Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Happiness is...

"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
-Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776

Here in Québec, Canada, we have a TV, but it only receives 1 channel. We never watch it (even if we did, at this point in our French learning we wouldn't understand much of it). When we returned to East Tennessee for our Christmas break, we watched TV for the first time in nearly 4 months. Even after this short amount of time, we found our perspective had changed. We weren't a big fan of commercials before, but now we realized at the heart of it, the only reason we were watching a program was because we paid them to tell us what we needed to buy so we could feel fulfilled and happy. Over and over, we were bombarded with the message that we should chase our own happiness with reckless abandon.

This is a big trap many people have fallen prey to (myself included); the trap is believing the world’s definition (more specifically the U.S. definition) of what it means to be happy or successful. My wife and I fell for this lie. At one point, we felt “successful” and we were, by the standards of many. We had a nice home, above average income, two cars, a big yard, a TV, a dishwasher, 2 dogs and so much stuff stored in the attic and basement that we didn't have any more room. And yet, happiness and contentment eluded us. God asked us to step away from our cushy jobs and re-evaluate where we placed our identity. Voilà! We wound up in international ministry.

One of the neat things about the journey into international missions is learning a new language.  Many phrases and idioms of one particular language translate-but with a slightly different twist.  An excellent example is the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  In English, many versions read “blessed are the poor in spirit, mournful, meek, etc., etc.”  In French, however, it reads “happy are the poor in spirit, happy are those who mourn, the meek, etc.” Hmm. That’s different.  All in all, “happy” is mentioned roughly 30 times in the bible and only about half were about how to be happy.
"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, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:12-13).  
 Don't miss understand me, there is absolutely nothing wrong  with pursuing the things so eloquently written in the Declaration of Independence. Indeed many times throughout the Bible material things are blessings from the Lord, it's even more OK to be thankful for them. Certainly the "Smack Chop" or "Sponge-wow" are great products that can make life easier, but realize that inanimate objects and certain life styles are not things to give us an identity. 

The world is desperately searching to find its identity, the meaning of life….It will continue to fail miserably so long as its identity is tied to possessions or a certain life style. I am afraid as the world seeks to finds its identity outside of Christ, the more we as Christians will be influenced to do the same. Happiness and fun are not our priority, Christ is our priority. Instead of searching for happiness, we must search to first and foremost " first his kingdom an his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:24). 

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