. I wish I had that hair. I wish I had that bald head.” People tell me that all the time, and I say, “Thank you, Ma’am”.  No. (laughter) But, we never think of it that way.  There is probably someone out there that looks at us and says, “I wish I had what Buck has.”  “I wish I had what you have.”

But, here’s what may be hard to believe today, and this has no underlying meaning.  I’m not going to pass around any sign-up sheets today to get you to teach Sunday School, even though I could bring a “sad eyed” little kid up here to beg for Sunday School teachers, because that is really the only area this church is lacking for in volunteers, but no agenda today. No agenda today, but I will say that you can volunteer and serve your way to happiness.

You may not be able to become a “Composite Person”, but I believe, and if we understand how God has gifted us, you can serve and volunteer your way there. This is so amazing and such a counter-intuitive thought, but some of you know this. Some of you know that volunteering creates happiness.  That when you go to Hope House and volunteer, you know I was hoping she was here today, but when you look at what Eleanor Hickey has done with Hope House and giving of her life, she doesn’t ask for much, but there are some of us who say, “I wish I had what she has.”   You know that person who gives and gives and gives.  It’s just not “church stuff” either; I know if you go to Google or Bing, or whatever your browser is, type in “Connection between happiness and selflessness” or even better, type in “Connection between health, selflessness and happiness” and you will get an incredible understanding of the research that has been done.  The University of Chicago did a survey where they asked people about what were their most fulfilling jobs.  “What are the most fulfilling jobs?”  What they found is a list of characteristics which were common in the most fulfilling jobs.  What they found was the most satisfying job was, first was caring for others.  I would say my wife Colleen would agree with that.  She’s a Physical Therapist; she cares for others.  It is very rewarding work, if they don’t over work her. Caring for others is the first one.

The second one is teaching others. Most of the time, teaching others, children, adults, giving knowledge is a very satisfying job.  It is a rewarding job.  The next one is protecting others.  When you are charged to protect and serve; that is written on some cars around here, isn’t it? When you are a firefighter or policeman, when you serve in the military, it has been found to be very satisfying; a satisfying job.

Now the fourth one is kind of interesting. It is called creative pursuits. And I think these people right here (pointing to the Praise Band & singers) would agree.  Music, arts, photography, giving of your musical talent and a wonderful eye is a satisfying job.  It is a way that you give of yourself. They also discovered that the pay scale is not associated with satisfaction in these jobs, because if you look at most of them, it doesn’t say corner back for, it doesn’t say point guard for, it doesn’t have those salaries attached.  They have discovered that the pay scale for these jobs can be lower because of the satisfaction of the employee.

A study in the UK took 40 different studies on happiness and health being linked to serving or volunteering.  They took 40 studies and over a period of 20 years they looked at the connection between happiness and selflessness. And, here’s what they found.  See the arrow going down (on slide)? People who are selfless have less depression, less heart disease, and less stress for teens. What else?  There is less drug use and for teen agers, there are less unplanned pregnancies.  The last two they especially found true for youth.  The statistics say that was true even if they were forced to volunteer, isn’t that amazing?  You can tell your kids they have to do it.  They may seem ungrateful, but there is a benefit to them volunteering, even against their will.  Pretty impressive isn’t it.  Even when teens are forced to volunteer, even volunteering with a bad attitude gives positive results.  That’s right.

So what they realized is that there are also some benefits, like lower stress and better psychological well-being; you feel better about yourself when you volunteer.  The next one is that you are healthier; not only is there the mental well-being but the physical well-being benefits from this as well. The next is that your self-esteem is higher, and then there is longevity and life.  You live longer when you give of yourself. Is that right, Orville?  99 years of giving of yourself? (applause) We know that.

Military, Shriners, everyone that gives to care for other people, we appreciate that, but there’s also a better quality of life.  So the statistics and the research show this.  So here’s the question that I am going to ask you today, and maybe try to answer.  Here’s the question.  “How can behaving selflessly make my “self” happy?”  Yes, I know I placed a space between my and self on the slide.  I want you to think of yourself here. How can behaving selflessly make my  self happier?  How can selfless behavior make me happier?  Or ask it this way, “How can emptying myself leave me full?” When you empty yourself it actually creates fullness. How can emptying myself leave me feeling full? When it comes to that, many of you have done this.  You’ve given this morning.  Some of you know what it’s like to come here the end of February and pack food boxes and pack them into eight trucks.  Some of you know what it is like to dread a 5K, but to do it anyway because you know it goes somewhere, and you are going to breathe in these colors and be all painted or chalked when you wear white.  Some of you know what it is like to work for Habitat for Humanity. Some of you know what it is like to volunteer at Hope House, Share the Harvest, Beyond Borders, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and everything else we do here in our lake community.  Some of you know how rewarding that is. Some of you come home tired but feeling full.  You come home drained, but full.  It doesn’t make sense, it really doesn’t. That’s why most people don’t do it, because it doesn’t make sense.

People say they don’t have the time, but if you understand the research you don’t have time not to.  This might sound strange but maybe the best thing you can do is to stop doing so much for “you”. Oh Buck, you went there. How can this be?  It is two simple words, but I think it is a “Divine Design”.   A divine design, and with that I understand that this is the way we were created.  We were created to live with open hands. Open hands have less resistance.  Open hands don’t take as many muscles to make.  What is it you hear?  There are more muscles being used to frown than there are used to smile; it is the same way with open hands and closed hands. Open hands show that you are ready to receive but also ready to open to give.

We were created to do all this for one another; when I talk about one another what are we commanded to do?  We are commanded to love one another, right?  We are asked to serve one another.  We are asked to forgive one another.  You’re getting this, right? We are called to give to one another, to serve one another; we are asked to carry one another’s burdens. Paul asked us to do that.  We were created by God to “one another”, one another.  If we could just remember the one another, we could “one another” another.  That would be the most confusing bumper sticker ever. “Just one another, one another.”  People might take that the wrong way.

Here’s the thing: No one has to learn to be selfish, right?  You put two kids to play together and all of sudden there is a tug-o-war because there is only one toy. It’s fun to watch, no you shouldn’t do that.  (laughter)  No one has to learn to be selfish.  Selfishness comes naturally.  I will tell you, it is not a part of the divine design, it is nature.  We were created to be better, we were created to be selfless, but selfishness is a result of brokenness. Now several weeks ago I talked about how sin separates us, however you define sin, Old Testament sin, New Testament sin, just being bad, if you remember that.  I had to go back there.  If it’s things against your moral code, then that’s sin.  Sin separates us and causes brokenness, and brokenness separates us from God, from ourselves and others.  Sin separates us into our own self-centered worlds. Sin isolates. That’s what is does.  It causes us to think only of ourselves.  So, if we want to be happy, we have to find ways to give ourselves away.

Think about the people you know as truly happy, and something tells me they are giving people.  They give of themselves, they give of their time, and they give of their talents.  You see, the Apostle Paul wrote to a place in Galatia in the 1st century.  That passage today is filled with rich theological words.  You know what?  I’m going to ask you to not pay attention to the deep theological meanings today; we are only going to hit the surface.  In fact, what I want you to pay attention to is the contrast between two different ways of living. I’ll poke out a few key words here, but there’s going to be a lot of words there and a lot of deep meaning there but I just want you to understand and look at the surface of the contrasts that exist because last week we talked about, yes and I know you remember because I got several emails, and text messages this week, if you put pleasure over your happiness, you’ll have neither. You have to have a foundation of happiness before you can know what true pleasure truly is.

So this is the contrast that Paul in the book of Galatians is showing us.  When we look at the book of Galatians chapter five, verse 19 through 21, starting out in verse 19, it says, ‘The acts of the flesh.’  Now the first word we need to look at here is the word flesh, because this word is used all throughout the New Testament, and the Greek for that word can mean several things. So, when we read in John that the word was made flesh, that Greek word for the word flesh actually means “the skin of a tent”.  This means you had a canvas, you called Coleman and ordered a seven person tent, and they would make it out of a material.   The Greek word for that material translates into our New Testament to mean flesh.  So when John tells us the word became flesh, John is telling us that God came here, which is what we’ll get into after that “Turkey Day” holiday, and pitched a tent with us.  That’s the literal translation we get from God. If the Word became flesh, then God (Logos) came and pitched a tent with us. God’s camping with us.  To pitch a tent, God dwelt among us, and we dwell in God’s presence. That’s why God sent Jesus.

Now the other term, the Greek that we find in Paul’s Galatians today is not such a friendly term.  Basically it means, it is our natural impulse.  When he talks about “fleshly” things, it refers to our natural impulse.  And I’ve heard it said before, “If so and so wouldn’t find out, or if it wasn’t against the law, if I had no consequences, man I would do this or that.”  Somebody had told me, I think it was in college, “Man, if I could get away with this…”.  So, our natural impulse, by these words, the ‘acts of the flesh’, Paul is talking about basically our natural impulse.  If we had no consequences and could just do what we wanted no matter what.  And I’m saying, “No matter why.”  You decided it was all about you, or it was all about me, and I get to do whatever I want. Do you understand that word here, ‘flesh’?  He’s talking about our natural impulse. It’s those things I listed of why sheep are bad, last week.  ‘The acts of the flesh’ the natural impulses of man, ‘are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery.’  He goes through these words and I’m not going to explain each of them to you.  You don’t need to know. Some of you already know.  ’Idolatry’.  Do you know what idolatry is? Idolatry is basically trying to get God or gods to do your bidding. Some of us pray an idolatrous prayer; we talked about this in Youth Group lasts Wednesday night. “God, I won’t do this anymore if you just do this for me.”  We’ve never prayed that prayer before, right? So, idolatry is trying to get God or gods to do your bidding.  ‘… and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like’ He’s talking about this one way of life, kind of our natural impulse, what we wish we could get away with, what we wish we could do. When we look at all this, the list of the acts of the flesh, here is the truth, there is not a care in the world or for the world except for this.  With all these things, it is just selfishness.  You see, it is synonymous with pleasure at someone else’s expense. When you read all these things and you follow our natural impulse, it is always at someone else’s expense.  Someone else always suffers when we are selfish. Someone else always suffers.

These are always associated with appetite. You’ve got to feed the appetite.  It only leaves us hungry and wanting for more. That’s what the natural impulse does.  But you know the contrast to this verse is when we go to verse 22, where it says, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit’, and that’s where we get this presence of God, this understanding of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’  when we decide that what we are doing just isn’t working; my own thoughts, my own impulses just aren’t working. When I’m trying to fill myself, and I’m working harder, and harder, and harder, the more frustrated I get, it leads to unhappiness. So the contrast here is, with the spirit to the flesh, when we say, “Dear Heavenly Father, Thy will be done.”  From our selfish impulses, which is natural, to realizing “God, Your will be done.”  

‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.’  What did we say?  People who have peace have…..happiness. ‘Forbearance’, which means patience, ‘kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’, right?  So when we look at this, what is the next verse?  Look at how he ends this. ‘ … Against such things there is no law.’  You see, this is what I talked about a couple of years ago, in that God and Country sermon series. When a nation loses its identity, it tries to make laws to gain back its identity.  When we have the image of the United States being a melting pot, when there is a collective image of what our nation and our government is about, life it good. Life has an understanding, life has principles and character, but when that becomes separated, we’ll see.  We may be seeing it now.  Laws will be passed to tell us who we are as a nation.

Let’s go back to that verse.  ‘Against such things’, and we go back to the list of the gifts of the Spirit. You don’t have to have laws if there are these things.   ‘Against such things there is no law.’ If you have these things: loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self controlled, you don’t need laws.  Do you agree with me?  You don’t need a law.  Just in time for Thanksgiving, let me do this, let’s say your family has abided by this code.  Wouldn’t Thanksgiving be awesome?  And I’m not talking about the food.  Think about it.  Maybe if communities dealt lovingly, joyfully, peacefully, kindly, good, faithfully, gently, and with self-control, there is no law for this.   ‘Against such things there is no law.’

The reason we say yes to this, is we have a “Divine Design”. We understand these things.  If we were going to do this on a family level, or designed to live in a community if we expand it, to have these characteristics, this community would have no need to have laws. Not if everyone followed those; if they knew their “Divine Design”.  Think about it.  If I committed to your best interest; it I knew your best interest and you all knew my best interest, and we followed these characteristics, then we could get through anything.  We could solve any problem.  We were made for this, which is what I’m saying.  And I know some of you are saying, “I don’t believe this.”  Think as a nation, imagine if we followed this.

You see, selfishness is natural, but it’s not by our design.  Family, communities, the nation works better when characterized by these things. Paul invites us into a self-less way of living that is not intuitive.  It is against our nature, but not our design.  Let me ask you this question.  “How do we measure the value of life?”  Here are some things to consider. To be honest with you I’ve only had one funeral where I’ve had a hard time talking about the guy. When we lived in northwest Missouri, there was a guy and his name was Seth.  No one liked him.  He kept a big dip in his mouth.  So much so that it sprayed on you when he talked to you, and he used curse words as commas.  He wore bib overalls, and he would give his opinion to everyone; he was mean and nasty.  He passed away and they came to me and said, “He was a member of your church since 1959.  Can you do the sermon?”  I said, OK.  I gathered the family together and we went through things.  What about this?  No, he didn’t like that.  They couldn’t tell me anything about him. So I stood up there on that day, and the church was packed.  Not that I didn’t think he had a friend, but I think they were there to hear what I was going to say about him.  So I said, “Before you, lay Seth.  The most patient, the most loving, the most generous…” and they are all looking at me.  I got permission from the family to do this.  I said, “I’m sorry, that was last week’s funeral.”  (laughter)  And, the whole place erupted in laughter.

So the qualities of the flesh, are these the values of life?  (Immoral, Impure, Indulgent, Hateful, Jealous, Angry, Selfish, Argumentative, Envious, Drunk)  These are not some of the things you hear at funerals.  To be honest with you, they make no contribution to life.  In fact, they are consumptive; they all take away.  Everything that Paul talks about as being of the flesh, takes life away.  You see, selfishness is natural, but we are not designed that way.  The value of life is measured by how much of it was given away. The value of life is measured by how much of it is given away.   That’s what we celebrate.  We can celebrate that at his funeral, can’t we?  That is normally what it is about, a caring person. There may still be some of you saying, “I didn’t see that”, but someone told me he had this characteristic.  When we look at that, this is what we celebrate.

You were designed by the Giver of Life to give your life away.  That is the concept that is hard for us to grasp.  When Nicodemus comes to Jesus and asks, “How do I have that life?”  Jesus says, “You have to be born again.”  Now, he gets all literal.  How can I be “born” again?  But Jesus says, No, you have to go from the natural impulse, you have to go from the flesh that Paul talks about, and you have to go to a new life of divine design; an understanding of what the life and spirit is all about, the fruit of the Spirit.

You see, you were designed by the Giver of Life to give your life away.  Folks, “life” is found when you dump it out for others.  Life is found when we give it to others; life is found when we give of ourselves and we understand the Giver of Life wants us to give our life away.  So we have the life of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit; the fruit that guides and adds value to life.  May we add value to each other’s lives.  May we understand the characteristics there are no laws against, because of the freedom we live in this day through Jesus Christ.


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