Volume. XXXI, No. 3
Sunday, 17 July 2016


From the Pastors heart: Are we happy?


Though I have spoken about happiness over the last three weeks, I do not think that I have been able to cover this subject as much I wanted.  It is very possible that some of you may have some lingering questions about happiness.  It is because there are so many things we need to consider if we really desire to look into every aspect of happiness.  All philosophers have wanted to leave some memorable words about happiness, and all psychologists have attempted to give us some advice for happiness.  It means that there is a wide spectrum of perspectives and opinions of happiness.  It also indicates that people have struggled even to arrive at the same definition of happiness.  People may have different notions of happiness based on their definitions of happiness.  It opens the door for discussion, arguments, understandings and misunderstandings, agreements and disagreements over the meaning of happiness.  According to different views, people see themselves and others as happy or unhappy people.  Such judgments could be wrong and erroneous, which will lead them to unwanted emotional turmoil and relationship problems including jealousy, envy, hopelessness and even hatred.  Besides the points I have made through my messages, there are a few more thoughts I desire to share with you.  

First of all, we need to have a purposeful life, if we want to experience happiness in life.  So many people have misunderstood a happy life as a workless, burdenless or boundless life.  I would reject such a life as a happy life.  I would have pity on kings and queens in ancient times who did not have to work but to party.  Their parties were their work.  It is no wonder that they had to keep many castles here and there to escape from all kinds of emotional maladies.  Not many kings enjoyed a long life, but their lives were shortened by meaningless workless life.  A group of psychologists paid college students to do nothing.  What they needed was provided, but they were forbidden to work.  Were they happy because they got paid and all their needs were met?  To the surprise of many people, they were extremely unhappy.  They rather wanted to work than not to work.  Primarily, their life was a simple waste in that environment, and they did not find any stimulation, meaning or purpose from it.  We must not be surprised to find many Bible references talking about the purpose of life.  For example, Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  Isaiah 43:7, “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.”  

Tal Ben-Shahar tells us of his experience in his book, Happier: Learns the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, as follows: “In 1996 I conducted a leadership seminar for a group of South African executives who had been involved in the struggle against apartheid.  They told me that, while fighting against apartheid, they had a clear sense of purpose, a clear future goal—life, though difficult and dangerous at times, was also challenging and exciting.  When apartheid was abolished, celebrations went on for months.  As the euphoria waned, though, many people who had been involved in the struggle began to experience boredom, emptiness, even depression.  Of course, they did not wish to return to apartheid—to the days when they were an oppressed majority—but in the absence of the cause to which they had dedicated themselves so fully, they felt a void.  Some managed to find a sense of purpose in their family lives, in helping their community, in their work, or in their hobbies; others, years later, were still struggling to find a sense of direction.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose work focuses on the state of peak performance and peak experience, claims that ‘the best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.’”  Do we still think that we are not happy because we have challenges, trials, or struggles in life?  A stress-free life is not a prescription for happiness.  John Gardner, former U.S. secretary of health, education, and welfare aptly said, “We are designed for the climb, not for taking our ease, either in the valley or at the summit.”  Then there is a question we all must ask ourselves even before asking a question about happiness: What is/are the purpose(s) of our life?  What meanings can we put into our life experiences every day?  

Second, we need to cultivate happiness or grow in happiness.  I hope that none of us are surprised by what I just said.  Man is sinful by nature, and his thoughts in the flesh are against God and His law.  He cannot please God.  How could we even imagine that the natural man will be happy naturally, while his way is of death?  The etymology shows that the word happiness comes from the Icelandic word, happ, which means luck or chance.  From the same source word, haphazard and happenstance are originated.  The world may see that happiness is luck and chance, but the truth of the matter is that happiness must be cultivated.  It is not a strange concept.  All virtues we enjoy are to be cultivated.  Think about kindness, graciousness, patience, goodness, love, and gentleness.  Each and every one of such virtues takes a long time to be a part of our inner character.  Before it becomes a part of us, we have to struggle and fail many a time.  We need to become mature.  We also must not forget that the virtues we must cultivate are the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  How could be even think of happiness apart from God?  

One reason why modern day people feel unhappier than even previous generations is because they want immediate gratification.  They want immediate feelings of happiness and keep it constantly forever.  Such a thought is a vice of the modern world.  It praises the results not the processes.  It considers efforts evil and no work good.  Tal Ben-Shahar reports that the modern man is less happy than his forefathers, though he has more wealth, comforts, and resources than they.  There are so many books, lectures, and seminars about happiness these days, but people are not happier than before.  He says, “In the United States, rates of depression are ten times higher today than they were in the 1960s, and the average age for the onset of depression is fourteen and a half compared to twenty-nine and a half in 1960. A study conducted in American colleges tells us that nearly 45 percent of students were ‘so depressed that they had difficulty functioning.’  Other countries are following in the footsteps of the United States.  In 1957, 52 percent in Britain said that they were very happy, compared to 36 percent in 2005—despite the fact that the British have tripled their wealth over the last half century.”  

By ignoring the processes, we cherish only the results.  We set goals and run after them.  When we attain to the goals, we feel relief and consider it as a sign of happiness.  It is no wonder that modern men are like rat racers.  They run from one goal to the next without knowing why they have to do it.  The bigger the burden, the more happiness there is after it is finally carried.  Thus, higher goals and more powerful positions are wanted for greater happiness.  However, this rat racer’s life is never ending.  The rat racers in life must keep moving, fighting, and competing.  They should never allow others to go before them, and they should always pay attention to others’ achievements and positions.  When they are behind them, they become unhappy and even miserable.  

Happiness is a virtue coming from our personal relationship with and trust in God.  Psalm 84:5, “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.”  As we grow in the Lord and are conformed to His image, so we become more and more happy in the Lord.  This spiritual reliance on God ought to be cultivated carefully and faithfully.  

Livingly,
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

*Kitchen Roster - Helpers this week: Bro Lucas Yiew; Sisters Natalie Cheng & Natalie Gan. Helpers next week:  Bro Kevin & Sis Kristy Low; Sis Seong Yeng Chu.
*Groups/Individuals rostered for Sanctuary Setup at Bible College SA are requested to set up by Saturday evening.
*ACM Reports: All leaders of committee, fellowship, ministry & Bible Study groups, please submit your reports by today to Dn Colin Gan.
*Election for the new (8th) Session will be held at next month’s ACM. Candidates for the next Session will be published after 24 July. All members are expected to attend this ACM.
*Adult & Junior RPGs & Daily Manna Jul-Sept quarter available on the foyer table. Please help yourself to a copy. Donation $1.

Praise & Thanksgiving

Journey mercies: Those arriving safely at their destinations.
Visitors & new worshippers.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
Church activities in past week.
Healing: Sisters Lydia Tan & Ruth Tong.
Holy matrimony of Bro Di Wei & Sis Amanda Lin in Singapore yesterday.

Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing - Pastor Ki; Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore) & Rev George van Buuren; Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe; & others in affliction.
Special Prayer: Those in affliction.
iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.
Cambodia Missions 
IBPFM & PMU: Board members & missionaries all over the world.
New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for congregation.
Future ministry at Hope BPC: Bro Kevin Low & family.
Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.
Providence B-P Church, Mawson Lakes - Ps David & Sis Susan Weng, & congregation.
Journey mercies: All those who are travelling.
Safety & health in pregnancy: Sis Emily Zhang.
God’s guidance & blessings for Bro Di Wei & Sis Amanda Lin in their marriage.
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
Jobs: Those seeking for jobs in Adelaide.
God’s guidance & provision of new church property for worship, office & fellowship activities.
Persecuted believers in Islamic & Communist countries.

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063